Richard Rapson (6 July 1877 – 1952)

Richard Rapson (full profile with references to follow) received no medals for his service at home in an almost forgotten corps. He was already 37 at the outbreak of war, and doesn’t seem to have been particularly fit, although his job as a plumber would have been reasonably physically demanding. He was a conscript “deemed to have enlisted” on 24 June 1916, but not actually called up until 5 April 1918, after deferments due to his medical rating and the request of his employer, the Education Committee of the Borough of Wimbledon. Nevertheless he is listed on the Surrey Association roll of honour. I should also note that his service was very difficult to research until the completion of a cataloguing project on Royal Marines’ records completed earlier this year.

Richard seems to have been born on 6 July 1877 in Winchester. There is some confusion about this as his service record, and the 1939 Register, give the year as 1876, but the birth registration is in the 3rd quarter 1877, and he had an older brother, George Henry, whose birth was registered in the 2nd quarter 1876. Their parents, Richard Rapson senior and Bridget Augusta Abraham married in Weeke, near Winchester, on 26 February 1876.

Richard senior seems to have been a railwayman, and it was presumably this employment that took the family to Wimbledon a few years later. Sadly the first record we have of them there is Bridget’s burial record. She was buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Wimbledon, on 18 January 1881, at the age of 33. Her residence at death is given as 10 Alan Cottages, Gladstone Road, South Wimbledon.

As a widower working shifts it seems that Richard senior sent the sons to be in the care of his sisters-in-law, Eliza Baldwin and Fanny Abraham on the Isle of Wight. In the census taken on 3 April 1881 we find Richard and his brother living with them on St Mary’s Street, Northwood, Isle of Wight. Eliza and Fanny are both recorded as married, but neither husband was present on census night. Eliza (29) had her own son, Henry J T, while Fanny (28) does not seem to have any children of her own. Richard senior was lodging with the Cole family at 23 Gladstone Road, Wimbledon. His occupation is given as foreman railway porter.

By 1891 Fanny had brought the boys back to live with their father. The census on 3 April finds them living at Graham Road, Wimbledon. Both Richard and his brother (now listed as Henry George) are shown as boy clerks, while Richard senior is now a railway inspector and Fanny is listed as housekeeper. She is still shown as married, but again her husband is not present.

Richard senior died on 15 January 1900 and, like his wife, was buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Wimbledon, on 20 January. At the 1901 census Fanny is shown as head of the household (still at 74 Graham Road), which comprised Richard, his cousin, William H Rapson (17, born Cork, Ireland) and two lodgers. Richard was now a plumber while William is a messenger.

Richard married Maud Miller at Christ Church, Collier’s Wood, on 22 May 1901. His address was given as 74 Graham Road. Maud was living at Palestine Grove. Her father, Alfred, was a carpenter.

Their first child, a daughter, Maud Ruth Rapson, was born on 10 May 1903 and baptised at Christ Church, Collier’s Wood, on 28 June 1903. The family were then living at 61 Latimer Road.

The birth of another daughter, Ethel Lydia Rapson, was registerd in the Kingston Registration District in the 3rd quarter 1906. No baptismal record has been traced. Sadly her death was registered in the Kingston Registration District in the 1st quarter 1907.

On 15 November 1906 Arthur Tidman was born to Ethel Louisa Tidman, she was not married. Arthur was baptised at All Saints, South Wimbledon, on 30 December 1906. Ethel was living at 47 Haydon’s Road, as was another single mother, Florence Clark, whose daughter, Elsie Florence, was baptised the same day. The address seemed unlikely to be a coincidence, and searching for it online I soon discovered that it was the Wimbledon Home of the Southwark Diocesan Association for the Care of Friendless Girls from 1901-21. In 1910 Arthur was adopted by the Rapsons.

