Christopher Jakeman Whitehouse
Christopher Jakeman ‘Jake’ Whitehouse was born in 1926 in Bloxwich, Walsall, the son of Frank and Mary Whitehouse (nee Everton).
His father, Frank Whitehouse was born in 1892 at Bentley Farm, Walsall. Bentley Farm has long been demolished and stood under Junction 10, of the M6 motorway. Frank was a currier, a skilled leather worker and in 1915, at Walsall, he enlisted and served throughout the Great War as a Guardsman in the Grenadier Guards. During the war he had been gassed and injured in shell explosions a number of times.
Jake’s paternal grandfather was Joseph Henry Whitehouse, born in 1856 and baptised at Cannock Parish Church. When Joseph was sixteen, he joined the 2nd King’s Own Staffordshire Militia, giving the false age of eighteen. This was for a period of five years, and an annual payment of one guinea, plus a free uniform. His initial training would be at the Militia Barracks in Stafford.
Jake’s mother Mary, was the daughter of Thomas Everton who was known to the family as “Old Bug Whiskers” because of his moustache. Thomas was responsible for planting of the Arboretum at Walsall and lived in the Arboretum Lodge.
Jake also had a military career serving with 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment at the end of the Second World War and continued thereafter in the King’s African Rifles and the West African Frontier Force. After his regular service, he continued for many years as a Territorial in the 6th North Staffords. He became a teacher of English at a primary school in Stafford, living locally at Brocton.
His military experiences and a lifetime’s study of military history gave him a unique insight into the camps of Cannock Chase.
His memories of childhood walks in the 1930’s around the Messines model and his pioneering work both in Staffordshire Record Office and on the ground form the base on which is built our knowledge of the camps today.
Jake’s talents were many but he will be best remembered for his book, ‘A Town For Four Winters’, published in early 1980,which laid out clearly the camps’ construction and use, and the many guided walks he gave to local groups enabled many people to observe things they had never noticed before.
The Messines Model was overgrown, but the outline was clear, and he made particular reference to it on each walk as well as precise location in the book. It was Jake’s reference in his book that informed the archaeologists who carried out the excavation of the Messines Model in September 2013 in a project led by Staffordshire County Council and funded by Natural England. This monument is now scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. The protection of this part of Cannock Chase has bought about an even wider publicity to this part of Staffordshire.
In the immediate aftermath of the Great War, local ladies took flowers to the graves, which still had wooden crosses, but this lapsed. In 1972, Jake and his brother, as Secretary and Chairman of the West Midlands Branch of the Military Historical Society, re-started it, and it became the Anzac Service. Soon it was so popular that the small Military Historical Society could no longer afford the organisation. The British Legion took over, and continues to this day. Jake remained until his death an active member of the West Midlands Branch of the Military Historical Society writing endless articles in member’s newsletters and journals.
Jake’s talents were many in his tireless research, prolific writing and expressed knowledge of military history, his passion for the beauty and charm and history of Cannock Chase.
Jake with be fondly remembered by his wife Gill, family and friends as a man of many talents, artist, an avid nature lover who found peace and joy in the outdoors.
He was a Great Man.
I am very grateful for the information which was written by Jake in an article he wrote in December 2016 for the newsletter for the West Midlands Branch of the Military Historical Society about his grandfather and for information provided by his wife Gill.