Thursday, October 09, 2014

L/10781 Alfred Reuben William Jenner, Royal Sussex Regiment

Chailey Parish Magazine notes in July 1915 that Alfred Jenner is serving his King and Country. He was Alfred Reuben William Jenner who, at the time the 1901 census was taken, was living at Pound Cottage No 2, Chailey.

The household in 1901 comprised Alfred Jenner (head, married, aged 24, working as an agricultural labourer), his wife Mary Ann (nee Martin), aged 25, and their children Alfred Reuben (aged three) and Ellen Mary (aged nine months).

Alfred had been born at Chailey on 27th January 1897 although his birth wasn’t registered until the December quarter of that year. His extensive service record survives in the WO 364 pension series at the National Archives and from this we can see that he enlisted with the Royal Sussex Regiment at Brighton on 18th April 1915. He enlisted not just for the duration of the war but as a regular soldier, signing up for five years with the Colours and seven on the Reserve.

Alfred stood just five feet three and a half inches tall (which must have been advantageous in the trenches), had a fresh complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair. He gave his trade as farm labourer. He was posted to the 3rd Battalion on 27th April and remained there until 12th September 1916 when he embarked as a 2nd Battalion man, for France. Ten days later he was posted to the 9th Battalion. In October 1915, the parish magazine had noted that he was serving with the 3rd Royal Sussex Regiment in England and then, in April 1916, that he was a machine gunner with the battalion. In October that year, it noted that he was serving in France.

Alfred remained overseas with the 9th Battalion until suffering a gun shot wound to his buttock on 14th April 1917. He was sent to the Canadian General Hospital at Boulogne and then immediately despatched home to England aboard the hospital ship St Denis on April 17th. Chailey parish magazine had noted in January 1917 that he had been invalided but this is obviously incorrect. Alfred though, had been in and out of hospital before he was wounded, and the nature of his illnesses speaks volumes for the conditions endured by soldiers in the trenches.

In November 1916 he was admitted to a Field Ambulance and then hospital, with conjunctivitis. In January 1917 he was suffering from pyrexia (almost certainly the condition commonly known as “trench fever” and transmitted via lice). In March 1917 he was admitted to a casualty clearing station suffering from myalgia. Myalgia covers a host of diseases and disorders but means “muscle pain”. Alfred may have contracted this as a result of over-stretching a muscle or group of muscles or again, it could have been caused by a viral infection. In May 1917, Chailey parish magazine recorded that Alfred had been wounded and this story was also covered in a small newspaper article which appeared in the East Sussex News on April 27th.

 Under the headline, “Local Casualties” it is recorded: “Private Jenner of The Royal Sussex Regiment, son of Mr and Mrs Jenner of South Common has been wounded in action in France and is in hospital at Dover.” His wound could not have been too serious because by July 1917 he was sailing again for France and re-joined his battalion in the field on 10th August. He remained with the 9th Royal Sussex until 27th January 1918 when he was admitted to hospital with a carbuncle on his left shoulder blade. The condition was serious enough to cause him being shipped back to England for a second time on 4th February 1918. He was sent straight to Bethnal Green Military Hospital in Cambridge Road, being admitted there the following day and staying there until 15th April. He then returned to his regiment but almost immediately was back in hospital with the same condition. His stay at the Eastern Command Depot at Shoreham lasted 83 days: from 25th April until 17th July 1918 when he was posted back to the 3rd Battalion. Hospital notes for his second stay record, “this man has received arm drill treatment while at this depot”. He was classified as B1 without equipment.

Alfred was attached briefly to the Military Foot Police between 9th August for two months and then to No 681 Agricultural Labour Company at Chichester on 10th October 1918 pending transfer to the Labour Corps. Twelve days later the transfer was effected and he remained with 681 for a further five months. His Labour Corps number was 664858. In March 1919 he was posted to another Agricultural Labour Company – Number 696 – and then transferred back to the Royal Sussex Regiment on 24th July 1919. By October 1919 he was attached to the 8th Provisional Company, Waterfield. A further medical note on 31st December 1919 downgraded Alfred still further to B2, noting, “cannot wear equipment”, this condition having been caused by the scar on his shoulder as a result of having incised the carbuncle. His degree of disability was noted as 20 per cent and he was discharged from the army on 11th May 1920. The following month, a Ministry of Pensions Medical Board at Brighton noted that Alfred was “complaining of pain in scar and unable to carry any weight on shoulder or lift any heavy weight on back”. Somebody even drew a rough picture of the scar which was three and a half inches high and three inches wide. He was awarded a gratuity of thirty seven pounds and ten shillings, quite a sizeable sum in those days.

Alfred obviously got married during the war years because his next of kin is initially reported as his father (living at Yokehurst, Chailey), his mother (living at Broomfield Farm, South Common, Chailey), and latterly his wife, living at 76 Trafalgar Road, Portslade, Sussex.

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