It seems that it was probably sometime around 1906 that Richard learned to ring. Though he’s listed on the roll of honour as a Wimbledon ringer the first record of him ringing is on the tenor for a quarter peal of Grandsire Doubles at Collier’s Wood on 17 May 1908. He’s then recorded as ringing the second to a quarter of Bob Minor at “Mitcham” on Whit Sunday 1910 (Pentecost, 15 May that year). At this time Christ Church Collier’s Wood was often recorded as Mitcham, so it’s not clear whether this quarter peal was rung there or at SS Peter and Paul, Mitcham parish church. Another quarter peal (of Grandsire Doubles) was rung on 20 May following the local memorial service for King Edward VII.

A third daughter, Florence Bertha Rapson, was born on 14 August 1910 and baptised on 25 September at Christ Church. The family were then living at 35 Norman Road, Wimbledon. At the 1911 census the family were still at Norman Road.

A fourth daughter, Winifred Agnes Rapson, was born on 15 March 1917. By this stage of the war it was becoming increasingly likely that Richard would be called up. Pressure on manpower meant that those with lower medical ratings were being brought in as much as possible to release fitter men for front line roles.

On 16 January 1918 a notice was sent from the National Service London Region office at Newington Causeway, London, SE1, instructing Rapson to “present youself again for medical examination on the 2nd Feby 1918, at the hour of 9.30 am at Bishopsgate Institute EC2.” On 22 January he wrote back complaining that he had already attended a medical examination at Camberwell Baths on Monday 6 January 1918 and had been placed in Grade 3. Further he “cannot afford to lose any more time from work and if I have to attend at Bishopsgate Institute I should be entitled to a railway warrant or my fare refunded, besides losing the half day from work it will cost nearly 2/- for railway fare.”

It appears his employer, the Wimbledon Education Committee had also been trying to get an exemption as the local military service tribunal wrote to Mr F Challenor of Durnsford Road Scool, Wimbledon on 2 Feburary 1918 to explain that Rapson’s case would be heard at the next tribunal sitting. He appears to have had to have had another medical on 14 March 1918 at Camberwell Baths. He was again placed in Grade 3. This was all to no avail, and Rapson was required to present himaself for service on 5 April. He was recorded as being 5’11¼”, with a 35​½” chest, fresh complexion, brown eyes and brown and grey hair. He was then posted to the Royal Marine Engineers on 13 April 1918. This corps was raised to support Admiralty building projects at home. Rapson was passed fit to be employed as a fitter, so his day-to-day activities probably changed very little from what he had been doing before he was called up. Unfortunately his record gives no detail of where he was posted during his service, just that he was demobilised on 24 March 1919.

Arthur Tidman emigrated to Australia in 1924. A possible death record is found in Queensland on 22 December 1936. On this his mother is described as Louisa Rapson, and his father as Arthur. Louisa was of course his birth mother’s name, Rapson the surname of his adoptive family, but it’s not clear where the name Arthur came from.

Maud Ruth Rapson married William Barnard Ball in 1928. In 1939 they were living at 19 Evelyn Road, Wimbledon. William had the somewhat unusual job of evangelist, so was presumably working for a church. He was also a Wimbledon ARP warden. It seems they may have had 7 children between 1929 and 1940 (only one other Ball-Rapson marriage seems to be recorded in the GRO indices, but that is several years earlier), though none of them are resident in 1939, presumably having been evacuated.

Florence Bertha Rapson married James C F Austin in 1936. In 1939 they were living at 69 The Crescent, Welwyn, Hertfordshire. James is recorded as a baker. They seem to have one child with them and four lodgers. The child was presumably Beryl F Rapson, born in 1937. It appears another daughter was born much later, Margaret G Austin, in 1951.

The only other record that’s been found of Rapson ringing is on 8 May 1938 at Wimbledon, 960 changes of Grandsire Doubles (halfmuffled) to mark the death of another Wimbledon ringer, Edgar Baker, on 30 April.

In 1939 Rapson and his wife and youngest daughter, Winifred, were still living at 35 Norman Road. Her surname was crossed through and changed to Oliver, leading us to her marriage to Ernest J Oliver in either later 1940 or early 1941. They would have a son, Richard M Oliver, in 1941.

