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Fletcher, M.F., Pte., 1915

Photo: Brian Chandler

In Newcastle-upon Tyne (Byker and Heaton) Cemetery is the Commonwealth War Grave of:-

4/8947 Private
M.F. Fletcher
Durham Light Infantry
6th July 1915 Age 34 years

Dearly beloved husband
of Clementina Fletcher

Pauline Priano has submitted the following:-

Michael Forster Fletcher, one of 12 children of whom only 7 survived and eight are known by name, of his known siblings was the 4th born of 7 sons and had an elder sister. His father George Fletcher was born in 1850 at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland, his mother Martha Ann Usson in 1849 at Gateshead, County Durham, where they were married in the parish of St Edmund, April 3rd 1871. They settled at Sodhouse Bank, Gateshead Fell, (now known as Sheriff Hill, Gateshead), birthplace of daughter Elizabeth in 1874, John 1875, William Hall 1876, Robert Usson 1879, sadly their son William Hall Fletcher died, only 4 years old, in 1880. In 1881 their son Michael Forster Fletcher was born at Bywell, Northumberland (census 1881), but his birth was registered at Gateshead, where they were living at 42, Sodhouse Bank, George was employed as a potter at Sheriff Hill Pottery owned by Paul Jackson, also in the household was Pricilla Usson, his mother in law. George Jnr was born at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in 1882, but the family returned to Wrekenton, Gateshead, where Alexander and William were born in 1884 and 1887 respectively.

George had moved his family to Ouse Burn Road, Heaton, a suburb of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Northumberland by 1891, both he and son John (16) were employed as potters, the younger children with the exception of George Jnr were scholars.

Ten years later they and their unmarried children were living at 10, St. Lawrence Street, Byker, George and Alexander (16) were pottery labourers, Robert (21) a mason’s labourer, by 1911 John. Alexander and George were still unmarried and living at home with their parents and a nephew, William Brugden (14), their sister Elizabeth’s child. They and their father were employed as labourers at the chemical works and were living in 2 rooms at 77, Shipley Street, Lemington, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland.

Michael Forster Fletcher was married in 1908 at Newcastle-upon-Tyne to widow Clementina Morgan nee Bell, born July 27th 1876, who had 4 children of her own, John born 1898, Catherine, May 31st 1901, Harriet, April 6th 1903, Joseph, December 26th 1904 and with whom he had a daughter Martha Jane born November 4th 1909 at Byker Bank, Newcastle. In 1911 they were living in 2 rooms at 6, Byker Buildings, Newcastle, Michael was employed by an engineering works as a labourer. Elizabeth Brogden Fletcher was born June 5th 1913.

Within weeks of the declaration of war with Germany he enlisted at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, August 24th 1914, declaring he had previously served with the Northumberland Yeomanry Special Reserve for 6 years and during the Boar War. He was assigned as Private 8947 to the 4th Battalion Durham Light Infantry. The battalion, consisting of less than 500 men at the beginning of hostilities, left Barnard Castle for the Tyne Defences where it was joined by the new recruits as it was also a training unit for men destined to serve overseas. Private Fletcher having been transferred to the 2nd Battalion D.L.I. January 4th 1915 departed to France and posted to “B” Coy, 2nd Battalion D.L.I. 18th Brigade, 6th Division, in the field, on the Ypres salient in Belgium. The battalion was engaged, April 22nd-May 25th 1915 during the Second Battle of Ypres at Hooge which came under heavy bombardment and by the end of July was in the hands of the Germans.

Private Fletcher was wounded, a gunshot wound to the forearm but returned to the front line until he was evacuated back through the lines until he reached the 13th Stationary General Hospital at Boulogne from where he was repatriated to England and admitted to King George Hospital, Stamford Street, London, SE1, June 16th 1915 until July 6th 1915 when he was sent to sick furlough that same day. Private 8947 Michael Forster Fletcher died suddenly that same day at his home at 149, Janet Street, Byker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland.

At an inquest held July 9th 1915 where his wife gave evidence she reported that he had returned home on the night of July 6th at 10.15 p.m. and was met by her at the foot of Janet Street. Michael had had some drink but was not drunk and once home had laid down on the bed still clothed as he had intended to get up in a short while. Later her husband had felt ill, vomited and by 2 a.m. had gradually got worse although it was not until the next morning that she called for assistance but when she returned home he was dead. Professor Steward McDonald said there was a healed bullet wound in the left forearm but concluded that he had suffocated due to a small tumour at the back of the throat.

Private 8947 Michael Forster Durham Light Infantry, aged 34 years, was laid to rest with full military honours at Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Byker and Heaton) Cemetery, grave XV. U. 67.

His widow received all monies due to him from the Army, his awards of the 1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal also a pension of 27 shillings awarded December 30th 1915 to be received weekly as of January 10th 1916, for herself, 3 of his step children and their 2 children all deemed to be her late husband’s dependants. John Morgan was excluded having surpassed the age of 16 and serving with the Army Service Corps, she was awarded a small pension for him as of January 9th 1917 after he was transferred to the Army Reserve in 1916.

Clementina Fletcher commissioned at a cost of 11 shillings 8 pence an additional inscription to be added to her husband military headstone, it reads, “Dearly Beloved Husband Of Clementina Fletcher.”

Three of Michael’s brothers served during WW1, Robert Usson Fletcher, William Fletcher and Private Alexander Fletcher who died on the Somme, July 18th 1916, he left a widow, a 2-year old child and 3- month old baby.

Their daughter Martha Jane Fletcher was married at Newcastle in 1928 to James Shillington Mitchell, born June 2nd 1907, In 1939 he was an unemployed lamp attendant, they were living at 53, Heaton Road. The names of several persons are obliterated, however, there is a son Denis Mitchell, born September 6th 1939 and also in the household was her mother Clementina Fletcher. Martha Ann Mitchell nee Fletcher died in 1941, aged 31-years, Clementina Fletcher-Morgan nee Bell in 1960 registered at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland, as 80 years of age, she was in fact 84 years old.

It should be noted that Robert Usson Fletcher and William Fletcher are included with their brothers in the list of those who gave their lives during the Great War on the memorial crucifix originally unveiled St. Lawrence’s Churchyard and now within St. Silas Churchyard, Byker, they both survived the conflict.

George Fletcher died in 1925 aged 74 years, details as regards Martha Ann Fletcher nee Usson, unknown.

In God’s safe keeping. Rest In Peace.

Royal Victoria Infirmary coroner's report No. 313, 8th July 1915.
"Michael Forster Fletcher aged 34 years. Private 2nd D.L.I. No 8947. 149 Janet Street. Died at his residence at 2.15am on 7th.

Deceased died at his residence No 149 Janet Street N/C at 2.15am on Wednesday 7th July 1915 from suffocature [sic] due to obstruction of the larynx by a small tumor [sic] brought about by an attack of vomiting."

He is remembered at Byker on B95.09 and B95.11

Note: CWGC states date of death as 6th July.

He is also remembered in The DLI Book of Remembrance page 174

The CWGC entry for Private Fletcher

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