Every Name A Story Content

Battista, A., Pte., 1914-18 (1933)

Photo : Sophie Tobin. Antonio and Daughter Grace

Medal Index Card

Photo : Sophie Tobin. Antonio in Hospital

Photo : Sophie Tobin. Antonio in Hospital

Photo : Sophie Tobin. Antonio's Sisters

Antonio [Tony], Battista was born on the 21st January 1886, at 15 Stowell Street, Newcastle to Vincenzo (Vincenzi], Battista [born 29th March 1852, at Cassino, Italy, died 4th January 1900], and his wife Mary Jane nee Armstrong, Battista, born 1867, [daughter of William and Hannah Armstrong], baptised 24th March 1886 at St Mary's Church, Clayton Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Vincenzo, had two other brothers, one was called Giovanni, [who was a Travelling Musician and an ice cream vendor], and Antonio, born 1855, died 1936 who had settled with their families in Newcastle upon Tyne around 1874.

Vincenzo (Vincenzi], Battista was a Tailor and in 1881 was boarding with Giovanni at 15 Trafalgar Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

By 1891, Vincenzo was married to Mary Jane [nee Armstrong], Battista, born 1867, [daughter of William and Hannah Armstrong of 31 Middle Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne], they were married in 1883. They had at least eight children Marrianne, born 1885, died December 1947, [married a William Bell, on the 1st September 1901 at St Nicholas Church, William served in WW1 as service nu 5376 in the A.S.C. they had 4 children], Antonio, born 1886, Eleanor (Nelli), Ellen, born 1887, died June 1961, [married a Edward McGillian], William, born July 1890, died 1892, Eliza Winifred, born 7th February 1893, baptised on the 5th March 1893, died 1975, Elizabeth, (lizzie), born 30th January 1895, baptised 17th February 1895 at St Marys Church, died 1971, [married a Percy H. English, born 13th October 1893] and Grace (Gracie), born 1897, died 1986. Residing at 15 Stowell Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Antonio would have been part of the family business, selling ice cream on the Quayside until his father sadly passed away when Antonio was 14 years old in January 1900. From then on he worked as an apprentice Cabinet Maker in his maternal uncles furniture businesses, who owned two shops. He returned to this trade following WW1. He was also known to help his mother-in-law Isabella (nee Steele 1861-1932), who sold home made pies and peas outside the Empire Theatre, by entertaining her customers by playing the Concertina.

Antonio married a Margaret Grace, [nee Halliday], Battista on the 1st August 1910 at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She was born 1888 at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. They had one child an Arthur Battista born on the 22nd May 1912, baptised on the 3rd June 1912, died in 1982 at Aylesbury.

In 1911 they were residing at 41A George Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

By 1912 they were residing at 48 Churchill Street and went on the have another six children, Angelina born 1911, but had died, Arthur born 1912, died 1982, Margaret Grace born 1915, died 1991, Doris born 1919, died 1998, Ellen born 1921, died 1983, Edna May born 1924, died 2006 and Ernest Edward born 1927, died 2005.

Antonio volunteered on the 7th September 1914 at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, aged 28 years and 8 months. His service nu was 5835 and was a private.

Antonio is described as 5 feet 3 and a half inches tall, 116 lbs, Dark Complexion, Grey Eyes and Black Hair. Tattoos on right forearm with a heart and the words Violet, Half bracelet and the word Love, Heart and J.U.B.

On the 26th September he is posted to the 14th (Service) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, at Berkhamstead.

After a total of 45 days in the Army, Antonio is discharged on Medical Grounds under Kings Regulations 392 (iii).

Not being likely to become an efficient soldier. He also has bad teeth and an injury to his finger, there fore recommended for a discharge.

When the Derby scheme was introduced to provide more recruits, there was a class system devised based on your marital status and age, this identified which group the recruit would fall in to. Antonio would have fallen into Group 35. He should have been mobilised on or around the 29th May 1916.

