Mustachioed man in military uniform, a sash running right to left over a metal breastplate.

William Frank Smith (1889-6 May 1917†)

A brief holding post to mark the centenary for now as I’m away without computer access. This will be expanded (and further details added to the Lives profile next week). 

William Frank Smith (Lives profile) was born in 1889 in Reigate. He was the second child of Frank Smith and Clementina (nee Trumble). They had married at St George in the East on 20 November 1886, probably Clementina’s home parish as censuses describe her as being born in Wapping. Frank was Reigate born and bred (some censuses record his birthplace as Leigh, a small village south west of Reigate), so it’s not clear how they met, though perhaps Clementina had been working in Reigate. In 1881 she was a house maid in Kensington. The marriage record shows that Frank could only make his mark, not sign, in the register. The later correspondence with the army after William’s death also seems to have been carried out only by Clementina. Frank was the son of John Smith, they were both farm labourers, Frank’s address is given only as Reigate. Clementina was the daughter of John Thomas Trumble, Inspector of Nuisances (the final word is unclear), and living at 227 Cable Street.

Their first child, Dorothy Clementina, was born in in 1887, her birth was registered in the third quarter in the Reigate registration district, and she was baptised at St Mark’s, Reigate on 3 July 1887. The family were then living on Nutley Lane, Reigate. William followed in 1889, the brith was registered in the third quarter, again in Reigate registration district. He was baptised at St Mark’s on 1 September 1889, the family were still living on Nutley Lane. Frank’s occupation is now given as carter. The family were still in Nutley Lane, at No 44, at the 1891 census on 5 April. The family also had a lodger, William Comben (36, no occupation stated).

Arthur Christian Smith was born later in 1891, registered in the 4th quarter in the Reigate registration district. He was baptised at St Mark’s on 13 December, the family were still living at 44 Nutley Lane. Frank is now recorded as a labourer. Sadly Arthur died aged just 2, and was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard on 21 February 1894. The family’s address was still Nutley Lane. Later that year Charles Henry was born on 28 August 1894, registered in the 4th quarter 1894 in the Reigate registration district. He was baptised in the parish of “Nutley Lane, St Mark’s” on 18 November 1894. This indicates that Charles at least was baptised in what’s now called St Philip’s, Reigate, then a proprietary chapel within the parish of St Mark’s (it is still not a full parish in its own right). It’s possible that the other children were also actually baptised there as St Philip’s had opened in 1863. William’s obituary also tells us that sang in the choir there as boy. The family’s address was then given as 30 York Road (now Yorke Road).

By the 1901 census (31 March) the family were at 42 Yorke Road. Frank is now recorded as a bricklayer’s labourer. Dorothy (13) has been apprenticed to a tailor; William and Charles are presumably still at school. There are two visitors with the family: Ada Walker (17), a housemaid born in Headington, Oxfordshire, and Doris M Hind (6), born in Norwood.

Aged 13, so in late 1902 or early 1903, William went to work as gardener for Philip Woolley at Broke House in Reigate Hill. Over the next few years William also joined the local men’s British Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment. William’s obituary tells us he passed the certificate of proficiency seven times. He also joined the local miniature rifle club, apparently becoming a crack shot, and of course he also became a bellringer at the old parish church of St Mary’s.

It perhaps came as a bit of a surprise to the family when in early 1907 Clementina found she was pregnant again, 13 years after Charles Henry was born. Arnold John Victor was born on 26 September 1907, and baptised at St Mary’s on 10 November. The family were now living back on Nutley Lane, Frank is now recorded as a bricklayer.

The first definite record of William as a ringer is his first peal on 21 March 1908, when he rang the seventh to a peal of Grandsire Caters at St Mary’s. It is probable that he’d been ringing for some time before that. The following day he also rang in touches of Grandsire Triples and Caters for Sunday service. He also rang a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples on 16 November 1911, and another peal of Caters on 27 November 1909. The last of those was rung for the Sussex Association, he being one of three of the band proposed as members beforehand. He also went on the ringing outing to Hughenden and High Wycombe in July 1911. His obituary indicates he rang a total of four peals, but the other two have not yet been traced.

By the 1911 census on 2 April 1911 the family were living at 77 Nutley Lane. Frank (48) was a bricklayer’s labourer, Clementina (47) has no occupation given, so was presumably a housewife looking after Harold (3), Dorothy (23) was a ladies’ tailor, William (21) a gardener, Charles (16) was an errand boy for an ironmonger. They also had Sarah Mocock (11), a niece of the head of the household staying with them. As she was born in Wapping it seems likely she was the daughter of one of Clementina’s sisters.

