Sunday, August 31, 2014
John Oliver of Chailey died on the opening day of the Battle of Loos, 25th September 1915. This is his story.
According to the Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission’s (CWGC) Debt of Honour register, John Oliver was a native of Chailey. This is not born out by the 1891 census however, which notes his place of birth as Lewes. John Oliver was a one year old infant when the census was taken and was living at 55 Bevenbridge, St Johns, Lewes, with his family. The family comprised John Henry Oliver (senior) aged 33, working as an agricultural labourer; his wife Mercy Oliver (aged 43) and their three children: Rebecca Oliver (aged five), Mary Oliver (aged three) and John Henry Oliver (junior). Ten years later, the 1901 census notes the family still living at Bevenbridge Cottages. John Henry Oliver (senior) is aged 44 and working as brickmaker. His wife’s age is noted as 52. John and Mary are noted as 11 and 13 years old respectively. Rebecca Oliver (aged 15) was working as a general domestic servant in East Chiltington.
Soldiers Died in The Great War further adds to the confusion over John’s place of birth by noting it as Hamsey, Sussex but it does also tell us that he enlisted at Lewes. His connection with Chailey could be through work. His father, as mentioned already, was working as a brickmaker and it is possible that he was working at the Chailey brickyards and that his son followed him there. There is also some confusion over his name. The Debt of Honour register and the tablet inside St Peter’s church Chailey refer to him as Henry J Oliver. All other reference point to the Christian names the other way round.
Chailey Parish Magazine notes in November 1914 that John Oliver is serving his King and Country, adding in October 1915 that he is serving with the 10th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment in France. In July 1915 Chailey Parish Magazine reported news of his father’s burial (on June 7th 1915) and before the year was out, Mercy Oliver would lose her only son as well when G/1672 Private John Henry Oliver died of wounds on the opening day of the battle of Loos.
News of his death (“the only son of the late Harry Oliver”) was reported on page 12 of The Sussex Express (October 22nd 1915) and again on 3rd March 1916; a photo accompanying the 1916 article. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission gives his battalion as the 2nd Royal Sussex Regiment whilst Chailey Parish Magazine, The Sussex Express and Soldiers Died, all quote the 10th Battalion. John Oliver is buried at Verquin Communal Cemetery, France. His somewhat chipped headstone carries the inscription, WE MISS THE HAND CLASP / MISS THE LOVING SMILE. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes that he was the son of Mrs Mercy Oliver of 17 St John’s Terrace, Lewes. In the space of four months she had lost both her husband and only son.
My thanks to Jon Miller for the photograph of John Oliver's grave.
Of course, there was no such formation as the 25th Norfolk Regiment and so the 2/5th Norfolk Regiment seems more likely. There are though, too many candidates for this Territorial Force unit to make a positive connection to Chailey's Private A Brown and so for the moment, Private A Brown remains a mystery.
Chailey Parish Magazine notes, Brown, Gunner A, RFA in its April 1917 edition and this information is repeated up to and including the final roll call published in July 1919.
The 1901 census of England and Wales notes a seven year old Arthur Brown living at South Ham, North Common, Chailey. However, without further documentary evidence it is impossible to say whether this is Gunner A Brown or indeed, Private A Brown who is also mentioned in the parish magazine.
For some reason I'd only briefly referenced Sydney Arthur Brooks on the now defunct Chailey 1914-1918 website; an oversight I am now rectifying.
Sydney was born in Fletching, Sussex in late 1897 or early 1898. He appears on the 1901 census as a three-year old and we know from GRO records that his birth was registered at Uckfield in the first quarter of 1898.
For some reason, Sydney was not noted in the Chailey Parish magazine but we certainly know that he joined the 12th Royal Sussex Regiment at the same time as his brother, William Jared Brooks, and that he was one of the many Southdown battalion men killed in action on the 30th June 1916. William and Sydney joined the regiment on the 11th November 1914 and both arrived in France on 4th March 1916.
Sydney, recorded as Sidney Brookes on his medal index card, has no known grave and is commemorated by name on the Loos Memorial.
The image at the top of this page is courtesy Simon Stevens of Fletching and is reproduced from the notebook kept by John Oldaker of Newick School which Sydney and William attended between 1905 and 1911. The other image is taken from the Loos Memorial register entry, courtesy of CWGC.
William Jared Brooks was born in Fletching, Sussex in 1896. He appears on the 1901 census living with his family at Cherry Tree Cottage, Fletching Common. The household comprised: Jared Brooks (head, married, aged 32, a bricklayer journeyman), his wife Frances E Brooks (aged 33) and their three children: Frances E Brooks (aged six), William (aged four) and Sydney Arthur Brooks (aged three). Also living at the cottage was William's maternal grandfather, 82 year old William Hart.
Chailey Parish Magazine first mentions William in its April 1918 issue, stating Brooks, Lance-Corporal W J, 12th Royal Sussex. This information is repeated up to and including the final published roll call in July 1919. In fact, William had been in khaki for a long time. He and his brother Sydney had enlisted with the 12th (South Down) Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment at Brighton on 11th November 1914 and they had travelled to France together in March 1916. Sydney’s number was SD/1632 and William’s SD/1633. The 12th Sussex was thrown into action at The Boar’s Head on 30th June 1916 and the casualties were great.
