Able Seaman Alfred Bashford (19 November 1885-1 November 1914†)

A young man in a classic sailor's uniform. His cap tally shows his ship to be HMS Lion.

Bashford as pictured in The Ringing World on 11 December 1914. The photo actually dates from his service on HMS Lion between 21 September 1901 and 17 July 1902 when he was 16. (Courtesty of The Ringing World)

The second member of the association to die, Able Seaman Alfred Bashford, met his end half a world away from Walter Markey, aboard the ill-fated HMS Good Hope off Coronel in Chile.

Alfred was born on 19 November 1885 at Nutfield. He was the son of Alfred Bashford and Mary Harriett (nee Day). There is some evidence that he was usually known as Fred, presumably to avoid confusion with his father. Alfred was from Bletchingley and Mary from St Mary’s, Southampton, they married at St Peter and St Paul, Nutfield on 21 June 1879. William Day Bashford was born in 1880, baptised at St Peter and St Paul’s on 6 June 1880. Twins Allen Alfred and Annie Bashford followed in 1882, baptised on 9 April, but sadly died just two days later and were buried in the churchyard on 15 April. The 1911 census suggests two more children also died in infancy, but it has not yet been possible to identify them.

By the 1891 census the family were on Church Road, Nutfield. Alfred senior (53) was working as an agricultural labourer, William (10) and Alfred junior (5) were both at school and Mary (44) was a housewife. They also had a William J Bowley (21), a blacksmith, lodging with them. At this point there doesn’t appear to be any ringing in the immediate family, but there were father and son John Bashfords in Bletchingley, successively landlords of the Red Lion and well known ringers. By 1901 most of the family were still in Church Road, but Alfred junior was at Pattison Court Stables, and employed as a hall boy, presumably at Pattison Court itself which appears to have been the home of the Nickalls family. Alfred senior was still working as an agricultural labourer, William as a gardener.

On 16 September 1901 Alfred joined the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class, his previous occupation is shown as “garden boy”. He was 5’4″ tall and described as of ruddy complexion with grey eyes and brown hair. He was briefly at the training establishment HMS Impregnable before being posted to HMS Lion on 21 September. He was re-rated as Boy 1st Class on 19 June 1902. He transferred to HMS Minotaur on 18 July, and to HMS Agincourt on 28 January 1903, and then briefly to HMS Camperdown from 17 April-5 May, joining HMS Hawker on 6 May. On reaching the age of 18 on 19 November 1903 he began his full 12 year engagement and was re-rated ordinary seaman. He had now grown to 5’6.5″. On 18 May 1904 he transferred to HMS Exmouth. He was re-rated able seaman on 5 April 1905. He was posted to the Portsmouth naval barracks, known as HMS Victory I, on 2 May 1905. He then went to a torpedo course on HMS Vernon from 14 May-23 September, before returning to Victory I until 28 May 1906. He joined HMS Centurion on 29 May, on 25 May 1907 he returned to HMS Exmouth. In 1908 he applied to buy himself out of the navy, in preparation for this he returned to Victory I on 28 June. After paying £12 and agreeing to join the Royal Fleet Reserve he left active service on 16 July 1908.

There are various reports of an A Bashford ringing during this period, but this is presumably the father. However, there is a report of a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples at Redhill on Sunday 11 October 1908 (which also included W Streeter, who also appears on the roll) featuring A Bashford, which is after Alfred junior left the navy. We can also see that William Bashford seems to be among a number of ringers you moved to Farnham to work at the plant nursery run by Charles Edwards, another ringer, as he is listed in several of the reports of ringing previously found in relation to John William Russell.

After this, no further reports of an A Bashford ringing occur until a one of 720s of Oxford and Kent Treble Bob on 11 March 1911 at Kingswood. This included A and W Bashford, along with J W Russell and W Cheeseman who also appear on the roll of honour. Following this there are a frequent reports, moving into quarter peals and peals. Several other men named in the roll of honour also appear in these. In several, Alfred is the conductor. He is often listed as F or Fred Bashford, and on some occasions this appears to have been incorrectly expanded to Frederick.

At the 1911 census the family were all living at High Street, the Village, Nutfield. Alfred junior and William were both working as labourers in the fullers earth quarry at Nutfield. Alfred senior was now a roadman on the highway.

In 1913 William emigrated to the US. He left Liverpool on the Mauretania on 22 March 1913 and arrived in New York on 28 March (see the Ellis Island records and UK records). He gave his occupation as gardener. As his intended residence in the United States he says he is going to a friend in Boston, Dr A P Nichols – one of the leading ringers in the US (it appears from some reports that there had been a deliberate policy of recruitment from England). William then appears in various ringing reports of the Boston ringers. In May 1914 he moved to Connecticut for a better job. In January 1915 William married a Miss Mulvenny, an event marked by ringing at Hingham, Massachusetts on 31 January.

