Sunday, December 31, 2006

Chailey 1914-1918 - One Year Old

Chailey 1914-1918 is one year old today. It was one of my resolutions in 2006 to publish the story of Chailey's Great War on-line and I made it with, I think, about an hour and a half to spare. In the intervening twelve months the website has been updated many times and will continue to be so.

I have been fortunate that a number of relatives have come forward with additional information that has enabled me to update biographies and, in a number of cases, add photographs of the participants. Having researched Chailey during the Great War for the past twenty five years, finally putting a face to a name, or identifying a previously unknown individual from a faded sepia photograph is particularly gratifying.

2007, the ninetieth anniversary of the Battles of Arras and Passchendaele, may well see the last of Britain's First World War veterans fading away. Nevertheless, the "war they called Great" still exercises a powerful hold on people. It's popularity as a research topic seems to increase with every week and will presumably reach a crescendo with the centenary commemorations in 2014, 2015 etc.

My own grandfather and his four brothers served during the Great War, as did a maternal great grandfather and numerous distantly related great uncles. The very least we can do is to acknowledge their sacrifices.

A very happy New Year to you all.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Chailey National School 1899

The photo above shows pupils from Group 5, Chailey National School in 1899. Enlarged details of the image are included on a new page for Chailey National School.

Please contact me if you recognise any of the children in this photo.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas 2006

Numerous Christmas cards sent by British troops during the First World War years express two main themes: on the one hand, triumph over their enemies in battles fought during the previous months and years; on the other, victory in the coming year. Keeping spirits up was important, both for the soldiers of all sides and for their anxious relatives back home. For many though, Christmas would be etched with worry and for others, the pain of wounds or the grief of recent loss.

Four men with Chailey connections lost their lives during December.

Ernest Whitcomb of the Labour Corps and formerly of the Middlesex Regiment had died in December 1918, almost a month after hostilities had ceased. Gunner George Emery of the Royal Horse Artillery had died of wounds in England on 15th December 1915 and Private Frank Peacock of the Grenadier Guards and Lieutenant Harold Macculloch of the Seaforth Highlanders had both died five days later on 20th December 1915. For their immediate families, Christmas must always have been a time of sadness rather than celebration.

Other men would always remember Christmas as a time when wounds gave them a reprieve from the miseries of trench warfare. Private W H Baddock of the 3rd Grenadier Guards and Private Edward Burnage of the 2nd Royal Sussex Regiment were both wounded on Christmas Eve 1915 - Baddock by a rifle grenade at Neuve Chappelle and Burnage possibly also by a rifle grenade at Givenchy. Both men would end up at Hickwells, Chailey; a world away from the horrors of the Western Front.

Happy Christmas 2006 - Remember those who gave so much.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Ernest Whitcomb - "Frost bites in both feet"

Eighty eight years ago today, on 10th December 1918, Ernest Whitcomb died in Macedonia. He was not from Chailey but as 6271 Private Ernest Whitcomb, he had been a convalescent patient at Hickwells in early 1915. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

Pte E Whitcomb
1st Middlesex Regt

Frost Bites in both feet on the
14th Feb at Armentieres

Reg No 6271

He shares this page with entries from SR/1921 Private James William Salmon of the 4th Royal Fusiliers, 2229 Trooper Alfred Rock of the Royal Horse Guards, 22002 Private D Jones of the Army Service Corps and 6155 Private Frank Chivers Dixon of the 1st Wiltshire Regiment.

I have often wondered if Ernest Whitcomb is one of the men pictured above. The man seated second left and the man seated far right appear on a number of photos and I have a hunch, although it won't be proven, that they were amongst the first 12 patients to be admitted.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Debt of Honour Register notes that he was 38 years old at the time of his death on 10th December 1918 and that he was son of J Whitcomb and the husband of S Whitcomb of Solander Street, St George in the East, London. Despite this information however, he has proven to be very difficult to track down on census returns. He should appear on the returns for 1881, 1891 and 1901 but I am not convinced that I have found him on any.

On the 1891 census, a ten year old Ernest Whitcombe, born in St George in The East, is recorded as a scholar at the St George’s in the East Industrial School at Plashet Grove, East Ham, London. The school was opened in 1851 on a 16 acre site at the east of Green lane. It was intended to accommodate 150 boys, 120 girls and 80 infants. The building was demolished in the 1980s.

I believe that Ernest may have been the son of Fred and Annie Whitcomb. Frederick John Whitcomb was born in 1861 in Bermondsey and his wife Annie (who was possibly born as Mary Ann Ince) was born in St George in The East around 1865. The couple appear on the 1891 census living at 105 Cornwall Street, St George in The East with their five children. Their names and ages are recorded as follows: Fred Whitcombe (aged seven), Mary Whitcombe (aged six), Sam Whitcombe (aged four), John Whitcombe (aged two) and Emma H Whitcombe (aged one month). Fred’s occupation is given as general labourer.

By the time the 1901 census was taken the family was still living at St George in the East but had moved to 57 Spencer Street. Frederick, still working as a labourer, is recorded as John; his wife his recorded as Anne and her age given as 39 (she was recorded as being 27 on the 1891 census). Their offspring are all still noted as living at the family home (Mary is recorded as Mary Anne) and there is a fifth child: Charles Whitcombe (aged two). Frederick/John’s mother Jane Whitcombe is the final person noted at the Whitcombe household. She is recorded as a 60 year old widow born in Greenwich. On both census returns, St George in the East is given as the place of birth for all of the Whitcombe children.

According to his medal index card (below), Ernest arrived in France on 3rd February 1915. He notes that he served with the 1st Battalion which formed part of the regular 6th Division. Judging by his Middlesex Regiment number, he originally enlisted in May 1900. Terms of enlistment were generally seven years with colours and five years on the reserve. This would have meant that Ernest would, under normal circumstances, have been discharged from the army in May 1912. That he was not suggest either that he extended his period of engagement or, more likely, that he enlisted for section D Army Reserve which would have given him four more paid years on the reserve when his first period of reserve service ended. Either way, he had certainly not been discharged from the regiment when Britain went to war on 4th August 1914.

Contemporary reports describe the awful conditions in which men found themselves in that first winter on the Western Front. The war diary for the 1st Middlesex describes how the battalion left billets west of Armentieres on 2nd January 1915, and entered the trenches which were “very bad, full of mud and water up to the men’s knees in many places. Raining all day.”

Between the 4th and 7th January, the war diary entries simply read: “still in trenches. Weather terrible - mud and water terrible.” By the 8th the weather was “slightly better” and the men were “Working all day to try and keep the trenches standing. Rain causes dug-outs to fall in and parapets to disappear. Fascines and sandbags all sink into mud.”

By 9th January it was raining hard again and because the trenches were in such an appalling state it was decided to start a breastwork to the rear of their present line. On the 18th, with the breastwork still being constructed, the 1st Middlesex was relieved by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders but were back in the line five days later. On the day that Whitcomb records he reported sick, there are no casualties mentioned but one can well imagine that many soldiers must have reported sick during this time.

Ernest would have spent time in hospital in England before being sent to Chailey to recuperate. Photos from Nurse Oliver’s album and Nurse Blencowe’s album at the time show men with bandaged feet in slippers and it is possible that Ernest Whitcomb is one of these men.

It would appear that after he recovered, Ernest transferred to the 5th (Reserve) Middlesex Regiment and subsequently to the Labour Corps where he was given the number 587639.

As mentioned previously, Ernest died on 10th December 1918 and is buried at Mikra British Cemetery in Kalamaria, Greece; grave/memorial reference 894. According to The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the British Cemetery at Mikra was “opened in April 1917 and remained in use until 1920. The cemetery was greatly enlarged after the Armistice when graves were brought in from a number of burial grounds in the area.”

Ernest’s medal index card at The National Archives indicates that his 1915 Star and British War and Victory Medals were returned by Mr F Whitcomb on 18th March 1923. They were re-issued to Ernest’s widow four days later but again returned as “gone away” on the 28th March. I am assuming that F Whitcomb is John Frederick Whitcomb and that, probably at the time of his enlistment in the army, he was Ernest’s next of kin. The medals would have been returned however because – and again this is an assumption – by the time Ernest was killed he had married and his wife was now his next of kin. Unfortunately there is no record of him on Soldiers Died in The Great War.

As with many of the soldiers commemorated on this site, further research is necessary to provide additional jigsaw pieces to the puzzle.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"It grieves me to have to tell you..."

A little over eighty eight years ago, Captain Magnus Rainier Robertson MC, Officer Commanding A Company of the 9th Essex Regiment, sat down to write a letter of condolence to the father of one of the men in his company. It wouln't have been the first such letter he wrote and it undoubtedly wouldn't have been the last. Nevertheless, nearly a century later, his words to Pte Pooley's father are still touching and I am grateful to the dead soldier's great nephew, Richard Pooley, for contacting me and for allowing me to use the letter on my website. This treasured family heirloom adds another tiny piece to the Chailey 1914-1918 jigsaw and I transcribe it here in full:


Dear Mr Pooley

It grieves me to have to tell you that your son was killed on the 4th inst (No 34091 Pte POOLEY J).

It will be some consolation to know that he suffered no pain, for he died instantaneously, being killed by a trench mortar shell. He had been my Coy Clerk for about 5 months and always did his work conscienciously and I shall feel his loss very much both from being fond of him and also for the work he did for me.

He will be buried reverently by a chaplain and I will let you know where he rests as soon as I can. I wish I could say anything to comfort you but I know your loss is too great. I am sending you his effects. In great sympathy

Yours sincerely, M R Robertson, Capt
O.C. A Coy, 9th Essex
Pte Pooley is buried in Mailley Wood Cemetery. A little over three months later, Captain Robertson was also killed in action.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Hospital Way author KiA - Robert Mearns Hobbs

6850 Private Robert Mearns Hobbs of the 1/5th Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) was not from Chailey but he was a patient at Beechlands and left two entries in Nurse Oliver’s album. One is a drawing in crayons which depicts a blind girl standing against a rock on the shoreline. It is signed “RM Hobbs, 5th S.R. With Good Wishes”. The second entry is a poem entitled The Hospital Way (below).

Robert Mearns Hobbs was born in Maryhill, Glasgow at 6.15am on the 13th August 1895. He was the son of John and Ann Hobbs (nee Mearns) of 7 Campbell St, Maryhill, Glasgow (see below, coutresy of ScotlandsPeople).

The 1901 Scottish census shows Robert (aged 5), his brother David (aged 7) and infant brother John (aged 1) living at 186 Church Street, Maryhill, Glasgow. His father is recorded as a 34-year-old policeman, born in England; his mother his noted as a 30-year-old native of Huntly, Aberdeenshire. All three children were born in Glasgow. It must have had a tough job for John Hobbs working the streets of Glasgow; bad enough to be a policeman, let alone an English one in Maryhill.

