I’d previously read about the cache described in a recent newspaper article on the Cuckfield Museum’s website, but wasn’t absolutely sure previously that it was the same Attwater family that crop up as ringers at St Leonard’s and Immanuel churches in Streatham. The newspaper article leaves no doubt though, as it mentions the death of Ernest during the war.
Until recently I had been unable to identify the man listed as H F Daniels under Immanuel, Streatham. I had found various references in ringing reports to a J S Daniels ringing at both Immanuel and St Leonard’s, but had been unable to find him in the censuses to see if he had relatives who might be H F Daniels. However, while researching the Rayner brothers of Benhilton in order to write their pages, I found a peal report from 1912 for Immanuel rung by John Stenton Daniels and seven of his employees in his building and decorating firm. Interestingly, these employees included William Mardell, George Liddiard and Ernest Attwater, all also listed as Immanuel ringers, along with Ernest’s brother Frank, listed as a St Leonard’ ringer. Another member of the band was Henry Rumble, who we briefly met in connection with Thomas Arthur Talbot
With the additional information as too his occupation, I finally managed to track down the Daniels family in the 1911 census. John Stenton Daniels had been mistranscribed as John Hinton Daniels. He had a son called Henry Vernon Daniels, which seemed promising, despite the discrepancy in middle initial. Accroding to the roll “H F Daniels” served with the RAF, a quick search of Discovery for Henry Vernon Daniels found an RAF record in AIR 79/1943/215989 who also had earlier service in the Royal Naval Air Service under ADM 188/591/15989. Examination of the records show that they are one and the same person as the Henry Vernon Daniels in the census.
Googling also found a catalogue entry for some planning records held by Essex County Archives as D/RR/5/3/27 for a house built in Rochford after the war, owned by John Stenton Daniels, and the archtiects given as J S Daniels and Son, the RAF record described Henry Vernon Daniels as a draughtsman, and the Streatham addresses given on the planning record also match those in the RAF record. This web search also found
Five men are listed on the roll as having been ringers at Streatham, Immanuel. The most complete information so far researched relates to the man who did not return, Ernest Attwater. He was the youngest of six brothers, all ringers, originally from the town of Cuckfield in Sussex. Two of his brother, Isaac James and Frank Norman, also served in the war and are listed on the roll as ringers at Streatham’s original parish church, St Leonard’s – it is not clear why they were divided in this way as records show they all divided their ringing between the two churches. A fourth brother, Louis, had also moved to London and rang at both churches too – he later became tower captain at St Leonard’s.
Louis and Isaac James had moved to London in the 1890s, Frank Norman and Ernest around 1912. Ernest was a carpenter, but also a keen cricketer. After moving to London he joined the ground staff at Surrey County Cricket Club, playing first as an amateur and then for the young professionals’ side. Just before war broke out he played in a ringers’ cricket match at Mitcham, he was on the team of the Ancient Society of College Youths, their opponents (the winners) the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths. A photo of the two teams was published in The Ringing World, Ernest appears the most relaxed in his whites, he took two wicket for 19 runs.
Ernest joined up on 9 September 1914, he opted to enlist in a New Army Battalion, 9th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment. He stated that he had previously served in a Territorial Force battalion of the regiment until leaving the county. He gave his occupation as foreman carpenter and pro cricketer. With his previous military experience, and work experience supervising others, it is no surprise that he received rapid promotion to serjeant. It probably also helped that the battalion CO was also a sportsman, albeit of the big game hunting type, in India.
In February 1916 he became a qualified machine gunner, and serjeant of the machine gun section. In March 1916 he spent just over a fortnight in hospital, although the reason is not given. Then, exactly two years after joining up, he was posted to an officer cadet course. On 25 January 1917 he was commissioned into the Machine Gun Corps. His marriage to Alice Ethel Hulls was registered in the first quarter of 1917. He was posted to France with the newly formed 245 Machine Gun Company in July 1917. He was granted two weeks’ home leave in November 1917 – by this time Alice was several months pregnant. Their son, Mervyn Richard Attwater was born early in 1918. Sadly, in March 1918 the German’s launched their great Spring Offensive, and soon the British Army was falling back in some disarray. 245 Machine Gun Company was part of 50th Division. On 23 March 1918 the company was defending the crossings over the Somme at Brie, at around 7pmthe Officer Commanding was informed that Attwater had been killed during heavy shelling. He was subsequently buried in the town cemetery of Foucaucourt-en-Santerre by the Germans who held the town from 26 March. It is not clear how his body came to be laid there, a few kilometres to the west of where he was killed. His company was based here for a short time just before the town fell to the Germans, but whether they had taken his body that far, and had to leave it, or whether it was recovered by the Germans from where he had fallen is unclear.
After the war, his widow took up the option to add a personal inscription to the standard Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone. It reads, “Until we meet, your little son Mervyn”. That meeting would not take place until 1996 when Wing Commander Mervyn Richard Attwater DSO DFC died in Arundel – he had a distinguished record as an RAF Bomber Command pilot during and after the Second World War. Like so many of the young widows made by the war, Alice soon remarried, and had six more children with her new husband.
In addition to the Surrey Association roll of honour, Ernest is commemorated on the Surrey CCC memorial at the Oval, three memorials in his home town of Cuckfield and the main memorial in his wife’s home town of Arundel – her father was a local butcher and town councillor, some old photos of the memorial suggest it was located outside his shop.