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: www.chailey1914-1918.net

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.