Richard Rapson’s death was registered in the 4th quarter 1952 in the Surrey North Western Registration District.

Bells of Peace – 19 July 1919

While we now tend to think of the war ending with the Armistice of 11 November 1918 the greatest celebrations at the time were on 19 July 1919. This followed the signing of formal peace treaties in late June, most famously the Treaty of Versailles with Germany on 28 June.

In London there was a great parade, this also included the first appearance of the Cenotaph on Whitehall, designed by Lutyens, in its initial form it was wood and plaster.

Around the country ringing took a prominent place in local celebrations as can be seen in The Ringing World from 25 July (page 298) onwards. The reports show that ringing wasn’t always on the official “Peace Day”, though quite a lot was. Some made an early start of it, with at least two reports stating start for peals of around 5 am, seemingly due to a desire to lay claim to the first peal of the day.

The main London parade also include bellringer and VC winner Serjeant William Henry Johnson of Worksop.

The peals continued for several months. For example, Putney only managed its peace peal in October 1919, an earlier attempt having come to grief after two hours ringing.

John Harley Bridges Hesse (5 December 1872 – 18 October 1946)

This is the seventh in the series on the men who rang in the officers’ peals of 1919, Hesse rang the tenor at Putney.  He is also listed on the Surrey Association roll of honour as a Kingston ringer.

A middle-aged man in the uniform of a major of the Army Service Corps. His right sleeve also carries three "wound stripes". Other men in uniform can be seen behind

Hesse from the photo of the band which rang at South Croydon on 3 May 1919 (he is front left in the full photo)

