Harold Dennis (1894-7 November 1916†)

Harold Dennis (Lives profile) was another son of a ringer at Redhill, like the Streeter brothers. Harold was born in Farningham, Swanley, Kent in mid-1894, the second child of Edward Dennis and Susan Martha (neé Cousal). They had married at All Saints, Wandsworth on 24 January 1891 when both were living at 57 Cambourn (or Camborne) Road. He was 30 and a gardener and she was 26. They were still living at the same address when the census was taken at the end of March. The census shows that Edward was originally from Leigh in Surrey, while Susan was from Reading, Berkshire.

By the time that their first child was born in the first half of 1892 they had moved to Farningham, Swanley, Kent. The birth of Mabel Emily Dennis was registered in the Dartford registration district in the second quarter of 1892. Harold’s birth was also registered in that district in the third quarter of 1894.

The family then moved to Redhill before the birth (or at least the baptism) of Edith Dennis. She was baptised at St John’s Redhill on 6 December 1896, with the baptismal record noting that she was born on 17 September 1896. Edward is still recorded as a gardener. She was followed by Charles Edward Dennis on 4 February 1900 (baptised 15 April 1900). At the 1901 census the family were living at 11 Carter’s Row Cottages. The family was completed with the arrival of Herbert Dennis on 21 January 1903 (baptised 5 April 1903).

The family were still at 11 Carter’s Row Cottages at the 1911 census. Harold had now followed his father into work as a gardener. Mabel Emily had left the family home and was boarding at 10 Elm Road, East Sheen, and working as a teacher at a church elementary school. The rest of the children were still at school.

Edward features quite frequently in ringing reports from Redhill. Harold was elected to the Surrey Association on 24 July 1914, so had probably been ringing for a little while before that. In 1915 he rang the treble to two quarter peals of Grandsire Triples at Redhill. In the first the band was joined by Pte C A Hughes, a London ringing serving with 17th Battalion (County of London), London Regiment, then stationed nearby, but about to leave the district. In the second they were bolstered by F W Bailey, one of the Bailey brothers of Leiston, Suffolk, very well-known ringers, who was serving with 9th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment.

The amount of war gratuity paid out after Harold’s death indicates that he joined up around June 1915. The Ringing World of 9 July 1915 reports that he was with 3rd Battalion, The Queen’s. Army records show that he enlisted at Guildford. The battalion was then at Rochester, serving as both training unit and on home defence duties. Harold completed his training in October, and was posted to 8th Battalion in France on 13 October 1915. 8th Queen’s, along with the rest of 24th Infantry Division had suffered a real baptism of fire at Loos, with the battalion losing 439 men killed, including 12 officers, and similar (and even worse) losses in other battalions of the division. The battalion was in desperate need of reinforcements.

Harold would have been with the battalion when they suffered a German gas attack at Wulverghem in 1916, and then during the Battle of the Somme in the Battle of Delville Wood and the Battle of Guillemont. By November 1916 they had been moved back up to the old Loos battlefield, then relatively quiet. Rotating in and out of the trenches. On 7 November 1916 the war diary records “One casualty – killed – aerial dart”. These were very simple weapons, little more than steel rods, often dropped from aircraft. He was taken to the cemetery at Philosophe, Mazingarbe, for burial.

His death was recorded at the next AGM of the Surrey Association, and of course he is on the roll of honour of the Association, and the Central Council for Church Bell Ringers. The current band marked the centenary of his death with a quarter peal (appropriately of Grandsire Triples) at Redhill on Sunday 6 November 1916. They had also previously marked Albert Streeter’s death.

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William Charles Lee (21 December 1893–10 October 1916†)

This post has been slightly delayed by the patchy wifi in northern Queensland!

William Charles Lee (Lives profile) was born into a ringing family, his father William, uncle John, and grandfather Charles had all been ringers at Foxearth, Essex. He was probably known as Charles as ringing reports often list him only as C Lee. 

Grandfather Charles died in 1889 At which point William moved the short distance to Sudbury in Suffolk with his now widowed mother. Uncle John however took off for London—this was possibly as a result of his ringing connections. He had been the most prolific of the family as a ringer, elected to the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths by 1888, and ringing several peals in Essex and Suffolk, including a long length of 10160 changes of major before making his move to London. 

