George Robert Kew (Lives profile) was the eldest son (of three) of Charles Robert Kew and his wife Annie (nee Waters). According to the Surrey Association roll of honour the middle son, Harold William Kew also served in the First World War with the Royal Irish Rifles but no other records have been found to confirm this. However, given his date of birth it is highly likely that his overseas service would have been after the Armistice so he would not have qualified for any campaign medals, the records for which are the main surviving source for British Army personnel. Both are listed as being ringers at Burstow.
Charles Robert Kew and Annie Waters had married at Horsham, Surrey, on 27 April 1895. He was the son of John and Hannah Kew (both originally from Wiltshire). Censuses indicate that Charles was born in Brixton, but the family obviously moved out to the Burstow area as they can be found together in 1881 in Horley. Annie was from Reigate.
It was over three years after the marriage that George Robert was born, on 5 November 1898 at Horley. He was baptised at St Bartholomew’s, Horley on 12 February 1899, although even then their “abode” as listed in the baptismal register was Burstow. Harold William followed on 24 July 1900 in Burstow. He was presumably baptised at St Bartholomew’s, Burstow, but the pages for the several years are missing from the microfilmed version of the register that is available on Ancestry.
By the 1901 census the family’s address was given as, The Stables, Rede Hall, Burstow. Rede Hall being one of three manor houses around Burstow. Charles is listed as a coachman, George Robert is listed only as Robert, which may suggest that that was how he was known in the family.
The final member of the family, Edward, was born on 10 March 1903 and baptised on 7 June 1903 at Burstow. By 1911 the family were all still at The Stables, Rede Hall.
It is not clear when George Robert and Harold William learned to ring. No specific mention has been found in either Bell News or Ringing World. However, ringing in Burstow probably received a boost in 1912 when a new rector, the Revd Edward James Teesdale arrived from Suffolk in 1912. He and the gardener he brought with him, Charles Herbert Varo (who was killed in action in 1917), were both experienced ringers.
George Robert appears to have been a conscript, he would probably have been “deemed to have enlisted” immediately following his 18th birthday on 5 November 1916. However he may have spent a little time on reserve, as the war gratuity paid out after his death suggests active service from around February 1918. It seems he may have gone directly to a Bedfordshire Regiment battalion. Others around him on the medal roll have entries for service with a Training Reserve battalion or similar, but not George Robert. He seems to have been posted to 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment after his training. They were part of 54 Brigade in 18 Division.
They had already gone through quite a tough time in the early part of the German Spring Offensive. On 24 April the brigade was ordered to take part in a counter-attack designed to dislodge the Germans from Villers-Brettoneux. They were just south of the neighbouring village of Cachy, on the right of the Australians who would be attacking Villers-Brettoneux itself. In reality the force actually comprised 9th Battalion, London Regiment, (from 175 Brigade in 58 Division) and 7th Battalion, Royal West Kent (Queen’s Own) Regiment (from 53 Brigade). Unfortunately the battalions lost touch in the darkness. 7th Bedfordshires advanced well, initially but were then driven back, and took up positions in shell holes 500 yards west of the road that ran from Villers-Bretonneux to the Bois du Hangard (Hangard Wood). The survivors realised that many of the shell holes were actually held by Germans, and the Germans tried to encourage the Bedfords to surrender, however the battalion was still in touch with 13 Australian Brigade to the north and managed to hold on. Villers-Bretonneux was successfully retaken, coincidentally on the third ANZAC day, commemorating the landings at Gallipoli in 1915. The Bedfords’ war diary records that 70 other ranks were missing.
Annie Kew evidently hoped for more news than just that George Robert was “missing”. She contacted the Red Cross, the record card shows that he was with B Company, and that the family were now livign at Irwell Cottage, Redehall Road. Unusually it also records that he was 19 years old. Sadly there was no news, the Red Cross card shows that a “negatif envoyee” (ie no news) was sent on 14 September 1918. Annie must have been very glad that the Armistice had come by the time that Harold William would have been due to go overseas, though he may have spent time with the army of occupation in Germany.
Harold William Kew (28, Gardener) of Burstow married Dorothy Edith Dunford (29) on 1 April 1929 at Sutton Veny, Wiltshire by banns. The marriage was witnessed by Edward Kew and Doris Edith Dunford. They had one son, Ernest W Kew in 1939. When the 1939 register was compiled on 29 September they were living at 3 Coppingham Cottages, Balcombe. Harold was a jobbing gardener.
Edward Kew married Minnie L Streeter in the Reigate Registration District in 1931. It’s not clear if she was related to the Streeter family of ringers from Redhill. They had two daughters, Sheila P Kew in late 1932 and Marcia M in early 1936. By 1939 they were all living in Irwell Cottage, Redehall Road, along with the now widowed Charles Robert Kew and similarly Minnie’s widowed mother, Minnie M Streeter.