On 2 July 1912 Dorothy Clementina married local policeman William Robert Prangnell at St Mary’s. Both were 25-years-old. Dorothy’s address was recorded as Holly Cottage, Nutley Lane, William’s as 14 South Albert Road, Reigate. William was the son of William Henry Prangnell (deceased), a maltster and brewer. A month later the newly-weds boarded the SS Corinthic in London, bound for Tasmania. William is recorded as a constable, so presumably he was going to join the force in Tasmania.

Alongside his main Red Cross work William also served as ambulance instructor to the Reigate Borough Fire Brigade (his father had been a fireman for some years). Over Whitsun 1914 (Whit Sunday – Pentecost was 31 May 1914) he travelled with a detachment from the brigade to Ivry-sur-Seine in France, and with his ambulance section took first place among the various fire brigades represented there following a display by the brigade under the command of Captain Rouse and Superintendent F Legg.

Just under a month later, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, and Europe spiralled into war. To start with William continued to work as a gardener, but later in 1914 The Ward Hospital opened as an auxiliary hospital on Reigate Hill and he took up a post as ward orderly. The hospital was named after Lt-Col John Ward, an MP and trade union leader (who had been a private soldier in his younger days), and run by his wife. Some sources suggest it had been a convalescent home for children before the war. Lt-Col Ward raised the 18th and 19th Battalions of the Middlesex Regiment (1st and 2nd Public Works Battalions) during the First World War.

Charles Henry, who was a motor driver, enlisted in the Army Service Corps in London on 10 February 1915, and arrived in France on 31 May 1915. William carried on at the hospital, but the manpower situation was becoming acute and by the latter part of 1915 it was becoming increasingly clear that conscription would be introduced. William attested under the terms of the Derby Scheme in Reigate on 11 December 1915, and went onto Army Reserve B the following day, carrying on at the hospital for the time being. Meanwhile Charles was appointed acting lance corporal (unpaid) on 28 December 1915.

William was called up in February 1916 and reported to Regent’s Park Barracks on 9 February. After medicals and so on he was posted to the Royal Horse Guards on 11 February, becoming 2602 Trooper William Frank Smith. He would then have trained at Windsor (where the depot of the Household Cavalry still is) and Knightsbridge Barracks. It was probably at some time during this phase of his training that the photo of him in uniform was taken.

Mustachioed man in military uniform, a sash running right to left over a metal breastplate.

Corpl W F Smith is pictured in the uniform of the Royal Horse Guards, complete with cuirass (breastplate), so this picture was probably taken on completion of his initial training, before he was transferred to the newly raised Household Battalion, an infantry unit formed from the reserves of the Household Cavalry not required for mounted duty in France

It was on 1 September 1916 that he was transferred to the newly raised Household Battalion, receiving the new regimental number 107. It was infantry that was needed on the Western Front, not heavy cavalry. The Household Cavalry had more than enough reserves, so some of the men were transferred to the infantry role, although by raising a new battalion, they maintained the traditions of the Household Cavalry (and the higher rate of pay that the cavalry received). This higher rate of pay seems to have been a bit of a bone of contention with the Foot Guards NCOs brought in to give them instruction in the finer points of infantry tactics, who gave the new battalion a bit of a rough time as they trained for their new role in Richmond Park.

The battalion was inspected by the King (who had had to approve all the details of the raising of the battalion) in Hyde Park on 2 November. This was preparation for their imminent departure for France. Members of the battalion attended a service at Brompton Parish Church on Sunday 5 November, then a route march in London on the Monday, photos in the barrack square on Tuesday, then to Southampton from Waterloo on 8 November, and thence overnight to Le Havre arriving early on 9 November. This first part of the battalion travelled on SS Mona’s Queen, while the remainder followed on SS Australind the following day. Once in France the battalion joined 10th Infantry Brigade in 4th Division. Initially they were some distance behind the lines in Abbeville, but in December they moved to the now quiet area of the Somme. Initially they were at the very southern end of the British Front, but in March moved a little further north.

Although they had been in-and-out of the trenches throughout this time it was only in April 1917 when the battalion was committed to the Battle of Arras that received their real baptism of fire in large-scale actions.

