Category Archives: Royal Marines

Army-Navy peal 1914: Frederick Augustus Holden (1884-1931)

This post continues the series on the eight men who rang the first peal by members of the Armed Services, following on from the previous post on William Austin Cooke.

Flight Sergeant Frederick Augustus Holden (31 August 1884-6 August 1931). Served 23 September 1904-11 January 1928.

On his enlistment in the Royal Navy Holden stated he was born in Bath on 31 August 1884, but no birth registration has yet been found. The 1891 census however, while agreeing about the place of birth, states his age as eight (putting his birth in 1882 or 1883, but again no birth registration). His short obituary in The Ringing World in 1931 describes him as about 48. In 1891 he was living at 19 Queen Street, Aldershot, with his grandmother, Emma Squire, a 58-year-old laundress. She is listed as married, but her husband was not present. By 1901 they were both with his aunt, Constance S Sykes and her daughter Vera Isabel Sykes, at 8 Camden Cottages, Church Walk, Weybridge. Emma was now widowed, but though aged 69 still working as a laundress. No occupation is shown for Constance (29), and she is listed as married and only as wife to head of household, but again her husband is not present. A wide range of birthplaces are given: Constance in Cork, Vera in London and Emma in Exeter – was there previous history of military service in the family? To add to the confusion, there a baptismal register entry for Frederick Augustus Holden in Weybridge on 1 April 1898, giving his date of birth as 1 September 1882, and his parents’ names as Henry and Georgina, and Henry’s occupation as storekeeper. Interestingly several of the baptisms around this time were of teenagers. The 1891 census does list a Henry (46), a wine merchant, and Georgina R Holden (28) living at 13(?) London Street, Paddington (right next to Paddington Station). Henry was born on the Isle of Wight and Georgina on the Cape of Good Hope. They also had an 11-month-old daughter, May R, born Kilburn. They have not been traced in the 1901 census.

Also then living in Weybridge was Alfred Winch (listed on the roll of honour as a Leatherhead ringer), who would also go on to become a well known bellringer. At 21, he was a few years older than Holden, but was also working as a house painter. The Bell News of 24 August 1901 (V20 p 201) reports them ringing together at Guildford on 14 July. Holden rang his first peal, at Staines, Middlesex, on 2 November 1901 (treble to Grandsire Triples). He and Winch also rang at All Saints’ Fulham and Holy Trinity, Barking Road. The following year he was also elected a member of the Surrey Association, listed as a Leatherhead ringer (which was also Winch’s tower – Bell News 5 April 1902, V20 p578). John Webb was elected a member at the same time. The rest of the year included various further ringing with Winch in Surrey and nearby. In March 1903 it appears Holden was living at Providence Villa, Fairfield Road, Leatherhead, as that was the address published in Bell News when asking a former ringer at Staines to get in touch with him. The rest of 1903 and into 1904 followed a similar pattern of ringing. The 27 February 1904 issue of Bell News (V22, p587) carries an advert from him seeking work as painter “constancy preferred”, and giving his address as 31 Russell Road, Wimbledon, SW (the same road on which Stanley Smith, of Mitcham, and his family lived). The same advert continued to appear for a couple of months. On 7 May 1904 he rang his 50th peal, rung for the Surrey Association but at All Saints’ Fulham. The band also included Winch, Arthur Otway (both of Leatherhead), J H B Hesse (Kingston).
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William Henry Corbett jr – the first non-army man

William Henry Corbett jr was born at Ashtead on 4 August 1897. His father, also William Henry Corbett, was also a ringer at Ashtead. This makes it quite hard to determine which of them is actually the one meant in many peal reports and similar. He is listed on the original roll of honour as H W Corbett jr, suggesting that he was known as Henry or Harry. So far just one peal report has been found which lists Harry W Corbett as a ringer, rung at Ashtead on 4 August 1919. Unfortunately his service record suggests that he was actually serving in the Army of Occupation in Constantinople at the time! To further confuse matters, there are reports that simply list Henry Corbett among the ringers, but there were other Corbetts in the village one, Fred, was killed in the war, and the CWGC details list his father as Henry Corbett. I’ve not quite managed to confirm the relationships, but the ages suggest that that Henry could have been father of William Henry Corbett sr, and grandfather of William Henry Corbett jr.

By the time he signed up with the Royal Marine Artillery on 17 December 1915 he had followed his father in the garden trade, the father is recorded as a gardener domestic in both the 1901 and 1911 censuses. He joined up in London on 17 December, signing up for a full regular enlistment of 12 years, rather than just joining up for the duration of the war. He seems to have spent a considerable time training at the RMA base at Eastney barracks, Portsmouth – he was not posted to a ship until 26 June 1917, when he was sent to join the armoured cruiser HMS Achilles attached to the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow. In August 1917 Achilles was detached to join the North America & West Indies station to serve in convoy escorts. In early 1918 she returned home to refit, although she was in the dockyard Corbett initially seems to have remained on her books, not formally posted back to Eastney until 1 February 1919 (by which time Achilles had become a training ship). Though the war was over, as a regular Corbett would soon be posted elsewhere, in April he sailed for the Aegean to join the Royal Marine Garrison based on Moudros. From there he was posted to the occupying forces in Constantinople. After a brief hospitalisation with synovitis of the right knee in mid-August he was posted home in November 1919. From 1920 to 1924 he served aboard HMS Warspite. From 1924 to 1926 he was aboard HMS Repulse, this period included taking the Prince of Wales on a royal tour of South Africa. His final ship, in 1927, was HMS Ramillies. Having completed his 12-year enlistment, he was discharged on 16 December 1927. His service record suggests he would return home to Ashtead, so far no trace of further ringing has been found, nor any other evidence as to what he did for the rest of his life.