Welcome to halfmuffled. As this blog develops, I’ll be telling the stories of the men named on the First World War roll of honour of the Surrey Association of Church Bell Ringers, at least so far as I’ve been able to uncover them. Some men are still yet to be identified.
The roll was written up at the end of the Sixth Volume of the association’s peal books. A scan of the five pages which comprise the roll can be found on the association’s website. The first two pages list the 24 members of the association who died during the course of the war. The remaining three pages list the other 128 members who served and survived. The hand written roll was probably created by one of those 128, Jesse Beams of Ewell (for many years also the village postman, following in his father’s footsteps both in that role and as a ringer). Certainly the ringing newspaper, The Ringing World, reporting a Surrey Association meeting in 1914 (shortly before the outbreak of war) recorded that he was responsible for writing up the fifth volume, and during the first few years of the war it also carried regular adverts from him to write up peal and quarter peal certificates. He’s also the only man for whom a full forename is given on the roll, rather than one or more initials.
The names in the roll were collected from the various towers from which the members came, and were first published in the association’s first post-war annual report. Both that typescript list, and the final roll, appear to contain a number of errors. This has contributed to the difficulties in identifying some of the men, along with the destruction of many army records through enemy action in the Second World War.
The name of the blog may need a little explanation (for non-ringers). Traditionally, bells are half-muffled (by means of applying a leather pad to one side of the clapper) for funerals and other occasions of mourning. Today, one the most common times this happens is for Remembrance Sunday, making it seem an appropriate title for a blog related to the remembrance of ringers. Half-muffled also seems apt now that none of the men who served in the First World War can speak for themselves. However, some present members of the association rang with men named in their later years, and ringing often being a family activity, one current member has both grandfather and a great-uncle listed (both survived). Audio of halfmuffled ringing can be found on soundcloud (thanks to Simon Bond). The clip is of the bells of Magdalen College, Oxford, ringing for All Souls Day 2012. Alternatively, a short clip of a single half-muffled bell, the tenor at St Mary’s Putney for Remembrance Sunday 2012.
The 24 men who did not survive are also commemorated on the roll of honour of the Central Council for Church Bell Ringers, which is kept at St Paul’s Cathedral. Not all are listed as Surrey Association members or under their Surrey towers. It is also obvious that there were other men who were ringing at towers in the Surrey area were killed but who were not Surrey members. However, their deaths must still have affected the Surrey ringing community, so I will also be providing information about these men.