He was allocated service nu 4208 and was a private. In the 1/6th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers. Antonio probably enlisted at St George's Drill Hall, Northumberland Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

His four eldest sisters Marianna, Eleanor, Liza & Lizzie spent the war working in Elswick Works Munitions Factory

In 1917, because he had been rejected before the 15th August 1915, Antonio, would have been classed as a 'B' Category and could have stayed within the UK based at home. Antonio was embodied and was reclassified with a new six figure service number. 265928. He embarked from Dover on the 21st March 1918, after a day and a half delay, and arrived at Calais on the 23rd March 1918.

The 1918 Spring Offensive, or Kaiserschlacht ("Kaiser's Battle"), also known as the Ludendorff Offensive, was a series of German attacks along the Western Front during the First World War, beginning on the 21st March 1918, which marked the deepest advances by either side since 1914. The Germans had realised that their only remaining chance of victory was to defeat the Allies before the overwhelming human and matériel resources of the United States could be fully deployed. They also had the temporary advantage in numbers afforded by the nearly 50 divisions which had been freed by the Russian withdrawal from the war by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
There were four German offensives, codenamed Michael, Georgette, Gneisenau, and Blücher-Yorck. Michael was the main attack, which was intended to break through the Allied lines, outflank the British forces (which held the front from the Somme River to the English Channel) and defeat the British Army. Once that was achieved, it was hoped that the French would seek armistice terms. The other offensives were subsidiary to Michael and were designed to divert Allied forces from the main offensive effort on the Somme.
No clear objective was established before the start of the offensives and once the operations were underway, the targets of the attacks were constantly changed according to the battlefield (tactical) situation. The Allies concentrated their main forces in the essential areas (the approaches to the Channel Ports and the rail junction of Amiens), leaving strategically worthless ground, which had been devastated by years of conflict, lightly defended.

His battalion 1/6th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers was part of the 50th Northumbrian Division which received very heavy casualties in the Spring Offensive.

On the 21st March 1918 the Battalion was at Meziers under orders. An intense bombardment started, an the Battalion marched to Guillaicourt station and entrained for Brie. On the 22nd March, [the War Diary states 1st day of Battle], the Battalion is at Poeuilly. They marched there from Brie in a 4 hour March. [2nd day of Battle]. Antonio arrived on the 25th March. with about 60 other men 'a compsite company', on the 5th day of Battle. The 26th March, the front line is held by an assortment of individual parties from other units trying to hold back the German offensive. 27th March 1918, [6th day of Battle], Antonio and a Sergeant started to creep out to prevent the Germans from outflanking them. Lance-Corporal Antonio and the sergeant had a conversation to try and capture the Germans. The sergeant was killed and Antonio received a Gun Shot Wound to his temple. He started to crawl back on his own to the nearest Casualty Clearing Station. From there he possibly was sent back to the UK at the 2nd Northern General at Beckett Park, Headingley, Leeds.

On the 28th March the Battalion rests overnight at Moreuil. [The war diary for April 1918 is missing].

Antonio had written a letter to his brother-in-Law Fred (Ned Bartrum). Husband of Eliza Winired.

April 21st 1918.
Dear Ned,
I received your letter which found me keeping in the best of health and improving a lot. Well Ned I had a bit of an exciting time from leaving home.
I left home on the 21st of March. I reached Dover and delayed one and a half days, sailed for France on the 23rd in a bombing raid at Calais same night he dropped a lot of bombs on some houses and a church and some on the rest camp where I was. He dropped some about two hundred yards (from) where I was - killing 62 Chinese,* so I considered myself very lucky NOT to be touched. Same thing happened (the) night after but I don't know how many casualties, as I left next morning. I had a bit of a rough voyage en route, when I reached my destination I had a walk of ten kilometres to the battalion. When I got there, there were only the details,(?) the battalion had gone into the line the night before.
I thought I was lucky to have missed an engagement - but it was not to be as all the details had to go. "Oh" by the way on my march to the battalion, I marched through all the villages that the Germans now hold, Mezures, Denvin and a lot more of them.

