A trip to the fair, an elephant, and a case of pickpocketing

Gunsmith William Cavers in London shows up in Old Bailey court records, not as a criminal, but as a victim of crime.

He had gone to the Bartholomew Fair, on 3 Sep 1828, an annual fair held in London and very popular with the local people. He had taken his eleven-year-old son Charles with him, and was carrying another son in his arms, possibly little William. The family group had gone into Wombwell’s booth, run by George Wombwell who kept a famous menagerie of exotic animals, and would regularly show them at the annual Bartholomew Fair. The Cavers family were seeing an elephant as the crime happened, as little Charles said in evidence to the court:

I am the prosecutor’s son, and am eleven years old: my little brother was on my father’s shoulder – the prisoner was talking to us, and telling us the nature of the wild beast – we were looking at the elephant and he was walking round us for a good bit; my father turned round and caught his hand pretty nearly close to his pocket – I am sure it was his hand, nobody else was near; the people were quite on the other side of the booth – I did not know the prisoner before.

William Cavers gave an even more detailed account of events:

I was inside Wombwell’s booth; I felt somebody at my pocket, turned round, and saw the prisoner – I found his hand near my pocket; he was drawing his hand from my pocket – my money was safe ten minutes before; I was sure it was the prisoner’s hand that came from my pocket, for nobody else was near me, except my two children, one of whom was in my arms, or I could have taken him in a moment; I put the child down in a minutes and a half, and was going to secure him, but he had disappeared: I went to the door, to inquire for an officer – the people at the door said they kept no officer; I said I had been robbed by a person who I knew – I am certain the prisoner is the person whose hand I found coming from my pocket – I remained there a quarter of an hour, and then found him in the same booth.

Cross-examined by MR. CHURCHILL. Q. You turned round and saw somebody near you? A. It was the prisoner; there might be one hundred or one hundred and fifty people in the booth, but nobody except the prisoner was near me, for I did not like to trust my children in the crowd, who were following the keeper, as he gave a description of the beast – I explained them to my children myself; the prisoner’s hand was in my pocket – I felt it there; I did not see it in my pocket – I saw his face: I cannot say whether he went out of the booth, but he disappeared in an instant; I cannot say whether he ran, for the child, being on my shoulder, was a total eclipse to me. When I went to inquire at the door for an officer, the people said “People who come to the fair, must take care of themselves.”

The accused John Clark was apprehended in a nearby street, and subsequently indicted for stealing 1 half-sovereign, 5 shillings, and 4 sixpences, all from William Cavers.

Clark was convicted of theft, and sentenced to be transported for life.

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A London dynasty of gunsmiths and publicans

This post outlines a relatively early London Cavers family. It seems likely that the family had Scottish origins if they could be traced back far enough, but unfortunately this isn’t possible at the moment. For generations the family were gunsmiths and then publicans in the London area.

The earliest known members of the family are William Cavers and his wife Sarah, who can be matched with a marriage on 28 Jan 1808 at Bloomsbury St George. This gives Sarah’s maiden name as Nussey, and both bride and groom were of that parish. The 1851 census records Sarah’s birthplace as Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, which together with her age in 1851 and 1861 allows her likely baptism to be traced, on 16 Apr 1788, daughter of George and Mary Nussey.

However it is possible that an earlier Cavers couple in London are linked to this family. On 23 Jan 1783 William Cavers and Jane Howell married in the church of Harrow St Mary, both of that parish, he a bachelor, she a spinster. It is possible that they were the parents of William who married Sarah Nussey. Alternatively he could be the same man, marrying twice, but the signatures recorded for the grooms at the 1783 and 1808 marriages do not seem to match.

William who married Sarah Nussey was a gun implement maker or gunsmith. He signed a will on 24 Mar 1841, and does not appear in the 1841 census with his family, at Strand Golden Buildings, St Clement Danes, Westminster, so may have died between the two dates. The death of a William Cavers was registered in the April-May-June quarter of 1841 at Strand RD, London. William’s widow Sarah was still living in 1861, described as a “Fundholder”, and probably died in 1865, with a death for Sarah Cavers registered in April-May-June quarter at Pancras RD.

