The women of the East End have always been remarkably strong characters. Life could be hard, work was demanding, living conditions cramped and basic, health could be precarious and life could be short. Women in particular suffered while they tried to combine running a household, earning a supplementary wage, being regularly pregnant and dealing with the emotional upheaval of the loss of a child.
Having endured these difficult times, women at the start of the 20th century then had to endure the added trauma of sending their husbands and sons (and sometimes their daughters) off to serve in the Great War. Almost every household would have known friends and neighbours who received dreadful news via a telegram, but while sympathising and grieving with their loss of a husband, son or brother, people couldn’t help being grateful that it wasn’t THEIR husband, son or brother. Some families were in the unimaginable position of going through this horrendous ordeal on more than one occasion. Jane Bastick was the mother of 13 children who survived into adulthood and 8 of her sons are believed to have enlisted in the armed forces.
Jane was born in Bethnal Green in 1853, the daughter of Barnard Dickenson, a licensed victualler in Shoreditch. Her father died when she was about 3 years old. Following her marriage to Thomas Bastick at St Jude’s church Bethnal Green on 6th April 1874, Jane gave birth to her first child, Clara Jane, in 1875 and this was followed by a child every two years until her last son was born in 1898. Nine sons and five daughters altogether, with all except Jane Mary (1879-85) surviving into adulthood.
Census returns have the family living at 4 James Street Shoreditch, 6 John Street Shoreditch, 5 St John’s Terrace Shoreditch and finally in 1911 at 23 Fuller Street Bethnal Green. In 1911 Jane’s youngest son and her granddaughter are school children while all of the rest of the family are earning a wage to help support the family. Only the eldest son, Thomas aged 34 years, does not have an occupation as he had paralysis. He was to die in 1914. Jane’s husband was a cabinet maker while their children were a metal polisher, a labourer, a button maker, a porter, a carman and an errand boy.
Four of the Bastick brothers served in WW1. George Frederick served as a driver in the Royal Field Artillery. He contracted tuberculosis while serving in 1916 and was invalided home with a pension of 15/-. He died aged 34 and is buried in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park.
Frederick enlisted in the 7th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, serving in the Expeditionary Force in France. He was wounded in the thigh and also discharged with a pension in 1916.
Frank Ernest enlisted in the regular army on 26-6-23 with the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment and served for four years. His enlistment papers state that he had previously served in the Royal Fusiliers.
Alfred Charles served in the 1st Battalion Essex Regiment and died in the Gallipoli Campaign aged 21 on 8-5-15. He is commemorated on the Helles Memorial.
Albert enlisted in the Suffolk Regiment when he was 14 in 1907 and other brothers are believed served but their records are proving more elusive! It is possible that all 8 brothers served at some point.
After the war, Thomas died in Bethnal Green in 1919 and Jane finally passed away in Whitechapel in 1936 aged 83 years. The Bastick family illustrate the immense sacrifices ordinary people made during the Great War.