Hesse was born in Sealcote, Punjab, British India (now Sialkot, Pakistan) on 5 December 1872. His father, John Valentine Hesse was an officer in the 58th (Rutlandshire) Foot (which later became 2nd Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment). His mother, Ellen McGhie Bridges was originally from London, though her father subsequently had a substantial farm in Devon. They married in Jersey on 8 January 1863. Hesse had two older sisters, Rose Ethelind, born 6 April 1866, Azimgarh (Uttar Pradesh) and Ellen Margaret, born 13 July 1868, Benares (now Varanasi).
His father’s regiment returned to the UK in 1874, until it was posted to South Africa in 1879 due to the Zulu War. It seems that Ellen and the children at least settled in Teignmouth, or at least that’s where they were for the 1881 census. Hesse’s paternal grandfather was Vicar of Rowberrow, Somerset until his death in 1878 (while his great-uncle was Rector of Chiddingfold with Haslemere). After that his grandmother settled in Wrington, which began a long association between the Hesse family and the village.
Hesse followed his father and uncle to Sherborne School, and then after a period cramming with the Rector of Melbury Osmond (who seems to have had a sideline as a private tutor) in 1891, he went to University College Bristol to study engineering. By 1901 he was in Belfast under articles as a mechanical engineer at the famous Harland and Wolff shipbuilding yard: he was also introducing method ringing to Belfast and helping to raise standards within the Irish Association more generally.
Not long after he moved to London. He seems to have been based close to Fulham as he became a regular member of the band at All Saints. He may have been working at Thorneycroft’s yard in Chiswick as he certainly had close connections with Thorneycroft later. By 1905 he was in partnership with Gerald Savory at the Teddington Motor Car and Launch Works, Twickenham Road, Teddington. In addition to cars and boats (for which the Hesse Patent Reversing Gear was a key selling point) the firm also got involved in engines for aeroplanes. At this time Hesse was living in Kingston (5 Downhall Villas), and regular ringer there. On 24 February 1906 he married Phyllis Winifred Young at All Saints Kingston. He was now 33, she was just 19. She was living with her mother at The Lodge, Kingston Road, Teddington. By 1911 the couple were living at 15 Bolton Gardens, Teddington, along with their first child, John William Valentine Hesse, who had been born on 16 February 1908.
In January 1913 the partnership with Savory was broken, with Savory becoming the sole owner, although Hesse initially continued as a manager. The third partner, Robert Bamford, took over what had primarily been a showroom in Chelsea, and began a new firm, which would become known as Aston Martin. In May 1913 Hesse moved to become manager of Thorneycroft’s vehicle repair workshop on Vauxhall Bridge Road.
Given his father’s military service it’s no surprise that Hesse was fairly quick to offer his skills following the outbreak of war, though he was overage. In fact one of his earliest interventions related to the restrictions on ringing that were introduced under the Defence of the Realm Acts, the Ringing World of the 30 October 1914 carried a letter from him explaining that an aviator he knew had a few years earlier told Hesse that the bells of Weybridge were very clearly audible while flying at considerable height, Hesse had suggested that College Youths practices should finish before dark even before official restrictions on ringing after dark were introduced.
He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Army Service Corps (ASC) on 25 January 1915, and initially worked as a vehicle inspector at Aldershot. At the start of May 1915 he was briefly posted to the ASC depot at Grove Park, London, before proceeding to France on 13 May 1915. Here he joined No 358 Motor Transport Repair Unit. He was promoted captain on 1 August 1915 and attached to No 2 Heavy Repair Shop (320 Motor Transport Company) at Rouen. Around this time he was also granted leave home to the UK as his mother was ill and subsequently died. He was Mentioned in Despatches in the 1916 New Year Honours (one of the first ringers to be so honoured). While engaged in censoring letters, he realised that one of the men in his unit was also a ringer, a rather alarmed Private H Harrington was summoned to see the captain, to discover that Hesse just wanted to talk about ringing. At the end of 1916 he had 6 weeks sick with trench fever and jaundice, including some time convalescing at Cape Mentone. He was promoted acting major on 20 January 1917 and posted as workshop manager to No 4 Heavy Repair Shop (899 Motor Transport Company) at St Omer. He was ill again in mid-1917 and was granted sick leave for three weeks to the UK, returning to duty on 1 July 1917. In October he left the repair shop, returning to the vehicle inspection branch. In March he returned to the UK, reverting to the rank of captain. It had been decided that he would be more valuable to the war effort returning to Thornycroft, working under the Ministry of Munitions on their military contracts, rather than in the army. He relinquished his commission on 14 April 1918, retaining the honorary rank of major. It’s not clear exactly what work he did, he may have contributed to work on their coastal motor boats given his patent on reversing gear. He also seems to have to some degree reverted to his pre-war work at Vauxhall Bridge Road. It seems to have been at this time that the family moved to Haslemere, where he would become tower captain for many years, and first Master of the Guildford Diocesan Guild following the creation of that diocese. Once the war ended he continued to work for Thornycroft until his eventual retirement. He remained closely associated with Wrington too, and died there on 18 October 1946. He had two further sons, Peter Harley Frederick Legrew Hesse in 1919 and Rodney Harley Legrew Hesse in 1925. All three sons followed their father to Sherborne.

Cyril Frederick Johnston (9 May 1884 – 30 March 1950)

This is the sixth in the series on the men who rang in the officers’ peals of 1919, Johnston rang the seventh bell at Putney.  He is also listed on the Surrey Association roll of honour as a Croydon ringer.

A head and shoulders photo of a man with a large moustache wearing military uniform. He is standing just inside the left hand end of an arch over a church doorway.

Cyril Frederick Johnston taken from the photo of the band which rang at South Croydon on 3 May 1919 (he is back, second from left in the full photo)

Johnston probably needs the least introduction of all the members of the original band. He was born on 9 May 1884, the son of Arthur Anderson Johnston, partner in what was then the firm of Gillett, Bland & Johnston.  Arthur was the nephew of Arthur Anderson MP who founded P&O, and Arthur worked for P&O until the death of his uncle, when he bought into the then firm of Gillett and Bland.  Prior to his joining the firm had been involved only in clockmaking, but following the death of Bland in 1884, bell founding was added, initially purely for clock bells.