The 1891 census shows William as a baker in Sudbury, living with his mother. John became a brewer in London. Both married within the next couple of years. John to Frances Nellie (or Nelly) Carter from Bulmer, another Essex village close to both Foxearth and Sudbury. Censuses show she had a brother called Charles Carter who might be the C Carter who rang with both John and William on several occasions. They married at Old St Pancras on 26 December 1891.

William meanwhile married Ellen Anne Making in Sudbury in early 1893 (or the last few weeks of 1892). Charles was born on or about 21 December 1893 (the birth wasn’t registered until the 1st quarter of the following year, but a later quarter peal report for 21 December 1913 indicates that it was rung as birthday compliment to him).

A sister, Daisy Ellen Lee, was born in early 1896 (or the last few weeks of 1895). 

By 1901 the family were living at 1 Croft Road in Sudbury. William’s career in baking doesn’t seem to have worked out as he now recorded as a horseman on a farm, while Ellen is a silk winder and weaver. In 1911 they were at 6 Church Riw, Sudbury.  Charles was now working at a coconut matting factory. His sister as a silk weaver, William still horseman and farm labourer. 

The first report of ringing involving Charles is a touch of Grandsire Triples rung for Pentecost 1912 (26 May). He rang his first peal on 19 January 1913. 

Charles seems to have moved to London later in 1913 and worked for Warner’s Spitalfields Bell Foundry. This was probably through his Uncle John’s connections. John rang at Streatham and Charles seems to have joined him there (possibly living with him and his family too). John and Nellie, their daughter Maude (18) and two boarders, the Mayhew brothers (Suffolk lads too), were living at 132 Elmshurst Mansions, Edgely Road, Clapham. Like William, John’s original career doesn’t seem to have worked out, and he’s now a jobbing gardener. Maude was a shorthand typist (you might wonder what this city office girl made of her country cousin?). The first report of Charles ringing in London is actually at Southgate on 22 June 1913, although the band included his uncle and several other Streatham ringers. 

As well as several quarter peals and peals at Streatham, Lee became involved in the Spitalfields Foundry Guild too—all members were also in the Cumberlands. The first of those was on 23 December 1913, followed by two more on 29 June and 11 July 1914 (all at St Leonard’s, Shoreditch). This also led to Lee attending the cricket match between the Cumberlands and the College Youths on 18 July 1914. He didn’t play in the match, but did sing as part of the entertainment that followed in the evening. Lee’s entry in the Cumberlands’ name book shows that in 1914 he was living in 7 Millbrook Road, Brixton. 

He also rang one peal for the London County Association, at Christ Church, Blackfriars on 19 February 1914.

Lee was not one of those who rushed to join up immediately on the outbreak of war. We can see he went home in late 1914 as he is listed as ringing as part of a memorial to another Sudbury ringer, H Griggs, on 22 November 1914. The war gratuity paid out following his death shows that he had been serving less than a year. The fact that he returned to Sudbury to enlist, and was able to choose to serve in the Suffolk Regiment suggests he joined before conscription came into force, probably as part of the Derby Scheme. Checking the service of those with similar regimental numbers suggests that Lee would have enlisted around 12 December 1915. He may have spent some time on the reserve before being called up, but on the other hand he was young and unmarried, so he may well have been posted immediately.  He would have joined 9th Battalion in France sometime in 1916. 

The battalion were not engaged in any major action on 10 October 1916. The war diary simply records “7 other ranks killed”. Whether he was buried by the explosion of a shell, or initially buried a little way behind the lines, in a grave subsequently lost in later fighting, he is now commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. I forgot to take a photo of the relevant panel of the memorial when I visited earlier this year, but I later discovered that the Friends of the Suffolk Regiment were doing a tour in September, and they were able to take a couple of photos. 

Once news of his death reached Sudbury, the ringers arranged commemorative ringing. Unfortunately 2 members of the band were injured by a car as they made their way home. Lee’s father was also involved in an accident on the railway line around the same time. It’s not clear exactly how this happened and if it was directly related to his son’s death. 

