Joseph Abbott (25 July 1874–27 September 1915†)

Joseph Abbott (see also his page on Lives of the First World War) was the son of Alfred Abbott and Amy nee Gibbs – their marriage was registered in the East Grinstead registration district in the second quarter 1874, and Joseph was born in Merstham on 25 July 1874, and baptised at St Katharine’s on 4 October 1874. By the 1881 census the family were living at 6 Orchard Road, Merstham, Alfred (28, from High Wycombe) was a general labourer, Amy, now 29, was originally from Worth in Sussex. By 1891 Joseph was a 16-year-old shop porter, and the family were now living at Monson Road, Redhill. By 1896 he may have returned to Merstham as there is a Joseph Abbott listed in the 1896 electoral rolls for the Reigate constituency living in Merstham.

Joseph married Lizzie Peers on Christmas Day 1899, and a son Alfred Joseph was born just four months later, on 26 April 1900 (it seems they had rather anticipated their marriage!). He was baptised on 27 May at which time the family were living at Bourne Road, South Merstham. By 1901 the couple and their son were living at Park Stile, Merstham. Joseph was now a labourer in the lime works. A daughter, Clara, was born on 5 November 1902 and baptised on 24 November 1902, their address was recorded as 6 Park Stile Cottages. Sadly Clara Abbott was just 8 months old when she died and was buried on 13 July 1903 in the churchyard of Merstham, St Katharine. Her address is given as 4 Quarry Cottages, Limeworks, Merstham. Another son, Jack, followed on 18 June 1904 (baptised 26 June 1904). He was followed by a daughter, Ivy May, on 29 April 1906 (baptised 24 June 1906), then two more sons, Albert Edward and James on 5 May 1908 (baptised 28 June 1908) and 21 February 1910 (baptised 24 April 1910) respectively. By 1911 Joseph was a lime burner, and the family were still living at 4 Quarry Cottages, Merstham (the same address is given for all the later children’s baptisms too, and in electoral register entries from 1905 to 915). The census details also tell us that the couple had had two other children who had died before the census was taken, one of these was Clara, the second still ahs not been identified, possibly she died before she could be baptised, and so was not buried in consecrated ground either (or the transcription of the records is such I have not tracked it down).

Joseph did not immediately rush to the colours immediately on the outbreak of war. It was around November 1914 that he enlisted in Redhill. 4th Battalion, Grenadier Guards had been formed at Marlow around September, it’s not clear whether he was posted to that battalion immediately, or trained at a depot first. The battalion was posted to France on 15 August 1915, joining Third Guards Brigade, Guards Division on 19 August. Joseph’s medal card indicates he was with the battalion on arrival. Just over a month later they were in action. Joseph was killed on 27 September one of 342 casualties in the battalion’s attack on Hill 70 during the Battle of Loos. He made a soldier’s will, leaving everything to Lizzie. His Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry shows that she remarried quite quickly, and registration data shows that this was on 4 February 1918. She married a man named Arthur Wood, quite possibly the man who was living with his parents, 3 brothers and a nephew at 1 Quarry Cottages in 1911: his age and occupation in 1911 are consistent with the details in the marriage register.

While a small pension would have been paid to her while she remained a widow, such remarriages were not uncommon when women still had young children to provide for. There is no mention of Abbott’s ringing activities in the ringing newspapers before the war.

A year after his father had gone to France, Alfred Joseph Abbott entered the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class (he would have needed Lizzie’s permission to join up). He continued serving into the 1930s, and returned to service in the Second World War.

The present Merstham ringers rang a quarter peal on 25 September 2015 to commemorate the centenary of Joseph Abbott’s death.

William Maynard (3 July 1887-25 September 1915†)

William Maynard (or Lives of the First World War) was the son of William Maynard senior and Elizabeth, nee Whitmore who had married around 1884. William was born on 3 July 1887, and baptised at St John’s Redhill on 21 August. Possibly a sister Lilian was born 25 June 1890. At the 1891 census, and for several years after, the family lived at 8 Lower Road, Meadvale. The household at this time comprised William, his father and mother, and a boarder, William Whitmore – presumably in fact Elizabeth’s father. There is no sign of Lilian – the only Lilian Maynard in the area is the daughter of another William and Elizabeth Maynard at Pimlico Cottages, Nutfield, so possibly she was not a sister of William at all.

A brother James George was born 24 September 1891 and another sister, Elizabeth Kate “Kitty” was born 12 December 1894. By 1901 it seems that his mother was ill, while the 1901 census records the rest of the family (or at least the two Williams and James – it is not clear where Kitty was) at 8 Lower Road. Elizabeth appears to be at the Victorian and Surrey Homes, Bognor. Sadly she died later in the year, and was buried in the churchyard of St Mary, Reigate on 18 September 1901. In 1901 William junior is recorded as working as a grocer’s errand boy.

William senior remarried quite soon afterwards (it was not easy being a single father with young children), to Annie Back (31) at St Matthew, Redhill, on 1 November 1902. More family tragedy was to follow, Annie had a son (a half-brother to William junior), Harold Herbert Back Maynard, on 3 December 1905, but sadly he was buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Reigate, on 15 September 1906. Annie had another child, a daughter, Eveline in 1908. The family had now moved to 75 St John’s Redhill.

When William junior actually started ringing isn’t clear, but he is reported as ringing the treble to a Quarter Peal of Grandsire Triples at Redhill on Sunday 8 January 1911, along with W Streeter, E Harman, A Gear, A Bashford, G Croucher, H Card and H Edwards. Other reports suggest that Redhill were only just trying to build a band at this stage.

By the 1911 census in early April William junior had become a carpenter and joiner, and the family were now living at 1 Lavender Cottage, Masons Road, Redhill. William senior was a brick maker and James a bricklayer’s labourer. Kitty is shown as a worker, but with no specific occupation.

With the outbreak of war, William did not join up immediately, and it was only on 12 or 13 January that he travelled to Guildford to enlist with the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), becoming Private G/4189 (the G standing for General Service, indicating a wartime enlistment). His own service record does not survive, but those of 4187 Henry David Witham and 4196 John Allen did, and allow us to conclude when he enlisted. It is also based on those records that it seems that he trained with 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion in Rochester until around April when he was posted to the 1st Battalion in France. Their war diary records the arrival of a draft of 1 serjeant and 59 privates on 25 April, when the battalion was at Bethune, and of 50 NCOs and men on 8 May when they were at Le Hamel. It is probable that William was in one of these two drafts (having spent some time at an Infantry Base Depot on arrival in France). He would probably have seen action at the Battle of Aubers in May when they were part of 3 Brigade in 1st Division. This battle was a disaster for the British, the Queen’s were not among the hardest hit battalions as they were largely in reserve, as Corps troops for 1 Corps, under the direct control of the Corps Commander. They were in a similar position during the Battle of Festubert in the second half of May. June was a quiet month, and for part of July they were involved in improving the trench system between Cuinchy and Givenchy. Then came the news that there were to be posted to 5 Brigade which they joined at Bethune on 21 July. They moved into the trenches at Cuinchy on 25 July, and although a quiet period soon began to suffer casualties. For the remainder of July and August they went through the usual routine of swapping in and out of the line. This continued for the first part of September, but on 25 September they went into action as the Battle of Loos began, this was then the largest scale action by the British Army in the war to this point, and the first large scale use by the British of gas in an attack (this did not go entirely to plan as in some areas gas was blown back into the British trenches). The battalion was not in the first wave, but was soon committed. By the end of the day the battalion had 9 officers and 266 other ranks as casualties (killed, wounded or missing). They were far from the worst hit battalion. Among their casualties was William Maynard. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial. His war gratuity, just £3 (as he had less than one year’s service), was paid to his stepmother.

Estimate enlistment date from War Gratuity paid

Back in February I wrote about the newly released Soldier’s Effects Registers on Ancestry. One of the major components of the money paid out after a soldier’s death was teh War Gratuity, since the launch of the records there’s been an interesting thread on the Great War Forum, looking at how the gratuity payments were determined, based on length of service. The prime mover of this thread, Craig, has now launched his own blog from where you can download a simple spreadsheet which will calculate an estimate for when a soldier enlisted based on the gratuity paid out, and their date of death. If they received the minimum £3 payment, then unfortunately all that can be said is that they had less than 12 months service, but even this can be helpful if you compare their number against that of men having known enlistment dates as well.