Smith was killed on 6 May 1917 during an attack on German trenches near Rouex while a Corporal in the Household Battalion. This was an infantry unit raised as a composite unit from men of the Household Cavalry not required for mounted service with the regiments of that corps. In addition to ringing at Reigate he was Quartermaster of the local Red Cross unit for many years, and was first aid instructor to the Reigate Fire Brigade. He started his war service as a ward orderly at a local auxiliary hospital. He enlisted under the terms of the Derby Scheme in late 1915, and was called up in February 1916. He trained with the Royal Horse Guards, but was transferred to the Household Battalion on its formation. 

According to a letter written by a lieutenant of his company to Smith’s fiancée (who sadly is not named in the newspaper obituary which quotes the letter) he had been taking a message to the CO when he was shot by a sniper. The same obituary says that he had rung four peals for the parish church society.

Arthur Ernest Plowman (1898-1917†): missed from the roll

On the centenary of Ernest’s death I thought I’d reblog this, particularly as I’ve now developed his Lives profile and a few more sources have become available with the digitisation of material held by Sutton and Croydon Archives.

The Sutton material confirms that Arthur John Plowman and Kate Groves married at Beddington Parish Church on 19 December 1896. Arthur John was 24 and a packer, Kate was 21. Arthur John was the son of John Plowman (deceased), a gardener. Kate’s father was William Groves, a coachman. Arthur John was living at 6 Bridle Path, Beddington, while Kate’s address was 2 Railway Approach, Wallington. The next Sutton record is Ernest’s baptism, showing he was baptised at Beddington Parish Church on 5 June 1898, son of Arthur John and Kate Plowman who were then living in Wallington. Arthur John’s occupation is again given as packer.

The Croydon records are school records, I’ve not found Ernest’s, but there are two for Doris. She was first admitted to the Parish Church Infants School on 26 August 1907. The address of 4 Ainsworth Road matches other records for the family. Her date of birth is given as 24 April 1902. Her second school was the Parish Church Girls School, to which she was admitted on on 29 August 1910. The family address is again recorded as 4 Ainsworth Road, her father’s name is given as Jack Plowman. She is in a block recorded as transferring from the infant school. She is further marked as having transferred to Mitcham Road School following her last attendance on 6 September 1912. Date of Birth is again 24 April 1902, though mistranscribed as 24/06/02. It seems Doris never married and died in the Borough of Merton in the first quarter of 2002 – she has proved difficult to trace in the 1939 Register however.

halfmuffled

Updated 10 May 2013: After the initial version of this page appeared on 9 May 2013 Andy Arnold reminded me of the Croydon Roll of Honour, which has filled in a few more details, and allowed me to correct a couple of details. The update has also allowed me to correct a number of typos.

Arthur Ernest Plowman was at least the third generation of his family to ring at Beddington. He had progressed far enough in ringing to take part in a quarter peal on Easter Day 1916 (23 April), but he had just turned 18 so was liable for conscription. He attested on 10 May 1916, though he may not have actually begun his training until later that year. He was posted to a Base Depot in France on 29 March 1917, just short of his 19th birthday. On 15 April he was posted to a frontline…

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Streeter family update

After I published the original post on the Streeter brothers I was contacted by their relative Christine Johnson, and she supplied photos from the family album, with permission to use them. It’s taken a while for me to have chance to research further around them, but here they are.

Firstly, the original of the image that appeared in The Ringing World and local newspapers after Albert’s death, and the memorial card created by the fmaily:

Then an image of William jr:

A man shown full length, wearing army uniform, he has his right hand on a prop garden wall. A background behind him (probably a painted cloth) shows a formal garden scene

William Streeter jr in the uniform of the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), recognisable by the Lamb and Flag cap badge, standing in front of a studio background. He’s carrying a walking out cane, and has some sort of braid over his left shoulder, these may also be studio props. Probably taken shortly after joining up in about September 1914, or just before he was posted to France, he arrived there on 1 June 1915

There’s a later image of William jr with his wife:

A man stands on the left of the photo, wearing army uniform. On his right sleeve, at the bottom are four overseas stripes, showing service outside the UK during the First World War, half way up the upper-arm is some sort of badge (not easily made out) an inch or two square. His shoulder titles are also not easy to make out, but do not appear to be very long. On the right is a seated woman, wearing a wedding dress, and a ring on the ring finger of each hand. On his left breast he has a single medal ribbon, probably that of the 1914-15 Star

William Streeter jr pictured with his wife, Susannah “Nessie” Leaven, presumably on their wedding day, 26 April 1919.


With confirmation that he married, I was able to track down the marriage certificate. William Streeter (26, a soldier) and Susannah Leaven (22) on 26 Apr 1919 at Holy Trinity, Finchley. Fathers’ names William Streeter (recorded as a farmer, whether this was a misunderstanding by the vicar, or a deliberate attempt to “sanitise” the fact it was a sewage farm isn’t clear) and Abdy Leaven. The address for both is given as 9 Prospect Place. The second marriage recorded on the same page of Arthur Edgar Hill (20, a soldier) and Ellen Louisa Connor (20) who also both give their residence as 9 Prospect Place, one of their witnesses is Rhoda Streeter, sister of William, while one of William and Susannah’s witnesses is Dorothy Grace Hill, presumably a sister of Arthur. They had a son, Kenneth W, on 15 February 1927 in the Barnet registration district, and a daughter Binnie J, in Halstead, Essex, in 1933. By 1939 the family were living at Mount Pleasant, Stoke Goldington, Newport Pagnell. William’s death was registered in Northampton in the first quarter of 1967.

Perhaps most interesting were the photos of William sr, showing that he also served during the war:

I’ve not been able to find a matching profile on Lives of the First World War: given his age it seems likely that he would only have served in the UK, so he would not have been eligible for campaign medals, and so would not have profile. This does though raise the possibility that it was actually William sr who is listed on the roll of honour, not William jr, although the unit is stated as Queen’s, not Royal Engineers. I never could find any evidence of William jr ringing in Surrey, and we can now see that he had moved away from the area straight after the war.

There was also a photo of him with the Redhill ringers in 1902 (I made use of this in the post on Henry John Dewey):

Five men standing and three seated, all wearing suits, and several with flowers in their lapels. They are arranged in front of a church doorway.

The ringers at St John’s, Redhill, when they rang to mark the Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on 9 August 1902. Edward Dewey is named as steeplekeeper, and is probably the man seated in the middle of the front row. The man at the right of the back row marked “My grandad” is William Streeter (father of the Streeter brothers).

Finally, some photos more closely related to other members of the family, a wedding photo of Ellen Jane Streeter and Augustine Chandler:

A group of people around a wedding couple, pictured in front of a large wooden door or gate in an ivy-clad brick wall. In the front are some children sitting or standing on the ground, then a row of seated adults, and a row of standing adults at the rear, just in front of the wall

The full wedding party for the wedding of Augustine “Austin” Chandler and Ellen Jane Chandler at Redhill on 17 June 1919

In the bottom right is a man in army uniform, cropping this section out for a closer view, it seems evident that this is William jr, with his father (William sr) to his immediate right, and then his wife Nessie. William jr’s shoulder titles now seem to be the later form of fusilier shoulder titles, with the flaming grenade now separated from the letters representing the regimental title.

Three adults in what are probably their best clothes, seated on wooden chairs, the man on the right is in army uniform, with the flaming grenade of a fusilier regiment just about visible on his collar strap. A young child is seated on the ground in front of them, and four other adults standing behind are partly visible

Crop from photo of the wedding of Augustine “Austin” Chandler to Ellen J Streeter: the seated adults are believed to be (from left to right) Susannah “Nessie” Leaven, William Streeter sr and William Streeter jr (compare with other named photos)

In addition to the photos I also tracked down a local newspaper account of the funeral of William sr in 1942, Surrey Mirror, 9 January 1942, p7:

THE LATE MR W STREETER.-The funeral took place on Wednesday of Mr William Streeter, who passed away, following upon a fall, at 9 Park-lane, Coulsdon, the home of his son, on December 31st, at the age of 71. Mr Streeter was for many years in the employ of the Reigate Town Council at the Corporation Farm. He was conscientious in the discharge of his duties, and was much respected. He was also a member of St John’s Church bellringers for many years. His wife predeceased him in 1935. The funeral service was held at Reigate Parish Church, the Vicar (the Rev R Talbot) officiating, and the internment was in the family grave in Reigate Cemetery. The mourners were: – Mr W Streeter (son), Mr and Mrs R T Streeter (son and daughter-in-law), Mr and Mrs G Chandler [sic] (son-in-law and daughter), Messrs G and S Streeter (sons), and Mr and Mrs R L Taylor (son-in-law and daughter). There were a number of beautiful flowers.

The 1939 Register shows that William sr was living with the Chandlers at 1 Holmside Cottage, Dorking Urban District, Surrey, England when the register was compiled on 29 September.

To bring the First World War service of the family together, I’ve created an additional community in Lives of the First World War for the member’s of the family who served. Hopefully I’ll be able to create a profile for William sr at some point.

An off-white headstone with a slightly curved top, a regimental badge above the details of Sydney Smith, with a cross below, and the inscription chosen by his family

Stanley Smith (14 January 1896 – 18 March 1917†), Mitcham

Stanley Smith (Lives profile) was the youngest child of William Shipp Smith and Ellen, nee Dench. His father was also a ringer, and quite a prolific conductor for the Surrey Association in its relatively early days, and was also a composer.

William and Ellen married at Stephen’s, Twickenham, on 15 September 1889. William was then 22 and a carpenter, Ellen was the same age. They were both living at 6 Sandycoombe Road, just a short distance from the church. Ellen must already have been heavily pregnant as their first child, William Thomas Smith, was born less than a month later, on 8 October 1889. By the time he was baptised at St Mary’s Twickenham (the original parish church) on the family were living at the Mission House. The 1891 census tells us that this was on Church Lane, right next to St Mary’s. As the next property listed on the census returns was the Queen’s Head (now the Barmy Arms), this suggests the Mission House was perhaps on the site now occupied by the Mary Wallace Theatre. Shortly before the census Ellen Ethel Smith had arrived on 1 February 1891, she was baptised on census day, 5 April 1891, both the baptismal record and census entry agreeing on the Mission House as the family’s residence. The census lists Ellen’s mother, Mary A Dench as head of the household. She was a 65-year-old widow and a laundress. Her son (Ellen’s brother), Henry, a 40-year-old painter was also living in the household, along with William (still a carpenter), Ellen, and the two children. Based on later censuses, the birthplaces of Henry and William appear to have been accidentally switched, this census indicates that Henry was born in Paulerspury, Northamptonshire, and William in Twickenham, it seems far more likely that William was born in Paulerspury and Henry in Twickenham like his mother and sister and the two children. There’s at least one report of William ringing while in Twickenham (Bell News, 9 August 1890, p241 reports W Smith of Twickenham joining various visiting Surrey ringers on 19 July). The very common surname makes an exhaustive search extremely time consuming. There were also bells in Paulerspury, so he could have learnt to ring there.

Some time in the next five years the family moved to Wimbledon. Stanley was born there on 14 January 1896, and baptised at Holy Trinity, South Wimbledon, on 22 February, the family’s address is recorded in the register as 121 Russell Road. Bell News suggests the move could have been as early as 1893 with reports then and in 1894 of W S Smith ringing at Wimbledon (18 July 1893, p201 reports ringing on 28 April 1893 and 14 May 1894, p113 reports ringing on various dates in April). Despite these early connections with the tower at Wimbledon, William seems to have been mostly associated with Mitcham, which had a strong band at this time, eventually becoming steeplekeeper. Since he was a carpenter he may also have been working for the ringing master there, J D Drewett, who ran a local building firm (he was also a local councillor and Master of the Surrey Association).

By 1901 the family seem to have moved just next door, to 123 Russell Road (or there may have been some renumbering). William was still a carpenter, no occupation is given for any of the other family members, they still have Ellen’s mother living with them too. There also seems to be a second family (the Robins) living in the same house (and the same can be seen for all the nearby houses), so 9 people in total in the property.

Sadly William Thomas Smith died in the first half of 1909, aged 19. I’ve not managed to find any details beyond the index entry for the death registration in the 2nd quarter of 1909 in the Kingston registration district. The 1911 census indicates that William and Ellen had had 3 children, one of whom had died, which was the first indication I found of the death of William Thomas. The family were then still at 123 Russell Road, now just the four of them (though there was still another household recorded at the same address too). William was still a carpenter, Ethel Ellen had become a female sorter in the Civil Service, possibly in the Saving Bank Department (“S Bank Dept” appears to be what’s recorded against her entry), Stanley was an assistant in a warehouse.

Stanley did not rush to the colours at the outbreak of war. He enlisted, or rather was conscripted, on 30 August 1916. He made his attestation at Wimbledon, he was now a timekeeper, 5’6″ tall, weighed 122 pounds, and had a 36″ chest (with 3″ of expansion). He joined 4th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment. It seems likely that he had some time on Army Reserve B awaiting his call-up proper. He managed to ring his first (and only) quarter peal at Mitcham on 17 September 1917. After his training with 4th Battalion, he joined 9th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment in France, probably in early 1917. This was the battalion in which the playwright, R C Sherriff, was an officer. Transcripts of his letters home, which provide some insight into what the battalion faced can be found on Roland Wales’ website under R C Sherriff’s Letters from France. It was a cold winter, with a lot of snow. By March though the battalion were based in Cité Colonne, near Loos, where the front line went through small villages, so the men could find shelter in what was left of the houses.

An off-white headstone with a slightly curved top, a regimental badge above the details of Sydney Smith, with a cross below, and the inscription chosen by his family

Stanley Smith’s grave in Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery British Extension, courtesy of Alan Regin ©

Early 1917 is also described in the book The Journey’s End battalion, the 9th East Surrey in the Great War. Stanley seems to have been rather unlucky, the battalion suffered only 5 deaths in March 1917, 3 of them were on 18 March, Herbert Lewis Reynolds and William John Woodall being killed with him on that day and Fred Cyril Benham died of wounds the following day. No particular mention is made in the war diary, except that the four men are listed as casualties of the 18 March in the appendix for the month. The brief obituary published in The Ringing World on 13 April 1917 states that he was killed instantly by a shell (though such reports have to be taken with a pinch of salt, those writing home often wishing to spare the families full details). Stanley was buried in Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery, British Extension with Reynolds and Woodall either side of him. After the war the family had the inscription “Thou gav’st thyself for me, give myself to thee” added to his headstone, the last two lines of the hymn “Thy Life was giv’n for me”, words by Frances Ridley Havergal.

The Mitcham ringers rang a half-muffled quarter peal of Stedman Triples in his memory on 1 April 1917, the band was A J Lambert 1, J D Drewett 2, C Dean 3, C W R Grimwood 4, A Calver 5, T Steers 6, W H Joiner (conductor) 7, J Currell 8. Calver and Joiner would also serve.

In 1919 Stanley was among the ringers commemorated at the National Ringers’ Memorial Service at St Clement Danes on 22 February. Then on Easter Day (20 April) the Mitcham ringers unveiled a memorial to the three Mitcham ringers killed in the ringing chamber at Mitcham. This was reported in The Ringing World:

WAR MEMORIAL AT MITCHAM.
TABLET UNVEILED IN THE BELFRY.
On Easter Day, before the evening service at the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul, Mitcham, the Rev C Aubrey Finch (Vicar), Alderman R M Chart, Dr T Cato Worsfold (churchwardens), Mr J D Drewett, Master, Surrey Association and Mitcham Society, and members of the Mitcham Society, together with relatiyes and friends, assembled in the church tower for the purpose of unveiliug and dedicating a marble tablet erected in the belfry to the sacred memory of those members of the society who fell in action during the war. The tablet which is the gift of Mr J D Drewett, whose son is among the fallen, is of an appropriate design and noble character, inscribed as follows –

“Sacred to the memory of members of the Mitcham Society and Surrey
Association of Change Ringers who fell in action in the Great War,
1914-1918
Douglas Walter Drewett, 1st Cameron Highlanders, killed in action, October 31st, 1918
Benjamin Arthur Morris, 4th Coldstream Guards, killed in action, November 28th, 1917
Stanley Smith, 9th East Surreys, killed in action, March 18th 1917
They died that we might live.
Rest in Peace.”

It is proposed to establish a fund in connection with the memorial, the money to be invested, and any interest that may accrue therefrom is to be used for the purpose of assisting any member of the Mitcham Society who may be in need of help.

Unfortunately this does not seem to have survived, on a visit a few years ago I noticed that there are still large brackets on the wall that could have supported a marble tablet. On 6 September Ethel Ellen married Richard Pethybridge, a widower with children and 13 years her senior. He is probably the same as the R Pethybridge ringing with her father in the earliest reports of William ringing at Wimbledon. Ethel does not seem to have had any children of her own.

The centenary of Stanley’s death was marked with a quarter peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Mitcham on 17 March 2017.

Half length photo of a young man in army uniform (no hat)

Henry John Dewey (29 December 1896 – 10 February 1917†)

Henry John Dewey (Lives profile) was the second son of Edward Dewey, himself a ringer at Reigate (and also steeplekeeper at Redhill), and Sarah Ann Sully. In some ringing reports Henry is recorded as Harry, so that may have been how he was generally known.

Edward and Sarah Ann had married at Reigate parish church on 15 October 1892. The Reigate ringers made an attempt to ring a peal to mark the occasion, but it failed, so they had to content themselves with a quarter peal instead. Edward is shown on the wedding certificate as a 35-year-old labourer, residing New Park, Reigate, the son of John Dewey, also a labourer. Sarah Ann was 34 (born Taunton, Somerset), no rank or profession is shown, residing Nutfield. Her father was Henry Sully, who is recorded as having been a gentleman. In 1891 Edward was living with his parents, John and Harriett, and brother James. All the men were brickmaker’s labourers, and the family were living in Brickyard Cottage, Earlswood, all had been born in Reigate. Sarah Ann, despite the claim of her father’s gentility, is recorded as a domestic servant living above stables in Meadvale, Reigate. Reviewing censuses suggests he may have been the Henry Sully born abt 1818 in Taunton who by 1891 was giving his occupation as “retired deputy governor, Taunton Gaol”, in 1861 he is listed as “Chief Turnkey, Taunton Gaol”.

Their first child Edward Frechville Dewey (the middle name appears a few different ways, Frechville, Frecheville, Freschville) was born on 28 September 1893 and baptised at Reigate parish church on 3 November 1893 (there doesn’t seem to have been any particular ringing on that occasion). Henry John was born on 29 December 1896 and baptised at St John’s Redhill on 7 February 1897. It was later that year that, sadly, Edward Frechville Dewey died. He was buried in Reigate churchyard on 3 June, I’ve not established the exact date of death, probably in late May. The burial record seems to be the first time the family were recorded living on Earlswood Road.
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Head and shoulders photo of a young man in naval uniform.

For those in peril on the sea – Lt-Cmdr Ralph Ireland (8 February 1884 – 19 January 1917)

Another digression into family history

At about 6:30 am on 19 January 1917 water was reported in the capstan flat of HMS Southampton flagship of 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, on patrol in the North Sea approximately 100 miles due east of the Isle of May (in the mouth of the Firth of Forth). At 7:05 am it was realised that this was due to the metal cover for the navel pipe (through which the anchor chain passed) had washed loose. The ship’s navigating officer (and acting executive officer/1st Lieutenant), Lieutenant Commander Ralph Ireland, gathered a party of three able seamen, Tom Ralph Knight, Roland Ernest Starkey and William Meaghan, and set off for the forecastle to try and secure the cover. They were also joined by the ship’s gunnery officer, Burroughs, and mate, Davis.

At about 7:15 am another wave broke over the bow of the ship. Once it had passed, Burroughs and Davis were lying winded in the breakwater, but of the other four there was no sign. “Man overboard” was signalled to HMAS Sydney at 7:21 am, lifeboats manned, life buoys thrown and men sent aloft. No sightings were made and the search was abandoned at 7:50 am at 56° 13.5′ N, 1° 0′ E. The ship’s log records the air temperature as 39 Fahrenheit, and the North Sea is rarely warm. In the days before modern survival suits and locator beacons they had had little chance, and of course it would still have been pretty dark (sunrise today was 8:28 am in Edinburgh, though it would have been a little earlier 100 miles east). Ireland’s fellow officer, Stephen King-Hall, recorded in his diary:

we turned for home, and read the burial service in the waist. Driving snowstorm added to the melancholy nature of the ceremony. Rarely, if ever, have I felt so depressed and knocked over. When I looked at the cold grey rough sea, and thought of No. 1, one of my best friends, with whom only a few hours before I had been yarning on the bridge, and with whom only 12 hours before I had been rehearsing my part in a Revue which I had written, and in which we both took leading roles, I went to my cabin and cried like a child.

Handwritten extract from ship's logbook (content described in article text)

Extract from the log of HMS Southampton for 19 January 1917. The National Archives: ADM 53/60695. Crown Copyright.

Ralph Ireland was the eldest child of Adam Liddell Ireland and Isabella, née McHinch.  Isabella was the sister of my great-great-grandmother, Matilda Antoinette “Nettie” McHinch (their father was the Revd William McHinch, a Presbyterian minister).  Ralph was born on 8 February 1888 in Belfast, and was followed by Norah Isabel Ireland in 1891 and Denis Liddell Ireland in 1894.  The family were fairly prosperous linen merchants. In 1901 they were living in Eglantine Avenue, Belfast, and had two servants (Alice McCamley and Mary McGinley) Both boys were educated at Belfast’s Royal Acadmeical Institution (often known simply as Inst). Ralph then went on to Eastman’s Naval Academy in Winchester.