Lee is listed as a Sudbury ringer on the Central Council roll of honour, a Streatham ringer on the Surrey roll, and is also on the roll recorded in Volume 4 of the Cumberlands’ peal book, and their memorial in St Leonard’s, Shoreditch. He was also among those remembered at the Ringers’ National Memorial Service at St Clement Danes in February 1919.

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Streeter brothers: Albert (1896-8 October 1916) and William (1893-?)

William (Lives profile) and Albert (Lives profile) were the first and third sons respectively of William and Eliza (née Bradford). They married at Horne on 29 October 1892. William followed shortly afterwards—his birth was registered in the first quarter of 1893 in Reigate. Later census returns indicate that he was born in Outwood, near Burstow. 

William was followed by Ellen Jane in 1894, Robert in 1896, Albert in 1897 (also at Outwood), Rhoda Emma in 1899 and George on 4 September 1900. George is the first child for whom a baptismal record has been found, at Redhill on 18 November 1900. The family were then living at Earlswood Common.  However, by the 1901 census on 31 March, the family’s address is given as Dove Cottage, Lonesome Lane, Redhill. The older William is recorded as a sewerage farm worker. 

Over the next few years the family grew with the addition of Sydney on 28 April 1904 (baptised 3 July 1904), and Percy on 12 July 1908 (baptised 4 October 1908).

In 1911 the family were living at 2 Sewerage Cottages, Redhill. The older William seems to have now become the foreman of the sewage farm. The younger William had moved out, and was living and working at a Temperance Hostel at 106 Brighton Road, Redhill.

It seems the older William began ringing when bells were hung at Redhill in the later 1890s. Other Streeters were ringing at Worth and other nearby Sussex villages, but I’ve not managed to connect them definitely. 

Albert began ringing around 1913, ringing his first quarter peal on 27 March 1913 at Redhill. He rang the treble to Grandsire Triples, his father was ringing the second, and his uncle (William’s younger brother), Amos Thomas Streeter (also his first quarter peal). This was the first quarter peal by a band entirely from Redhill. Ringing the Tenor was E Dennis, father of Harold Dennis who would die just a few weeks after Albert. They repeated the quarter peal a month later, with much the same band. 

On 26 December 1913, Albert rang his first peal, trebling to plain bob major. This was with a mixed band at St Michael’s, Betchworth. It was conducted by George F Hoad, his brother Henry A Hoad also rang, as did Henry F Ewins, all of whom also appear on the roll of honour. 

He rang another peal, this time at Reigate, on 4 May 1914, trebling to grandsire triples. 

Albert doesn’t seem to have managed any further peals or quarter peals before the outbreak of war. He and the younger William seem to have joined up quickly, along with a third brother, with The Ringing World of 11 September 1914 reporting:

Three sons for the country

The members of the St John’s Society, Redhill, met at St. John’s Church on Sunday week for a quarter-peal of Grandsire Triples, and for the purpose of congratulating one of its members, Mr W Streeter, whose three sons had during the previous week, responded to their country’s call, and had signed on for either home or foreign service. One of the sons was also a member of the St John’s Society; and was a very promising ringer. The following ringers constituted the band: H. Dennis 1, W Streeter 2, E Harman 3, A Gear 4, T Streeter 5, H Edwards 6, H Card (conductor) 7, E Dennis 8

Albert is presumably the one referred to as a promising ringer, with the other two probably being William and Robert. While a W Streeter is listed on the roll of honour and I think it’s the younger William (though there are no definite reports of him ringing), Robert never seems to have become a ringer. 

By 4 October 1914 Albert was stationed at Gravesend with 9th Battalion, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). He joined the local band there to ring a quarter peal for their harvest festival, ringing the second to grandsire triples. Also joining the locals was W Denyer of Ewhurst (not listed on the roll of honour) who was also with The Queen’s. 

By July 1915 the battalion had moved to Colchester and Albert had been promoted to Corporal. Meanwhile William had gone to France with the 6th Battalion on 1 June 1915. At some point he would be transferred to 7th Battalion. 

Albert was presumably training as a machine gunner as by the time he went overseas he was with 53 Machine Gun Company. This was part of 53 Infantry Brigade in 18 (Eastern) Division. The division went to France in 1915, but Albert did not receive the 1915 Star, so presumably joined later.