William Cavers and Sarah Nussey had at least the following children:

1. Elizabeth Ann, c. 14 May 1809 at St George, Bloomsbury, Middlesex.

2. Caroline, b. ca 1812 at Clerkenwell, Middlesex. Married 29 Sep 1839 at Saint Bride Fleet St, London, to Charles Darling, cabinet maker who d. between 1861 and 1871. By 1881 Caroline seems to have been an inmate of some sort of hospital at 37 And 38, Gt Alie St, Whitechapel.

The couple’s children were at least:

  • William Darling, b. 1 Aug 1840, c. 22 Nov 1840 Limehouse St Anne. Living in 1861 (then “Engineer Lab”).
  • Jane Darling, b. 5 Aug 1841, c. 27 Aug 1841 Limehouse St Anne. Living in 1871.
  • Charlotte Darling, b. 19 Oct 1842, c. 9 Nov 1842, Limehouse St Anne. Living in 1851.
  • Mary Ann Darling, b. 8 Mar 1844, c. 29 Mar 1844, Limehouse St Anne. Living in 1851.
  • Elizabeth Darling, b. 21 Jun 1845, c. 11 Jul 1845 Limehouse St Anne. Living in 1871.
  • Caroline Darling, b. 20 Sep 1849, c. 28 Oct 1849, Limehouse St Anne. Living in 1861.
  • Charles Darling, b. 9 Feb 1852, c. 4 Jul 1852, Limehouse St Anne. Living in 1871.

3. Jane, b. 23 Jul 1815, c. 20 Oct 1816 at St Andrew Holborn, father’s occupation “Turner”. Married 28 Sep 1845 at Saint Bride Fleet St, London, to Joseph William Dunn. In the 1851 census Joseph’s occupation was “Coach Budgett Trimmer” and Jane’s “Coach Lining Maker”. In 1861 Joseph’s occupation was “Journeyman Harness Maker”. By 1871 Joseph was described as a “Coach Maker”.

The couple’s children were at least:

  • William J. Dunn, b. ca 1845. Living in 1871.
  • Harry F. Dunn, b. ca 1859. Living in 1861.
  • Caroline S. Dunn, b. ca 1851. Living in 1871.
  • Edward J. Dunn, b. ca 1853. Living in 1861.
  • Charlotte Dunn, b. ca 1855. Living in 1871.

4. Charles, c. 16 Nov 1817 at St Giles in the Fields, father’s occupation “Brass-turner”. Charles’s occupation was Gun Maker. Married 7 Feb 1842 at Parish of St Andrew Holborn to Mary Ann Gifford Gravatt (b. ca 1821/2 in London, daughter of Henry Gravatt soap boiler, d. 17 Sep 1855 at 163 Goldhawk Road, Shepherds Bush).

The couple’s children were at least:

  • Maria Cavers, b. 22 May 1843, c. 28 Jun 1843 at Lambeth St John the Evangelist (father “Gun maker”).
  • Charles Cavers, b. 1845, St James RD, London. Married to Mary Ann ???, possibly Mary Ann Cretten: a bride of this name appears on same page of certificates as, apparently, a Charles Covers, in September quarter 1865, St Giles RD, London – very possibly Charles Cavers misindexed. Charles and Mary Ann had issue (at least Ada Elizabeth, Emily Harriet, and Florence Mary). Occupation of Charles at Emily’s 1869 baptism was “Waiter” and at Ada’s 1892 marriage. Though when Emily Harriet married in 1897 her father’s occupation was recorded as “Gun Maker”, as it was when Florence Mary married in 1905. Charles died 1872, Holborn RD, London. In 1881 census his widow’s occupation was Charwoman. By 1891 she was listed as a Cook, Ada as a Machinist, Emily as a Druggist Packer, and Florence as a Feather Curler.
  • Henry Cavers, b. abt 1847, St James or Bow, London. Died 31 Jan 1905, then of 113 Devons Road, Bow. Waiter / Coffee House proprietor. Married 7 Sep 1873 at Parish Church, Camberwell, to Fanny Gravatt (b. abt 1848, St Pancras, daughter of Alfred Gravatt cook, d. aft 31 Jan 1905) with issue (at least Helen, Eleanor, William, Augustus, Alice, Maud and Walter Percy).
  • Herbert Cavers, b. 1848/9 in St James RD, c. 21 Jun 1860 at Holborn St Giles in the Fields. Died 1871 St Saviour RD, London. Married 14 Aug 1870 at Parish Church, Islington, to Harriett Hannah Suckling (daughter of James Suckling, stone mason), with issue (Herbert James Suckling). Harriet remarried, on 6 Feb 1876 at Gray’s Inn Road St Jude, Camden, to George Henry Seymour, a Carpenter.
  • Emily Cavers, b. 1852/3, St James RD or Bloomsbury RD, c, 21 Jun 1860 at Holborn St Giles in the Fields. Married 6 Jul 1873 at Parish Church, Islington, to Thomas Shaddock Stevens (b. 1851/2, Bideford, Devon), a Traveller / Licensed Victualler. Had issue (at least Augustus C., Ada E., Mabel L., Ethel M., Sidney C., Alice G. and Edith G.).
  • Augustus Cavers, c. 21 Jun 1860 at Holborn St Giles in the Fields. Seems to have married his first cousin Alice Fussell on 2 Apr 1882 at Parish Church, Islington St Mary. In mother’s will (1885) Augustus was described as licensed victualler of Wheatsheaf Hotel, Goldhawk Road, Shepherds Bush, Middlesex. Also at one point described as an “Engraver Artiz”. 1891 census reveals that he and Alice had issue (at least Edgar A. and Albert G.)
  • Eliza Cavers, b. abt 1860, c. 21 Jun 1860 at Holborn St Giles in the Fields (father “Gun maker”), d. after 1861.

