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.