I have been intrigued by Marshall Lawrence Ivens who was born in 1898 in Warwickshire, but I suspect actually in Leamington in Warwickshire, especially as there is a Christening in Leamington Priors on February 15th, 1901 where, incidentally, both parents are named – Martin Edmund and Constance.
His mother was Constance Margaret Ivens, as can be seen in the 1901 a census in Leamington, and the 1911 census in Pokesdown, near Bournemouth, Hampshire.
But neither of these two census entries list his father. He’s off somewhere else.
However, in a Commonwealth Graves listing, which cites Marshall’s death in the Great War, aged just 19 on 3rd September, 1916, his parents are listed as Edmund and Constance M. Ivens. [Make a mental note of this date. Ed.]
So who is Edmund? There is a marriage between Constance Margaret Laurence and Martin Edmund Ivens in 1896, and in the entire listing of Ivens (including all the various spellings) there is only one Martin Edmund – the son of Richard Marshall and Arabella Ivens based in Warwick.
This seems most likely and gives reason to the naming of his son: Marshall from Martin Edmund’s Grandmother’s maiden name, and carried through to his father’s middle name and also his elder brother’s middle name, another Richard Marshall Ivens.
Marshall Lawrence Ivens’ middle name (whether spelt’Lawrence’ or ‘Laurence’) is clearly from his mother’s maiden name.
So that ties it all up quite neatly ….
In the 1911 census, Martin Edmund Ivens is at his parents’ place on the night of the census, albeit listed as married, while his wife and 14 year old son and 6 year old daughter Cicely Constance are at home, now in Bournemouth. This might be quite innocent.
At this time, he lists his occupation as Valuer (just like his dad)
But 10 years earlier in the 1901 census, despite the christening record of the same year, he is nowhere to be found. His wife Constance is visiting the Smith family with her 3 year old son Marshall Lawrence. The family she was visiting was Bernard Smith and his new bride Violet Annie Gaydon, who had married the previous February 1900 in Leamington Priors, and who now had a 4 month old son, Arthur. So, probably just good friends, neighbours and budding new mums.
Curiously, at the 1901 christening of their son and just a couple of months before the census, Martin Edmund lists his occupation as ‘Imperial Yeoman’.
According to Forces War Records ‘The Imperial Yeomanry was a British volunteer cavalry regiment that mainly saw action during the Second Boer War. Officially created on 24 December 1899, the regiment was based on members of standing Yeomanry regiments, but also contained a large contingent of mid-upper class English volunteers. In Ireland 120 men were recruited in February 1900. It was officially disbanded in 1908.
On 13 December 1899, the decision to allow volunteer forces serve in the Second Boer War was made. Due to the string of defeats during Black Week in December, 1899, the British government realized they were going to need more troops than just the regular army, thus issuing a Royal Warrant on 24 December 1899. This warrant officially created the Imperial Yeomanry.
The Royal Warrant asked standing Yeomanry regiments to provide service companies of approximately 115 men each. In addition to this, many British citizens (usually mid-upper class) volunteered to join the new regiment. Although there were strict requirements, many volunteers were accepted with substandard horsemanship/marksmanship; however, they had significant time to train while awaiting transport.
The first contingent of recruits contained 550 officers, 10371 men with 20 battalions and four companies, which arrived in South Africa between February and April, 1900. Upon arrival, the regiment was sent throughout the zone of operations.’
So, Martin Edmund may well have been on duty somewhere at the time of the 1901 census, and maybe young Marshall Lawrence, now aged about 4, was christened just before his father went off on maneuvres, that’s assuming he was actually present.
Whatever the events, a second child, Cicely Constance was born in 1905, visible in the 1911 census in Bournemouth, and also the 1939 Register. She is eventually to marry Harold Gould, and later, apparently, a Mr. Miles.
But back to the elusive Martin Edmund Ivens, Marshall’s father.
The next document is a Probate notice. He is an AGSM with 16th Batallion Royal Warwickshire Regiment and leaving £5 1s 2d to Arabella, his mother. His wife is not mentioned. (His father dies in 1918). Martin Edmund had died in France in the Great War.
Like so many of the stories in this family, you can probably guess the date he died: 3rd September, 1916. The very day that his son Marshall Lawrence is killed, and probably in the same battle.
3rd September 1916 was at the height of the Battle of the Somme. Marshall Lawrence Ivens (Follow the link for more details on the Hampshire Battalions) is recorded at Beaumont-Hamel, Picardy, France, but there is no such detail for his father.
So, Constance Margaret not only heard news of her husband, but also her only son. Both killed at the Battle of the Somme, both on the same day. Curiously, her husband had left his ‘Effects’ from the Army of £5 1s 2d, and later £150 to his mother, Arabella. But her son, Marshall Lawrence, Private 26933, left her £2 12s 7d.
Constance lived in Bournemouth until 1955, aged 77. They had married when she was 18 and her husband just 17. The Great War arrived when they were in their mid 30’s, and their son was just 17. Two years later both father and son were gone.
The Somme offensive had been conceived of as part of a huge simultaneous war-winning attack by the Allies on the Eastern and Western Fronts. The strategy was blunted by the German attack at Verdun in late February 1916, which turned French attentions to that area for most of the rest of the year. The strategy had failed.
There was no striking territorial or positional benefit to an advance on the Somme: the war would not be won by advancing eastwards into yet more miles of rolling French farmland. It would have been tempting to abandon the offensive, but this was simply not possible: the obligations of coalition meant that the British had to keep on applying pressure on the Somme in order to relieve pressure on the French at Verdun: at least, that was the theory.
Once the offensive had been reduced in its weight by the need to concentrate French forces at Verdun, the Somme’s only contribution to winning the war would be the material reduction of the German ability and willingness to fight. It can be argued that it did make such a material reduction, but it came at enormous and at least equivalent cost in Allied manpower and resources due to dogged and skilful German defensive fighting. While the Somme was going on, German high command was already making preparations to give up the ground and to withdraw into the impregnable defences the British would come to know as the Hindenburg Line.
But there is a British positive from the Somme:
The army, much of which was a new citizen army raised in 1914, was learning its trade and beginning to match its enemy. Equipment, munitions, tactics, command and control were all rapidly developed as a result of the bloody debacle of the first day and of all the subsequent attritional fighting since. Even in the appalling ground and weather conditions of the later phases of the battle, it does not appear that morale fell. As the awful battles of 1917 would show, there was much necessary development and learning yet to come, and it came at high cost in blood – but the war-winning force of 1918 began its life on the Somme in 1916.