Robert was a Territorial Force soldier who had enlisted in Glasgow before the war and was serving with the 1/5th Cameronians. He arrived in France with the battalion on 5th November 1914 and remained with it certainly until 5th October 1917 when he wrote his will. His medal index card (reproduced above) shows his entitlement to the 1914 Star as well as the British War and Victory Medals.

Rifleman Hobbs was probably wounded in one of the Somme battles in 1916 but obviously recovered sufficiently to be posted back to his battalion. When the Territorial Force was renumbered in February 1917 he was given a new number: 200362. This number falls within the block of numbers (200001-240000) allocated to the 5th Scottish Rifles.

I am guessing that Robert Hobbs wrote his will in England just prior to being sent abroad again and at some point shortly thereafter he was posted to A Company of the 1st Scottish Rifles. It was whilst serving with this regular battalion (in the 19th Brigade of the 33rd Infantry Division) that he was killed in action on 28th November 1917. He is buried in White House Farm Cemetery, Ypres grave ref: II D 3.

In November 1917 the battalion was in the line in the Warneton (Messines) sector. It left by bus for Ypres on the 14th and then marched to Menin Road area. A temporary camp was established there but due to heavy shelling, the battalion moved to a new camp in the Potijze area.

On the 24th, the battalion moved into the Passchendaele sector where enemy shelling was reported as heavy around Crest Farm and Passchendaele. On the 27th, a wet day, the battalion diarist reported that shelling was again heavy and the ground bad. The battalion was relieved by the 2nd Royal Welch Fusiliers and went back to support. Three companies were at Hamburg Trench and one at Abraham Heights.

On the 28th, the enemy shelled Hamburg Trench early in the morning and this was presumably when Robert was killed. He was one of three 1st Cameronians men killed on this day. The following day the battalion was relieved by the 16th King’s Royal Rifle Corps and went back to camp at St Jean.

White House Farm is located north east of Ypres. The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission’s website has this to say about it:

White House Cemetery was begun in March 1915 and used until April 1918 by units holding this part of the line. It was enlarged after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields around Ypres (now Ieper) and from a number of small burial grounds in the area. There are now 1,163 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. 323 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 16 casualties known or believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials record the names of 28 casualties who were buried in other cemeteries but whose graves could not be found on concentration. The cemetery also contains eight Second World War burials, all dating from May 1940. The cemetery was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.

Robert Hobbs’ last resting place is a peaceful plot situated towards the rear of the cemetery. Two artillerymen lie next to him. The words on his tombstone read:

200362 PRIVATE


Medal index card courtesy of Ancestry.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Remembering Arthur Turner - KiA 89 years ago today

According to the 1901 census, seven year Arthur Turner was born at Ringmer, Sussex although Soldiers Died In The Great War (SD) notes his place of birth as Little Horsted, Sussex. At the time the census was taken, Arthur was living with his parents Henry (46) and Elizabeth (46) at South Street, Chailey. Henry had been born in Ringmer and was working as a farm labourer. Elizabeth had been born at Fletching.

Arthur enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment at Lewes, Sussex and was given the number G/21022. Chailey Parish Magazine first mentions him in June 1917, recording him as Turner, Pte A, 3rd Royal Sussex. These details then appear every month up to and including September 1917. In December 1917 he appears in the magazine’s Roll of Honour as: Pte A Turner, 8th Royal Sussex Pioneers, killed in action, Nov 26th 1917 in France.

SD and The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission’s Roll of Honour (CWGC) note Arthur’s date of death as 27th November 1917, SD stating that he died of wounds. CWGC notes that at the time of his death he was serving with D Company, 8th Royal Sussex and that he was 24 years old. CWGC also notes that he was the son of Henry and Elizabeth Turner of White Lodge, Roeheath, Chailey, Lewes.

The 8th Royal Sussex Battalion was a New Army battalion formed at Chichester in September 1914. It was a pioneer battalion attached to the 54th Brigade in the 18th Division.
The 18th Divisional history has nothing to say about the actual date on which Arthur Turner was killed but it describes the misery of the division’s position in some detail. November 1917 saw it holding fast at Houthulst Forest north of Ypres, “a flat, low-lying 600 acres of broken stumps and wreckage , a swamp with many a deep and treacherous hole to trap the unwary walker and let him in up to the neck… It was mud that stank: when the rain ceased the nostrils had to accept a faded musty smell that hung in the air five miles behind the line – a smell that told of desolation and decay, of gas shells, of dead men.”

Arthur Turner, commemorated on Chailey’s war memorial, is buried at Dozinghem Military Cemetery, Poperinghe. The inscription on his grave stone reads: THE LORD KNOWETH THEM / THAT ARE HIS.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Alfred Agate - a post Armistice casualty

Alfred Albert Agate was born in 1894, his birth recorded on page 171 of the Cuckfield (Sussex) register (2b) in December of that year.

Alfred was the eldest son of Albert and Louisa Agate and was named after his grandfather. In 1901, the family was living at Glebe Cottage, Streat, Sussex, is father making a living as a Farm Labourer. Alfred (aged six) had two sisters and a brother: Daisy May (three), Florence Esther (two) and Henry Robert (five months).

In October 1914, Chailey Parish Magazine notes an Alfred Agate serving his King and Country. It is unclear however, whether this is Alfred Agate or his father Albert who is also listed as Alfred up until September 1915. Alfred would have been 19 when war was declared, his father 44. It seems more probable that Alfred, a young single man would have rushed to join up than his father who was getting on in years.

In October 1915 the magazine notes that Agate, Dvr A (jun) is serving with the Royal Field Artillery in France. From December 1916 until November 1918, the entry simply reads, Agate, Dvr A (jun), RFA.

Alfred Agate survived the duration of the war only to die eight days after the Armistice. In January 1919, his name was added to the Roll of Honour which appeared in Chailey’s Parish Magazine. It read: Driver A Agate, RFA, died sickness, Nov 19th 1918 in France. He was 23 years old and had served his King and county for over four years.

Alfred Agate does not appear to be mentioned in Soldiers Died In The Great War but the information held on him by The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission fills in further detail.

At the time of his death he was 8531 Driver Alfred Albert Agate and was serving with C Battery in the 62nd Brigade of The Royal Field Artillery. He is buried in Douai British Cemetery, France.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Hobden sacrifice

Owen Hobden was born at Chailey in 1881, his birth registered at Lewes in the December quarter of that year.

He appears on the 1891 census living with his family at Fount Hill, Newick. The household comprised Richard Hobden (head, married, aged 36, working as a gardener in domestic service), his wife Eliza Hobden (aged 37) and their five children: Frederick Hobden (an 11 year old scholar), Owen (aged nine), Minnie Hobden (aged seven), George Hobden (aged four) and Richard Hobden (aged one).

I have been unable to locate Frederick or Minnie on the 1901 census but the rest of the family was still living at Fount Hill, Newick. Richard (aged 47) is noted as an agricultural labourer. Living with him were Eliza and four children: Owen (aged 19, working as a painter), George (aged 14, working as an agricultural labourer), Richard (aged 11) and Alfred Hobden aged eight.

Little is known about Owen. He first appears in Chailey Parish Magazine in July 1917 where he is noted simply as Hobden, Sapper O, RE. This information is then repeated monthly up to December 1918. In January 1919 his details appear in the Roll of Honour section, noting that he died of sickness on 13th November 1918.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Debt of Honour Register confirms his date of death (two days after the armistice) and adds that he was 286308 Sapper Owen Hobden of the 106th Field Company, Royal Engineers. He was also the husband of Alice Hobden (nee Finney, who he had married at Newick in 1908) and the father of Jack Leonard Hobden and Herbert O (probably Owen) Hobden. The CWGC notes his former address as 2, Longhurst Cottage, North Chailey

Chailey resident Mick Pateman recalls: “Jack and Herbert Hobden were his sons and they used to live in North Chailey and they more or less grew up with me. I knew that they’d lost their father in the First World War but that’s all I knew. Jack got killed in the Second World War in France and then his mother moved away to London and I haven’t seen them since.”

It is possible that Owen was an early victim of the flu pandemic that swept Europe. He is buried at St Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen; reference: S III AA 9. His son, John Leonard Hobden, was killed in action on 16th July 1944 and is commemorated on panel 16, column 3 of the Bayeux Memorial in France. It is noted that he was the son of Owen and Alice Hobden and the husband of Olive Ruby Hobden of Hammersmith, London.

Owen’s brothers also did their bit for King and Country during the First World War. Frederick certainly attested for service but whether he actually served or not I am unsure. There is no mention of him in Chailey’s parish magazine apart from the information that he attested. The National Archives gives a couple of possibilities with 19875 Private Frederick J Hobden of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment (Sherwood Foresters) and 3231 Sapper Frederick J Hobden of The Royal Engineers Transport and further research is necessary to determine whether either of these men is the Frederick mentioned above. Of the two, and given Owen’s regiment, the Royal Engineers connection is the most compelling.

Richard Hobden enlisted at Chichester and, judging by his army service number 25073, was posted to a New Army battalion of The Royal Fusiliers. At some point he transferred to the East Surrey Regiment and it was whilst serving with the 13th Battalion as 30549 Private Richard Hobden that he was killed in action on 26th November 1917. He is commemorated on the Cambrai memorial at Louverval.

George Hobden, according to information on the Hobden Heritage website, lost an arm during the war and was, in 1920, living at 48 Portland Street, Brighton. The National Archives gives 12 possibilities for George Hobden and again, further research is necessary to determine his regimental details.

It seems likely that Alfred Hobden also served during the war but again, I have no information regarding this.

Eliza Hobden died in 1920 at Newick. Her husband then moved to 5 Abinger Road, Portslade, Sussex and died there following an accident on 11th December 1934. He was eighty years old.

It is a quirk of the times that only Frederick and Owen Hobden are mentioned in Reverend Jellicoe’s parish magazine but the reason appears straightforward. Of the six Hobden children, they alone were born in Chailey parish. Although Newick neighbours Chailey, it fell outside parish boundaries and Reverend Jellicoe, although he appears to have made exceptions elsewhere, obviously did not feel that the other serving Hobden boys, warranted inclusion.

Nevertheless, with two sons killed and a third permanently disabled, the family paid a heavy price during the Great War.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Arthur, Henry John and Hebert Langridge

The 1914-1918 biographies of Arthur Langridge, Henry John Langridge and Herbert Langridge have been updated on my website. I believe that Arthur (who was awarded the MSM) and Herbert, both artillerymen, were brothers. Stories of all three men can be accessed by clicking on the links above.