Cyril was educated at Whitgift School, Croydon (where he rose to colour sergeant in the school’s cadet corps), and then joined his father in the firm in 1902.  He was then formally apprenticed to his father for four years until 1907, when he became a partner.  By that time he had already been making initial experiments with tuning bells, and was increasingly involved in promoting projects of recasting or augmenting rings.  On the night of the 1911 census he was staying in Wimborne Minster, presumably in connection with the recasting, rehanging and augmentation of the ring there that year.

Following the outbreak of war he seems to have initially tried for a commission in the Motor Transport section of the Army Service Corps.  By the time he was actually gazetted to the Horse Transport section on 26 September 1914 he had already joined the 1st Public Schools’ Battalion (later to become 18th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers) as a private on 3 September – all ranks of these battalions had been pupils at public schools.  He was then commissioned as a second lieutenant in the same battalion on 27 October.  The four Public Schools Battalions trained around Epsom. On 2 June 1915 Johnston was promoted to lieutenant, on 26 June the battalion was formed into 98th Brigade with the other three Public Schools Battalions.  In July Johnston began to have health issues, and began to have extended periods of leave, this meant he did not go overseas with the battalion in November 1915, and was transferred to 28th Battalion, one of two reserve battalions for the Public Schools’ Battalions.

Three-quarter length photo portray of a moustached man in military uniform.  The cap and collar badges are the flaming grenade of the Royal Fusiliers

Johnston photographed as a Royal Fusiliers officer © IWM (HU 116434)

Eventually he was diagnosed with a hernia, which he blamed on ringing a 2 ton bell in 1913, he was operated on by the famous abdominal surgeon Sir Arbuthnot Lane on 13 December 1915.  Although the operation was a success, the amount of time he had spent on leave meant that he was required to relinquish his commission on 2 March 1916.  However, his recovery continued, and on 18 May 1916 he was recommissioned, now in the (socially) elite Grenadier Guards.  He joined the 3rd Battalion in France on 26 September 1916.  On 22 October his father died suddenly after playing golf at Mitcham Common.  He was granted leave to return home for the inquest and funeral but had returned to the front by the time of a Surrey Association meeting at Streatham in mid-November.

Johnston & Gillett had begun contributing to the war effort quite quickly, initially making ammunition boxes.  Their existing strengths in brass founding and making clocks were soon turned to the manufacture of artillery fuzes.  At some point after the death of Arthur Johnston, it was decided that Cyril could make a greater contribution to the war effort by leaving front line service as a subaltern, and being released to the Ministry of Munitions to return home and run the foundry’s war work.  Initially he remained a serving officer, receiving army pay and allowances, but in early 1918 he was one of a number of officers who were actually working in other roles to be demobilised (to save the army money).  The final formal relinquishment of this second commission did not come until 7 February 1921.

Barnard Halsey Tyrwhitt-Drake (22 August 1882 – 25 January 1936)

This is the fifth in the series on the men who rang in the officers’ peals of 1919.

A fairly young man in army uniform, but also a clergyman's "dog-collar", his cap has the cross pattee badge of the Royal Army Chaplains' Department

The Revd Barnard Halsey Tyrwhitt-Drake, taken from the photo of the band which rang the peal attempt on 3 May 1919 (he is front right on the full photo)