On 19 November 1902 Ralph took the competitive examination for a Naval Cadetship, placing 8th out of over 150 entrants. He took up his place on the training ship Britannia on 15 January 1903. On passing out 15 months later he was second in his intake and received the King’s Gold Medal.

Then followed a succession of postings as a midshipman to ships stationed around the world, initially joining HMS Terrible on the China Station on 28 June 1904. He was appointed Acting Sub Lieutenant while aboard HMS Hindustan on 15 July 1907, and his commission was confirmed on 24 September 1907, by which time he was at the Royal Naval College (Greenwich?). After a short spell on HMS Prince of Wales he headed for HMS Dryad on 2 August 1909 to qualify as a navigator, having just been promoted lieutenant. After the course he returned to Prince of Wales to gain the required practical experience. He then spent some time on various smaller vessels on the Africa Station, and returned to Dryad for a short course on 9 August 1913. Soon after the completion of that course he was appointed to the light cruiser HMS Birmingham. He was still with her on the outbreak of war. Birmingham became the first Royal Navy vessel to sink a German submarine, ramming U-15 while she was surfaced (and attempting to dive) on 9 August 1914 (just 4 days after the declaration of war). With her he also saw action in the Battle of Heligoland (28 August 1914) and the Battle of Dogger Bank (January 1915). He transferred to HMS Southampton on 17 February 1916. Southampton received heavy damage and casualties at the Battle of Jutland, but it was apparently due to Ralph’s course calculations and orders for zig-zags that worse was avoided. King-Hall records that the ship’s company were surprised he did not receive the DSO following the battle. He was promoted to lieutenant commander shortly afterwards though, on 15 July 1916, and was recommended for further promotion in December 1916 by both Goodenough who had led 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron at Jutland and Captain Craufurd.

The reports of his death must have been some what overshadowed as the Silvertown Explosion in East London occurred the same day, several tons of TNT exploded at a munitions works, killing 73, severely wounding 98, and wounding hundreds more, as well as leaving many homeless.

Ralph is remembered on the war memorials at Inst, Elmwood Presbyterian Church and Malone Park Golf Club (his naval record mentions his skill at both golf and football), and on the family grave in one of Belfast’s main cemeteries (recently tidied up by local volunteers).

His death reminds us that even in time of war, mariners’ greatest opponent can still be the sea itself, rather than the human enemy.

36 Casualty Clearing Station located

Back in February I asked the question Where was 36 Casualty Clearing Station in July 1916? I thought I’d pretty well exhausted all avenues, particularly as I’d gone through the unit’s war diary up to the time they left the area. However, the most recent commenter (Tim) on that original post also contacted me shortly after via the Great War Forum to say he’d found a plan of the CCS at Heilly. At the very end of the 1917 war diary (WO 95/344/9), which I hadn’t looked at as it was long after they moved on, is a plan dated May 1916 showing the CCS at Heilly in relation to the station. This was just what I had been hoping for originally!

A plan drawn in pen on heavy paper, showing the layout of the casualty clearing station with pairs of tents in four lines at right angles to a railway

Plan of 36 Casualty Clearing Station dated May 1916. The plan is not conventionally oriented with north at the top, there is a compass marker at the top of the plan, a little to the right of centre, indicating north. The railway station is at the bottom of the plan, the level crossing, and the Mericourt-Corbie road are all indicated. At the bottom left is the name of the surveyor, “E Spencer Bourne Capt RTO Heilly”, probably Captain Ernest Spencer Bourne of the Railway Transport Executive, posted as the Rail Transport Officer at Heilly at the time. Crown Copyright/Open Government Licence.

In addition to the orientation on the plan, the scale is marked at the bottom of the map, 1″ to 66′ (1 inch to 66 feet). This seemed a slightly odd scale until I realised that this was the same as 1 inch to 22 yards. That 22 yards is the length of a cricket pitch is no coincidence, this is the length of a surveryor’s chain, and a therefore a standard unit of measure in surveying.

I’ve also made an attempt at overlaying the map on Google Earth, it matches pretty closely to the roads and railways, but possibly the level crossing has been moved slightly. Either that, or the plan just needs a little more rectification due to the slope of the ground.

Satellite view of the area round Heilly Station with the clearing station plan overlaid

Plan overlaid on Google Earth imagery, also showing my original guesses at location. Though at the wrong end of the field, my yellow marker seems to match quite closely in size to the three rows of tents closest to the road leading to the station