Tag Archives: Ashtead

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).

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Surrey parish records online help to fill a few gaps

A few weeks ago many of the parish registers now held at the Surrey History Centre in Woking were placed online in partnership with Ancestry.co.uk.

I’ve started going back over the men for whom I’ve already completed individual pages, starting with Sydney Reddick and George Albert Cook. In these two cases the new records have been very useful in confirming details of parents’ marriages, and the baptismal records indicate dates of birth as well.

Some parish records for the ancient county of Surrey had already been placed online as they are now held by the London Metropolitan Archives. In some cases the actual original records are still with borough archives, but hopefully at least a microfilm copy will have been included.

There are still a few more records to come in the Surrey parish collection, and other records to be added to the online collection are electoral registers which should also be very useful (although before the war the background of many of the men means they may not have had the vote). Wartime registers often indicate whether men were absent voters and allowed to vote by virtue of their military service, or sometimes even have separate naval and military voters, which sometimes even give unit information (although these are often somewhat error-ridden).

Hedley James Wyatt 1893-1964

Hedley James Wyatt was the son of local blacksmith and wagon maker John Wyatt who was also the tower captain at St Giles, Ashtead. As mentioned in the post on Sydney Reddick, the village forge was a gathering point for the local ringers during the course of the working week to chew over the most recent ringing. It’s no great surprise then that John’s son followed him into ringing, although he doesn’t seem to have followed him to the forge.

The various reports in The Ringing World suggest he was known as James rather than Hedley, peal reports list him simply as James, and the report stating that he had joined up actually lists him as James B, but there are errors in the names of Sydney Reddick (listed as Sidney Readick) and George Cook (listed as Cooke) too. James was born in February 1892, probably on the 22nd, as a peal was rung on 22 February 1913 to mark his 21st birthday. His parents John Wyatt and Annie Eliza Batchelor married in the Hemel Hempstead registration district in 1879 – she was originally from Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire. Their first child, John Batchelor Wyatt, was born 1880 and a sister, Annie Amelia Wyatt, followed in 1883. James didn’t arrive until 1892 was seems to have been very much the baby of the family. By 1901 John Batchelor Wyatt had already followed his father into the family business and was working as a wheelwright, he married in 1908 and so had moved out of the family home by 1911. Annie Amelia is not shown with any occupation in either 1901 and 1911, and was still (aged 27) at home and single in 1911.

By 1911 James is shown as a clerk in the “Guardians’ Office”, this presumably refers to the Board of Guardians responsible under the Poor Law Act for running the local workhouse. Ashtead was part of the Epsom Poor Law Union, and the workhouse was only just over the parish boundary in Epsom, on the site now occupied by Epsom General Hospital (for more information see the webpages on the workhouse on the Epsom and Ewell History Explorer website and Workhouses website).

James rang at least five peals between 1911 and the early part of 1914, mostly with his father. He didn’t actually ring in the peal for his 21st birthday on 22 February 1913, but it was dedicated to him and George Cook who was a year and a day younger (and had his own 21st birthday peal in 1914). It seems that he, Sydney Reddick and George Cook probably joined up together sometime before 4 December 1914 when they were listed in the roll of honour published that day in The Ringing World, which stated they were all with the 5th (Reserve)) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment at Wimbledon. The medal rolls show that the service of Reddick and Wyatt was basically identical, both staying in the UK until 16 September 1917 when they entered France. After just under a fortnight, which were probably spent at an Infantry Base Depot, they were transferred to 1st (City of London) Battalion, the London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) – but posted to 26th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. The London Regiment was an entirely Territorial Force unit, and each battalion had its own regimental affiliation, while the Royal Fusiliers (traditionally associated with the City of London) had no Territorial Force battalions of its own. Territorial Force men normally had to be kept in Territorial units, but sometimes this was a purely nominal association as in this case. Wyatt and Cook travelled with 26th Royal Fusiliers to Italy in November 1917, and returned with the battalion to France in March 1918, just in time to meet the great German Spring Offensive launched on 21 March. In the actions that followed, 26th Royal Fusiliers were forced to join the general British retreat. Sydney Reddick was fatally wounded, but it seems Wyatt came through without major injury.

The medal rolls show that Wyatt left 26th Royal Fusiliers on 3 September 1918, no new unit is shown, implying he was posted home and finally actually joined 1st Londons for the first time, albeit only the battalion depot. This may well have been the result of being wounded or falling sick, the battalion had been taken part in a major advance in Flanders around this time.