5. William, c. 19 Nov 1820 at St Pancras Old St Pancras, father’s occupation “Gun smith”. Gun maker. Married 20 Aug 1854 at Myddelton Square St Mark, Islington, to Sarah Thrift (b. ca 1831, daughter of William Thrift bookmaker). William seems to have died between 1881 and 1891, assuming that Sarah Cavers in the 1891 census, widow, aged 61, and charwoman living at 29, Block E Peabody Buildings, Great Wild Street, Bloomsbury was most probably his widow.

The couple’s children were at least:

  • William Cavers, b. 1853/4, St Marylebone, Middlesex. Living in 1881. Probably the 58-year-old William Cavers living in 1911 with nephew Thomas Faulis, Musical Instrument Maker.
  • Emma Cavers, b. abt 1855. Living in 1871.
  • Louisa A Cavers, b. abt 1856. Living in 1871.
  • Edwin G Cavers, b. abt 1857. Living in 1871.
  • Ernest F Cavers, b. abt 1860. Living in 1871.
  • Grace Cavers, b. abt 1860. Married 17 Apr 1881 at Walworth All Saints Church, Southwark, to George William James, Cabman.
  • Alice Cavers, b. abt 1863. Living in 1871.
  • Edith Cavers, b. abt 1866. Living in 1871.
  • Kate Cavers, b. abt 1868. Living in 1871.

6. George, b. ca 1822, buried 20 Apr 1823 at St Andrew, Holborn, London, aged 1. Residence given as St Giles in the Fields. Am assuming that he was most likely a son of William and Sarah.

7. Sarah Maria, c. 27 Feb 1825 at Holborn St Giles in the Fields. Died after 1881. Licensed Victualler in 1871. Publican in 1881. Married 16 Oct 1842 at Parish Church, St Bride, London, to Joseph Fussell, compositor, and later journeyman printer, probably living with his family two doors along from the Cavers family in the 1841 census.

The couple’s children were at least:

  • Sarah Fussell, b. ca 1844, St George the Martyr, Middlesex. Living in 1851.
  • Joseph Fussell, b. ca 1845, Clerkenwell, Middlesex. Alive Living in 1851. Probably the Joseph Fussell, Compositor, son of Joseph Fussell (Deceased) Compositor, who married 19 Jun 1876 at St Peter’s Church, St Peter’s Saffron Hill, London, to Jemima Peppinall (?surname hard to read).
  • Jane Fussell, b. ca 1850. Living in 1871.
  • William Fussell, b. ca 1853. Living in 1871. Probably William Fussell, Warehouseman, son of Joseph Fussell (Deceased) Licensed Victualler, who married 31 Jul 1875 at St Mark’s Dalton, West Hackney, to Frances Helen Fussell.
  • Alice Fussell, b. 1863/4, Middlesex. Occupation before marriage: barmaid. Seems to have married her first cousin Augustus Cavers who was living with her and her mother in 1881. See above. On Alice’s marriage certificate her father Joseph is described as a “Licensed Victualler”.