The Hall brothers of Chailey

I have updated the pages on Charles Hall, George Hall and Harry Hall of Chailey. Charles and George were career soldiers who were already serving in the army when war was declared. Harry enlisted later on and was wounded twice according to Chailey's parish magazine.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Funnell, Gibbs and Gibson updated

I have updated the biographies of three more men; details below.

Henry Edgar Funnell
This man appears in Chailey Parish Magazine as Edgar Funnell, E Funnell and H Funnell. At least I believe that all three are one and the same man. I have updated his page to include details of his ASC number and also information taken from the 1891 and 1901 census returns.

Arthur Gibbs
I have added two possible army service numbers for this man who served with the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC).

Richard Gibson
I have made some more tentative guesses about this man's identity and his WW1 service but still need to do more work in order to confirm the assumptions I have made.

Charles Hodges: Died at home 8th Nov 1918

Charles Hodges does not appear in Chailey’s parish magazine but Soldiers Died in The Great War notes that he was born in Chailey. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Debt of Honour Register however, notes that he was the “Son of Alfred Hodges; husband of Nellie Hodges, of 6, Melbourne St., Brighton. Born at Brighton.”

Soldiers Died notes that he was living in Brighton and enlisted at Brighton and records him as 38692 Private Charles Hodges of the 3rd Essex Regiment. He died at home, three days before the Armistice, on 8th November 1918 aged 36 and is buried at Brighton (Lewes Road) Borough Cemetery (see left).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Frederick Drummond - Killed in East Africa

Frederick John Drummond was born at Eastbourne, Sussex on 15th June 1891, his birth registered in Eastbourne District in the September quarter of that year.

He was the eldest son of Major John William Ainslie Drummond (1857-1936) and Florence Charlotte Drummond (nee Blencowe, 1859-1944). Frederick does not appear in Chailey Parish Magazine’s monthly roll of serving men but his name is included on the village war memorial and on a memorial tablet in the now redundant St Mary’s Church, Chailey.

Frederick's connection with Chailey appears to have been through his association with the Blencowe family and, given their influence in local affairs, it seems quite possible that John Ingham Blencowe, John Campion Blencowe and Frances Isabel Blencowe (amongst others) would have exerted sufficient pressure to ensure that their nephew was properly commemorated.

Frederick had three brothers and sisters: Hester Katherine Drummond, Agnes Harriet Drummond and Francis William Drummond (b. 4th September 1894). Frederick appears on the 1901 census as a nine year old pupil at Evelyn’s School, Hillingdon and was later educated at Eton College (1905-1910).

Before the First World War he settled as a farmer in British East Africa (now Kenya) and in August 1914, joined up with The East African Mounted Rifles (Bowker’s Horse) as 126 Trooper Frederick J Drummond. He was killed in action on 3rd November 1914 at Longido Hills and is commemorated on the Nairobi British and Indian Memorial at Nairobi, Kenya.

His name appears in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour where it is noted that his father’s address was 27 Stanhope Gardens London S.W, and Hollycombe, Englefield Green. The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission’s Debt of Honour Register gives the additional information that he was the son of Major John Drummond of Beedcote, Horsham, Sussex. There is no mention of Frederick John Drummond in Soldiers Died in the Great War.

On Tuesday 10th November 1914, under the headline, LOSSES IN BRITISH EAST AFRICA, The Times reported that "Mr Frederick John Drummond, who was 23 years of age, was the eldest son of Major and Mrs John Drummond of 27, Stanhope Gardens."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Additional info added on six of Chailey's men

I've updated the biographies of six of Chailey's men; in the case of George Page and John Frederick Page, identifying service numbers for them. This will make the search for their service records a good deal easier. There are still many men on my site though, for whom I have no information. Whilst the publication of their names alone commemorates their sacrifice (and also allows internet search engines to find them) it would be nice to add a little biographical detail about them. If you can help me fill in gaps about any of the individuals mentioned on my site, please do contact me.

The other four biographies updated yesterday are those of H Campkin, John Beard, Sidney Best and William Burchett.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Chailey's Second Loss - Charles Wood KiA 1914

Charles Joseph Wood was killed in action this day 92 years ago. He was Chailey's second fatality of the war although his death wasn't officially confirmed until a number of years later.

Charles was born in Chailey in 1889, his birth registered at Lewes in the June quarter of that year. He appears on the 1891 census of England and Wales as a one year old infant living at Woodlands Cottage, North Common, Chailey. The family comprised: Edward Wood (aged 30, a farm labourer), his wife Mary Wood (aged 29) and their three sons: Edward (aged five), George Wood (aged four) and Charles. The parents had been born at Fletching but all three boys were born in Chailey.

By the time the 1901 census was taken, the family had grown by one – Harry Wood (aged seven). Mary Wood does not appear at the family’s address (a farm address in Chailey – unclear on the census) but Edward Wood is still noted as being married rather than a widower. Curiously though, his age is noted as 45 rather than 40.

Chailey Parish Magazine notes Charles Wood in October 1914 as serving his King and Country. In October 1915 it gives more information: Wood, Pte C, 2nd KOYLI, France. In actual fact, by the time this information appeared, Charles Wood had already been dead for nearly a year. He was killed in action on 31st October 1914.

British Battalions in France and Belgium 1914 notes that at the time of his death the 2nd King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, "... Moved to Neuve Eglise (31st) then in buses to Messines. Took part in assault on enemy trenches east of the village. Attack held up by machine guns from western end and Battalion forced to dig in under heavy fire. Casualties 155 including Captain J E Simpson killed.”

Soldiers Died in the Great War states that Charles Wood (born in Chailey, Lewes), enlisted at Woolwich. His army service number was 9392 and indicates that he enlisted as a regular soldier a good while before the First World War started; possibly around 1905/1906. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial in France. Chailey Parish Magazine reported him missing between May 1916 and April 1918, only adding him to its roll of honour in May 1918 after which point in time he must have been presumed dead. The parish magazine gives his date of death (incorrectly) as September 16th 1914.

Charles Wood’s brothers George Wood and Harry Wood also served their King and Country during the First World War. Like Charles, Harry Wood also served with The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, initially with the 2nd battalion but latterly with the 1st, and it seems likely that he too was a regular soldier before the outbreak of war. Their brother George was also a career serviceman having joined the Royal Navy in 1904.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Remembering Frank Stevens

On this day, eighty eight years ago, and with the end of hostilities a little over two weeks away, Frank Stevens of Chailey lost his life. This is his story.

He appears on the 1901 census of England and Wales as a three year old living with his family at Wapsbourne Garden Cottage, Sheffield Park, Chailey. The family comprised: James Stevens (head, aged 45, working as a farm labourer), his wife Ellen Stevens (aged 40) and their four children: Alice Stevens (aged ten), William H Stevens (aged eight), James Stevens (aged five) and Frank. There were other children too. The 1891 census notes Annie K Stevens (aged six) and Emily J Stevens (aged four).

By-passing the next address on the 1901 census – Wapsbourne Gate Cottage – Wapsbourne Farm Cottage was home to John Stevens (brother of James Stevens senior) and his family. This household comprised: John Stevens (head, aged 40, working as a thrashing engine driver), his wife Sarah (aged 41) and their four children: Albert Stevens (aged 13, working as a stock boy on a farm), Margaret Stevens (aged 11), William Stevens (aged six) and George Stevens (aged two).

Soldiers Died in The Great War states that Frank Stevens was born in Chailey, was resident at Sheffield Park and enlisted at Brighton. Chailey Parish Magazine first mentions him in July 1918 noting that F Stevens is serving with the 4th East Surrey Regiment.

He was killed in action on 25th October 1918 whilst serving with the 8th East Surrey Regiment and is buried at Preux-au-Bois Communal Cemetery, France; reference: A.3. His name is recorded on the same headstone as that of 48218 Private E F Short, also of the 8th East Surreys and also killed on the same day.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Debt of Honour Register notes that he was the “Son of James and Ellen Stevens, of Wapsbourne, Sheffield Park Station, Lewes.” In January 1919, Chailey Parish Magazine added his name to its roll of honour.

The parish magazine notes nine men with the surname Stevens who served their King and Country and it seems likely that his brothers James and William H Stevens and his cousins Albert Stevens, George Stevens and William Stevens, also served during the First World War.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Gerald Sclater Ingram - Chailey's first fatality

On this day in 1914, Lieutenant Gerald Sclater Ingram fell in action. At this early stage of the conflict, it was still felt by many people back in Britain that the war would be over by Christmas. Already though, Britain's regular army was sustaining heavy losses and Gerald Ingram bears the unhappy distinction of being Chailey's first fatal casualty. This is his story.

He was born on 24th July 1890 at South Kensington, London; the only son of William R Ingram (born c 1857) and Beatrice Eleanor Ingram, the daughter of Major Edmund Crofts, Royal Welch Fusiliers. William Ingram appears on the 1881 census as a 24 year old stockbroker although he is noted elsewhere as a sculptor. He was also the grandson of James Ingram of Ades, Chailey and the nephew of John Ingham Blencowe (who had married one of James Ingram’s seven daughters: Mabel F Ingram).

Gerald appears on the 1891 census as an eight month old baby living at 25 Wilton Place, Knightsbridge. His relationship to the head of the household is noted as “Son” but the only other people present there when the census was taken were servants: a cook, parlourmaid, nurse and housemaid. Ten years later, the 1901 census notes that he is a pupil at Pemberton Lodge, Southbourne, Hampshire. Later, Gerald would continue his education at Winchester College (1904 to 1909) and Christ Church College, Oxford (1910).

On 16th July 1912, in The London Gazette, his name appeared in an unattached list for the Territorial Force which noted that he was to be Second Lieutenant. In the Gazette edition of 6th February 1914, under The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment”, the following information appears:

Second Lieutenant Gerald Sclater Ingram, from the Unattached List Territorial Force (University Candidate), to be Second Lieutenant. Dated 3rd September 1912, but not to carry pay or allowances prior to 7th February 1914.

When war was declared, Gerald went to France with A Company, the 2nd Queen’s. He was promoted lieutenant in September 1914 and was killed in action at Zonnebeke on 21st October that year, the same day that Lieutenant E W Bethell from C Company was also killed.

On 4th November, The Times published a notification of his death as follows:

LIEUTENANT GERALD SCLATER INGRAM, 2nd Queen’s Regiment, who was killed near Ypres on October 21 was the only child of Mrs William Ingram of 77 Eccleston Square, SW. He was born in July, 1890, and was educated at Winchester and Christ Church, Oxford. He was gazetted to a second lieutenancy in his regiment in February last, and was promoted last month.

