Kirkham & War
The increase in demand for naval supplies and equipment during the Napoleonic Wars provided a boost to the Kirkham sailcloth industry. Another link to the conflicts with Napoleon’s France is Henry Rishton Buck. Born in Kirkham and baptized at St Michael’s Church in 1788 he was educated at Kirkham Grammar School and Cambridge University. He gained an army commission in 1809 and went to Belgium in 1815 as part of Wellington’s army. He lost his life, aged 27 fighting at the battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815. He has a memorial in St Michael’s which also commemorates his brother James Buck, a fellow army officer who had died earlier in the same year. A death notice for the two brothers in the Lancaster Gazette of 15 July 1815 notes that James died at his mother’s house in Preston.
The town’s main war memorial in the form of a cenotaph, is situated adjacent to St Michael’s in the Memorial Gardens. It was unveiled on Sunday 7 November 1926 (Remembrance Sunday) by General Sir Richard H K Butler and a seven-minute film of the event held by the North West Film Archive shows the large crowds that processed and attended the ceremony on a rainy November day. There are 101 names on the memorial for the Great War and a further 29 for the Second World War. The memorial itself was part of a designed garden which had been created from what the Lancashire Daily Post of 8 November 1926 had called ‘a waste hillside close to the parish church’. The scheme was the work of Edward Prentice Mawson who, like his father Thomas Hayton Mawson, was a noted garden designer and landscape architect.
Around the time of the outbreak of the Great War a notable photograph was taken of Kirkham recruits that assembled in the town before marching to Preston to enlist. In front of the men a banner is positioned reading ‘For Kitchener from Kirkham’, in reference to the famous recruitment campaign driven by Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War. David Parkinson has complied an extensive list of biographical details of men from Kirkham and Wesham who served from 1914 – 1918.