Tyrwhitt-Drake was from a family that had provided several MPs for Amersham, with the family’s principal seat being Shardloes.  They descended from Sir Richard Drake, cousin and agent to Sir Francis Drake.  Like many upper-class families, they also provided a number of military officers, and clergy.  Barnard Halsey Tyrwhitt-Drake was the grandson of an army officer who fought at Waterloo and subsequently became one of the family’s MPs.  His father, William Thomas Tyrwhitt-Drake entered the clergy, and was the Vicar of Great Gaddesden when Barnard was born on 22 August 1882.  He was educated at Tyttenhanger Lodge, St Alban’s,  Haileybury College, and then went up to Pembroke College, Cambridge in 1901, and it was there he really took up ringing (he had had some lessons at home).  After graduation in 1904 he was admitted to Wells Theological College for ordination training.  He was ordained deacon on 21 December 1905 and priest in 1906, both in Wakefield Diocese, serving a curacy at Almondsbury, Huddersfield, until 1909.  He then had a year in South Africa with the Railway Mission in the Diocese of Grahamstown, before returning to Hertfordshire for a further curacy at Hitchin until 1912, then Sandy, Bedfordshire, before taking up his first incumbency at Thundridge at the end of 1914.  He married Dorothy Doncaster at Ewell, Surrey, on 11 November 1914.  He was elected president of the Hertford County Association in early 1916.

He was interviewed by the Chaplain General on 27 May 1916 and accepted for service as a Chaplain to the Forces, which began on 19 June 1916, initially at Clipstone Camp in Nottinghamshire and then the Royal Engineers training centre in Newark, before proceeding to France on 20 June 1917.  He was invalided home sick in April 1918, and decided not to his extend his contract when it expired on 20 June 1918 as he was needed in his own parish.

After the war he remained at Thundridge until 1925, then three years at Wiggington, Hertfordshire, followed by a move to Norfolk, first six years in Watlington, then in 1934 to Walsoken where he died on 25 January 1936.  He and Dorothy had had three children: Barnard Peter in 1915, Dorothy J in 1917 and Guy W in 1922.

The Duffield brothers: William Charles (13 November 1895 – 28 May 1984) and Edward Patrick (21 December 1898 – 5 January 1995)

The fourth in this series on the ringers in the officer’s peals of 1919 is effectively combined with what would logically be the sixth post: Edward Patrick Duffield rang the fourth in the original peal at Putney while his older brother, William Charles Duffield rang the sixth.

William was born in Tasburgh, Norfolk on 13 November 1895, and Edward (Ted) on 21 December 1898, sons of William Lant Duffield and Florence Rachel (nee Fuller). They had an elder sister, Rachel Constance, and several younger brothers, of whom James Frederic (Jim) would also serve in the war. Their father was a miller and was steadily increasing his interests in local mills. He was also a ringer and actively encouraged the family to follow him.

The brothers were educated at the City of Norwich school before starting to work for their father. Following floods in 1912 there seem to have been some financial difficulties, and this may be the reason why both William Charles and Ted had moved to Sharnbrook, Bedfordshire, and were working for William Hipwell at Stoke Mills when war broke out.
William Charles joined the Bedfordshire Yeomanry very soon after the outbreak of war and had two spells in France. He was then commissioned into 3rd Battalion, Norfolk Regiment, in 1918 and posted to Egypt where he was attached to 123rd Outram’s Rifles, an Indian Army regiment. He contracted dysentery (again, his two spells in France were also terminated by this illness) on 27 October 1918. He was invalided home on 22 January 1919, arriving at Southampton on 22 February. He was still being treated at 2nd London General Hospital, based in St Mark’s College, Chelsea, at the time of the Putney peal.
After the war, following a few years in South Africa, William Charles developed the family business. As Duffield’s Feeds it’s still a family business today. Ted was a salesman for the firm and lived in Colchester where he was a town councillor (and mayor). He also played croquet to national standard. His war service began only in May 1918 when he joined the RAF. He was still in training when the Armistice was declared. On finally completing his training he was commissioned on 20 January 1919, but demobilised the same day.
The Duffield brothers rang in a peal at Saxlingham on 18 June 1914 when the average age of the ringers was eighteen and a half years old, then the youngest peal band on record.