Alfred senior died in late 1914.

In 1914 a mobilisation of the Royal Fleet Reserve was already planned for mid-July. This was given added urgency by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at the end of June. Alfred junior was posted to HMS Good Hope, an elderly cruiser activated from the Third Reserve Fleet, whose crews were mostly made up of reservists, on 13 July. There was a fleet review at Spithead, and then the reserves would have been demobilised, but in view of the international situation they were kept on active duty, but allowed leave. When the navy was fully mobilised on 31 July he returned to HMS Good Hope. Good Hope was assigned as the flagship of Rear Admiral Christopher Cradock. His squadron was despatched to the South Pacific to counter a German squadron under Maximilian von Spee.

The British squadron was composed entirely of outdated ships, and one converted from an ordinary merchantman. On 1 November the two squadrons sighted each other. Cradock, though he knew his ships were outclassed, decided to fight, possibly influenced by earlier events in the Mediterranean which led to Cradock’s friend Ernest Troubridge, who was now facing court martial after declining to engage with two German ship in somewhat similar circumstances. Good Hope was rapidly sunk, and soon followed by HMS Monmouth. Both sank with all hands, around 1600 men.

A memorial peal was rung at Nutfield on Wednesday 25 November. Today’s ringers remembered the centenary of his death with a quarter peal on 1 November 2014.

Mary Bashford was now about 67, a widow, with no children living nearby to support her. William Bashford returned from the US, arriving at Liverpool on 28 June 1915 aboard the SS St Paul. Having made the trip home, he met up with various old friends to ring throughout July at Nutfield and Merstham. He returned to the US, with his mother, again on the SS St Paul leaving on 31 July from Liverpool and arriving at New York on 7 August.

Walter Eric Markey (1895-31 October 1914†)

Walter Eric Markey was born in early 1895, or possible very late in 1894 at Bexhill-on-Sea. His birth was registered in the Battle registration district in the 1st quarter 1895. His parents, Alfred Eric Markey and Emma Elizabeth (nee Snook) were both originally from Somerset, Penselwood and Wincanton respectively. Their marriage was registered in the 4th quarter 1891 in the Wincanton registration district. Their first child, Cicely Emma, was born in Wincanton in 1893.

Walter followed in 1895, then Samuel Robert in Sidley, a small village on the outskirts of Bexhill. In 1900, Beatrice Mary was born back in Bexhill itself. By the time of the 1901 census the family were living at Keepers Corner, Burstow, Surrey. Alfred is listed as a coachman. In 1902 (Bessie) Minnie was born in Copthorne, and (Jessie) Margaret there in 1905. Elsie Gwendoline was born in Burstow on 20 November 1907, followed by Ethel Winifred in early 1911. By the time of the 1911 census the family were living at Shipley Bridge, Burstow, Surrey. Alfred was still working as a coachman, and Walter was now following in his footsteps, working as a groom.

Sometime, probably in the second half of 1913 (based on the number issued to him) Walter joined The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), enlisting at the regimental depot in Guildford. By the outbreak of war he would have been a fully trained soldier, and went with the 1st battalion to France on 12 August 1914. They were heavily involved in the retreat from Mons and subsequent fighting. By 31 October 1914 the First Battle of Ypres was underway and the battalion was involved in the defence of Gheluvelt. The battalion was all but destroyed, with little more than a handful of men coming out of the line in early November. Walter was among those killed, his body was never recovered, and so he is commemorated on the Menin Gate. He was the first member of the Surrey Association to die in service.

The extent of his ringing career remains unclear, no reports of any ringing have yet been found. He presumably began ringing at Burstow in the years immediately before he joined the army. His death was not reported in the ringing press at the time, and does not appear to have been marked by the Burstow ringers. The only time his name does appear is in a report of a memorial service held at St Clement Danes on the Strand in London on 22 February 1919 for all the ringers killed in the war. As part of the service a roll of honour of ringers from “London and District” was read and he is listed as W Markey. Other services were held around the country on the same day, at Great St Mary’s in Cambridge, Sheffield Cathedral, Chester Cathedral, Winchester Cathedral and SS Philip and Jude in Bristol. Sadly, after this his name seems to have undergone a process of chinese whispers in drawing up the Surrey Association roll of honour, and this then fed into the Central Council roll of honour. Names were listed surname, followed by initial. Markey W seems to have been misheard at some point and transformed into Mark E W, which led to considerable problems in confirming his identity. Walter Markey seemed to be the only plausible candidate, but until the report of the memorial service was found this could not be shown beyond doubt, particularly as his unit is also incorrectly recorded as Royal Garrison Artillery on the Surrey Roll.

