“My Irish grandad, William H Marks, was wounded and gassed in the First World War at the Battle of the Somme and sent to the Leigh Road field hospital. He met my nanny, Lilian M Harding [both pictured above], who lived in Eastleigh; they married and stayed in Eastleigh. The ‘rest is history’ so they say.”
Hannah Tyburek saw the Eastleigh Remembers event on Facebook and got in touch with us to share her own special story, one family’s history with a deep-rooted connection to the First World War Eastleigh Clearing Hospital.
It begins with Hannah’s grandfather, William (Willie) H Marks. He was born in 1897 and hailed from Belfast, Ireland. Once old enough, he joined the Ulster Volunteer Force Medical Corps as a stretcher bearer at the Battle of the Somme. At some point, records suggest around 1916, the young Private Marks was gassed, wounded and sent to a temporary British Military Field Hospital – it was Eastleigh Clearing Hospital on Leigh Road Recreational Ground.
Meanwhile Hannah’s grandmother, Lilian M Harding, was born 1898 in Norfolk, Norwich. Two of her older siblings were also born in Norwich while seven of her elder brothers were born in Dorchester, Dorset, with the eldest brother born in Poole, Dorset. By 1910, Lilian’s parents, Charles and Hannah Harding, and nine of their children were living in Eastleigh. The family owned a Confectioner/News shop at 31 High Street, Eastleigh - where the bookmaker Betfred is now sited.
Hannah’s grandmother, Lilian, told her she met her husband, William, when he was at the Leigh Road Clearing Hospital. The family don't know how or where they met exactly, but at that time Lilian and her family had moved and were living further along Leigh Road at number 72. Hannah says she likes to imagine her grandmother simply came across William while walking by the Clearing Hospital which could quite possibly be the case as Lilian was a classroom assistant, at the Holy Cross RC School (opened in 1903, replaced by St Swithun Wells Catholic Primary School 1972) located across the road from the Clearing Hospital in Leigh Road.
Lilian and William met, fell in love and married in 1921 South Stoneham, Hampshire. They started their married life living with Lilian’s family, in Eastleigh, and soon after they had their first of eight children. When the houses in Derby Road, Eastleigh, were built in the early 1930's, they moved to number 95.
“I have seen an old photo that shows the hospital huts, with a member of the military conversing across the fence to a lady member of the public. I always wonder if that is my grandfather and grandmother chatting,” said Hannah.
William started working at Pirelli General in 1923 and stayed there until he retired aged 65 in 1962. They resided at their first house together in Derby Road, Eastleigh, until they both sadly passed away. William died aged 72 in November 1969 and Lilian died aged 78 in January 1977.
There are many descendants of Hannah’s late grandparents still living in the Eastleigh area – grandchildren and great grandchildren. There is still an immediate Harding descendant, a nephew of Lilian, living in a nursing home in the area.
Hannah lives a one-minute walk from Leigh Road Recreation Ground and is looking forward to attending Eastleigh Remembers.
Eastleigh Remembers takes places on 15 September from 11am to 5pm, on Leigh Road Recreation Ground. It is a free family event, paying tribute to Eastleigh’s role in the First World War, including a re-enactment of a field hospital, commemorating the clearing hospital that was located across Eastleigh, including the recreation ground.
Vintage military vehicles and entertainment from the Second World War will also feature in the form of a Dame Vera Lynn tribute act and The Lindy Club swing dance and local community bands and performers. There will be plenty of family activities, from Knitwear through the Ages and Semaphore Signalling to Hover Archery and a climbing tower.
We’ll see you there…