8. Ann, c. 28 Jan 1827 at St Giles in the Fields. Curiously the 1851 census gives her birthplace as “Somerset Bristol”, possibly a mistake, since other census returns give her birthplace as Middlesex. Died after 1881. Milliner in 1851 census. Dressmaker in 1861 census.

Curiously the 1841 London census lists another early Cavers family, living at Coppin’s Court, St Dunstan In The East parish: Elizabeth, 37, a “Cha?? Woman” [hard to read, may be Char, but also looks like Chain!], William seemingly a son, 27, Jane, 13, Richard, 5 and Jane, 11. But this family does not appear in 1851, and I have no idea where they fit in, if at all.

Another relatively early London reference which can’t be linked up to anyone else yet is the marriage on 18 Jul 1812 at Limehouse St Anne parish between John Rivett and Ann Cavers, both of that parish.

A chapman in 1750s Northumberland

I recently found this relatively early newspaper reference to a Cavers in Northumberland, England, not far from the Border with Scotland. It appeared in the Newcastle Courant on 9 Dec 1752.

THOMAS CAVERS, late of Hexham, Chapman

ALL Persons who are indebted unto him, are desired immediately to pay their Debts to Mr Joseph Lazenby at Hexham, who is properly authorised to receive them, otherwise, they will be proceeded against at Law, without any other Notice to recover them.

A chapman was a seller of things, typically low-cost items, often travelling from place to place to sell his wares. Many chapmen sold things like ribbons, cutlery, napkins and reading material, especially low cost books, such as chapbooks.

In this case it looks as though Thomas was trying to recover monies owing to him. I wonder where he moved on to.

At the moment I don’t know anything more about Thomas Cavers. Though he may be the same man who married Isabel Laidler at Hexham on 25 Aug 1751, according to the parish registers.

Cavers soldiers in the First World War

One-name study researchers frequently trawl through large-scale databases looking for their surnames of interest. In my case that’s Cavers, and such databases include military records.

The largest and most readily searchable military databases currently available are those for the First World War. This includes surviving army records from Britain, Canada and Australia. I’ve examined most of these, even though my one-name study is largely focused pre-1900. The First World War army records are too useful for me to overlook purely on chronological grounds.

Sadly a lot of British service records were lost due to bombing in the Second World War, but those that can be traced are very useful. They sometimes give details of the enlistment, including address, current occupation, any former military experience, and next of kin. They also include the theatre of war the person served in, and any injuries they received. Sometimes their wife and children – with date of marriage, and dates of birth for children – are detailed. And often you will get a detailed physical description of the soldier, including their weight, height, eye colour, and any unusual features. Even where such detailed service records don’t survive there can be other references to soldiers, such as their inclusion in medal lists, or pension records, or the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for soldiers killed in action.

There are approximately 40 British Cavers soldiers with known First World War army records, per the databases in Ancestry.co.uk. This is almost certainly an underestimate of the true number of soldiers, because many army records from this era are lost, and even medal lists can be incomplete. Many of the known soldiers can be linked to known Cavers family trees, and information from their service records where they survive can be passed on to modern-day descendants.

The British Cavers soldiers found are detailed below, together with the results of my trying to identify them using other records. Note: a question mark below indicates where I am uncertain about something, such as identity. And there may be multiple references to the same person, hence my uncertainty about numbers represented, because the references below come from various sources, sometimes overlapping, such as service records, pension records, and medal roll lists.

