Category Archives: Kingston

John Harley Bridges Hesse (5 December 1872 – 18 October 1946)

This is the seventh in the series on the men who rang in the officers’ peals of 1919, Hesse rang the tenor at Putney.  He is also listed on the Surrey Association roll of honour as a Kingston ringer.

A middle-aged man in the uniform of a major of the Army Service Corps. His right sleeve also carries three "wound stripes". Other men in uniform can be seen behind

Hesse from the photo of the band which rang at South Croydon on 3 May 1919 (he is front left in the full photo)


Hesse was born in Sealcote, Punjab, British India (now Sialkot, Pakistan) on 5 December 1872. His father, John Valentine Hesse was an officer in the 58th (Rutlandshire) Foot (which later became 2nd Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment). His mother, Ellen McGhie Bridges was originally from London, though her father subsequently had a substantial farm in Devon. They married in Jersey on 8 January 1863. Hesse had two older sisters, Rose Ethelind, born 6 April 1866, Azimgarh (Uttar Pradesh) and Ellen Margaret, born 13 July 1868, Benares (now Varanasi).
His father’s regiment returned to the UK in 1874, until it was posted to South Africa in 1879 due to the Zulu War. It seems that Ellen and the children at least settled in Teignmouth, or at least that’s where they were for the 1881 census. Hesse’s paternal grandfather was Vicar of Rowberrow, Somerset until his death in 1878 (while his great-uncle was Rector of Chiddingfold with Haslemere). After that his grandmother settled in Wrington, which began a long association between the Hesse family and the village.
Hesse followed his father and uncle to Sherborne School, and then after a period cramming with the Rector of Melbury Osmond (who seems to have had a sideline as a private tutor) in 1891, he went to University College Bristol to study engineering. By 1901 he was in Belfast under articles as a mechanical engineer at the famous Harland and Wolff shipbuilding yard: he was also introducing method ringing to Belfast and helping to raise standards within the Irish Association more generally.
Not long after he moved to London. He seems to have been based close to Fulham as he became a regular member of the band at All Saints. He may have been working at Thorneycroft’s yard in Chiswick as he certainly had close connections with Thorneycroft later. By 1905 he was in partnership with Gerald Savory at the Teddington Motor Car and Launch Works, Twickenham Road, Teddington. In addition to cars and boats (for which the Hesse Patent Reversing Gear was a key selling point) the firm also got involved in engines for aeroplanes. At this time Hesse was living in Kingston (5 Downhall Villas), and regular ringer there. On 24 February 1906 he married Phyllis Winifred Young at All Saints Kingston. He was now 33, she was just 19. She was living with her mother at The Lodge, Kingston Road, Teddington. By 1911 the couple were living at 15 Bolton Gardens, Teddington, along with their first child, John William Valentine Hesse, who had been born on 16 February 1908.
In January 1913 the partnership with Savory was broken, with Savory becoming the sole owner, although Hesse initially continued as a manager. The third partner, Robert Bamford, took over what had primarily been a showroom in Chelsea, and began a new firm, which would become known as Aston Martin. In May 1913 Hesse moved to become manager of Thorneycroft’s vehicle repair workshop on Vauxhall Bridge Road.
Given his father’s military service it’s no surprise that Hesse was fairly quick to offer his skills following the outbreak of war, though he was overage. In fact one of his earliest interventions related to the restrictions on ringing that were introduced under the Defence of the Realm Acts, the Ringing World of the 30 October 1914 carried a letter from him explaining that an aviator he knew had a few years earlier told Hesse that the bells of Weybridge were very clearly audible while flying at considerable height, Hesse had suggested that College Youths practices should finish before dark even before official restrictions on ringing after dark were introduced.
He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Army Service Corps (ASC) on 25 January 1915, and initially worked as a vehicle inspector at Aldershot. At the start of May 1915 he was briefly posted to the ASC depot at Grove Park, London, before proceeding to France on 13 May 1915. Here he joined No 358 Motor Transport Repair Unit. He was promoted captain on 1 August 1915 and attached to No 2 Heavy Repair Shop (320 Motor Transport Company) at Rouen. Around this time he was also granted leave home to the UK as his mother was ill and subsequently died. He was Mentioned in Despatches in the 1916 New Year Honours (one of the first ringers to be so honoured). While engaged in censoring letters, he realised that one of the men in his unit was also a ringer, a rather alarmed Private H Harrington was summoned to see the captain, to discover that Hesse just wanted to talk about ringing. At the end of 1916 he had 6 weeks sick with trench fever and jaundice, including some time convalescing at Cape Mentone. He was promoted acting major on 20 January 1917 and posted as workshop manager to No 4 Heavy Repair Shop (899 Motor Transport Company) at St Omer. He was ill again in mid-1917 and was granted sick leave for three weeks to the UK, returning to duty on 1 July 1917. In October he left the repair shop, returning to the vehicle inspection branch. In March he returned to the UK, reverting to the rank of captain. It had been decided that he would be more valuable to the war effort returning to Thornycroft, working under the Ministry of Munitions on their military contracts, rather than in the army. He relinquished his commission on 14 April 1918, retaining the honorary rank of major. It’s not clear exactly what work he did, he may have contributed to work on their coastal motor boats given his patent on reversing gear. He also seems to have to some degree reverted to his pre-war work at Vauxhall Bridge Road. It seems to have been at this time that the family moved to Haslemere, where he would become tower captain for many years, and first Master of the Guildford Diocesan Guild following the creation of that diocese. Once the war ended he continued to work for Thornycroft until his eventual retirement. He remained closely associated with Wrington too, and died there on 18 October 1946. He had two further sons, Peter Harley Frederick Legrew Hesse in 1919 and Rodney Harley Legrew Hesse in 1925. All three sons followed their father to Sherborne.

