Monday, June 05, 2006

Charles Lee and John Thurgood

Chailey Parish magazine first mentions 6565 Private Charles Lee in its November 1916 issue, reporting him as Lee, Private C, 3rd Royal Sussex, England. In the following month’s issue he is reported simply as Lee, Private C, 3rd Royal Sussex.

Soldiers Died In The Great War records that he enlisted at Henley in Surrey. The 3rd Royal Sussex was the reserve battalion which remained in England throughout the war. At some stage however, Charles must have been posted to the 11th battalion (116th Brigade, 39th Division) because he was killed whilst serving with this unit on Sunday 3rd June 1917. It was not until December 1917 however, that his name was recorded in the Chailey Parish magazine roll of honour. The information was recorded, incorrectly, as Private C Lee, 3rd Royal Sussex, killed in action, June 2nd 1917, in France.

The 11th Royal Sussex was also known as the 1st South Downs Battalion and had been formed on 7th September 1914 by Lieutenant Colonel Claude Lowther MP. All original enlistments (and there were 1,100 of them in under three days), were given an SD (South Downs) prefix to their regimental number. The National Archive in London and Soldiers Died In The Great War record Lee’s number as G/6565 although The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission’s Debt of Honour Register omits this prefix.

At the time of his death, Charles Lee was married to Florence Lee and was living in Chailey. He was 31 years old. He is buried in Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery in Ypres (VII F 4). On his tombstone are written the words: “UNTIL THE DAY BREAK / AND THE SHADOWS FLEE AWAY”.

801298 Gunner John William Thurgood was a patient at Beechland House Hospital, Newick (near Chailey) at some time between November 1917 and March 1918. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album, which has been heavily overwritten in blue biro at a later date, reads:

801298 Gnr J W Thurgood
C/295 Brdg RFA

He was born around February 1890, probably in or around Grimsby in Lincolnshire and was the son of John and Elizabeth Thurgood.

He attested with the 2/1st North Midland Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery on 19th May 1915 and was given the army service number 1722. This was a Territorial Force unit and C/295 (or C/CCXCV Bde as it is more correctly written) had its origins in the Grimsby and Cleethorpes area of England. A medical inspection noted that John was 25 years and 101 days old and was five feet, ten inches tall. He was passed fit for service.

His badly damaged service record exists at the National Archives in London and although much of the information is unclear or obliterated, it is possible to piece together his basic service history. He remained in England until March 1917 and, when the Territorial Force was re-numbered in February 1917, was given the number he quotes in Nurse Oliver’s album: 801298. On 21st June 1915 he was posted to the 3rd Battery and on 11th March the following year was married. His wife’s Christian name appears to be Grace but the document is badly damaged and it is difficult to make out here maiden name. On 11th March 1917 he wrote a will leaving his estate to his wife and, two days later, was in France.

He remained in France until 28th October 1917 when he was either wounded or gassed, probably at Passchendaele. His service record is again unclear but it would appear that he came home to recuperate and it was during this period that he spent time at Beechland House in Newick.

On 30th March 1918 he was back in France and remained there until 28th October 1918. It would appear that he returned to England probably suffering from trench fever. “PUO” is written on his papers and he spent time at a number of hospitals including military hospitals at Colchester and Purfleet. By this stage, relations with his wife had already broken down and on 6th April 1918 he stopped allowances to her and also written another will leaving his estate to his mother.

John was discharged from the army on 6th March 1919 but died of appendicitis three months later on 4th June 1919. He is buried under a Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) headstone at Grimsby (Scartho Road) Cemetery; grave reference: 57.I.15. The CWGC gives the additional information (also included on his service papers) that he was the son of John and Elizabeth Thurgood of 7 Pyewipe Road, West Marsh, Grimsby.

Today, 89 and 87 years later respectively, I remember Charles Lee and John Thurgood.

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