  • Albert Cavers, The King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster), regimental number 15857, died 1916 in action
  • Alexander Thomas Cavers, Kings Own Scottish Borderers, regimental number 45534, of Loan head Dairy, Hawick, b. 1899 Jul 2, Hawick, son of George Cavers and Janet Bruce, dairyman
  • Alfred Cavers, Royal Engineers, regimental number 49998
  • Arthur W Cavers, North Staffordshire Regiment, regimental number 47090, ?Arthur William Cavers, b. 26 Aug 1885, St Anns Nottingham, son of Robert and Mary Elizabeth Cavers (nee Futrell), married Alice M Holloway Jun Qtr 1921 Burton on Trent, d. Jan Qtr 1974 Nottingham
  • Augustus William Cavers, 7th E Surrey, regimental number 33979, ?same as Augustus W Cavers, b. circa 1890, London White Chapel, a “Chandler Shop” who appears in the 1911 English census at 10 Upper Smith Street, Holborn, London, with his wife Sarah. London parish registers reveal that Augustus William Cavers married Sarah Ann Rowley on 1 Mar 1911 at Parish Church, Bow Common St Paul, London. Augustus was aged 30, a Traveller, son of Henry Cavers (deceased), Tradesman.
  • Claude Cavers, N Mid D Supply Col??, Motor Driver & Mechanic, regimental number 81, of 3 Lotus Street, Nottingham, b. 19 Jan 1895, Nottingham, son of Robert & Mary Elizabeth Cavers (nee Futrell), m. Ruth L Handley, Oct Qtr 1918, Nottingham, d. 30 Oct 1937, Nottingham
  • Claude Cavers, Army Service Corps, regimental number M2/034559, ?same as above?
  • Daniel McNaughtan Cavers, Lothian & Bord, Royal Scots, Attds Cor Hussars, regimental numbers 1593, 273232, b. 1892, Wilton, Roxburghshire, ?son of James Cavers and Margaret McNaughton
  • David Carruthers Cavers, 2nd Bde Royal Field Artillery, regimental number 74251, b. 1895, West Derby, England
  • F R Cavers, S African Signal Force, Engineers, regimental number 350, ?Francis Robert Cavers, b. Jul Qtr 1883, Stoke Newington, London, son of Samuel and Ada Jane Cavers (nee Foulsham). F.R. Cavers was buried at Kwazulu-Natal, Lions River district, Lidgetton, Anglican Church cemetery, South Africa. Described on gravestone as “F R Cavers, O.M.S., S.A. Wireless”, died February 1925
  • Frank Cavers, regimental number 060726, aged 23 when enlisted in 1914, lives in Hawick, Roxburghshire, occupation shepherd, next of kin father Thomas Cavers, Dod, Hawick
  • Frank Cavers, Scots Guards, regimental number 16796
  • George Cavers, 2nd Seaforth Highlanders, regimental number 9122
  • George Cavers, LC ex Kings Own Scottish Borderers, regimental number 147739
  • Harold C Cavers, 7th London Regiment, regimental numbers 8234, 354352, ?Harold Charles Cavers, b. 1892, Camberwell, Surrey
  • Harry Cavers, LI NCLC ex N & D, regimental number 662442
  • Harry Cavers, Sherwood Foresters AH ASC, regimental number 583840, of Ivy House, Gunthorpe, b. Oct Qtr 1884, Nottingham, Manager Government Clothing Dept, m. Lily Bignall, 18 May 1907 at St Paul’s, Hyson Green, Nottingham, children Winnifred (1907) and Marjorie (1912), d. Jul Qtr 1965 Nottingham
  • Henry Cavers, ?b. 1898 QTR 1, Carlisle RD, son of Henry & Janet Cavers, ?father son of James Cavers and Jane Corbett
  • Henry Cavers, Border Regiment, regimental number 260187
  • J Cavers, 9th Royal Scots, regimental number 2236