My battalion were lying at Mezuires.(?) [sic Mexiers], I stopped here one night. We marched from there to Corbier(?) an eighteen kilometre stretch. I can tell you that I was fagged out - the sun was scorching hot. We reached Corbier more dead than alive, we rested one night. Next day we marched 30 kilometres to a place called Harboniairs(?) which is now in the German hands - stopped there one night left at six o'clock next morning, another long march - I don't know how far as we were walking nearly all asleep. "Oh" by the way there were only about sixty of us and we were going to join the battalion, eventually we reached somewhere and dug ourselves in. I think it was Nesler(?) where we were, never mind, after we dug ourselves in we were told to get as much rest as we could. Early next morning we were told to retire at a moments notice. I think that it would be about ten when the word came in, so we retired. I did not see anything at the time - we were told to ly(?) down and fire a volley at a given angle and range, and to my surprise there were thousands of Germans coming over. None of us faltered we just fired at them just the same as if we were on a range- we got orders to retire again, then we were halted to give them another volley - but they were gaining on us.
That was happening all the time we were retiring, at the finish they were about 30 yards from us and there was no cover for either side, only cover we could get was little hillocks in the ground, they were getting that near to us and it did not look over healthy. We got the order to attack them which we did. We were firing at them point blank - couldn,t miss them, we done a lot of them in, although we had not suffered any casualties hardly. It was a proper stand up fight - eventually, we got the order to get as much cover as we could get - we were in a ploughed field so we all layed down and started picking them off. I was in charge of a section on the left flank. I had not(?) my Lewis gun. I had not seen the rest of the battalion - there was a sergeant next to me he belonged to Shieldfield(?) and we were watching the German's manouvring for position, we got our eyes on a German machine gun and gunners. He asked me if I had any notion to try and capture them. I said yes - the Germans were trying to get on our flanks so they could enfilade (encircle?) us - so we crept out our own way to try and get them. I turned my head - then I was going to say something to the sergeant but when I looked at him poor fellow he was dead. I don't know where he was hit - bullets were
flying like fury, they were going through my steel hat and cap and coat, in fact my clothes were all riddled with bullet holes. The fact is Ned I thought my time had come, well just about two minutes after the sergeant got killed I was hit in the temple - - and crept away and here I am now in Leeds hospital. Thats my adventures since I left Newcastle on the 21st March.
I was hit on the 27th and reached Leeds on Good Friday - well Ned you're the first one I told my tale to, so if you dont mind you can forward it on to my mother and let them all see it. All these adventures happened within ?
I think its absolutely marvellous what a chap can go through when he's got to do it. I had a very short stay in France this time. I am not sorry either.
Yours Tony
PS I've had letters from my sisters.

* In General Ernest von Hoeppner's 'Germany's War in the Air published 1921. Page 147.
'During the night our bombardment squadrons raided railroad stations at Boulogne, Calais, St. Pol, Lillers, Chocques and Compiegne.

On this day there were 19 Chinese casualties.

There was an air raid on Calais on the 21st March 1918 and on that day there were a significant number of Chinese casualties in the Calais area.

One of his sisters Grace [Gracie], played for the Elswick works Munitions 'Munitionettes' Ladies Football team.

Newcasle Journal Tuesday 02/04/1918.
Lance -Corporal Tony Battista, 48 Churchill Street, Newcastle, has been wounded.

After his father’s death, his mother Mary-Jane remarried Harry Henderson [born 1873 died 1946], in July 1901 and went on to have four more children with him, two surviving. Harry was a Carter by trade. Mary-Jane died in December 1923.

The top photograph shows Antonio wearing his wound stripe on his left sleeve near the cuff of his jacket.

After the war, Antonio suffered a lot with his lungs probably due to the gas damage and he died young of TB just two days short of his 47th birthday. Same age as his father was on his death.

Evening Chronicle Saturday, 21/01/1933:
BATTISTA.- Heaton, 57, Malcolm Street, January 19th, Aged 46 years, Antonio (Tony), the beloved husband of Margaret Grace Battista. Interment Elswick Cemetery, Monday: leaving residence 2.15. All friends and neighbours kindly invited. R.I.P.

Antonio died on the 19th January 1933.

Research: Angela Conroy/Sophie Tobin/James Pasby

Ladies Football in the North East in W1

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk