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.


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

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.

Continue reading

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.

Diary entry written in pencil: "5/7/16 - 2 Lieut Saywood + 1 telephonist killed by a direct hit on a dug out at Infantry Brigade HQ in Sunken Road about 10 pm. A, B, C 95 cut wire on Quadrangle Trench.

Albert Arthur Stoner (1896-7 July 1916†)

Albert Arthur Stoner (see also his profile on Lives of the First World War) was born at Ifield in Sussex in early 1896 (or possibly late 1895), the birth was registered in the Steyning registration district in the first quarter 1896. His surname is occasionally given as Stonor.

He was the second child of Arthur Stoner and Emily Rosina (nee Lee), whose marriage was registered in the Horsham registration district in the third quarter 1893. His elder sister, Edith, was born in 1895 (or possibly 1894) in Horsham.

By 1901 the family had expanded further, with the addition of two more sisters, Emily Annie, born 3rd quarter 1897, and Alice, born about March 1901 (she is listed on the census taken on 31 March, but the birth wasn’t registered until the second quarter). On the census night the family were living at Jinnan’s Cottages, Ifield. Albert, Emily and Alice are all listed as being born in Ifield. Arthur is shown as being 36, born Worth, Sussex, and a carter on a farm, Emily was 32 and born in Horsham. A final sister, Lily, was born in early 1904 in Burstow.

By 1911 the family were living at Bridgecham Cottage, Burstow. Arthur was now a garden labourer. Albert had found work as an officer boy at a builder’s yard.

It’s not clear when Albert began ringing, no reports have been found until suddenly, in early 1914 he is shown ringing the treble to a peal of Grandsire Triples at Horley on 19 March 1914. The other ringers were J Kenward 2, A Streeter 3, H F Ewins 4, S Kenward 5, A Harman 6, O Gilbey 7, P Etheridge 8. Albert Streeter was a Redhill ringer, Henry Frederick Ewins (Reigate) and Harman another Burstow ringer. All three are listed on the roll of honour. And just two days later, a peal of Plain Bob Minor at St Bartholomew’s, Burstow on Saturday 21 March 1914. Albert A Stoner (treble), George Ellis (2), Alfred Wisden (3), Revd Edward J Teesdale (4), Charles Varo (5), Albert Harman (6). Teesdale was the Vicar of Burstow, Varo his gardener. As already mentioned Harman is also on the roll of honour, and so is Varo. It was the first peal of minor for Stoner and Wisden.

Stoner does not seem to have joined up immediately on the outbreak of war, the amount of war gratuity paid out to his estate suggests an enlistment date in December 1914, and The Ringing World has him in a roll of honour list published on 25 December 1914 has him (with fellow Burstow ringer Maurice Sherlock) training at High Wycombe. He entered France on 10 September 1915, which fits with him being with 21 Division’s artillery, the exact unit was not stated then, and there were some reorganisations of the various artillery brigades, so he may not have been with 95 Brigade RFA as he was at the time of his death. The High Wycombe location for his initial training also fits with 21 Division. He was already a bombardier (then a rank carrying a single stripe, artillery had corporals in addition during the First World War, now a bombardier in the artillery is equivalent to corporals in other arms, and wears two stripes). If he’d carried on working in the builder’s office after 1911 he would presumably have had a good degree of literacy and numeracy, and potentially have been used to calculating the quantities of materials that need to be ordered and so on, all things that would have been useful to an artillery NCO. He even have had some experience of using a telephone

21 Division had a baptism of fire during the Battle of Loos, with the infantry being hard hit. Command of the division was then taken by Major General David Campbell. A cavalryman, he had begun the war commanding the 9th Lancers. He was a renowned trainer of men, just the man to rebuild the division after their initial shock, and restore their reputation. They would not have to wait long to return to action. The Chantilly Conference in November 1915 had agreed a joint Allied offensive should take place in 1916. From the start of February 1916 this became more critical as the French came under increasing pressure at Verdun, leading to more of the combined British and French part of the offensive falling on British shoulders. The two armies joined where the front crossed a river in Picardy, the Somme, so it was around the Somme valley that the offensive was to take place.

For the artillery the battle started on 24 June when a bombardment on an unprecedented scale began. A series of posts on the Mitcham War Memorial blog put this into context well, from the point of view of an artilleryman in 96 Brigade, RFA, also part of 21 Division’s artillery complement. The series starts with a post called The Somme Centenary (follow the links at the bottom of each post, pointing right, the next is The “Big Push” is coming….

The infantry assault began on 1 July, and as has been well rehearsed over recent days the British Army suffered almost 60,000 casualties that first day, with close to 20,000 of those being killed. The battle did not stop there though, and the artillery had to continue supporting the ongoing offensive. On 5 July, 95 Brigade were assigned to cutting wire around the positions known to the British as The Quadrangle which guarded the approach to Mametz Wood (see trench map).

It seems that Stoner was accompanying Second Lieutenant Charles Saywood who was acting as a forward observation officer. The war diary says:

The Sunken Road was probably the one running north from Fricourt (there are several around the area). The description of the other rank as a telephonist is interesting, adding to our knowledge of Stoner’s role. The reason it seems reasonable to assume that the telephonist was Stoner is that Stoner and Saywood lie in adjacent graves in Norfolk Cemetery, Bécordel-Bécourt. Stoner is in I. C. 92. and Saywood in I. C. 93.

Both have beautiful headstone inscriptions. Stoner’s reads “In ever loving memory of our only son & brother”, while Saywood’s is “A brave and gallant soldier beloved by all”. While Stoner was just 20, had joined only for the war, Saywood was 37 and a veteran soldier. He joined the Royal Artillery in 1898 and served in the Second Boer War with A Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, receiving the Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps for the Battle of the Tugela Heights and the Relief of Ladysmith. In the interwar years he served with Y Battery, with service in South Africa and India, and was steadily promoted until he reached serjeant. He had married Norfolk girl Mabel Margaret Dawes in Potchefstroom, South Africa on 4 May 1909. At the 1911 census both were in barracks at Mhow, India.

Perhaps frustrated by his battery remaining in India at the outbreak of war it appears that Saywood volunteered to return to England to train newly raised artillery units. He was posted to the artillery of 24 Division on 18 November 1914. He was commissioned on 6 March 1915, and probably posted at that time to 97th Brigade, RFA (also part of 21 Division’s artillery). For a while he was a temporary captain while commanding a brigade ammunition column (which brigade is not clear). He reverted to second lieutenant on 21 May 1916 when the ammunition arrangements were altered and a single divisional ammunition column formed.

Perhaps there was a bit of fellow feeling between the two men, Saywood is shown as having been a clerk before his original enlistment.

Stoner does not seem to have left a will. The Soldier’s Effects register shows all monies owing (£5 19S 6d on his account, and £8 as a war gratuity) were paid to his father. It’s not clear if any of his sisters married, the surname Stoner is quite common in Sussex, and their forenames are also fairly common. His father seems to have died around 1923, his mother possibly about 1943.