As always when downloading anything from the internet, it is sensible to ensure you have up-to-date virus protection!

A Manchester Accountant on Gallipoli: John William Womersley (1884-1915)

I’ve been slightly sidetracked from ringers recently by investigating some of my own family history, including several more who had war service.

Oval-framed head and shoulders portrait photo of a mustachioed man in military uniform, with no cap

Lieutenant John William Womersley, courtesy of the Mill Hill Foundation, from original in “The book of remembrance and war record of Mill Hill School”. Efforts have been made to establish the original copyright holders, but without success, if you believe you hold the copyright to these images, please contact me.

One hundred years ago the Womersley family was in deep mourning. On 7 June 1915 a telegram had arrived from the War Office carrying the sad news of the death in action on Gallipoli on 4 June of the eldest son of the household, John William (Jack) Womersley who had been serving with 1/8th (Ardwick)Battalion, the Manchester Regiment. His father, Frederick Womersley, had barely got over the death of his wife of 31 years, Emily (nee Pare), who had died on 25 August 1914. The second son of the family, Charles Frederick, was also dangerously ill with septic endocarditis. The three younger sons of family were also all in uniform, though only Arthur Sydney was in action, serving as a trooper with (successively?) Brand’s Horse and Colonel Pyper’s Commando in the South African Forces, which were fighting German forces in what is now Namibia.

John William (Jack) Womersley was born at 59 Ducie Grove, Chorlton upon Medlock, Manchester on 3 February 1884, the eldest child of Frederick Womersley and Emily (nee Pare). Emily was the eldest sister of Frederick Pare, my great-grandfather. She, and two more sisters, Alice and Elizabeth, were born in Calais in 1856, 1857 and 1860 respectively. Their parents, John Pare and Ann (nee Norris) had married in Calais in 1853. Ann was originally from Deal in Kent, it’s not quite clear what she was doing in Calais (the 1841 census suggests her father was a boatman). John Pare was presumably learning up-to-date methods in the lace trade, the family had returned to his home town of Nottingham (one of the centres of the lace trade in England) by the 1861 census when they were living at Royal Street, St Mary’s, Nottingham. John is listed as a “Lace Machine Holder Employing 3 Men 1 Woman 2 Boys”.

Frederick Womersley’s origins are slightly more obscure, with sources variously giving his place of birth as Berkshire, Yorkshire and Manchester, although birth registrations suggest he was born at Barton-upon-Irwell in 1856, although his family was of Yorkshire origin. Census information suggests his family was reasonably well-to-do, and probably involved in the textile trade. However, his own journals, which he seems to have revisited late in life, and recorded selected information he felt was particularly important (and the final version was subsequently partially transcribed by my great-uncle David Pare, youngest brother of my grandfather) show he ended up in debt after helping out his older brother who had ended up in serious financial trouble. One employer mentioned in the journals is John Hithersay, who is probably the man shown in the 1881 census as a Lace Commission Agent, residing at 1 Heather Bank, Withington (RG 11/3892 Folio 111 Page 34), it was he who loaned Frederick money in order to help his brother Charlie, but when Frederick asked Hithersay for a further advance against his wages in early 1877, Hithersay instead gave him two months’ notice. Frederick then worked for a George Baker, due to the rather more common name, it’s not been possible to identify him. While working for Baker, Frederick moved into bookkeeping. In November 1878 he visited Nottingham with a man whose surname my great-uncle David transcribed from Frederick’s journal as Stoner (or Stonor), but the 1881 census suggests he was actually Thomas Storer. My great-uncle surmised that he was a business connection, given that Nottingham’s lace trade (and thus the Pares) would have needed thread, which would have been readily available from Manchester’s factories. However, the evidence of the census is again slightly against this, Storer is shown as a lithographic artist. He may have been involved in the fringes of the textile trade preparing illustrations for catalogues or adverts. Part of the reason they were in Nottingham was to attend a concert at Wool Alley on 27 November, this was a social club and charitable institution for the slums of Nottingham, and the Pares were heavily involved in its running. One of those performing in the concert was Emily Pare, though as a Fredrick noted in a later addition to the journal (dated 23 September 1918), he did not actually meet her at this time. The census also tells us that Storer was born in Nottingham. Taken together, I suspect that Storer and Womersley were more likely to have met at church (or, more accurately, chapel) – perhaps there was even a plan to start something similar to the Wool Alley club in Manchester?
Continue reading

Fascinating background information on the Attwater brothers

I’d previously read about the cache described in a recent newspaper article on the Cuckfield Museum’s website, but wasn’t absolutely sure previously that it was the same Attwater family that crop up as ringers at St Leonard’s and Immanuel churches in Streatham. The newspaper article leaves no doubt though, as it mentions the death of Ernest during the war.

In from the cold: Herbert Jones, St Peter’s, Wolverhampton

One of the first strands of research I was involved in was going through the outstanding names on the Central Council for Church Bell Ringers for which no Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) record had been found. A number of these still remain, for one reason or another.

In a number of cases, however, it became obvious from surviving records that the man concerned had died after their discharge, and from the same cause that led to their discharge (and that this had been held to be attributable to, or aggravated by, his war service). Having come across the In From the Cold project via the Great War Forum I realised that this meant it might be possible to get them added to the CWGC register. The initial success, rather surprisingly, was with Harry Jones of Chester. I’d not held much hope of success with this one due to the extremely common name, but I found sets of records almost immediately, which combined with the death certificate gave enough for him to be accepted. This was followed by William Stanley Lynn, George Henry Barrick, Gilbert Victor Drew and others.

One of the first cases I’d actually looked at was H Jones of Wolverhampton. Searching the 1911 census found a couple of possible candidates, but nothing to tie them to records that would help. One was a general smith, the other a carter, which both seemed plausible for a man that The Ringing World suggested might have been serving in the Army Service Corps at Avonmouth. I noted down the details on a list I created and moved on. Then, when looking through The Ringing World again for this project, I found the report of a funeral of a Herbert Jones in Wolverhampton, who had served with the ASC at Avonmouth. The report also stated that he was originally from Shrewsbury, and had also lived in Sheffield before moving to Wolverhampton in 1912:

Newspaper article

Private Herbert JONES
Wolverhampton, Stafford Archdeaconry
The Ringing World: 23 May 1919 p199

With this information I quickly found surviving records which showed he had been discharged due to TB contracted while serving at Avonmouth, and this had eventually led to his death. I submitted the case back in 2013, but with the transfer of decision making from the MoD (Historical Branch – Army) to the National Army Museum, there was rather a hiatus in cases going through, and a consequent backlog. It was only on 15 April 2015 that he was added to the CWGC register.

Missed from Merstham

I originally described Merstham as “the unluckiest tower” as it appeared that only two members had served, and both had been killed. However, looking again at the Roll as published in the annual report a few days ago, I suddenly realised that that version named four more men from Merstham who had all survived the war. Two of these were the elder brothers of Ernest Morley, one of the two men from Merstham who were killed, Alfred and Horace Morley. All three brothers were living together in 1911 in the household of the eldest, Alfred, and his wife Elizabeth, at 89 Albury Road, South Merstham. Alfred (26) was a gardener domestic, Horace (17) was also a gardener, Ernest (14) a baker’s assistant. Alfred served in the Suffolk Regiment. Horace, joined the cavalry, serving with the 3rd Hussars for most of the war. After the war he joined the Tank Corps, and continued serving until 1926, when he returned to South Merstham.

Alex Frederick Cheasley served in the Royal Navy, finishing the war aboard the destroyer HMS Tower. He was born in Merstham on 9 December 1896, he’d been working as a postman until he joined up on 16 March 1916. William Henry Etherington was a chauffeur in 1911, according to the roll he served in the Royal Army Service Corps, but so far official records have not found for certain. There are several William Etherington’s to be found in the Army Service Corps, but nothing to tie any one of them to Merstham. There is even one William H Etherington, but his service number suggests he served in the Horse Transport section, rather than the Motor Transport section as would be expected for a chauffeur.