Category Archives: 1915

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.