  • James Harry Cavers, “The Buffs” East Kent Regt, b. abt 1875, St Pancras, Middlesex, joined 1893 (listed in WW1 records, but unsure if he was WW1 soldier)
  • John Cavers, Kings Own Scottish Borderers, regimental number 200208
  • John Cavers, Army Service Corps, regimental number M2/149038
  • John Cavers, Highland Light Infantry, Machine Gun Corps, regimental numbers 184, 72240
  • John Cavers, 1st Kings Own Scottish Borderers, regimental number 16297, died 1915 in action, son of William McLean Cavers and Margaret Robson Jepps
  • John E Cavers, Royal Field Artillery, regimental numbers TF731507, 187754
  • John J E Cavers, Royal Field Artillery, regimental number 3826, b. abt 1886, of 18 Willwood St Amble, married Jane Ann Graham, 15 Sep 1915 at Amble
  • John M Cavers, Gordon Highlanders, regimental number S/4365, died 1918, prisoner of war, son of Adam Cavers and Margaret Hart
  • John R Cavers, Kings Own Scottish Borderers, regimental number 45531, of Heiton Mains, Roxburgh, ?b. 1896, Roxburgh [John Robert Cavers], son of William & Margaret Cavers, father son of John Cavers & Elizabeth Aitken
  • Robert Cavers, Kings Royal Rifle Corps, regimental number 22952, of 87 Foulden Road, Stoke Newington, b. 11 Aug 1890, Croydon, Surrey, Grocers assistant, son of William Cavers and Mary Josephine Long, married Alice Dorothy Mallandain, 21 Dec 1914 at Hackney Register Office
  • Robert Cavers, Rifle Brigade Kings Royal Rifle Corps, regimental numbers S/25912, A/200989
  • Robert Cavers, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment R, Leicestershire Regiment, reg numbers 22687, 60809, b. Oct Qtr 1890, Nottingham, son of Walter Edward Cavers and Naomi Dore, d. Apr Qtr 1957, Leicester
  • Walter Cavers, 3rd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers, regimental number 6306, b. Maryhill, Lanarkshire, aged 18 years when enlisted, apprentice b????
  • Walter Cavers, Royal Army Medical Corps/4AT, regimental number 2288
  • Walter Cavers, 2nd RS Fus, regimental number 6806
  • Walter Richardson Cavers, Royal Field Artillery, regimental number 6435, died 1917 in action, son of John Cavers, of 133 Holm Street, Glasgow
  • Watson Cavers, Tyne Side Battalion, regimental number 7801, of 4 Broomhill St, Amble North, b. 1892, Alnwick RD, Northumberland, Coal Teamer
  • Watson Cavers, Northumberland Fusiliers, T Battalion, regimental numbers 19/783, TR5/41233, died 1917 in action, son of Watson and Hannah Cavers, of Panhaven Road, Amble, ?same as above?
  • Wilfred Francis Cavers,  Leicester Regiment, regimental number 03995, b. Emmanuel, Leicestershire. Aged 19 years 11 months when enlisted, ?b. 1894, Loughborough RD, son of Adam Scott Cavers and his wife Fanny
  • Wilfred Francis Cavers, Leic Regiment, regimental number 13995, ?same as above?
  • William Culley Cavers, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment, regimental numbers 4986, 266613, b. 28 Apr 1890, 10 Agnes Terrace, St Anns Nottingham, son of William Cavers and Mary Elizabeth Culley, m. Nelly Nettleship, 4 Aug 1912, Nottingham, d. 22 Mar 1918, Cambrin, France
  • William J Cavers, Bedfordshire Regiment, regimental number 35552, also 3rd Garrison Bn, died 1919, buried in Lucknow Cantonment Military Cemetery, India