Eight young men in suits, four standing beind, four seated in front. Positioned in front of the porc of a flint-built church

Back Row from left Edward P Duffield, Alfred Funnell, Cecil Chamberlin, James Duffield, Front Row. William C Duffield, George H Cross, Frank Copeman, Bertie F Turner. All the members of the band served in the war with Alfred Funnell and Bertie F Turner killed. Image courtesy of Jan and Dr Jeff Fox of the Saxlingham War Memorials website (and ringers at Saxlingham)

Major J H R Freeborn FRIBA FRICS (1887-1971), Benhilton’s almost Olympian hammer thrower

The third ringer to be covered in this series on those who rang in the officers’ peals of 1919 is Major J H R Freeborn who has already been extensively covered on this blog as he was a ringer at Benhilton before the war, although he was not actually included on the original Surrey Association roll of honour. The original blog post on him is therefore reposted below for completeness. He was a captain at the time of the peal, only gaining the rank of major during the Second World War.

Head and shoulders sot of a moustached man in army uniform, standing just in front of the right hand end of the arch over a church doorway.

Major John Harley Bridges Hesse, from the photo taken of the band at the peal attempt at South Croydon on 3 May 1919 (he is back, second from right, in the full photo)


John Howard Richard Freeborn moved to Sutton after graduating from Cambridge in 1914. He rang at Benhilton several times in 1915, but then – despite having lost the sight of his left eye following an accident in his youth – managed to obtain a commission in the York and Lancaster Regiment. His existing injury meant he had no overseas service, and finished the war a captain having spent much of his period in the army as an adjutant to regiments of the Volunteer Training Corps (the Sutton unit of which he had been involved with even before receiving his commission). He was a regular ringer in Benhilton again from late 1918 into 1919. He was commissioned again in the Second World War, that time serving between 1940 and 1943, and leaving the army with the honorary rank of major, after which he was universally known as Major Freeborn. He is…

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Edward Maurice Atkins (11 July 1890 – 16 September 1964)

This is the second in the series on the men who rang in the officers’ peals of 1919. This post is about the man who rang the second bell in the original attempt at Putney, and conducted all three attempts.

A moustached man wearing the uniform of an officer in the Royal Engineers, with a wound strip on his sleeve

Atkins cropped from the photo of the May 1919 band. He is front, second from right in the full photo.

Maurice (as he was usually known) was the son, nephew, and grandson of clergymen. He was born in Leicester on 11 July 1890, the son of Edward James Atkins and Edith May Atkins (it’s not clear if his parents were related to each other). His father then had a curacy in Foxton, where his sister, Dorothy May Atkins, was born on 25 March 1894. By 1901 the family were living at the Vicarage in Isham, Northamptonshire. It was there he learned to ring, as did his sister Dorothy.
He went to Wellingborough Grammar School and from there to St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, where he read mathematics and mechanical science. He graduated in 1912, and was articled to civil engineer JB Bell. He was a month short of completing his articles when he was commissioned into the Royal Engineers on 1 October 1914. After initial training at Chatham, he was posted to a field company of the New Army. He seems to have been based around Shrewsbury, or at least found some time to ring there over Christmas 1914. He was posted to France with 104 Field Company, 24 Division, on 1 September 1915. The division was soon thrown into the Battle of Loos, and suffered heavy casualties. In early January 1916 he had a brief home leave.
Then on 14 January 1916, near Hooge, Belgium, on a bright moonlit night, he was moving down a trench when he was hit in the left thigh by a sniper’s bullet. The bullet hit the inside of his thigh and passed right through, breaking the femur. He was evacuated to a dressing station at Vlammertinghe, then by motor ambulance to 10 Casualty Clearing Station. After then being taken on No 7 Stationary Hospital at Boulogne, he was finally brought back to England on 25 February 1916. He spent time in various military hospitals, and had to undergo several operations, also contracting the bacterial infection erysipelas. By October 1917 it was clear that he would not recover sufficiently to return to action and he was discharged from the army, though he continued to receive treatment. He was given a desk job in the Ministry of Munitions, and was living in north west London. He still couldn’t walk far without a stick when he conducted the officers’ peal.
Perhaps because of his wound he did not return to practice as an engineer after the war, but instead became a patent examiner at the Patent Office in Holborn in July 1920. A year later he called a peal of Bob Minor at Isham, the first inside for his sister, and first for the treble ringer, Miss Frances Canaan. On 13 September he married Frances at Isham, with both managing to ring for the service. They settled in London, ringing primarily at St Augustine’s, Kilburn. Their son, David E Atkins was born on 11 November 1924. On Atkins’ retirement from the Patent Office they moved to Teignmouth. He continued ringing until shortly before his death on 16 September 1964.