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Mobilize

On 4 August 1914 regular army units received a one word War Office telegram: “Mobilize” [sic]. Author Richard van Emden tweeted this image of one such telegram as logged by the orderly room of 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards at Tidworth Camp that day.

2nd Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), stationed at Bordon Camp in Hampshire would have received something similar, their war diary notes that the mobilisation order was received at 5:30pm. Serving with them was Walter Markey of Burstow. In fact, from 29 July, units had been ordered on to a “precautionary period”, meaning that guards had to be placed on strategic points, and mobilisation preparations were begun. The Surrey History Centre posted this photo of the battalion on parade at Bordon in August 1914 – presumably Markey is somewhere in the ranks.

A military formation drawn up in ranks on a parade ground, a few barrack buildings visible in the background. At the front of the formation are five officers on horseback

1st Battalion, The Queen’s, on parade at Bordon, August 1914 (SHC ref QRWS/2/13/7)


You can read their full story here.

The London Gazette also published a special supplement with the King’s official notice calling up all army reservists and embodying the Territorial Force. This notice would have set Walter Hodges of Benhilton on the way to his regimental depot at Ayr in order to rejoin the Royal Scots Fusiliers. For pre-war Territorials like George Marriner of and George Naish of Kingston it would have caused them to report to their drill halls where their units were moving onto a war footing. Just a few days earlier they would have been anticipating the pleasures of the annual summer camp, but those were largely cancelled as the European situation worsened.

The Royal Navy had actually been mobilised the previous day (an ealier London Gazette supplement contained the notice). In fact, they had already carried out a test mobilisation in July, and many of the men, including Nutfield’s Alfred Bashford, were already back aboard their ships (HMS Good Hope in Bashford’s case). The interesting day-by-day republication of The Daily Telegraph showed how closely this was reported at the time, and the naval mobilisation is one fo the topics most picked out by their archives’ twitter account, which can be seen via the widget below:

For more on the mobilisation process, see today’s Operation War Diary blogpost. The Friends of the Suffolk Regiment are also tweeting the mobilisation process as undertaken by 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, beginning with this tweet:

Also, this blog post, and following ones described the mobilisation of 1st West Kents.

All Saints Kingston – the Aston Martin connection!

Four members from All Saints, Kingston-upon-Thames served, all survived. They include highest ranking of the men on the roll, Major John Harley Bridges Hesse, Army Service Corps. Born in Sialkot, British India (now Pakistan – and still a garrison town), the son of an Indian Army officer. He was educated at Sherborne, and became a mechanical engineer, undertaking articles at the famous Harland and Wolff yard in Belfast (home of the Titanic). He moved to London in the early years of the 20th century, possibly working for Thornycroft. There are records of him ringing at Fulham at this time. By 1911 he was living in Teddington and had married. He was a partner in the firm of Hesse and Savory, along with one Robert Bamford. The partnership was dissolved in November 1912, with Savory taking on the business on his own, and Hesse initially continuing as a manager. In addition to their premises in Teddington where they built both cars and motor boats (Hesse designed a patent reversing gear for small boats which was manufactured in Teddington) they had a small workshop at Henniker Mews in South Kensington. Following the breakup of the partnership, Bamford took on those premises, and with Lionel Martin built the first Aston-Martin[sic] there in 1913.

Hesse then moved to Thornycroft road vehicle repair shop in Vauxhall in 1913. In early 1915 he joined the Army Service Corps as a rather elderly lieutenant (he turned 40 in December 1914), and was eventually promoted to major, running the workshop of 3rd Heavy Repair Shop in Rouen. This was rather an interesting unit, with all the major work being carried out by skilled German POW labour! He was Mentioned in Despatches but suffered several bouts of ill-health. In 1918 he was released from the army, and returned to Thornycroft, working on the new Coastal Motor Boats for the Admiralty. After the war he continued with Thornycroft, moving to Haslemere, and became first Master of the Guildford Diocesan Guild.

George Edward Naish, a greengrocer, was a pre-war Territorial in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Mobilised on the outbreak of war, his first overseas service was in Gibraltar and on Malta. His 5 year engagement then expired, but conscription was about to come into effect, he opted to rejion the Territorials, which gained him a few weeks home leave. After that he was sent to Salonika, there, like so many men of the British forces who served there, he contracted malaria.

The other two men are slightly mysterious, for different reasons. John Henry Howes is easy enough to find in the census (and there is evidence that his father was tower captain at Kingston), but there are no military records which corroborate the details given in the roll, according to which he served with the Machine Gun Corps and was wounded in 1917.

With William Duffell, there is the opposite problem, a full service record survives, showing he served at home, initially in the National Reserve, then the supernumerary companies of the East Surrey Regiment, and finally the Royal Defence Corps (he was 52 when joined up on 10 November 1914). However, the biographical details are not sufficient to determine which William Duffell he is in the 1911 census – Duffell seems to have been a local surname, so there are a surprising number, and two who are the same age. In the service record, his next-of-kin is given as a brother, which suggests the most likely candidate is the single man, a house painter, living as a boarder in 1911, rather than the married coal merchant.