Albert died of wounds in one of the British hospitals based in Boulogne on 8 October 1916. It seems most likely that he was wounded in the period 26-30 September 1916 when the division was taking part in the attacks on Thiepval ridge and the Schwaben Redoubt. 

The Ringers at Redhill attempted a muffled peal in his memory, but unfortunately without success. However it was reported in both The Ringing World and the local press. The Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser report is shown as the featured image for this post, and also includes a photo of Albert (thanks to Andy Arnold for spotting this and sending the image to me). It also mentions an earlier report of his death, which might give more details as to the circumstances, but I’ve not yet obtained a copy. 

William’s 1915 Star medal roll entry indicates that he re-enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers on 18 January 1919. This may explain why it’s been difficult to find him in later records—I’ve not found any definite record of his death, or a marriage record, nor an obvious entry in the 1939 Register. 

A final note on the family, the youngest brother Percy had a son Alan who also became a ringer at Redhill. He married a fellow ringer, Freda M Stanley, and they moved to Nutfield where Alan was tower captain for many years. He died in early 2015. 

Bells for St George’s, Ieper

Update 8/11/2016: the project website is now rather more informative, and this article appeared in The Telegraph today 100 years on, the bells ring out for the war dead of Ypres (you may need to register to read it in full)

For some time I’ve been aware that there’s a project getting underway to install a light ring of eight (tenor 6 cwt) in the tower at St George’s Memorial Church, Ieper (or Ypres as it’s more often spelled in a First World War context). The tower currently holds a chime donated by shipping magnate Sir James Knott, in part a memorial for two of his sons killed in the war. I believe the intention is that the new bells will be in addition to this existing chime.

The Bells4StGeorge website has now launched, and the project is open for donations. The website itself is still rather barebones, but some more information was released in today’s issue of The Ringing World (subscription only). The total sought is £195,000, all donations over £100 will be recorded in a memorial book to be kept in the tower. The names of 54 ringers are inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial, with several more in nearby cemeteries. Those on the Menin Gate include the Surrey Association’s first casualty, Walter Eric Markey. In total at least 1361 ringers died during the First World War.

Until more information is on the project website a few snippets can be found on the church’s own website. The project is being run by Alan Regin (Steward of the Central Council’s Rolls of Honour), Ian G Campbell (a regular visitor to our practices at Putney), and David R Smith.

Headstone bearing inscriptions showing that Frederick John Holbrook, CAS Pratt and HM Atkinson are buried beneath

Centenary trip continued

On arrival in Lille we headed to our hotel (for background, see my previous post, and then had a bit of a wander. The centre is quite attractive, with numerous bars lining the large squares. There’s a huge war memorial, which commemorates all the wars of the 20th century involving France, the two world wars, plus involvement in Indo-China (Vietnam) and North Africa. Then the bars were calling us, and we chose one just under the Chamber of Commerce named (aptly) “La Cloche” (The Bell). A bit more of a wander around the old quarter, then bed.

On Saturday morning we headed back towards the station to pick up a hire car. Unexpectedly the car park exit brought us out onto a different road to where the car hire office was, throwing my carefully prepared maps into disarray, this would prove a bit of a them for the day, one way or another. Fortunately I guessed right that the signs for Paris would set us off in the right direction. We then set off down the A1 without further incident until reaching the 2000 metre warning sign for the Bapaume junction. Somehow though I then managed to sail straight past the junction itself, leaving us with no choice but to carry on to the next one.

From the bypass around Albert we headed north towards Pozières, hoping to get to Tank Corps Memorial and Windmill site before the road was closed for the Australian commemorations due to take place in the village later in the day. Driving through the village we seemed to get a glimpse of the reburial of three unknown Australians at Pozières British Cemetery. As we drove through the village, it became evident that the turning for Thiepval was already closed. We parked at the Tank Corps Memorial, marking the first employment of tanks on 15 September 1915. Just south of the memorial was a lovely verge, fittingly full of poppies and cornflowers (bleuets, the French flower of remembrance). Over the road is the site of the ancient windmill, standing on the highest point in the immediate area, finally captured by Australian troops on 29 July 1916, and now the site of an Australian memorial. From here we also got our first glimpse of “Mighty Thiepval” standing a few miles away East-North-East. The field adjacent to the memorial has just been inaugurated as the Pozières Memorial Park, and currently contains crosses arranged in the shape of the Australian Imperial Force’s Rising Sun badge, one cross for each Australian killed in the capture of Pozières. The badge points more-or-less toward Thiepval.