Gerald has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres. Although his name is inscribed on Chailey’s war memorial his connection with the village appears to be by association (through the Ingram and Blencowe families) and he does not feature at all in Chailey’s Parish Magazine. At the time of his death, his widowed mother was living at 77 Eccleston Square, London SW.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A worldwide audience - nearly

Yesterday was a first. People from six continents visited the Chailey website; specifically, people resident in China, India, Great Britain, Netherlands, Estonia, USA, Canada, Guatemala and Australia. Antarctica let me down, otherwise it would have been a clean sweep.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Ades Estate - information updated

The Ades mansion on Cinder Hill, was one of several large properties in Chailey Parish. Hickwells House formed part of the Ades Estate and in 1915 was loaned by Joseph Wright to Sussex 54 VAD for the purposes of a convalescent home. The information below is taken from reports in The Times Newspaper and concerns the death of a previous owner - Henry Harrison Pownall in 1913 - and the subsequent auction of the Ades Estate. Henry's son, Lionel Henry Yorke Pownall, would be killed in action in 1915. Coincidentally, Gerald Sclater Ingram, whose family owned the Ades estate before Henry Pownall, was also killed in action in 1914. Both men are commemorated on the war memorial on Chailey Green.

The following information has been added to Lionel Pownall's page:

Henry Harrison Pownall JP, Barrister at Law, had died suddenly after a short illness on 26th June 1913. Two days later The Times reported his death, noting that he was 52 years old, the elder son of the late John Fish Pownall, resident at 63 Russell Square. The funeral would be held at Chailey Parish Church at 2.45pm on the 30th.

Five months later, on the 8th November (repeated on the 15th), The Times ran an advert advertising the sale of the Ades Estate:

SALES BY AUCTION. MR JOSEPH STOWER by direction of the Executors of H H Pownall, Esq, deceased. SUSSEX, in the picturesque Parish of Chailey, six and a half miles from Lewes and within about a mile of Newick and Chailey Station on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. A charmingly situated FREEHOLD RESIDENTIAL ESTATE known as “ADES”, including a commodious MANSION IN FINELY TIMBERED PARK. Ornamental lake, and beautiful gardens and grounds. Extensive home farm premises, model dairy, TWO SUPERIOR COTTAGE RESIDENCES, TWO FARMS, SMALL HOLDINGS and COTTAGES. PRODUCTIVE PASTURE, ARABLE and WOODLANDS comprising altogether about 567 ACRES in practically a ring fence surrounded by good roads. To be sold by AUCTION by JOSEPH STOWER in association with Messrs POWELL and Co at the Auction Mart in London on Wednesday 25th November 1913 at 2pm.

On the 26th November 1913, a further advertisement was placed in The Times, this time giving notice of the sale of contents from the Ades estate:

SALES BY AUCTION. HENRY HARRISON POWNALL, Esq, deceased. “ADES”, Chailey, Sussex – The remaining portion of the valuable FURNITURE, inlaid ebony wardrobe, mahogany, birch and other bed room suites, range of Spanish mahogany bookcases, billiard table by Burroughes and Watts and accessories, coin cabinet, collection of 2,500 coins and medals, silver and electro plate, oil paintings, engravings, and Arundel Society Prints, rare old books, five carriages, harness and many miscellaneous effects.

MESSRS BRACKETT and SONS will SELL the foregoing by public AUCTION, upon the premises on Wednesday and Thursday, December 3 and 4, 1913 at 12 o’clock each day. Catalogues ready. Auctioneers, offices: Tunbridge Wells and 34 Craven Street, WC.

The estate was sold for the princely sum of £24,500 (about £1.5 million at today's prices) as reported in The Times on 29th November 1913.

Friday, October 13, 2006

George Trayton Washer - Remembered this day

Ninety one years ago today, Fletching born George Trayton Washer gave his life for his King and Country. This is his story.

George Trayton Washer was born about May 1891 in Fletching, Sussex. His birth was registered in the June quarter of that year at Uckfield (volume 2b, page 131).

The 1901 Census reveals George as the only son of George Washer (a 36 year old general labourer) and his wife, Ada Esther Washer (36) living at Oaklands Cottage, North Chailey. As well as nine year old George, the family also comprised his four sisters: Susan Hannah (aged 12), Edith Ada (aged nine), Mary (aged two) and Annie (aged two months). Another sister, Frances, would follow the following year.

Both the 1901 census and Chailey Parish Magazine record George Washer’s first name as Trayton rather than George although the latter appears to be his given name.

George Trayton Washer enlisted in the Corps of Hussars at Lewes, Sussex on 7th September 1914. A Cowman by trade, he was certified as five feet seven inches tall, weighed ten stone, seven pounds, had a fair complexion, blue eyes and fair hair. He was posted to the 5th Cavalry Depot at Bristol and given the number 23402. On 15th January he was given his first typhoid inoculation.

On 2nd June 1915, George Washer transferred from the cavalry to the infantry, joining the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment at Dover. On 15th July he was posted to the 7th Battalion and sent overseas to France.

The 7th East Surreys formed part of the 37th Brigade in the 12th (Eastern) Division and had been overseas since 2nd June 1915. George Washer went proceeded first to the 12th Division infantry base, joining his battalion on 19th August.

On 13th October 1915, George Trayton Washer was killed in action at the Battle of Loos. Two companies of the 7th East Surreys had been tasked to capture a German trench known as Gun Trench and, although, as the 12th Divisional history states, “the attack had been entirely successful, 16 prisoners, 1 machine gun, 3 trench mortars and a large quantity of ammunition being captured”, the attacking forces had not come out unscathed. George Washer was one of 212 Other Rank casualties sustained in the action. His body was never recovered and his name was later commemorated on the Loos memorial.

In March 1916, a meeting of The Ancient Order of Foresters in Chailey reported that “… at the end of the year the Court had 20 members serving in the Army or Navy. I regret to state that the court has lost one young member who died fighting for his country – Bro G T Washer, killed in action in France on October 13th 1915…”

On 22nd June 1919, George Trayton Washer’s living relatives were noted as: George Washer (father) of Burnt House, North Common, Chailey; Ada Washer (mother), Susan Hannah Campbell (full blood sister), aged 30 (Burnt House), Mary Smith (full blood sister), aged 20 of Sewells Cottages, Barcombe; Annie Washer (full blood sister), aged 18 of 3 Sussex Road, Hove and Frances Washer (full blood sister), aged 17 of Burnt House.

His cousins Albert and Arthur Washer also served their King and Country during the First World War.

Charles Craddock & Roland Gilbert - Bios Updated

It's been a depressingly busy time for commemorations - two men whose death anniversaries fell yesterday (Claude Ireland) and the day before (John Sheridan) and another Chailey man, George Trayton Washer, whose 91st death anniversary falls today. His story is told in a separate web log entry. Time has of course softened the sadness but we can only imagine the grief that must have been felt during the war years and immediately after as families the world over, mourned loved ones.

On a happier note I have updated the biographies of Charles Craddock and Roland Gilbert. This is thanks entirely to the power of the internet (or rather, the power of internet search engines) and the good offices of individuals who have read about people they know (either as a result of their own research or through family connections) and who have taken that extra vital step to contact me.

Researching Chailey during the First World War is rather like painting the Forth Bridge only a good deal more enjoyable. As more and more people come on line and as more and more archive records also become available at the click of a mouse, this work and others like it can only grow.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Claude Foord Ireland - Killed this day 89 years ago

T2/12286 Sergeant Claude Foord Ireland was born in Burgess Hill, Sussex in 1892, his birth registered at Cuckfield in the June quarter of that year. He was the eldest son of Ernest & Elizabeth Caroline Ireland and appears on the 1901 census as an eight year old boy. The home address is given as Post Office, Junction Road, Keymer and Ernest Ireland appears to have been the postmaster. The 1901 census records him as a 36 year old grocer / shopkeeper working on his own account from home. Ernest had been born in Balcombe while his wife, 37 year old Elizabeth Ireland, was a native of Brighton. Completing the Ireland family in 1901 was Winifred Ireland (aged 13 and born in Lindfield, Sussex) and Cecil Ireland (aged 5 and also born in Burgess Hill). Like Claude, Cecil would also serve in the Great War.

Also appearing on the 1901 census are 17 year old Ernest Scott, a stone labourer born in Haywards Heath, and Frank Cotten, a 22 year old grocer’s assistant born in Reigate. The relationship of both men to the head of the household is recorded as “Assistant”.

In October 1914, Chailey Parish Magazine (CPM) notes that Claude Ireland is serving his King and Country and Soldiers Died In The Great War records that Claude had enlisted at Hove, Sussex and that his residence was Lewes. One year later, in October 1915, the parish magazine notes that Sergeant C Ireland in France serving with the Army Service Corps (ASC), attached to the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC).

Claude was killed in action on October 12th 1917, this information being reported in the December 1917 issue of the parish magazine at Chailey.

On 30th October 1917, The Mid-Sussex Times reported his death as follows:

SERGEANT CLAUDE IRELAND, RAMC, a native of Burgess Hill, and eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Ireland, of North Common, Chailey, has been killed on the Western Front. Sergeant Ireland, who was 25 years of age, was home on leave only six weeks ago. For three years he had done his duty to his country. Captain A G Phillips RAMC, wrote:

"Dear Mrs. Ireland, - I deeply regret that I have to inform you of the death of your son, Sergeant C F Ireland. He was killed while on duty near the front line by a shell, and he died immediately. It will be a consultation to you to know that he did not suffer any pain at all. From what I saw, he must have dropped practically without knowing he was hit. As officer in charge of the transport section of the field ambulance to which your son was attached, I should like to tell you how very much all of us officers, his own colleagues and the men who worked under him feel his loss, and how deeply we sympathise with you in your bereavement. Your son was respected and loved by all of us, both for his personal charm and his sterling value as a soldier and a non-commissioned officer, his place will not easily be filled by anyone. We asked for volunteers to get his body down the line, and we succeeded in bringing him back to Headquarters and giving him a decent military funeral in a Cemetery behind the line. I am not allowed to tell you the exact place in this letter, but you will be told the exact spot and we are getting him a cross put up. His Sergeant-Major has arranged about that. I know that nothing I can say can possibly diminish you grief, but the greatest consolation I can give you is that your son died a man’s death in a great cause. Please accept the expression of our deepest sympathy."

Mr. and Mrs. Ireland wish to thank all friends for their kind sympathy.

Three days later, The East Sussex News also carried the news:

Sergt Claude Ireland RAMC, eldest son of Mr and Mrs Ernest Ireland of North Common, Chailey, has been killed on the Western Front. Sergt Ireland who was 28 years of age was home on leave only six weeks ago. For three years he had done his duty to his country.

According to the Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission (borne out by the 1901 census returns), Claude was 25 years old when he died, not 28 as reported in the East Sussex News. He was serving with the 151st Company of the ASC, attached to the 56th Field Ambulance, RAMC.

