Edward Fidler Pattinson was born the youngest of five children on 31 May 1889 to Mary Ann Pattinson (née Fidler) and James Walton Pattinson, a railway station master, in Haltwhistle, Northumberland. After Edward’s father died in 1897, leaving an estate of £89 6s, responsibility for supporting the family would have fallen first on his mother. By the time of the 1901 census, when Mary Ann is listed as living on her own means, two of her children (aged 14 and 16) were working, one as a grocer’s apprentice and the other as a telegraph messenger. Whether Mary Ann had private means of any kind beyond her husband’s estate, or in fact she was being supported by her family is not evident. Nevertheless, the family was able to send the youngest son, Edward, to be educated as a teacher at Bede College in Durham in 1907.
While at Bede College Pattinson served as captain of the hockey team in 1908, and, (in view of his later activities in Germany), was likely involved with the college choir. He passed his certificate examination in 1909 with a distinction in Music. Upon leaving the college Pattinson worked for a time as an Assistant Teacher at New Silkworth Council School.
In 1914 Pattinson joined the 8th Durham Light Infantry, but in their first very bloody engagement in the Battle of Gravenstafel Ridge on 25 April 1915 he was wounded and captured. According to the narrative of fellow captive Lance Corporal J. Thomas, and which was not published in The Bede magazine until June 1916, that day Pattinson’s company continued to fight alongside Canadian troops after another company had been overcome by the German attack. No order to retreat was received by the men, perhaps due to the death of their officer. Other accounts of the day do refer to a general order to fall back, the two DLI companies’ positions having become untenable, but the subsequent disorganised retreat exposed the men to very heavy fire which took a further toll.
Pattinson was wounded in the arm, and though Thomas in his letter in The Bede passed on second-hand reports of some of the wounded having been bayonetted, Pattinson was taken prisoner. Such atrocity reports are not uncommon at this date of in the war, and may be more a feature of the force of allied propaganda than of what actually occurred: an anonymous account from The Bede quoted above provides more convincing testimony of what went on that day. With a number of fellow prisoners Edward spent that first night in a church before being marched three hours to Roeselare, where, upon arrival, the men were “…put in a sort of garret… The floor was covered with straw; [they] had no blankets (luckily the weather was not cold) and for food [they] had a cup of coffee and a slice of bread twice a day” (The Bede,June 1916, p.17).
Initially the sole Bede man to be sent to Stendal, a camp in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, Pattinson was later joined there by W. E. Taylor who had been previously at a camp at Münster with many of the other captured Bede men. During his time at Stendal Pattinson was able to establish a correspondence with the The Bede magazine and received gifts from home. Rev. H. M. Williams, a chaplain stationed at Berlin and noted for his cheerful visits, met with Pattinson at the camp multiple times. Pattinson continued to pursue his interest in music, and “A Special Barrack was allowed for the Divine Service, and Pattinson was Choir Master. Some Church music and hymn books for which he asked [were] sent to him” (The Bede, March 1916, p.24).
The point at which Pattinson was promoted is unclear, but he was eventually made a Corporal during his time at the camp. The title of ‘Private’ was, however, at times mistakenly used in records and correspondence after the promotion. The Bede magazine emphasized his promotion, writing, “[i]f any of his contemporaries write to E. F. Pattinson they should be careful to address him by his proper rank as Corporal Pattinson. This is very desirable that this should be done” (The Bede, April 1918, p.5).
Shortly before Pattinson was to be transferred to another camp in Holland, news reached him that his fiancée had succumbed to pneumonia (the ‘Spanish Flu’). Having fallen victim to the same illness, Edward died soon after on 28 February 1918. A tribute to him, printed in The Bede reveals the extent to which Pattinson had been liked at the camp:
T. E. B. Russell writes from The Hague as follows:– ‘On arriving at Aachen, where the party concentrated, I met a man who came from the camp where Ned Pattinson of ‘ours’ had been so long, and he told me of his sudden death a few days before. It was all the more sad as had he lived he would have come through with the same party as myself. Indeed I myself saw his name on the list in the office. The man I met had been a particular friend of ‘Pat’ as he affectionately called him and he broke down whilst telling me the sad story. It appears the he was the most popular man in the camp amongst all nationalities’
Three Canadian Soldiers wrote letters of sympathy to the relatives. ‘We were captured with him and have been together ever since. We laid ‘Pat’ to rest with military honours, with the Scotch bagpipes played by Sergeant Proudfoot of the Black Watch, and the last post by Corporal Tierney. It was touching to see with what sincerity each man paid the last honours to his departed comrade. The adieu from his class read in French by one of ‘Pat’s’ former pupils showed to what extent he was esteemed and respected by our Allies.’ A copy of the address read at the grave by Henri Vévy and signed by nineteen French soldiers, members of the Class, was also sent.
The Bede magazine, v.14, no. 3, August 1918, p.2
Edward Pattinson is buried at Berlin South-Western Cemetary, Stahnsdorf. His name is inscribed on the Holy Cross Church memorial in Haltwhistle, and he is also commemorated on the Durham County Council war memorial at County Hall, and the Bede College 1914-1918 cross , plaque, and roll of honour.