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A centenary trip—and rather a large coincidence

I’m writing this brief post onboard the Eurostar to Lille. Tomorrow I’ll be touring parts of the Somme battlefield for the first time. The primary reason for my trip is to visit the the grave of my great-great-uncle, Frederick John Holbrook, at Heilly Station Cemetery. That brings me to the coincidence. Earlier in the week a friend was making her own centenary trip, it was only when she posted photos on Facebook that we came to a surprising realisation, initially I just thought she’d remembered Fred’s name after I’d mentioned it in passing sometime, and had decided to take a photo for me. It soon became clear though that she was actually interested in the second (of three) name on the headstone, C A S Pratt was her great-grandfather. For a century our relatives have been lying in the same grave (Photo), while we’ve known each other nearly 20 years. It would now be interesting to make contact with relatives of the third man Harry Morland Atkinson (spelled Harry Mauland Atkinson in some sources).

The trip will be taking in a variety of other parts of the area, starting with Thiepval, and covering the area between Mametz and Bazentin-le-Petit woods where Fred was probably wounded, and the Welsh Memorial at Mametz too. I’ll pay my respects to a few of the Surrey (and other) ringers too on the way round. Hopefully I’ll be able to make more posts during the trip, time and web connection permitting. I may tweet a little too

A young man in a surplice and dark cassock. He is standing with his right hand resting on a small table. His left arm is bent, with a book in his left hand held against his chest. Behind his left arm is an ornate wooden chair

Frank Pickering (1894-15 July 1916†)

Frank Pickering  (see also his profile on Lives of the First World War) was born at Littleworth, Wing, near Leighton Buzzard, Buckinghamshire, in the latter part of 1894, the only child of Merrishaw (or Merryshaw) Pickering and Frances (nee Stockton).

His parents had married at St Barnabas, Sutton, on 9 September 1893. Exactly how they met is far from clear, they demonstrate that even in the 19th century working class people could be surprisingly mobile. Merrishaw was originally from Barnack, Northamptonshire (near Peterborough). In 1881 he was working as a groom nearby on the Burghley Estate, just outside Stamford. Frances had moved the short distance north from her birthplace at Alford, Lincolnshire to Louth and was working as a cook. By 1891, Merrishaw was working at Wheatley Hall, Doncaster, Yorskhire (still a groom). Frances’s brother, John George Stockton, was working as club steward at the Conservative Club in Doncaster, so perhaps it was in Doncaster that Merrishaw and Frances met? Frances herself has so far proved elusive in 1891.

Frances had been at her sister, Clara’s, wedding to George William Heather at St Luke’s, Chelsea on 31 August 1890, and she seems to have been living with them at Myrtle Road, Sutton, at the time of her marriage to Merrishaw. George and Clara were living in Myrtle Road at the 1891 Census, and the 1892 rate book for Sutton also puts them in Myrtle Road. Though born in Camden Town, George was resident in Sutton (Home Cottage, Lower Road), with his parents and siblings in 1881.

Merrishaw and Clara’s wedding register entry gives his residence as Wing, so he had evidently already moved down from Yorkshire by then. Alex Coles, who runs the Wing One-Place Study tells me that the Pickerings were tenants of the famous Rothschild family, who at this time owned Wing’s “big house”, Ascott, (now a National Trust property). It’s therefore likely that Merrishaw (now recorded as a stableman) was working for them. Merrishaw was 31, Frances 34. Frances has no occupation recorded. Her father was John Stockton (deceased), a stonemason. Merrishaw’s father is recorded as John Merrishaw (also deceased), as if Merrishaw was his surname, though the 1871 census records him as John Pickering.