Claude Ireland is buried in Bard Cottage Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium (ref V.A.32.). The inscription on his tombstone reads: JESUS WEPT / HE IS NOT DEAD BUT SLEEPETH. He is also commemorated on the war memorial on Chailey Green and on St John’s Church War Memorial board in Burgess Hill. A photo of his grave appears on my website:

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Remembered at Leigh and Tyne Cot - John Sheridan

Eughty nine years ago today, former Hickwells patient John William Sheridan, patched up and packed off back to the Western Front, was killed in action during the bitter struggle for Passchendaele Ridge. This is his story.

10690 Private John William Sheridan was a patient at Hickwells in late 1915 after being wounded at the battle of Loos. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

Pte J. W. Sheridan
12 Batt Northumberland Fusiliers

Wounded in the Big Battle of Loos on the 26 Sept

He shares this page with an entry from 3655 Private Martin Donnelly of the 1st East Surrey Regiment. Originally written in pencil, Sheridan’s entry has been over-written in black biro in later years.

Also on this page, to the right of Sheridan’s entry is a group photograph of convalescent soldiers. It is possible that Sheridan is one of these men although none of the individuals are identified and the picture is of a very poor quality.

John Sheridan’s partial service history exists as badly burned documents at the National Archive in Kew, London. He was the son of Thomas and Mary Sheridan and was born in Leigh, Lancashire around November 1890. He appears on the 1891 census living at 5 Dukinfield Street, Leigh. The household comprised James O’Neil (head, married, aged 38, a coal miner born in County Galway, Ireland), his wife Phoebe O’Neil (aged 30, born in Hanley, Staffordshire) and their three children: John W O’Neil (aged ten), Patrick O’Neil (aged eight) and Polly O’Neil (aged five). Also living with them were James’ 56 year old widowed mother-in-law, Bridget Cope (born in County Mayo, Ireland), Thomas Sheridan (brother-in-law, aged 26, working as a coal miner, born in Hanley), Mary Sheridan (sister-in-law, aged 24, also born in Hanley) and finally, John William Sheridan (recorded as John W on the census return), aged five months.

I have been unable to find John on the 1901 census and it is possible that by this time, the family had moved to Northumberland. At the time of his enlistment on 4th September 1914, he was married to Isabella (nee Marshall), whom he had married at Ashington on 6th February 1913. The couple also had a daughter, Mary Sheridan, who had been born on 2nd May 1914.

John enlisted in Ashington, Northumberland and arrived in France on 9th September 1915 with the 12th Northumberland Fusiliers which formed part of the 62nd Brigade in the 21st Division. This was a K3 division, comprised entirely of Kitchener volunteers. He was wounded on 26th September 1915, the second day of the Battle of Loos, sustaining a shell wound to his thigh. He was returned to England on 3rd October, his spell overseas having lasted just 24 days. Shortly after arriving in England, Sheridan would have been transferred to Hickwells in Chailey, although precisely when this was and how long he spent there is unclear.

The 21st Division’s baptism of fire at Loos has been well documented. Having arrived at Boulogne on 10th September, by the 24th, the 12th Northumberland Fusiliers were at Allouagne where it was “raining and cold.” The following information is taken from the battalion’s war diary:

NOEUX-LES-MINES - 25.9.15 - 10.30am
Marched to NOYELLES-LES-VERMELLES where the Bn rested and two heavy guns were in action. Wounded were met all along the rd.
NOEUX-LES-MINES - 25.9.15 – 3pm
The Bn moved off following 8 E Yorks R and 10 York R, both of which Bns extended below the crest of the hill about G 28 c [Map 1/40,000 36c FRANCE] and moved to the attack, The 12th Northd Fus extended on left of Lens Rs about 5.30pm but were later moved over the crest of the hill and occupied some GERMAN trenches. Letter “Q” Co went forward and took up an outpost line. Here the Bn first came under shell fire about 7.15pm
NOEUX-LES-MINES - 25.9.15 – 9.25pm
The Bn moved into Loos and came under shell fire on the Rd. Men very steady.
LOOS – 25.9.15
The Bn moved through LOOS and halted under cover of houses by church square. A patrol under Capt L H PHILLIPS went forward to report on best route to Tower Bridge an cinder heap. Sniping was continuous. The patrol returned and led the Bn up under cinder heap. Here the Bn had their first casualties from shell fire. These shells must have been cross fire as they came along the side of the cinder heap.
LOOS – 25.9.15 – 10.30pm
The Bn moved back into the street, the men still being steady. Lt Col Warwick went back to Bde HQ. Returned and moved the Bn to G 36a [Map 1/40,000 36c FRANCE]. The Cos here lay in lines of Platoons at 50 yds distance. Two platoons of A Co were sent forward to firing line with entrenching tools under 2nd Lt R M Hill & 2nd Lt R Oliver to help the 45th Bde entrench.
LOOS – 25.9.15 – 11.45pm
Later the remainder of A Co went forward to relieve 10th GORDONS under Capt F G F EDLMANN.
A patrol under 2nd Lt J PARKER went forward to trenches to find the best way forward in case of being called upon to reinforce.
LOOS – 26.9.15 – 2.30am
Shrapnel began and was fairly heavy. A burst of rifle fire was heard from trenches and Bn stood by. Instructions to Cos to charge with bayonet in case of enemy appearing.
LOOS – 26.9.15 – 5.30am
High explosive pitched in house behind Bn HQ and shells mostly high explosive were frequent. Some
casualties, men very quiet and steady.
LOOS – 26.9.15 – 7am
Shelling heavy in field and road
LOOS – 26.9.15 – 7.30am
Adjutant reported to Bde HQ and received orders for attack on Hill 70. Officers mentioned above crossed the cinder heap to warn the remainder of 8 E York R to retire. It being found impossible to evacuate the trench, the Cmdg Officers re-crossed the cinder track and Lt Col Warwick was shot between the shoulders. He was placed in a dug-out until the Scotts returned. Lt L N SHANN collected all available men and commenced putting LOOS in a state of defence, he afterwards handed over to Capt F G F EDLMANN who came in with A Co. Capt EDLMANN reports he was relieved by the Gds Div about 4.30am. Similarly, other parties of 12th Northd Fus were collected under Maj GRAHAM and [unclear] GALLATLY
Moved by Rd to NOEUX-LES-MINES where they entrained for BERGUETTE. Very cold and wet. Moved by Rd to WITTERNESSE, arriving at 8.30am
The Bn remained in billets at WITTERNESS

[Diary signed off by Maj D Graham Pole, Comdg 12th (Serv) Bn Northd Fus]

John Sheridan must have recovered sufficiently to return to serve his King and country because by 6th July 1916 he was back in France and was posted to the 10th Northumberland Fusiliers in the Field. Army Form B. 103: Casualty Form - Active Service, notes Sheridan’s regiment or corps as the 15th Northumberland Fusiliers although this is scored through and is presumably an error as the first entry on this sheet, also for the 15th Battalion, is corrected to the 10th. Like the 12th Battalion, the 10th Northumberland Fusiliers was a K3 battalion which had been formed in Newcastle in September 1914. It now constituted part of the 68th Brigade in the 23rd Division and had been in France since August 1915.

On 7th July 1916, Sheridan joined the 31st Infantry Base Depot and on 10th September 1916 he was moved again, this time transferred to the 8th York and Lancaster Regiment. The transfer meant a new army number: 34238. Like his two previous battalions, the 8th York and Lancaster Regiment was a K3 battalion. It had been formed at Pontefract in September and was part of the 80th Brigade in the regular 8th Division.

On 17th January 1917, Sheridan was admitted to No 70 Field Ambulance with a gun shot wound to his right eyelid, and transferred the following day to the 2nd Canadian Casualty Clearing Station. The wound must only have been slight as he rejoined his battalion on the 30th January. Some time afterwards, Sheridan was wounded for a third time, this time a gun shot wound to his ankle. The date of this wound has been obscured on his surviving documents but again, this was not serious enough to necessitate him being returned to the United Kingdom.

Sheridan had been appointed lance-corporal on 17th February 1916 and he was promoted to full corporal on 19th April 1917.

Sheridan’s remaining papers reveal little of his life in France and Belgium but it would be possible to trace his movements by referring to the 8th York and Lancs war diary. What is known however, is that Sheridan was killed in action on 11th October 1917 whilst serving with the 8th Yorks & Lancs. At the time however, his fate was uncertain and somebody has scrawled across his attestation paper, the words, “Assumed Dead”. Later, he would be commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium (below); one of 13 men from the battalion to die on that day.

Sheridan’s British War and Victory Medal roll entry in the Yorks & Lancs Regiment roll reads as follows:

10690 Cpl 12th North’d Fus Assumed Dead 11.10.17
10th North’d Fus
34238 8th York & Lanc R

The war diary of the 8th Yorks & Lancs makes little mention of hostile activity during the time that Corporal Sheridan was killed. On the 10th October 1917 at 2:30pm, the battalion moved up to the trenches in front of POLYGON WOOD and relieved the 2nd Warwicks in the 7th Division after their attack in front of the wood. The relief was not complete until the following night. The following day, the 11th, the situation was reported as: “…normal. Enemy snipers very active.”

It is difficult to ascertain how Sheridan was killed but the likelihood is that it was either at the hands of a sniper or shellfire during the relief.

Some while after his death (the date is unclear on his surviving documents), Sheridan’s former wife, filled out an army form giving details of his relatives. She had re-married and was now Isabella Greenhalgh, living at 5 Albert Place, Dukinfield Street, Leigh. Sheridan’s mother had also re-married and was now Mary Knowles and living in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. With her was Sheridan’s 27 year old brother, Thomas Sheridan. Another brother, Elijah Sheridan aged 24, was living at number 4, Springfield Place in Leeds. Sheridan had no full-blood sisters but his mother had acquired two step-daughters when she emigrated to Canada. Sarah Knowles (aged 19) and Mary Knowles (aged 16) were living with their new step-mother.

Back in Sheridan’s home town of Leigh, a public meeting held on 31st July 1919 set a target of £25-30,000 to establish a war memorial fund to commemorate the town’s dead. A little over three years later, on 30th September 1922, General Sir Beauvoir de Lisle unveiled Leigh’s war memorial. Designed by Ernest Prestwich, Leigh’s cenotaph is located on Church Street and stands over eight metres high. Made of Portland stone, two bronze panels, each containing 350 names of the dead, are recessed between two Corinthian columns. The memorial cost £200 but the fund also provided for an ex-serviceman’s club and a new children’s wing at Leigh infirmary.

The site of the cenotaph occupies an area in Leigh previously known as Church Street Gardens which was opened to the public on 1st June 1901. It was handed over to the corporation complete with bandstand on 1st June 1902. The bandstand remained on this site until 1921 when it was demolished to make way for the present War Memorial.