In the Canadian First World War records there are 18 Cavers soldiers.

  • Abner Robert Cavers, regimental number 1286564, b. 6 Aug 1891, Ormstown, Quebec, next of kin mother Mrs Mary Cavers, occupation mechanic
  • Adam Cavers, regimental number 916072, b. 29 Oct 1861 (he declared 1873 on enlisting), Glasgow, Scotland, son of Walter Cavers and Agnes Melville
  • Alfred Douglas Cavers, regimental number 2173317, b. 14 Sep 1895, Deloraine, Manitoba, occupation teacher. Was son of James McPherson Cavers and Frances Jane Vincent. Later married Kathleen Sutherland and lived in Saskatchewan, Canada.
  • Andrew Cavers, regimental number 2005221, b. 3 Apr 1884, Hawick, son of William Goode or Cavers and Robina Kennedy
  • Charles Walker Cavers, b. abt 1874, St Catherine’s, Lincoln, Ontario, son of Charles Cavers and Eliza Richardson, married Alicia Magness, occupation reporter
  • Harold Cavers, regimental number 139036, b. 23 Apr 1889, Nottingham, christened 8 Aug 1889, St Saviours Nottingham, son of Charles Cavers and Naomi Waite, married 1914 Toronto, to Annie Clifford Wilcox, occupation then was Decorator
  • Henry Cavers, regimental number 3057224, b. 21 Apr 1895, Balsam Hill P.O., Ontario, son of William Cavers, occupation farmer
  • Hugh Miller Cavers, regimental number 859383, b. 15 Oct 1895, Pilot Mound, Manitoba, son of E.P. Cavers
  • James Cavers, regimental number 878005, b. 11 Dec 1865 (he declared 1875 on enlisting), Jedburgh, Scotland, son of Walter Cavers and Agnes Melville
  • James Arthur Cavers, regimental numbers 513389 and 669618, b. 19 Jun 1898, Toronto, Ontario, next of kin at enlistment mother Sarah Cavers
  • James Pomeroy Cavers, Royal Air Force, b. 29 Dec 1891, Galt, Ontario, son of William Andrew Cavers and Stella Pomeroy (later Mrs. W. J. Dyas), died 1918 in action
  • John Duncan Cavers, regimental number 2381550, b. 6 Dec 1892, Pilot Mound, Manitoba, son of Edward Patterson Cavers, occupation farmer
  • John Leonard Cavers, regimental number 11211, b. 18 Jul 1889, Toronto, son of Andrew Cavers and Martha Green
  • Joseph White Cavers, regimental number 339991, b. 23 Mar 1896, Sydenham, Ontario, son of Joseph White (reputed father) and Margaret Cavers (?dau of John Cavers and Elizabeth Nisbet)
  • Robert J Cavers, regimental number 482016, b. 19 Sep 1896, Northumberland, England, son of James Cavers
  • Rupert Nelson Cavers, regimental number 37370
  • Victor Charles Cavers, regimental number 228011, b. 24 May 1897, St Catherine’s, Ontario, son of Charles Walker Cavers and Alicia Magness
  • Walter David Cavers, regimental number 907251, b. 12 Jun 1893, Galt, Ontario, next of kin when enlisted wife Mabel Fredina of 1852 Retallick St, Regina, Sask. Occupation Clerk

One Canadian soldier had a particularly unusual set of distinguishing marks recorded in his enlistment papers: Adam Cavers from Scotland, who had a “Tattoo on right forearm of shamrock, thistle and rose”, as well as various scars and other tattoos.

Adam Cavers is also an example of an older man fibbing about his age to enlist. He would have been too old to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, so knocked 12 years off his declared age. Similarly his brother James knocked 10 years off when he enlisted. One of the examining medical officers checking the two brothers seems to have noticed this, but still passed the man through.

Studying the Canadian Expeditionary Force records also reveals multi-generation soldier families. For example Charles Walker Cavers and his son Victor Charles Cavers both enlisted as Canadian soldiers to fight in the First World War. Similarly Adam Cavers (of the tattoos) enlisted as a Canadian soldier, while his son John joined the Gordon Highlanders in Scotland. Likewise there are cases of brothers enlisting, such as John Duncan Cavers and Hugh Miller Cavers from Manitoba.

I’ve only recently checked the online Australian service records. These include just 2 Cavers entries, both Scots originally from Roxburghshire:

  • Francis Cavers, 9th Battalion, 4th Reinforcement, b. 1894, Hobkirk, Scotland, son of William McLean Cavers and Margaret Robson Jepps, address at enlistment c/o Burrandowna, Jandowae, Queensland, killed in action April 1918
  • Frank Cavers, 11th Battalion, 20th Reinforcement, b. 1886, Hownam, Scotland, son of James Cavers and Mary Headley Robson, address at enlistment Perth, Western Australia

None of my immediate Cavers relatives are known to have served in the First World War, but a close Cavers relation did: Hugh Hall Jamieson, son of Euphemia Cavers Hall, granddaughter of Thomas Cavers and Helen Scott. Hugh enlisted with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, and died just months before the Armistice. I recently found that he’d made a will in the trenches, and was able to obtain a copy of this fragile document from the National Archives of Scotland. In the will he left everything to his mother, my g..aunt. Hugh is commemorated in the Roll of Honour in Hawick Museum, as are fellow soldiers John Cavers, in the KOSB, and Australian Francis Cavers.

If any readers can identify some of the mystery soldiers above please get in touch with me by email, to cavers@one-name.org. Equally if anyone wants more information about any of the soldiers above, please feel free to contact me. Though the information I have varies, depending on record survival.

EDIT: I will be updating this blog entry as new information comes in. Thanks already to Rod Smith who has expanded the information about the Nottingham Cavers soldiers, his close relatives. Likewise thanks to Sandra Cavers for more information about Alfred Douglas Cavers.