Albert Edward Christian York Bramble (22 June 1894 – 22 April 1974)

This is the first in a series of posts on the ringers who took part in the peals rung by all-officer bands in 1919, it covers the man who rang the treble.

A young man in RAF uniform stood front of the flint wall of a church

York Bramble, cropped from the photo of the band which rang at Croydon in May 1919. He is back right in the full photo.


Bramble, or York-Bramble as he later became, was born at South Cerney, Gloucestershire, on 22 June 1894, the oldest of four children of Albert Edmund Bramble and Alice Emily, nee Swain. Albert senior does not seem to have had very steady employment, with censuses and baptismal records giving a variety of occupations from journeyman baker, salesman, labourer, and eventually in Albert junior’s service records, male nurse. Albert junior’s brother, Edmund George Robert Victor Bramble would also become an RAF officer.

York-Bramble was educated at Cirencester Grammar School 1905-1910, and from there went to the University of Bristol to train as a teacher 1912-1914. It was here he learned to ring. He qualified First Class in his professional training, and with Distinction in Mathematics. He was then employed by London County Council, and having finished his training placements, began work at Kennington Road Boys’ School, Lambeth in September 1914.

In March 1915 he joined up at the Duke of York’s Barracks in Chelsea. He initially joined 2/2nd London Casualty Clearing Station, a Territorial unit of the Royal Army Medical Corps, but a year later he was transferred to 3/4th London Field Ambulance, by which time he was a serjeant. During some of his early training he was based in Richmond Park where he would probably have had his first sight of the Royal Flying Corps’ balloons, either in the park itself, or at the Roehampton Club.

In February 1917 he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps and began training with them. He was appointed a Balloon Officer in May 1917, and also seems to have come up with some sort of balloon-related invention. He was posted to France in May 1917, but returned to England in December. He had to relinquish his commission on 24 July 1918 due to an unspecified illness. He returned to his old job at Kennington Road.

He had married Marjorie S Lloyd in Brighton in 1917, and from 1921 was teaching in Brighton. He was also involved in a local gliding club, and just before the Second World War qualified as a private pilot. In December 1939 he rejoined the RAF, serving in technical roles, and eventually rising to the rank of squadron leader.

In 1955 he founded the College of Campanology to try to improve teaching of ringing. Due to his somewhat difficult personality this was sadly rather a failure. He died on 22 April 1974.

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Albert Ernest Wood (22 February 1875 – 14 March 1947)

The next light touch profile is for Albert Ernest Wood (and Lives). Almost 40 at the outbreak of war he did not join up into June 1918 but he was very soon sent to France as a labourer with the RAF.

He was one of eight children of John Wood and Caroline (nee Charman). The family moved around Surrey a little, but Albert eventually settled in Nutfield not long before the outbreak of war.

He’d married Sarah Ann Grove in Croydon on 28 May 1898, and their son Ernest John was born on 14 July 1898. While Albert and Ernest are found living with some of Albert’s siblings in both 1901 and 1911, Sarah is not with them, and hasn’t been traced elsewhere. However, when Albert joined up she was listed as his next of kin and living at 20 Tower Terrace, Nutfield, and electoral registers show the whole family living there after the war. Both Albert and Ernest are shown as being absent voters on the Naval and Military list in the immediate post war years but I’ve not been able to confirm details of Ernest’s service.

Ernest married in 1934, and around this time Sarah also disappears from the electoral rolls, although there is no obvious death registration. However, by 1939 Albert is listed as a widow in the 1939 Registers.

Albert Carr (11 November 1887 – 26 December 1961) – and a change of tack

There’s now a profile on this site and also on Lives of the First World War. As Lives of the First World War will be closing in its current form after 18 March when the Imperial War Museum will begin work to transform it into the permanent digital memorial I’ve decided to concentrate on adding the basic details for as many as possible on the Surrey Roll before then. It’s not yet clear to me if it will become possible to add information again later. I’ll add details on the ringing side on this site instead later.