In recent years, the war memorial has undergone restoration work and is now restored to its former glories. John Sheridan’s name is recorded on the south panel.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Joseph Miller - Died of Wounds

Joseph Charles Miller died of wounds on September 29th 1917, one of eight Chailey men who would die in this month. He was born in Lewes, Sussex in 1886 and appears on the 1901 census of England and Wales as a fifteen year old living at Anchor Cottage, Barcombe with his family. The family comprised 53 year old Benjamin Miller (a miller’s carter), his 52 year old wife Harriet (a caretaker) and three sons: William Richard Miller (aged 21; a miller’s carter), Joseph Charles Miller (a carter’s apprentice) and Edgar Stanley Miller (a 12 year old scholar).

There were other children too. Albert Miller, born in Mayfield, appears on the 1891 census as a sixteen year old gardener while Edward Alfred Miller (aged nine) and Alice Jane Miller (aged seven) were scholars. Albert had the middle initial J although this only appears on the 1881 census. By the time the 1901 census was taken, he was living in Mayfield with a young family of his own (and coincidentally living next door to another Albert Miller) and Alice Miller was working as a housemaid at Little Buckingham Farm, Old Shoreham. I can find no trace of Edward.

On the 1881 census there is also another sibling: Elizabeth R Miller, aged three. This is Elizabeth Rosa Miller whose birth was registered at Lewes (the town of her birth) in the June quarter of 1877.

At the time of his enlistment, Joseph Miller was living at Wivelsfield, Sussex and enlisted at Hayward’s Heath. Chailey Parish Magazine first mentions him in July 1916, recording his details as Miller, Gnr J C, RGA, England. In January 1918 it noted that he was “missing” but it was not until July 1918 that he appeared in the parish magazine’s roll of honour. The entry reads: Gnr J C Miller, RGA, killed in action, Sept 18th 1917 in France.

In fact, Joseph Miller had died of wounds on 29th September 1917, a fact recorded by both Soldiers Died In The Great War and The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission although the latter incorrectly records his name on its roll of honour register as “John C Miller”.

Joseph Miller was 90669 Gunner Miller, serving with 210th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery at the time of his death. He is commemorated on Chailey’s war memorial and is buried at Buffs Road Cemetery, Ypres. His grave stone records his initials, J C, rather than his Christian names.

Three of Joseph’s brothers – William, Edgar and Albert – also served their King and Country during the First World War.

Henry Alfred Saunders Remembered

Ninety years ago today, Henry Alfred Saunders made the supreme sacrifice for his King and Country. This is his story:

Henry was possibly known as Alfred Saunders. Chailey Parish Magazine first notes him as Saunders, Private A, 3rd Royal Sussex, England and this information is then repeated monthly up to and including November 1916. In October 1916 however, the magazine notes Saunders, Pte H, 22nd London Regt, France. These are one and the same man.

On his short service attestation form dated 25th February 1916, Henry Saunders’s age is given as 27 years and three months. This places his date of birth to around November or December 1889.

Henry attested with the Royal Sussex Regiment at Hastings on 25th February 1916 and was given the regimental number G/9117. He gave his address as Fir Tree Cottage, Newick and his trade or calling as gardener. He was five feet seven and seven eighths tall and weighed 140lbs. He was deemed “Fit with the exception of his right forefinger amputated 2nd joint when aged three.” He had previously presented himself at the recruitment office in Hastings, Sussex (on 2nd February 1916), the recruiting officer there recommending: “Should in my opinion be of use in a Pioneer Battalion.”

Henry joined the regiment at Chichester on 29th February and was posted to the regimental depot. On the 3rd March he was posted to the reserve 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion.

On 19th June 1916 he was transferred to the 3/22nd London Regiment and given a new number: 5695. This battalion had been formed in March 1915 at Tadworth and had remained in billets for the winter. In January 1916 it had moved to Winchester and on 8th April 1916 became a reserve battalion.

On 29th June 1916, Henry sailed for France and joined the 1/22nd (County of London) Regiment which formed part of the 142nd Brigade in the 47th (London) Division. By the time Henry joined it, the battalion had already been overseas for over a year.

On 11th July 1916 he transferred again, this time to the 1/12th London Regiment which formed part of the 168th Brigade in the 56th (London) Division. He was also given another number: 7834.

In August 1916, Chailey Parish Magazine noted, “Saunders, Pt H, 22nd London Regt, France”.

Seven weeks later, on the 7th October 1916, Henry was killed in action in a failed attack on Dewdrop Trench. Chailey Parish Magazine recorded his death in its December 1916 issue, noting: “Rif H A Saunders, 12th London Regt, Killed in action, Oct 7th 1916, in France”.

On 13th May 1919, Henry’s surviving family members recorded their details on Army Form W.5080 and returned it to the Infantry Records Office.

George Saunders, Fir Tree Cottage, Newick
Eliza Saunders, Fir Tree Cottage, Newick
Full Blood Brother:
Thomas Henry Saunders (40), Dairy Cottage, Newick
Half Blood Brother:
William Ellis (44), 53rd Royal Sussex Regt, BEF, France
Edward [unclear] Ellis (43), Tower House, Newick
Full Blood Sister:
Emma Emily Saunders (38) [surname later crossed out and replaced with Jennings], The Lodge, Bineham, Chailey
Eliza Rose Saunders (35) [surname later crossed out and replaced with Hall] 42 Haddock Hill, Bexhill

On 13th December 1921, Henry’s father George received his son’s British War and Victory Medals.

The last recorded information in Henry Saunders’s burnt service record is a letter from his sister’s husband dated 10th July 1923. Writing to the Infantry Records’ Office in Hounslow, Edward Hall, living at 42 Haddocks Hill Road, Bexhill-on-Sea writes:

Dear Sir

Will you please furnish me with particulars as to where Pt H A Saunders, No 7834 of the 12th London Rifles was buried, who was killed on October 7th 1916 somewhere on the Somme. As I and my wife who is his sister proposed visiting his grave very shortly.

Eight days later the records’ office responded as follows:

“No report of burial of the late No 7834 Pt H A Saunders, 12th London Regt, has been received by me. It is suggested that you make application to the Secretary, Imperial War Graves Committee.”
Henry has no known grave and is commemorated on pier and face nine of the Thiepval memorial in France. The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission’s Debt of Honour register notes his age (27) and that he was the son of George Saunders of Fir Tree Cottage, Newick.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Remembering Charles Bristow, AIF

Eighty nine years ago today, Charles Bristow was killed in action near Ypres. This is his story:

Charles was born around 1893/4 in Chailey. He was the son of Charles and Agnes Bristow and appears on the 1901 census living with his family at Ditchling, Sussex. The household comprised Charles Bristow (head, married, aged 37, a general farm labourer), his wife Agnes (aged 36) and their children: Elizabeth Bristow (aged 11), Agnes Bristow (aged nine), and Charles (aged seven). Charles senior was born in Chailey, his wife in Plumpton. Their two daughters were both born in Newick.

Charles appears to have emigrated to Australia around 1913 and first appears on military papers in October 1914 where he is noted as a trooper – and latterly driver – with the 3rd Light Horse Brigade Train. On enlistment at Melbourne on 20th October he is described as 22 years and one month old (which would make his date of birth around September 1892, and not as stated on the 1901 census return), five feet six and three quarter inches tall, ten stone, ten pounds in weight and with brown hair, hazel eyes and a medium complexion. His trade is given as labourer and his next of kin as his father, Charles Bristow of South Street, Chailey. He was given the army number 5040.

Charles was discharged medically unfit on 4th February 1915. Apart from two minor transgressions in January (being late for stable piquet and neglect of harness), both of which he was admonished for, his service appears to have been quite normal and was spent entirely in Australia.

He attested again on 27th March 1915 and this time was posted to D Company of the 24th Infantry Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade, Australian Imperial Force. His attestation papers show that his previous military service had apparently suited him. He is noted as being eleven stone in weight and as well as his 107 days’ service with the 3rd Light Horse Brigade Train, service with the Royal Garrison Artillery in England is also recorded.

On 10th May he embarked at Melbourne aboard HMAT A14 Euripides and set sail for the Mediterranean, disembarking first in Egypt and then proceeding in August, to Gallipoli. His entry on the embarkation roll gives his address as South Street, Cailey, [sic] Sussex. It was while he was at Gallipoli that he was wounded on 29th November. Chailey Parish Magazine (having first noted in March 1915 that Charles was serving his King and Country), reports in October 1915 that he is with the 6th Infantry Brigade in Egypt

Charles’ medical records state that he had “slight” shell wounds to the head but from what he writes and from his subsequent lengthy periods of stay in hospital it would appear that the wounds were somewhat more severe.

He proceeded to Malta aboard the hospital ship HS Karapora, disembarking there on 4th December and transferring straight to St Elmo Hospital. On 7th January 1916, The East Sussex News published an article about him:

Private Bristow of the 6th Infantry Brigade, Australian Contingent, whose mother lives at Chailey, is in hospital at Malta, suffering from a shell wound in the head received at the Dardanelles. In a letter to his mother he said, “I am one of the lucky ones to get away alive as there was a terrible bombardment of the Turks. For nearly three hours I was buried and for two hours under the earth I was unconscious. I never want to go through such an experience again. Death is facing you the whole time. You could never imagine what it is like to have several feet of earth over you and at the same time to be struggling for breath. It was the biggest bombardment we had ever seen or heard, and ever want to see again. I am undergoing an operation in the morning but you must cheer up for I will soon be well again. We are certainly treated very well here.”

Charles was in hospital in Malta until 23rd March 1916. His record for that date notes: Scalp wound (shock); Amblyopia Diplopa. It then appears that he is being transferred back to Australia but he only got as far as Egypt. Between March and July 1916 he was in and out of hospitals and convalescent homes in Alexandria, Abbassia, Heliopolis and Tel-el-Kabir to name but a few. The cause of his admissions is noted as a re-occurrence of his scalp wound and Epididimitis.

On 2nd July 1916 by now with the 57th Infantry Battalion, AIF (having been taken on strength with this unit on 20th April), he was granted one month’s furlough to England and set sail from Alexandria on the 29th, arriving at Southampton on the 9th August. He obviously took his leave later that month – and presumably spent a good deal of that time at Chailey – but by 28th September he was reporting back at Perham Down Command Depot where he was classified B.1.A. In December he was back in hospital at Bulford where he spent a further 63 days. Finally, on 15th March 1917 he proceeded overseas from Folkestone, arriving at Etaples the following day.

Charles’ surviving medical history notes dated February 1917 report that he had “Giddiness when walking – headaches – pain in eyes.” There was also the physical evidence of his injury with “Extensive scar over aft paristal with apparent loss of bone. Operation for removal of shrapnel.”

On 21st March he wrote his last will and testament in his pay book in which he left his estate to his father. On 6th April he re-joined the 57th AIF in the field and then appears to have stayed out of hospital for the next five months. On 8th June 1917 he wrote another will which was lodged with the Estates Branch, Admin HQ AIF, again leaving everything to his father.

