Tuesday, February 27, 2007

R/4188 Rfm William Lansdowne, 13th KRRC

R/4188 Rifleman William Alfred Lansdowne is not mentioned in Chailey’s parish magazine even though he was killed in action on 26th February 1916. Soldiers Died in The Great War notes that he was born in Holborn, Middlesex, enlisted at Cockspur Street (Middlesex) and was living in Chailey, Sussex. He was the son of Victor and Emma Lansdowne and was killed in action whilst serving with the 13th King’s Royal Rifle Corps. On the day on which he was killed the battalion was in trenches at Bailleulval. The diarist wrote:

"Enemy quiet. Nothing to report. The hard frost continues and the snow is still thick on the ground. The health of the battalion is quite good."

The Chailey connection appears to have been through his wife May who, on his service records, is shown as living at The Girls Heritage, Chailey, Sussex. This was in 1919 though and certainly, in May 1916, May Lansdowne was living at 46 Millman Street, Guildford. William's surviving service papers in WO 363 show that at the time of his enlistment he was still working as a waiter.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (apart from spelling his name incorrectly as Landsdowne) adds the additional information that he was serving with D Company and was the husband of May Lansdowne (nee West), of 46, Millman St., Guilford St., Holborn, London. He appears on the 1911 census as a 17-year-old waiter working at the Royal Thames Yacht Club, 81 Piccadilly, London. He is the only William Alfred Lansdowne on the 1911 census and so this must be him. This would mean that he would have been around 22 years old when he was killed.

William's regimental number dates to 11th September 1914. A few months later he married May West at Holborn, their marriage registered in the first quarter of 1915. A daughter, Vera May Lansdowne, was born in the fourth quarter of 1915. It seems unlikely that Vera ever saw her father as he was already overseas by the time she was born.

William is buried at De Cusine Ravine British Cemetery at Basseux, France; grave reference: G6. He is not commemorated on Chailey’s war memorial but may be remembered on a KRRC memorial and/or one located in the City of London.

PO/1261 Pte Harry Gates, RMLI

PO/1261 (S) Harry Gates of the 2nd Royal Marine Battalion, The Royal Naval Division, Royal Marine Light Infantry, was killed in action ninety years ago this month. He was the son of William and Sarah Gates of The Green, Chailey, and the husband of Elsie Gates of Mascall’s Farm, North Common, Chailey. William appears on the 1891 census as a boot maker and living at the family home on Chailey Green are his wife Sarah, Harry (aged one) and an older brother, Montague John Gates aged eight (born at Lewes). Montague would also serve during the First World War.

Harry appears on the 1901 census as an eleven year old still living in Chailey village with his parents although by this time, Montague had already left home.

In January 1916, Harry makes his first appearance Chailey’s Parish Magazine as Gates, Pte H, RMLI and in October 1916, the additional information, “France” is also added. In April 1917 however, the magazine added Gates’ name to its Roll of Honour, listing the information as: Pte H Gates, RMLI, killed in action, Feb 19th 1917.

Harry was 27 years old when he died. He has no known grave and is commemorated on pier and face 1A of the Thiepval Memorial in France (above).

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

G/18866 Pte Richard Roffe, 7th Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)

Richard Roffe: another of Chailey's forgotten men.

Just over 90 years ago, on February 5th 1917, Private Richard Roffe of The East Kent Regiment was killed in action. He was not a native of Chailey, (he was born in Wittering, Sussex) but according to Soldiers Died in The Great War, he was resident in the village and enlisted at Wansford, Northants.

In its January 1916 issue Chailey Parish Magazine records him within the roll call of local serving men, noting, "Roffe, R". That is the only mention he receives but nevertheless enough, surely, to have warranted the inclusion of his name on the parish war memorial.

Richard Roffe possibly enlisted under the Derby Scheme in late 1915. He was certainly young. At the time of his death he was still four months short of his twentieth birthday.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Walter Leonard Nixon

On this day, 1st February, in the year 1893, my grandfather, Walter Leonard Nixon was born. In many respects he kindled my interest in the First World War. A gunner with the Royal Garrison Artillery, wounded and gassed for his King and country, my memories of him are of an old man, huddling by the fire to keep warm; rolling his cigarettes. I never spoke to him about his Great War experiences but his death in 1980, and my regret at not having not got to know him better than I should have done, triggered in me a desire to learn more. And so today, 27 years later, and with many years of First World War research and knowledge under my belt, I pay tribute to Walter Leonard Nixon, one of five serving Nixon brothers, but above all, my grandfather.