A logo with the words "Ringing for Peace - Armistice 100" and a swinging church bell

11:00, 11/11/1918: Armistice

At about 05:20 on the morning of 11 November 1918, in a railway carriage in the Forest of Compiègne, the final signature went on to the papers detailing the terms of the Armistice with Germany. To allow time to ensure the details could be communicated to all troops, it was agreed that the Armistice would take effect at 11am. This was the last of a series of Armistices that largely brought active hostilities to an end. However, it was not a formal peace (treaties would only be signed in 1919), and British troops continued to fight in Russia (where an intervention force had been sent to support the anti-Bolshevik “White Russian” forces), and would be drawn into more colonial conflicts on the Northwestern frontier of India (in what’s now Pakistan) and Afghanistan.

Surrey ringers would be drawn in to both those theatres, with some of the Territorials sent to India on garrison duty shortly after the outbreak of war drawn into the fighting there, while Frederick Coleman of Epsom would come home from service with the Royal Army Medical Corps to find that his marriage had broken down. It was presumably as a result of that that he re-enlisted in the Military Foot Police and served with the British force based around the Black Sea.

Curiously, some war diaries for units on the Western Front barely mention the Armistice, but at home there was rejoicing, with bell ringing prominent. As mentioned before on the blog that will also be the case this year. The Ringing Remembers campaign which aimed to recruit 1400 new ringers to “replace” those lost in the war has in fact had over 2,600 registrations.

William Henry Johnson VC and other updates

Today sees the centenary of the Victoria Cross action by Serjeant William Henry Johnson, 1/5th Sherwood Foresters, the only bellringer to win the VC. He rang at Worksop Priory and there’s a programme of events in Worksop today including peal attempts at the Priory and St Anne’s. I’ve also written a blog post about him for The National Archives’ blog (with a bit of a plug for Ringing Remembers at the end and starting with Worksop’s original Armistice Day ringing).

Preparing that post has meant I’ve not really had chance to write up Douglas Walter Drewett a Mitcham ringer who was killed in action a century ago today, though I’ve started doing a little work on his profile in Lives of the First World War.  Sadly Drewett’s second son appears to have been a Far East Prisoner of War in the Second World War, he made it home but died in 1950.

Ongoing work in Lives has meant that I’ve now identified J Weekes of Bletchingley and S Howard of Wimbledon who had previously proves elusive.

George Robert Kew (5 November 1898 – 24 April 1918†) and Harold William Kew (24 July 1900 – 1974)

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.

An ancient church with a wooden shingled tower and spire.

St Bartholomew’s, Burstow by Pete Chapman [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


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.

Sydney Reddick centenary

Sydney Reddick was the first individual page published on the blog. Now we’ve reached the centenary of his death during the German Spring Offensive. Since then the Soldiers’ Effects Registers have become available so we can see from the gratuity paid out, £18 10 shillings that he enlisted around November 1914, confirming previous deductions from other sources. This source also lists his place of death as 136 Field Ambulance and that he died of wounds. The field ambulance war diary, WO 95/2602/2, shows it was located in Monchy-au-Bois, north west of Bapaume and south west of Arras as shown in the general view.

Modern map, with areas of trench maps overlaid, the area of prime interest is just to the right of the centre of the image.

Monchy-au-Bois is just to the west of the border of the marked E and F grids, at the north of the overlaid map (see below for detail). Arras is just off the modern A1, just to the north of the area shown

The field ambulance seems to have been on the eastern edge of the village from the coordinates given in the war dairy.

Old map, at the top near the middle the letters E and F are written as part of grid reference system, then smaller to the leftist the E is a square labelled 6, subdivided into squares a, b, c and d

Detail from trench map, the war dairy states that the field ambulance was located at 57D E6 a.9, which is just on the eastern outskirts of Monchy-au-Bois


Digitised trench maps courtesy of National Library of Scotland (modern maps, OpenStreetMap overlay).