Friday 23 February 2024

Sir Arthur Frederick Blakiston, 7th Baronet, MC (1892 - 1974) - International Rugby Union player and WW1 soldier

With grateful thanks to John Daniel for spotting the plaque at the Northampton Saints Rugby Club open day, taking a photograph and researching Sir Arthur for us. 

Arthur Frederick Blakiston, known as “Freddie”, was born on 16th June 1892 in West Derby, Lancashire, a suburb of Liverpool.  His parents were Frederick Turnly Blakiston and his wife Eleanor Isabella, nee Fitzgerald.

Arthur was initially educated at Bedford School and joined Trent College in March 1903. Before leaving school in 1908, he had served as a School Monitor and Librarian and had proved to be an excellent sportsman. He went on to study at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. 

Arthur served during the First World War in the King Edward’s Horse Regiment, then as an officer in the Royal Field Artillery. He was awarded the Military Cross in September 1918 when an ammunition column under his command came under fire in Belgium. Despite being under constant shelling, Arthur rescued wounded men and managed to deliver ammunition to the front line.

After the war Arthur worked as a schoolmaster at the Grammar School in Northampton.

As a rugby union international wing, Arthur represented England twelve times between 1920 and 1925, and the British Lions in all four test matches during their 1924 tour of South Africa. He played as a Lock/Flanker for: Bedford School, Trent College, Cambridge University, Northampton, Liverpool, Blackheath, Barbarians, East Midlands, Lancashire and Surrey. Freddie Blakiston was one of the greatest forwards Northampton Saints ever produced.

Arthur inherited his title, becoming Sir Arthur Frederick Blakston, Seventh Baronet in 1941 and died in Salisbury, Witshire on 31st January 1974.

Since 2018, Nothampton Saints’ playing squad takes part in an annual pre-season challenge in Blakiston’s honour – which has so far been won by Dan Biggar, Reuben Bird-Tulloch, Piers Francis and Alex Coles (twice).

Sources:  Information supplied by John Daniel, Find my Past, FreeBMD,

Morgan Maddox Morgan-Owen, DSO (1877 – 1950) - Wales football international and captain - WW1 soldier

With thanks to John Daniel for finding this information for us 

Morgan was born on 26th February 1877 in Cardiff, Wales. His parents were Timothy Morgan Owen, a Schools Inspector, and his wife, Emma Owen, nee Maddox.  Educated at Shrewsbury School, Morgan went on to become a teacher.  In 1901 he was working as an Assistant Master at Forest School in Walthamstow, London.  

Forest School officially opened as Forest Proprietary Grammar School on 1st  October 1834.  

Morgan Maddox Morgan-Owen was described as the best Centre Half of his time in the world. He captained Wales in their first win against Scotland on Scottish soil in 1906 and Corinthians FC, the famous London based amateur side, when they inflicted on Manchester United, their heaviest ever defeat, 11-3 in 1904.  Morgan also captained the Corinthians on many overseas trips. One in particular to Brazil in 1908, inspired the formation of one of Brazil's most famous clubs, Sport Club Corinthians Paulista, FIFA Club World Cup winners in 2000 and 2012.

On the 1911 we Census find Morgan listed with his brother Hugh in Repton, Derbyshire, where he was an Assistant Schoolmaster at Repton School.  Hugh’s occupation was described as Colonial Civil Service in Nigeria

Morgan enlisted four days after the declaration of the First World War and fought at Gallipoli, where he was wounded, and at Passchendaele on the Western Front. He initially joined the 1/4 Batallion of the Essex Regiment, was attached to 11th (Service) Battalion, The Rifle Brigade 12/12/16, and made Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel and attached as CO to 10th (Service) Battalion, The Rifle Brigade 01/12/17.  Morgan relinquished his Temporary rank and re-attached to 11th (Service) Battalion 03/02/18.  Although he entered the war as a Captain, due to the fact that so many officers were killed in action, Morgan became a Lieutenant-Colonel within weeks and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1918.

After the War, Morgan married Doris Marjorie Turner on 19th August 1925.  The 1939 Census finds Morgan and his wife living in Repton, with Morgan’s occupation described as Retired House Master.   He died in Derbyshire in 1950.

Sources:  John Daniel, Find my Past, FreeBMD, Wikipedia,

Friday 2 February 2024

Merrill Chapman Robinson (1896 - 1970) – Canadian WW1 soldier

Born in Fort William Ontario on 13th May 1896 and known as  "Robbie", Merrill Chapman Robinson enlisted in the army in Fort William, Ontario on 6th April 1915, declaring his height  5'10" and his age as 18 years 11 months – although he was 16.  He initially joined the 52nd Battalion CEF and was posted to the 8th Battalion as a Private on 14th August 1915 in the field on the Western Front. Promoted to Corporal, Lance Corporal, Sergeant, Lance Sergeant, and Warrant Officer, Merrill was finally appointed CSM (Company Sergeant-Major).

Merrill’s service records confirm he was Wounded in Action (WIA) on the first day of the Battle of Vimy Ridge – 9th April 1917 – which was Easter Monday that year. His wounds cost him his eyesight and he nearly lost a leg. After a long period of convalescence in hospitals in England, Merrill trained as a physiotherapist and married one of his nurses – Ina Emma Langley-Fraser. They were married in Wandsworth, London, UK in 1919.   

The Battle of Vimy Ridge was part of the Battle of Arras, in the Pas-de-Calais Department of France, during the First World War. The main combatants were the four divisions of the Canadian Corps in the First Army, against three divisions of the German 6th Army. The battle took place from 9th to 12th April 1917.  (9th April was Easter Monday in 1917.)

"Vimy Memorial at midnight", painted by 
Captain William Frederick Longstaff (1879–1953) - known as Will Longstaff - an Australian painter and war artist best known for his works commemorating those who died in the First World War.

After the end of the First World War, Merrill’s contributions to bettering life for the blind were outstanding. He was the Western Superintendent of the CNIB - Canadian National Institute for the Blind and served throughout the Second World War as General Chairman of Auxiliary Services.

In 1940 Merrill was invited by the Minister of Defence to form the first Citizen's Rehabilitation Council. He also worked with the National War Finance Committee and in 1943 was awarded an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire). 

One of Merrill’s final achievements was as principal speaker at a World Council of UNESCO in Paris, France, in 1954, presenting his ideas about economic security for the blind. His post-WWI career is catalogued in a brief biography at UBC when he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Law in 1957.

 Merrill died in 1970 and was buried in Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria, B.C. (British Columbia), Canada.  His wife was also buried in the same grave. 

Initial source:

Additional sources:  Find my Past, FreeBMD,