When the roll call was taken later, Sydney was reported missing and later presumed dead. Soldiers Died in The Great War notes his date of death as 30th June but I have been unable to find his entry on the Commonwealth War Graves’ site. William appears to have come through the encounter unscathed. Certainly, his old headmaster, John Oldaker, of Newick school, makes no mention of it in the notes he jotted down about him (below). Both boys had been at the school between 1905 and 1911 and at some stage, William sent Mr Oldaker the photograph of himself that is reproduced on this page.
William remained overseas with the Royal Sussex Regiment until he was wounded on 23rd July 1918 and his war ended.
Henry Alfred Brooks was born in Chailey about November 1895. When the 1901 census was taken, he was a five year old living at home in Balneath, Barcombe with his younger brother Ernest Edward Brooks (aged two) and his parents. His father, Alfred Brooks, born in East Chiltington, was a 26 year old brickyard labourer. His mother, Sarah Brooks, aged 27 had been born in Barcombe, as had Ernest. Later, a daughter – Daisy Margaret Brooks, born around 1902 – would complete the family.
According to Soldiers Died in the Great War, at the time of his enlistment Henry was living in Chailey although he actually enlisted at Brighton. This is confirmed by his surviving army papers which exist as a burnt document in the WO 363 series at the National Archives in London .
On 25th January 1915, aged 19 years and three months, Henry enlisted in the Army Veterinary Corps (AVC) at Brighton and was given the army number 4482. He was five feet six inches tall and weighed 148lbs. He gave his trade or occupation as “carter”. He was deemed fit and up to standard by the officer examining him and there was a recommendation which read that he was a “smart young man, intelligent and of good appearance.” The following day his enlistment for the AVC was approved and he was duly enlisted a few days later on 1st February. The following month, Chailey Parish Magazine noted that he was serving his King and Country.
At some point prior to embarking for France, Henry was appointed acting sergeant. He embarked at Folkestone on 19th July 1916, disembarking at Boulogne. On 4th October 1916 he was appointed paid lance-sergeant while in the field but was deprived of this stripe on 9th May 1917 for being absent from his stable at 5.35am and for handing over his party without permission. On 29th September 1917 he was transferred to the 9th York and Lancaster Regiment (70th Brigade, 23rd Division), although the reason for this transfer, given on his official papers, is obscured and damaged now. Chailey Parish Magazine noted in December 1917 that he was now a corporal with the Yorks and Lancs, Henry having been allowed to keep his NCO rank when he moved from the AVC.
In November 1917 the division moved to the Italian Front and it was here, on 15th June 1918, that 33870 Corporal Henry Alfred Books was killed in action. He is buried at Granezza British Cemetery (Plot I, Row D, Grave 10). The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission’s Debt of Honour Register also notes that he was the son of Sarah Brooks of Gate Cottage, Balneath, Chailey near Lewes.
On 15th September 1919 on Army Form W. 5080 (a statement of the names and addresses of all the relatives of Henry Alfred Brooks then living), the following information was recorded: Father: Alfred Brooks, Gate Cottage, Balneath, Chailey Mother: Sarah Brooks [address as above] Full Blood brother: Ernest Edward Brooks, Age 21 [address as above] Full Blood sister: Daisy Margaret Brooks, Age 17 [address as above] The information was declared correct by Sarah Brooks. Henry’s younger brother Ernest Brooks also served his King & Country during the First World War.
The image on this post is taken from the Commonwealth War Grave register for Granezza British cemetery and can also be downloaded from the main CWGC site.
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Arthur Hamilton Boyd was born in
Chailey Parish Magazine notes that a Private W Blanchard is serving with a Training Reserve battalion in April 1917. In December 1917 the regimental information is updated to 3rd Royal Sussex and in May 1918 it is updated again to 9th Royal Sussex.
The Mr Blanchard referred to above may be the same Private W Blanchard noted in Chailey’s parish magazine in 1917.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Edwin Baldock is noted in Chailey Parish Magazine in January, March and April 1916 as having attested. The remark, "medically unfit" is recorded next to his name and this was due to the fact that he had been kicked in the leg by a horse before the war. The injury was sufficient to prevent him being called up for military service.
Edwin's grandson recalls that he worked with horses but that his main occupation was that of a sign-writer. He had married Emily Page on 9th November 1907 and although initially based in Chailey Parish, the couple had moved to Brighton. Emily died in 1944 and Edwin died in May 1956.
Kelly’s 1915 directory for Sussex lists a Chailey Edwin Baldock as Farm Bailiff and Chailey resident Reg Philpott remembers that the Baldock family came from nearby Wivelsfield where they were butchers and blacksmiths.
Photograph of Edwin in later life courtesy of his grandson, Michael Baldock. Probate calendar extract taken from Ancestry.
Another Avery, J Avery, also served in the First World War and it is possible that Arthur was related to him. Like Arthur, his brothers Harry and Thomas both served in the army during World War 1 and both survived.
Tom Avery appears in Chailey Parish Magazine for the first time in November 1916, noted as a Private, serving with the Army Veterinary Corps in France (regimental number SE/21101). He survived the war and appears to have served until the end, finally appearing in the parish magazine in July 1919.
Albert Agate was born in
Albert's medal index card (above, courtesy Ancestry) shows his MGC number as 4956 and his Royal Sussex Regiment number as 6938. G/6938 would fit with an enlistment date of late May 1915 (which would tie in with the announcement in Chailey Parish Magazine shortly afterwards).
Alfred Albert Agate was born in 1894, his birth recorded on page 171 of the Cuckfield (
At the time of his death he was 8531 Driver Alfred Albert Agate and was serving with C Battery in the 62nd Brigade of The Royal Field Artillery. He is buried in