Ernest Attwater joins up

On 10 September 1914 Ernest Attwater’s attestation papers were formally approved by a major in the Royal Sussex Regiment. He had been medically examined at Haywards Heath (where he had been a member of the local Territorial Force company for three years prior to his move to London from Cuckfield) as early as 5 September, and had then completed the attestation papers at Chichester on 9 September. He was posted to 9th Battalion, one of the newly raised battalions of Kitchener’s New Army. He became Private 3305, but with his prior TF experience it’s no great surprise that he was promoted lance corporal as early as 12 October (NCOs were in short supply). He stated his age as 25 years, 220 days, and gave his occupation as carpenter and pro cricketer (he was on Surrey’s ground staff at the Oval).

It’s possible his brother Frank Norman joined up at the same time, but as he ended up in 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, it’s not absolutely clear (and his papers do not survive). Certainly both brothers were serving by 30 October when The Ringing World reported that Frank Norman was at Dover with 3rd Battalion, and Ernest was at Shoreham with 9th Battalion.

This would have been a blow for both Streatham towers, Immanuel an St Leonard, as with their other brothers, Louis and Isaac James, the Attwaters had become leading ringers in the area.

Army-Navy peal 1914: Archibald Percy Randolph Gibbs (1888-26 August 1914†)

This is the fifth in the series on the eight ringers who rang the first peal by an armed forces band, it follows on from the previous article on Frederick James Souter. Logically this article should have come seventh, as that was the bell rung in the original peal by its subject, but there is a good reason for it to be published on 26 August 2014.

Archibald Percy Randolph Gibbs (1888 – 26 August 1914†). Served c1909-1914.

Archibald Percy Randolph Gibbs was born in Great Comberton, Worcestershire in 1888. He was the seventh of eight children of Ambrose John Gibbs and Julia Gibbs. He seems to have generally been known as Percy. His father was a carpenter and joiner, his mother a laundress. Two of his older brothers were also ringers, Ernest and Claude. Ernest began ringing around 1903, ringing his first quarter peal on 22 August 1903 (Plain Bob and Grandsire Doubles) on the treble. The three brothers rang for various other local occasions over the next few years. They scored their first peal on 26 January 1907 (they had hoped to ring on 12 January to mark Ernest’s birthday, but illness prevented this). This was the first peal on the bells at Great Comberton, and was in various minor methods. They’d had a previous attempt on 18 August 1906 which came to grief after 4300 changes. In the successful peal, Percy was again on the treble, with Claude on the second, H Salisbury on the third, Ernest the fourth, F Viles the fifth and J H White (conductor) on the sixth. At Easter 1908 they made a trip to Worcester to ring Grandsire Triples as St Helen’s on Easter Monday.

Some time later that year or in 1909, Percy took himself off to Cardiff and enlisted in the King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment). Why he chose that regiment is not known, nor why he went to Cardiff to enlist. It appears one of the sons of the former rector of Great Comberton, Revd Nathaniel Shelmerdine, served as an officer in the York and Lancaster Regiment, perhaps he had actually intended to join them? He was initially posted to the 2nd Battalion on Jersey, but in September was sent to join the 1st Battalion in Lucknow, India. He managed to fit in some farewell ringing at Great Hampton (Kent Minor) before leaving, this was conducted by Ernest. At the 1911 census he was with the battalion in Havelock Barracks, Dilkushia, Lucknow. The battalion was posted home to Dover in December 1912.

In Dover Percy took the chance to start ringing again. He was elected to the Kent County Association on 2 April 1913 prior to a peal of Grandsire Triples at Dover. He rang six further peals before the war, including the armed forces peal.

With the outbreak of war, the King’s Own had to guard various key points around Dover, and also any German shipping brought into the harbour. On mobilisation, the battalion formed part of 4th Division, which was initially retained at home in case of German invasion, and spent some time around Norwich and then Neasden. They finally set off for France on 21 August, just as the BEF was first making contact with the Germans.

They landed at Boulogne late on 22 August, and were rapidly taken by train to Bertry, east of Cambrai, arriving at 10am on 23 August. They subsequently moved to Haucourt. They were now seeing men from other divisions in retreat following the Battle of Mons, which came as a huge shock. On 26 August came the great stand at Le Cateau. It was during this action (which also involved the 2nd Essex with Souter) that the King’s Own were cut to pieces. At the roll call following the action it was found 5 officers were killed, 6 wounded (2 of those POW), 1 missing, and 431 other ranks, killed, wounded and missing. Percy was among the latter. Red Cross records show his family made enquiries after Percy was declared missing on 26 August 1914, the results of these suggest he had been wounded in the thigh and treated in “Blanche de Castille” hospital in Cambrai. This may have been a temporary facility set up in a school or convent. However he actually died, no record of his burial was made, so he is commemorated on the La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial with others from the first days of the war whose grave is unknown. References for details in this post can be found in his profile on the Lives of the First World War website, and some details are from the Kent County Association of Change Ringers’ roll of honour for the First World War.