Albert Edward Christian York Bramble (22 June 1894 – 22 April 1974)

This is the first in a series of posts on the ringers who took part in the peals rung by all-officer bands in 1919, it covers the man who rang the treble.

A young man in RAF uniform stood front of the flint wall of a church

York Bramble, cropped from the photo of the band which rang at Croydon in May 1919. He is back right in the full photo.

Bramble, or York-Bramble as he later became, was born at South Cerney, Gloucestershire, on 22 June 1894, the oldest of four children of Albert Edmund Bramble and Alice Emily, nee Swain. Albert senior does not seem to have had very steady employment, with censuses and baptismal records giving a variety of occupations from journeyman baker, salesman, labourer, and eventually in Albert junior’s service records, male nurse. Albert junior’s brother, Edmund George Robert Victor Bramble would also become an RAF officer.

York-Bramble was educated at Cirencester Grammar School 1905-1910, and from there went to the University of Bristol to train as a teacher 1912-1914. It was here he learned to ring. He qualified First Class in his professional training, and with Distinction in Mathematics. He was then employed by London County Council, and having finished his training placements, began work at Kennington Road Boys’ School, Lambeth in September 1914.

In March 1915 he joined up at the Duke of York’s Barracks in Chelsea. He initially joined 2/2nd London Casualty Clearing Station, a Territorial unit of the Royal Army Medical Corps, but a year later he was transferred to 3/4th London Field Ambulance, by which time he was a serjeant. During some of his early training he was based in Richmond Park where he would probably have had his first sight of the Royal Flying Corps’ balloons, either in the park itself, or at the Roehampton Club.

In February 1917 he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps and began training with them. He was appointed a Balloon Officer in May 1917, and also seems to have come up with some sort of balloon-related invention. He was posted to France in May 1917, but returned to England in December. He had to relinquish his commission on 24 July 1918 due to an unspecified illness. He returned to his old job at Kennington Road.

He had married Marjorie S Lloyd in Brighton in 1917, and from 1921 was teaching in Brighton. He was also involved in a local gliding club, and just before the Second World War qualified as a private pilot. In December 1939 he rejoined the RAF, serving in technical roles, and eventually rising to the rank of squadron leader.

In 1955 he founded the College of Campanology to try to improve teaching of ringing. Due to his somewhat difficult personality this was sadly rather a failure. He died on 22 April 1974.

Albert Ernest Wood (22 February 1875 – 14 March 1947)

The next light touch profile is for Albert Ernest Wood (and Lives). Almost 40 at the outbreak of war he did not join up into June 1918 but he was very soon sent to France as a labourer with the RAF.

He was one of eight children of John Wood and Caroline (nee Charman). The family moved around Surrey a little, but Albert eventually settled in Nutfield not long before the outbreak of war.

He’d married Sarah Ann Grove in Croydon on 28 May 1898, and their son Ernest John was born on 14 July 1898. While Albert and Ernest are found living with some of Albert’s siblings in both 1901 and 1911, Sarah is not with them, and hasn’t been traced elsewhere. However, when Albert joined up she was listed as his next of kin and living at 20 Tower Terrace, Nutfield, and electoral registers show the whole family living there after the war. Both Albert and Ernest are shown as being absent voters on the Naval and Military list in the immediate post war years but I’ve not been able to confirm details of Ernest’s service.

Ernest married in 1934, and around this time Sarah also disappears from the electoral rolls, although there is no obvious death registration. However, by 1939 Albert is listed as a widow in the 1939 Registers.