Friday, December 28, 2007

259027 Pte Roland Gilbert, Labour Corps

The undated photo above, sent to me by Mike Gilbert, features his grandfather Roland Gilbert (seated third from left) when he was serving in the Royal Sussex Regiment. The reverse of the card, sent to his three children, simply reads, love to you all, Daddy.

In March 1915, Chailey Parish Magazine had noted that Roland Gilbert was serving his King and Country.  In October 1915 it reported, Gilbert, Private R, 10th Royal Sussex, France. 

Ten months later in August 1916 the parish magazine noted that Private Gilbert has been wounded and was in England.  His final entry in the parish magazine appears in September 1917 which simply states, Gilbert, Private R, 10th Royal Sussex.  Wounded.

It seems likely that Roland Gilbert was 4469 Private Roland Gilbert.  His medal index card has two numbers and two regiments for him, the second being 259027, a Labour Corps number.  It would seem to fit the information contained in the parish magazine that Private Gilbert was wounded with the 10th Royal Sussex Regiment, returned to England to recuperate and then transferred to the Labour Corps.

Roland Gilbert was born in Burwash, Sussex in 1880, his birth registered in the Ticehurst district in March of that year.  He was the son of William and Ann Gilbert and appears on the 1881 census for Burwash as a one year old infant.  The family was living at Toll Gate Cottage and comprised William Gilbert (aged 23), an agricultural Labourer, his wife Ann (aged 27), Roland and the couple's one month old daughter (un-named on the census return).  All four family members are noted as having been born in Burwash.  They also shared the house with another family: Harry Kemp (aged 71) and his two daughters: Sarah Kemp (aged 40) and Hannah Kemp (aged 38 and bed-ridden).

I have been unable to locate the family on the census returns for 1891 and 1901 but thanks to Roland's grandson, Mike Gilbert, who contacted me as a result of finding this website,  Iam able to fill in further details post 1901.

In 1902 Roland married Mabel Day, their marriage registered in the Brighton district in the December quarter of that year.  Four children followed quickly: Percy Gilbert (born in 1903), Dorothy Gilbert (born in 1904), Ella Gilbert (born in 1905) and Kathleen Gilbert (born in 1907).  The family lived in Lower Station Road, Chailey, next door to Mabel's parents William and Emma who let rooms and had a small market garden.  Mike Gilbert thinks that the properties were called The Pines and Fernside (one of these now re-named Wray Lodge).  This ties in with Kelly's Directory for 1915 which notes William as being the owner of Pines Apartments.  Logic suggests therefore that Roland and his family lived at Fernside.

In 1909, Mabel Gilbert died at the young age of 30 and her sister became a surrogate mother to the four young Gilbert children. 
It is clear from the entry in Chailey Parish Magazine that, despite being the breadwinner for four children, Roland Gilbert voluntarily enlisted in the army.  He would have been 35 years old by then.  Mike Gilbert remembers his father saying that he had to leave school in 1915 to help in the market garden as his father had joined the army. Fortunately, as mentioned above, Roland survived the war and came home to Chailey to continue bringing up his family.

My thanks to Mike Gilbert for the wonderful photos of his grandfather, father and aunts.

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