Charles Bristow was killed in action on 27th September 1917 near Ypres and is buried at Poelcapelle British Cemetery; grave reference: LIII.F.14. Later, the authorities returned to his father a disc (presumably an identity disc), wallet, photos, cards and two German shoulder straps. On 21st September 1922 they also sent Charles Bristow his son’s memorial plaque and scroll.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission confirms that 831 Private Charles Bristow of the 57th AIF was killed in action on 27th September 1917. It also adds the additional information that he was the son of Charles and Agnes Bristow of South Street, South Common, Chailey.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

26th September - Chailey mourns two men

Chailey would escape relatively lightly during the Battle of Loos. Although John Oliver had been killed on the opening day - 25th September - there would only be one other fatality and then, not until mid October. In later years however, September 26th would be mourned by two families. On this day in 1917, Frederick Heasman and Charles Willey would both be killed in action in different theatres. This is their story.

Frederick Heasman

Digital copies of Frederick Heasman’s World War One service papers can be viewed on-line at The National Archives of Australia. The undated photograph on the left shows Frederick before he enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force. A summary of his service history follows.

According to his attestation papers, Frederick Heasman was born around April 1892 in East Chiltington, Sussex. This can’t be correct however as he appears on the 1891 census as a seven month old infant. His birth was also registered in the September 1890 quarter at Lewes.

He was the second son of Edric Owen Heasman and Annie Heasman (nee Message) whose marriage was registered at Uckfield, Sussex in the December quarter of 1887. On the 1891 census he is living with his parents and two year old brother Albert Heasman at White House, East Chiltington, Sussex. Edric, 26 years old and working as an agricultural labourer, was born at Mayfield. His 25 year old wife Annie was born in London. Albert was born at Bodle Street, Sussex.

Ten years later, the 1901 census notes that the family is still living at the same address (reported as Whitehouse number one) with Edric’s trade now noted as “stockman on farm”. There are also three more children: Gilbert Arthur Heasman (aged seven), Daisy May Heasman (aged five) and Grace Hilda Heasman (aged two). A two year old boarder, John A Irquhart (possibly), born in Liverpool, is also living at the address, as is a 59 year old widower from Wivelsfield, George Mitchell. Two further children would also be born: Beatrice Heasman in 1907 and Percival Heasman in 1910.

Frederick emigrated to Western Australia in early 1913 following Albert (who had emigrated in early 1911) and Gilbert (who had emigrated in 1912). Prior to enlisting in the AIF, Albert and Gilbert worked as fettlers, helping to lay the railway line from Geraldton to Mt Magnet, a gold mining town. It would appear from information on Frederick’s attestation papers, where his trade is noted as “plate layer”, that he also joined his brothers on the railways.

Frederick enlisted at Perth, Western Australia on 1st March 1915 joining the 28th Battalion, AIF. He gave his age as 22 years and 11 months (although he was probably 24). He was given the service number 291 and two days later joined No 9 Depot Company at Blackboy Hill.

On 29th June 1915 he embarked for the Mediterranean with the 28th Infantry Battalion, leaving Fremantle aboard HMAT Ascanius. His address on the embarkation roll is given as Maryvale, Wounerup, Western Australia and his next of kin noted as his brother Gilbert (of Mount Magnet, Western Australia). He was in Egypt until September 4th at which point the battalion embarked (aboard HT Ivernia) for Gallipoli.

He went sick on 19th October with enteric and after being admitted first to the 7th Field Ambulance (with diarrhoea) and then to the 16th Casualty Clearing Station (with enteritis), he was shipped out to Malta. He then spent the next seven weeks at St Andrews Hospital Malta.

On 14th December he was transferred to Egypt, disembarking at Alexandria four days later. He then spent the next month and a half at a succession of hospitals and convalescent camps at Heliopolis, Abbassia and Port Said before being shipped back to Australia on the 21st. (A Medical Board held at the Enteric Fever Convalescent Camp at Port Said on the 12th January noted his total incapacity for three months and recommended the transfer to Australia).

In Australia on 22nd February a further Medical Board noted: “Con[dition] Enteric. Some looseness of bowels and cramping pains left leg… Further treatment. Re [presumably “repeat” or “return”] board in two months.” On 18th May, a Medical Board held at Number 8 Australian General Hospital, Fremantle reported: “Enteric. Now well. General condition good. Large ancillary abscess opened one month ago and still stiff. Requires further treatment. Re board in one month.” On 15th June the Board duly reported, “Convalescent Enteric – now quite [unclear] alien in axilla now healed – tongue clear, bowels regular. Heart normal. Recommended return to duty.”

Frederick returned to duty on 4th July, embarking at Fremantle on 18th July aboard HMAT A48 Seang Bee and by 9th September he was in France as part of the 3rd Reinforcements to the 4th Australian Machine Gun Company. Chailey Parish Magazine first notes him in November 1916, listing him simply as Heasman, Pte F, Aust I Forces, France.

On 9th April Frederick was in England where he transferred to the 7th Machine Gun Company. He left Folkestone on the 24th and three days later was in the line with his new unit. He then appears to have moved again; first back to the 4th MGC and then, on 6th May 1917, whilst at the Machine Gun Base Depot at Camiers, to the 13th Australian MGC. He joined this unit in the Field, three days later.

On 13th September, Frederick wrote his last will and testament, leaving all his personal estate ro his mother, Mrs Annie Heasman of Markstakes Farm, South Common, Chailey. Thirteen days later he was killed in action at Passchendaele at what would subsequently become known as The Battle of The Menin Road.

Writing about that day nine months later, 3840 W S Harrison, also of the 13th MGC wrote:

I saw Corporal Dyer (Sigr) and Pte Heasman killed by [the] same shell and helped to bury them where they fell at the old German front line[,] then our position just in front of Zonnebeke. They were buried in the same grave which was marked by a rifle. Dyer came from South Aust and Heasman from West Aust.

Informant: W S Harrison 3840, 13th MG Coy, Hut 10, Westham [16th May 1918]

On 9th January 1918, Annie Heasman wrote to The Australian Imperial Force Kit Store in Fulham acknowledging receipt of her son’s few personal effects. Nearly five years later, a memorial plaque, memorial scroll and pamphlet entitled “Where The Australians Rest” was sent to Edric Heasman in England.

Frederick Heasman has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres as well as Chailey's village memorial. Charles Bristow, also originally from Chailey and also serving with the AIF was killed in the same battle the following day. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission adds the additional information that Frederick was the “son of Edric Owen Heasman and Annie Heasman of Markstakes Farm, Chailey, Sussex, England. Native of Sussex.” His brothers Albert and Gilbert Heasman and his brother-in-law Henry Downing, also served their King and Country during the First World War. All three survived.

My thanks to Jim Type for the portrait of Frederick.

Charles Willey

The information I have about Charles Jarrett Willey is scant to say the least. He does not appear in Chailey’s parish magazine but Soldiers Died in The Great War notes that he was born in Chailey, and enlisted at Brighton. He is recorded as 27334 Private Charles Jarrett Willey of the 12th Suffolk Regiment (formerly G/16131 of the Middlesex Regiment). He was killed in action in France and Flanders on 26th September 1917 aged 19 and is commemorated on pier and face 1C or 2A of the Thiepval Memorial, France.

Monday, September 25, 2006

William Beard Remembered

On September 19th 1918, William Beard of Chailey was killed in action. He was almost certainly a Derby Scheme enlistment and had probably not been overseas very long before he was killed. This is his story.

Henry William Beard appears in army records as simply William Beard. He was born around 1879 at Chailey and at the time the 1881 census was taken, was an only child living with his parents at Little Noven, Chailey. His father, Henry Beard, was a 26 year old labourer from Chailey. His mother, Louisa Beard, was a twenty four year old from nearby Fletching. He is recorded as Henry W Beard aged two.

In the 1901 census, Henry W Beard aged 22 is now living at Harmers Cottages, Newick and working as an ordinary agricultural labourer. He is married to 22 year old Nellie Beard of Tunbridge Wells and the couple have a one year old son named George Frederick Weller. The anomaly in the surname could suggest that Nellie Beard was previously Nellie Weller and that George Frederick was born out of wedlock.

Chailey Parish Magazine first mentions Private H W Beard as serving with the Royal Sussex Regiment in June 1917. Prior to enlistment, his grandson notes, he had been working as an agricultural labourer on Bineham Farm, Chailey. He had enlisted at Brighton, was given the number G/21011 and was posted to the 2nd Battalion. Chailey Parish Magazine records that he is serving with the 2nd Royal Sussex in its December 1917 issue and adds in July 1918 that he has been gassed.

Henry William Beard was killed in action on September 19th 1918 and is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois memorial, France. He was 41 years old at the time of his death and was probably conscripted into the army. The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission’s Debt of Honour register records that he was the son of Harry Beard and the husband of Nellie Beard of Oakland Cottage, North Chailey.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Four grave photos added

Thanks to the efforts of Bob Pike, I have grave photos of four more Chailey men who gave their lives during the First World War. They are: William Alfred Lansdowne, Albert Edward Padgham, Ernest W Plummer and Arthur Harry Snelling.

Monday, September 04, 2006

September 3rd - Two more Chailey men mourned

Ernest Plummer and Charles Bristow both died on September 3rd; Ernest in 1916 and Charles the following year. Both enlisted very early in the war, Ernest joining the 12th Royal Sussex Regiment while Charles joined the 9th Battalion. This is their story.

SD/1643 Lance-Corporal Ernest Plummer, 12th Royal Sussex Regiment

According to Soldiers Died in The Great War, Ernest Plummer was born in Crawley, Sussex, enlisted at Grove Park (London) and gave his residence as Lewes.

In March 1915, Chailey Parish Magazine notes that Ernest Plummer is serving his King and Country and In October that year adds the additional information that he is a private with the Royal Sussex Regiment in England. The following month it adds that he is with the 2nd South Downs. Ernest Plummer’s regimental number was SD/1643, the SD portion of that refering to South Downs. The 11th, 12th and 13th Royal Sussex Regiment were also known as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd South Downs; Pals-type battalions which in time would find themselves assigned to a division (the 39th), with other Pals’ battalions.

By March 1916, Chailey Parish Magazine notes that Ernest Plummer is now a lance-corporal and still in England but by July he was featuring in The East Sussex News. In its July 14th issue, under a sub-heading, “CHAILEY – LOCAL CASUALTIES” it reported, “Corporal E Plummer of the [12th] Royal Sussex Regiment, [39th Div] whose house is at Coppards Bridge, Chailey, has received a bayonet wound in France.”

Chailey Parish Magazine notes in its July 1916 issue that Ernest Plummer is in France and the following month, that he has been wounded.