Frank’s birth was registered in the 4th quarter of 1894 in the Leighton Buzzard registration district. By 1901 the family were in Littleworth, Wing. Merrishaw(38) is now recorded as a groom (not domestic). Frances was 40, and again no occupation is stated. Frank was 6.

At some point between then and 1911 Frank moved to his aunt and uncle in Sutton. He would presumably have been in school until he was 14 or so, which means the earliest he would have moved was perhaps 1908. The 1911 census records him with George William Heather (47) and his wife Clara (48 – Frank’s mother’s sister), and their two daughters (Frank’s cousins), Annie Dorothy (18) and May Letty Gladys (13). George is a lamp inspector for the gas company, Frank is a gas fitter, also for the gas company. Annie was working for the Post Office, May was still at school. They were living at the Old Gasworks Cottage, Wrythe Lane, Carshalton. The 1912 rate book suggests (significantly) that this was next to the inn called “The Cricketer’s” with it’s landlord, Frederick William Bird.

The baptismal registers held by Sutton Archives, and now available online via Ancestry, show that Annie was baptised at St Barnabas, Sutton on 16 April 1893. George was then recorded as a plumber. May followed, again at St Barnabas, on 13 June 1897. George was then a gas fitter. On both occasions they were living at 28 Myrtle Road. They were still there in 1901.

Frank did not join up immediately on the outbreak of war. His entry in the National Roll of the Great War (a subscription funded book, so the details were presumably entered by his parents) records that he joined up in November 1915, so he possibly joined up under the terms of the Derby Scheme. He seems to have only ever served with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, with the regimental number C1600. He may have served initially with 19th (Reserve) Battalion, KRRC, which had been formed from the depot companies of the 16th (Service) Battalion (Church Lads’ Brigade) Battalion, KRRC. Frank was presumably posted overseas in the early part of 1916, where he joined 16th KRRC. It is not known whether Frank was ever actually a member of the Church Lads’ Brigade in either Wing or Carshalton. Clearly he was a ringer, and the photo of him in robes suggests he either sang in the choir, or was an altar server, so he was certainly closely connected with the church. 16th KRRC was also known as the Churchmen’s Battalion.

Frank fell during the battalion’s attack on High Wood. He was one of over 100 killed from the battalion that day, with many more missing or wounded. Soldier’s Died in the Great War records that he died of wounds, while the Soldiers’ Effects Registers simply say “death presumed” implying he had been recorded missing initially. Whichever, he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. The Church Lads’ and Church Girls’ Brigade has a fact file on the battalion (and High Wood). Andy Arnold also describes the action, mostly from the point of view of 1st Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), maps in this post show the day’s events well.

Frank is also commemorated on the Wing War Memorial, the Carshalton War Memorial and the “Willie Bird Cross”, named after the son of the landlord of The Cricketers, who also died during the war. The cross bears the names of those from the Wrythe who went to the war. Although there’s no record yet been traced of Frank’s ringing before the war, he was named at the National Memorial Service at St Clement Danes on 22 February 1919 as among the fallen. Carshalton also rang a quarter peal in his memory that same day, though curiously, it was reported in the local press, but has not yet been traced in The Ringing World. Many towers rang to commemorate their dead that day in conjunction with the service at St Clement Danes, or the local equivalents held around the country.

Frank does not seem to have left a will in the Soldiers’ Wills collection, nor can I find a normal probate record.  However, his entry in the Soldiers’ Effects Registers describes his parents as joint legatees.  They received an initial payment of £3 17s 9d on 5 September 1917, presumably pay that had never been issued to Frank, and then his war gratuity of £3 on 8 October 1919.  £3 was the minimum paid as war gratuity, to those whose enlistment was under a year before their death.  This would be worth no more than £2,400 today, and possibly as little as £285, depending on the basis used to calculate the equivalent.

After the war, a cousin of Frank’s, Ralph Pickering, obtained photos of Frank, Wing church, the Wing War Memorial and the Pickering family grave in Wing (which also commemorates Frank, in addition to it being his parents’ resting place). These passed to his son Roger, who gave them to David Humberston. David Contributed these to the database held at the Thiepval Memorial visitor centre. David was contacted by Andy Arnold who has researched the Carshalton war memorials, and Andy passed on the photos to me with permission to use them on this blog.