Red Cross POW records and a mystery solved

One of the many digitisation projects sparked by the centenary has been carried out by the International Committee of the Red Cross. They have digitised the Prisoner of War records from their archives which were released (80% complete) on 4 August. The site can be found at http://grandeguerre.icrc.org/.

The release of these records has allowed me to clear up one of the outstanding identifications from the roll. Listed under Dorking was a W Hills, recorded as being a Private in the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). From census records the only plausible candidate seemed to be the William James Hills living at Chalkpit Cottages in 1911, but I had not been able to find any military information. The roll also indicates he had been a prisoner, so the Red Cross records were an obvious avenue to explore.

A little experimentation showed that the records tend to be grouped under a single variant, so Hills appeared with those named Hill. At first it seemed I would continue to draw a blank. None of the records for the Queen’s matched, but I noticed that some men were actually in Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment), so eventually I looked at the section for those too, reasoning that the confusion might work both ways.

There I found a record card for William Hills. Using the reference numbers recorded on the original card, this links to 3 other records. These confirmed he was William J Hills, and giving a home address matching the 1911 census, the birthplace of Burpham, Arundel also matched. But he is shown as belonging to West Kents rather than West Surreys

So in fact it was the roll of honour which was incorrect and had muddled the West Surreys and West Kents. With his regimental number from the card (initially wrongly recorded as 14619, but an amendment on the card indicated it should be 17619) I also found a matching medal index card, but sadly (but unsurprisingly) no service record. However this is quite enough to be sure of the identification.

Destination unknown

At 2pm they received a partial answer as they arrived at Southampton Docks and embarked on SS Braemar Castle along with the Welsh Regiment. They left the wharf at 20:15, still unsure of their final destination. Among those wondering what was in store for them would have been Walter Markey of Burstow. They would arrive at Le Havre at 11:00 on 13 August, where unloading took until 17:30, followed by a march to camp.

Meanwhile, with 1st Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, Walter Hodges did not board a train until 00:30 on 13 August. It took them until 15:00 to reach Southampton, where the battalion embarked on two ships, Martaban and Appam. They arrived at Le Havre on 14 August and similarly moved to a rest camp.

(See WO 95/1280/1 and WO 95/1432/1 for more details.)

Mobilize

On 4 August 1914 regular army units received a one word War Office telegram: “Mobilize” [sic]. Author Richard van Emden tweeted this image of one such telegram as logged by the orderly room of 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards at Tidworth Camp that day.

2nd Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), stationed at Bordon Camp in Hampshire would have received something similar, their war diary notes that the mobilisation order was received at 5:30pm. Serving with them was Walter Markey of Burstow. In fact, from 29 July, units had been ordered on to a “precautionary period”, meaning that guards had to be placed on strategic points, and mobilisation preparations were begun. The Surrey History Centre posted this photo of the battalion on parade at Bordon in August 1914 – presumably Markey is somewhere in the ranks.

A military formation drawn up in ranks on a parade ground, a few barrack buildings visible in the background. At the front of the formation are five officers on horseback

1st Battalion, The Queen’s, on parade at Bordon, August 1914 (SHC ref QRWS/2/13/7)


You can read their full story here.

The London Gazette also published a special supplement with the King’s official notice calling up all army reservists and embodying the Territorial Force. This notice would have set Walter Hodges of Benhilton on the way to his regimental depot at Ayr in order to rejoin the Royal Scots Fusiliers. For pre-war Territorials like George Marriner of and George Naish of Kingston it would have caused them to report to their drill halls where their units were moving onto a war footing. Just a few days earlier they would have been anticipating the pleasures of the annual summer camp, but those were largely cancelled as the European situation worsened.

The Royal Navy had actually been mobilised the previous day (an ealier London Gazette supplement contained the notice). In fact, they had already carried out a test mobilisation in July, and many of the men, including Nutfield’s Alfred Bashford, were already back aboard their ships (HMS Good Hope in Bashford’s case). The interesting day-by-day republication of The Daily Telegraph showed how closely this was reported at the time, and the naval mobilisation is one fo the topics most picked out by their archives’ twitter account, which can be seen via the widget below:

For more on the mobilisation process, see today’s Operation War Diary blogpost. The Friends of the Suffolk Regiment are also tweeting the mobilisation process as undertaken by 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, beginning with this tweet:

Also, this blog post, and following ones described the mobilisation of 1st West Kents.