Sunday, November 30, 2014

25752 Private Henry Stephen Daniel Downing, 1st East Surrey Regt

Henry Stephen Daniel Downing was born in the county of Berkshire in 1884, his birth recorded at Newbury in the September quarter of that year.   

He appears on the 1891 census as a six year old living at 62 Albany Road, Reading with his parents and siblings.  The household comprised Henry Downing senior, a 33 year old joiner and fitter from Pangbourne, Berkshire, his 27 year old Irish-born wife Mary J Downing and their three children: Henry Stephen Daniel, Florence E (aged four) and Arthur (aged two).  There was also a boarder: Maud Piggott (aged 12). 

By the time the 1901 census was taken the family had moved to 68 Belmont Road where Henry senior’s occupation is noted as “cycle engineer”.  Four more children had appeared since the 1891 census was taken and the household now comprised Henry and his wife and their seven children: Henry Stephen Daniel (aged 16 and working as a butcher), Florence (aged 14), Arthur (aged 12), Violet May (aged nine), Lilian Mary (aged six), Rose Gladys (aged four) and Beatrice (aged eight months). 

Henry Downing’s badly burnt service record exists at the National Archives in London and from this it is possible to piece together some of his service record.  He attested on 11th December 1915 and was placed on the army reserve the following day.

Living at Newick when he attested, Henry Downing gave his aged as 31 years and 62 days, his “Trade or Calling” as insurance agent and his marital status as widower.  A Baptist by religion, he had married Annie Jane (surname unknown) at Newick Parish church on 25th April 1911 and was the father of two girls: Queenie Lilian (born at Steyning, Sussex on 25th March 1912) and Gladys Annie May (also born at Steyning on 28th December 1913).  It is uncertain, at this point of time, when Annie Jane Downing died.

He was mobilized at Chichester on 1st June 1916 and posted to the Royal Sussex Regiment depot the following day.  On the 8th July he got married for a second time; to Daisy Heasman, sister of Albert, Frederick and Gilbert Heasman who are also remembered on this blog. Daisy would later bear him a third daughter, Winifred May, born on 5th June 1917 at Lewes. 

On 1st September, Henry was posted to the 3rd (reserve) Battalion and posted again (to the 14th Battalion) on the 24th October.  On 7th November 1916 he was posted to the 1st East Surrey Regiment in France and it was while serving with them that he was captured at Fresnoy on 8th May 1917. He was held at Dulmen PoW camp and. between 9th January 1918 and 11th January 1919, Merseburg.

Chailey Parish Magazine first notes Henry Downing in its July 1917 issue, recording that Pte H S D Downing is missing.  In September, it notes that he is a prisoner and in January 1918 that he is serving with the 1st East Surrey Regiment and is a prisoner.  That information is then repeated up to and including the final published role in July 1919. 

Chailey resident Mick Pateman remembers after the war, Harry Downing obviously picked up from where he had left off as Mick Pateman remembers him working for The Prudential and coming round on his bike to collect “tuppence a week” from people. 

The National Archives notes two numbers for Henry Downing:  6556 was his number when with the Royal Sussex Regiment and 25752 when he transferred to the East Surreys.  Henry Downing received the British War and Victory medals. My thanks to Jim Type for information and also the photo reproduced on this post.


Anonymous said...

Henry's 2nd wife Daisy was in fact Daisy Heasman, the sister of Frederick, Albert and Gilbert Heasman all remembered here. She was born in 1896 - the 4th child of Edric and Annie Heasman.

Paul Nixon said...

Many thanks for your comment. I will update the post accordingly.

steve downing said...

I am his grandson, Stephen. My father Ronald Downing was born in Chailey in 1926. Ron and wife Marageret still live in Sussex at present near Ditchling common. Henry died in his 90's. Henry told me he considered WWI a awful waste of human life, with soldiers sent to their deaths by generals sitting well behind the lines.