On September 15th 1916, The East Sussex News again reported on Lance-Corporal Plummer: “SOLDIER KILLED. Corpl E Plummer of the Royal Sussex Regiment, whose wife and five children live at Chailey, has been killed in action.”

The following month, in its roll of honour, Chailey Parish Magazine reported that Ernest Plummer had died of wounds on 3rd September 1916. The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission confirms the date of death and also provides the additional information that he was the husband of Mrs J Blackman (formerly Plummer) of 6 Row, South Street, Chailey, Sussex.

Ernest Plummer is buried at Couin British Cememtery, France; grave reference IV.A.1. He is not believed to be directly related to the three Plummer brothers Albert, Alexander and Owen who were also killed in the First World War.

G/1654 Private Charles Bristow, 9th Royal Sussex Regiment

Charles Bristow was born around 1891 in Chailey and at the time the 1901 census was taken, was living at North Common with his family. The family comprised Henry Bristow (head, aged 37 and running his own market gardening business), his wife Emma Esther Bristow (aged 36) and their five children: Henry (aged 13 and working for his father), Ann Bristow (aged 12), Charles (aged nine), Erle Bristow (aged six) and Emily Bristow (aged four).

Chailey Parish Magazine first notes in October 1914 that Charles is serving his King and Country and the following October notes that he is serving with the 2nd Royal Sussex in France. The same issue also notes that he had been wounded on 25th September 1915 (the opening day of the Battle of Loos).

In April 1916 the parish magazine reports that Charles is in England. He is still noted as serving with the 2nd Royal Sussex and was presumably recuperating from wounds.

In December 1917, his name appears in the parish magazine’s roll of honour as having been killed in action on 3rd September. His regiment is still given as 2nd Royal Sussex but he had actually been posted to the the 9th battalion (presumably after recovering form his Loos wound). Soldiers Died records his number – G/1654 – and the fact that he enlisted at Lewes. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission adds that was 25 years old and was the son of Henry and Emma Bristow, of Chailey, Lewes and the husband of Emily Kate Bristow, of Ashleigh Grange, The Leas, Westcliff-on-Sea.

Charles is buried at La Clytte Military Cemetery, Heuvelland, West Flanders, Belgium; grave reference: I.F.37

Reg Philpott recalls that Charles’ brother Erle Bristow had tried to meet up with Charles in France but the day before they were due to do this, Charles was killed.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Thomas Skurray - "blown to pieces" August 1915

Thomas Skurray was killed in action 91 years ago; one of the first casualties sustained by the 6th Berkshire Regiment during the First World War. This is his story:

Thomas Skurray’s entry appears in Nurse Rose Smythe's album and is dated 27th September 1914. He was a relative of hers and was probably simply visiting Chailey (or Nurse Smythe was visiting him at Shorncliffe). At this stage of the war, although Sussex 54 VAD was well and truly established in terms of personnel, it would not have a premises from which to nurse until Hickwells became available in March 1915. Thomas Skurray’s entry reads:

Lce Cpl T C Skurray
No 10181
6th Royal Berks
St Martin’s Plain

Sept 27th 1914

One more won’t hurt

Thomas Clement Skurray was born in Shrivenham, Berkshire about 1880. He was the son of John and Maria Skurray (nee Greenwood, born 29th May 1840) who had married in London on 8th November 1866, their marriage recorded at Lambeth district in the December quarter of that year. John Skurray was a farmer, the son of another Thomas Clement Skurray (c1811-1858) of Woolstone, Berkshire. On the 1861 census he is noted as the 24 year old head of (what looks like) Cowleaze Farm, Woolstone, Berkshire and is recorded as a baker, farmer of 250 acres and employer of seven men and three boys.

By the time the 1871 census was taken John had married Maria and was living at Elm Tree House, Shrivenham. It is possible that the farm was sold and the proceeds divided between John and his siblings. The census records him as a “London cow keeper” and also notes that the couple have a three year old son, Charles Clement Skurray.

The 1881 census notes further changes in the composition of the Skurray household. Maria is now a widow and living with her children at her parents’ home in Winterbrook Farm, Cholsey. John Skurray had probably died earlier the same year, his death being registered at Highworth, Wiltshire in the March quarter of 1881. He was 44 years old. Maria’s father, 72 year old Charles Greenwood, headed the household in 1881. He was a retired farmer who had owned 320 acres of land and at one time was the overseer of the parish of Cholsey. Living with him were his wife, Emma Hannah Greenwood (nee Wright, aged 71), their daughter Sophia Greenwood (aged 32) and Maria and her five children. In age order they were: Charles (aged 13), Margaret M Skurray (aged 11), Gertrude Maude Skurray (aged seven), Jonathan Stephen Skurray (aged four) and Thomas (aged one). There was also a 19 year servant, Mary Blagrove, living at the house.

By the time the 1891 census was taken the family had shrunk considerably. Maria is still noted as living at Winterbrook but by now she is the head of the family and living on her own means. Apart from a 26 year old boarder, George Hardy, Gertrude (aged 17) and Thomas (aged 11) are the only children living at home. Maria’s father had died on 6th February 1887 but her mother would live on for another couple of years. She though, is not noted as living at the same address.

Ten years later, the family had moved and was living at Wensworth Dell (possibly), Stanley Road, Newbury, Berkshire. Maria, by now aged 60 and a widow for the last twenty years, is recorded as the head of the household and living on her own means. With her are her daughters Margaret (aged 31 and working from home as a music teacher) and Gertrude (aged 27 and with no occupation listed against her name). Thomas, aged 21, is recorded as a coppersmith.

When war against Germany was declared, Thomas was living in Devizes, Wiltshire. He enlisted at Reading though, joining the 6th Royal Berkshire Regiment, a New Army battalion formed in the town in September 1914. Lord Kitchener by now already had the 100,000 men he’d called for and the battalion would be designated as a K2 battalion and would ultimately form part of the 53rd Brigade in the 18th (Eastern) Division. Thomas appears to have adapted to army life well. A lance corporal by the time he left his entry in Rose Smythe’s album, he would be promoted again to corporal and finally to sergeant.

In late 1914 or early 1915, he married Mary Bray, their marriage registered in the district of St George, Hanover Square, in the March quarter of that year. He would not have had much time with his new wife however. The men of the 6th Berks remained in England until 24th July 1915 when they entrained at Codford for Southampton. They disembarked at Boulogne in heavy rain the following day and moved into tents at Ostrohove Rest Camp. Over the next few days they made their way towards Amiens and had a five mile route march on the 28th. Perhaps mindful of the German gas attacks at Ypres earlier that year, respirators were worn for quarter of an hour intervals during the march.

On 2nd August the men moved out of their camp at Rubempre and then marched for five hours until they reached Bouzincourt. The weather was reported as “very bad, rain falling heavily”. By 11pm they were in billets.

On 5th August the battalion suffered its first battle casualty when Private S Danby of C Company was wounded by a shell in the trenches. The battalion had previously had four men evacuated due to sickness, one of whom had since returned, but Danby has the distinction of being the first 6th Berks man to be wounded.

On 12th August, their first period of duty in the trenches over (and with two more men wounded), the battalion marched to Bresle where the men were given good billets “better than any we had had before”. From there, the men moved to Daours where they were engaged in the usual round of training and parades. On 19th August, A Company had baths and the men were given clean under clothes. C Company were partly bathed and outfitted the following day and Major General Maxse, commander of the 18th Division, who inspected the 53rd Brigade later that day at Bussy, complimented the men on their smartness and steadiness.

On Saturday 21st August the battalion marched out of Daours en route for Bray, arriving there at 9pm. The following day it went into trenches opposite Mametz, the relief being accomplished by 2.30am and with no casualties. The enemy facing them were reported as Bavarians.

The following day, Privates Wennan and Morrell of B Company were killed by a sniper and buried the same afternoon. Thomas Skurray, who belonged to the same company, was killed four days later. Reading the battalion war diary it is clear that the trenches in which the 6th Berks found themselves, needed some attention and that also there was intermittent shelling and rifle fire (some of it heavy), throughout the men’s time there. The night on which Thomas Skurray was killed though, was the most trying day for the battalion since it had arrived in France. The following transcripts are from the 6th Berks’ war diary:

Friday 27th August 1915
France, Bray
The day was quiet and work was proceeded with. The trenches want a lot of attention - accommodation for our numbers of men & officers being totally inadequate. The difficulty in getting wood is retarding the progress of our improvements. Timber & all materials for dug-outs - defensive positions etc - bombs and grenades are badly wanted & not easily obtainable. The Essex Regt (one Coy) took over the Citadel, & are employed in RE fatigues and digging a communication trench. The enemy shell the cook-houses etc at the citadel frequently - but with no result. Our Artillery was busy on the enemy's trenches during the day. At 8pm a rifle-grenade exploded on our left sector. Ptes Greenhaugh & Green of B Coy being wounded. At 8.30pm a sausage exploded close to Coy HQ of our left sector. Some damage was done & the following NCOs killed & wounded - KILLED Sgt Skurry [sic] - L/Cpl Bettis. Ptes Westall - Smith & Gillam. WOUNDED - Ptes Slater - Gorton - and Neil. All these men belonged to "B" Coy. Some aerial torpedoes - two more sausages and a number of rifle grenades were fired at us during the rest of the night, but no further casualties occurred. The night passed without further incident. The enemy were busy repairing damage done to their lines by our Artillery between points 311 & 313. Pte Gee - "A" Coy was buried in the afternoon. The B'dr visited the trenches during the evening.

Saturday 28th August 1915
France, Bray
Consultation with gunners as to best way of dealing with the sausage and preventing enemy making use of the crater. Decided to fire ranging shots on crater and to open fire in direction from which next sausage arrives. Artillery did excellent practice into crater. Enemy snipers very much less active - and there was little or no response to our Artillery. Sgt Skurry [sic] Ptes Westall & Smith were so blown to pieces that they will have to be buried in one grave. Three rifles brought back from scene of explosion smashed and twisted. Improvement of trenches continues under great difficulties. The 5 men killed last night were buried tonight at 8. Pte Andrews accidentally wounded on 26th died today at No 5 Casualty Clearing Stn. D Coy relieved B on left sector. Pte Richardson "D" Coy wounded. The night passed without incident.

Thomas Skurray is buried at Citadel New Military Cemetery, Fricourt. He shares the same grave reference (II.C.8) as Privates Smith and Westall although each man has a separate gravestone. All three graves are next to one another. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes the additional information that he was the “son of John and Maria Skurray, of Shrivenham, Berks; husband of Mary Seward (formerly Skurray), of 36, First Avenue, Garden City, Grimsby.”

On 17th October 1915, less than two months after her son had been killed in action, Maria Skurray died at the age of 55.