Thursday, May 31, 2007

The loss of HMS Invincible

On this day in 1916, HMS Invincible was blown in two at the Battle of Jutland and sank almost immediately. There were six survivors out of a crew of 1027. Amongst the dead were two Chailey men, Sidney George Augustus Bristow and Cecil Langridge. Aged just 16, Cecil was the youngest of Chailey's servicemen to be killed in action. Sidney, at 22, also counts as one of the parish's younger fallen.

Today, both men's names can be seen on the Chailey war memorial and on the Naval memorial at Portsmouth.

On this day too, in 1911, my maternal grandmother, Emily Whellams, was born. Her story can be read on my Whellams website. Had she lived she would have been 96 years old today.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

64128 Pte William Stevens, 8th MGC

William Stevens was born at Chailey and living at Hunts Cottage, Scaynes Hill when he attested at Hayward’s Heath on the 23rd February 1916.  His attestation was approved at Chichester on the 24th June 1916 and he was posted to the 28th (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers three days later where he was given the regimental number 11275.  At the time of his attestation he was single, aged 20 years and 11 months and working as a steam thresher.  His father, John Stevens, was noted as William's next of kin and at some point during William's service the family moved from Hunts Cottage to Tunis House, The Green, Newick.

On 1st September 1916 William was transferred to the 104th Training Reserve Battalion and then transferred again, on the 12th October 1916, to the Machine Gun Corps where he was issued with a new regimental number, 64128.

Chailey Parish Magazine first notes him in November 1916 as Pte W Stevens, serving with the 104th Training Reserve Battalion, Royal Fusiliers in Scotland.  

William proceeded overseas on the 30th December 1916 and was posted to the 27th MGC on the 10th January 1917. He was admitted to hospital with trench fever on the 3rd March 1917 and was wounded by shrapnel in the head and right leg on the 31st May 1917. He spent five days at No 42 Casualty Clearing Station before being discharged to duty. 

William Stevens, by now serving with the 8th Battalion, MGC was reported missing on Monday 27th May 1918 and this was duly reported in Chailey Parish Magazine which noted him missing between August 1918 and July 1919. In fact, it was not until April 1919 that the War Office officially accepted that William had been killed on 27th May the previous year. His body was never found and he is commemorated on the Soissons memorial (below, courtesy of Colin Roberts) in France.

In June 1919, William's surviving family members were noted as his father, John Stevens; brothers Albert Stevens (aged 32) and George Stevens (aged 21, serving with the Army of Occupation) and sisters Clara Stevens (aged 24) and Margaret Moon (aged 27).

William Stevens is commemorated in two Sussex locations.  His name is on the war memorial on the village green at Chailey and also on a stone tablet and wooden shrine inside St Augustines Church, Scaynes Hill. The information contained at Scaynes Hill notes that he was a corporal (which is incorrect) and that he was killed on the Chemin des Dames.  His inclusion on the Chailey war memorial appears to have been an afterthought. His name appears at the bottom of the list of names as W Stevens and is out of alphabetical sequence.  It seems probable that, like Frederick Albert Jon Wood, his name was added at a later date. 

William Stevens appears on the 1901 census of England as the six year old son of John and Sarah Stevens of Wapsbourne Farm Cottage, Sheffield Park, Chailey.  His brothers Albert and George and his cousins William H Stevens, Frank Stevens and James Stevens (all mentioned in Chailey Parish Magazine) also served during the First World War.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Saying "Thank you"

Call me old fashioned but I still believe that manners maketh man. I've been very fortunate over the years in that people have willingly shared with me, information about Chailey and the First World War. They continue to do so and I hope that I always show my gratitude.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for some of the people who contact me as a result of having located a relative on my site as a result of a Google search. I'm not going to make a big fuss about it here because this blog, and the site it feeds into, are concerned entirely with commemorating the men and women of Chailey during the First World War.

But let me say just this. Please, if you can summon up the strength to write me an e-mail asking for additional information on people or tips on researching WW1 soldiers, at least have the good grace to send me an acknowledgement once I've sent you the material.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

28239 Private John Ford, 8th East Surrey Regiment

John Ford was killed in action on 3rd May 1917 whilst serving with the 8th East Surrey Regiment. It wasn't until April the following year however, that Chailey Parish Magazine reported that he had been killed in action.

John was born in Chailey around 1885 and before joining the East Surreys had served with the Royal Sussex Regiment. His number indicates that he had joined a Sussex service battalion in February or March 1916 while his East Surrey number, 28239, indicates that he joined this regiment some time between April and December 1916 (but probably nearer to the summer than the winter).

John Ford has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras memorial.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The suffering of a generation

Fletching born William Jared Brooks stands stiffly to attention and stares hard at the camera. Born in 1896 he enlisted in November 1914 and was in France by March 1916. He was probably no more than twenty years old when this photo was taken.

William had enlisted with his brother Sydney and the two men were given consecutive numbers in the 12th Royal Sussex (2nd South Down) Regiment. Sydney was killed on 30th June 1916 but William survived and at some point sent this photograph of himself to his old headmaster, John Oldaker, in Newick.

Also appearing on Chailey 1914-1918 are photographs of Frank Chatfield, Frank Mainwood and Richard Clarkson. Frank Mainwood lost his right eye whilst serving with the RGA and Richard Clarkson was taken prisoner in 1918. Frank Chatfield was invalided to England in August 1916.

Truly, the 1914-1918 generation paid a heavy price.