Wyatt’s marriage to May Perry was registered in the Epsom registration district during the third quarter of 1918, presumably taking place sometime after 3 September 1918 (unless he had had some leave beforehand). There doesn’t seem to have been any ringing to mark the occasion, which may mean it didn’t take place at St Giles’. So far no children of the marriage have been traced. It seems Wyatt may have dropped out of ringing to a large extent, he did ring another peal on 29 December 1923 (to mark the 50th anniversary of the bells), but he had to be re-elected to the Surrey Association before that.

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.

George Albert Cook 1893-1963

George Albert Cook was born on 23 February 1893 and died, just short of his 70th birthday, on 9 February 1963. Sadly his last dozen years had been marked by a series of strokes which had physically incapicitated him, though he remained mentally alert – he continued to run through complicated pieces of ringing in his head even when he could no longer physically handle a bell. His father, William Cook was also a ringer at Ashtead, as was his grandfather.

George learnt to ring around 1903, at the same time as his older brother, John William (Jack). Sadly Jack died aged just 15 in 1905. I’ve not yet traced the date of George’s first peal, but it seems to have been before 1911 as neither of the two peals he rang that year are marked as his first. In 1912 he was elected to the Ancient Society of College Youths, ringing his first peal for them on 17 August that year at Ashtead. He rang four more peals over the rest of 1912, 1913 and 1914.

By the 4 December 1914 he had enlisted, it seems likely he joined up at the same time as Sydney Reddick and Hedley James Wyatt. It seems all three joined 2/5th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment at Wimbledon, but at some point their paths diverged. By the time George was posted overseas he had been serving with 21st (Reserve) Battalion (1st Surrey Rifles, the London Regiment (this suggests he went to France after 8 April 1916, as prior to that date it was known as 3/21st Battalion, though it could have been a later clerical slip, so it may be wise not to rely on this detail too much). However, since he did not qualify for either the 1914 Star or 1914-15 Star we know he did not go to France before 1916, and since he is shown with a four figure number in the rolls he probably entered France before March 1917. After arrival in France he then served with 1/21st Battalion, the London Regiment – then part of 142 Infantry Brigade in 47th (2nd London) Division. With them, he would have fought at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, Messines in June 1917, various parts of 3rd Ypres (Passchendaele), Cambrai and many of the major actions of 1918, from the frantic defence against the German Spring Offensive, through to the final Advance to Victory. Despite the fact he served all this time with 1/21st Londons, he remained on the books of 5th East Surreys, and received his medals via their medal rolls. Unfortunately that leaves us with the problem of trying to date the various aspects of his service as unlike the medal rolls of the London Regiment which gave much useful information about the service of Reddick, those of the East Surrey Regiment do not give much additional information beyond the units with which a man served.

George married Ethel H Banyer on 20 September 1919, so presumably he had been demobbed by then. The wedding was marked by a peal rung by other members of the Surrey Association. They had a son Cyril in May 1921, again marked by a peal on 28 May.

George spent his working life as a gardener, but from the early 1950s a series of strokes brought an end to both that and his ringing, apart from a single occasion when he managed a short time ringing (when neither his wife nor doctor were watching) about five years before his death on 9 February 1963. He was most proud of the effort he had put into training new ringers, particularly those who rang in the 300th peal on the Ashtead bells a few years before his death. He is believed to have rung 76 peals himself.

The first individual page – Sydney Reddick

I’ve just finished adding the first page for an individual man named on the original roll, Sydney Reddick of Ashtead. He is the very first man named on the original roll. His page will be the template for those that follow, though doubtless there’ll be some evolution along the way. Any ideas for how to improve the design gratefully received – it’s perilously close to committing the sin of using HTML tables for layout at the moment. The top of the page gives brief biographical data, when and where born and died etc; this is followed by some information about his ringing career; then occupation; and then outline of his army service (when he enlisted, what regiments and battalions, and with what regimental number). The remainder gives a brief chronological account of the major events in his life, linked to the relevant sources at the end of the page, this should also explain anything in the “highlights” at the top of the page which may not be immediately obvious.

Sydney Reddick was the middle one of five siblings (four brothers and one sister) of Arthur and Eliza (nee Partridge) who married in 1888. He was born in early 1895, or late 1894, in Ashtead. His older brothers were Stanley (1889/1890) and Percy (1891/1892), his younger brother Ernest Arthur (1903/1904). Sadly, before the birth of his younger sister Eva Mary (March 1911), Stanley had died in 1908 aged 18. Arthur Reddick was a wheelwright, there is a good chance he worked for John Wyatt who owned the village forge and in addition to general blacksmiths work made miller’s wagons (see Ashtead Heritage Trail – Mole Valley District Council). John Wyatt was also captain of the local ringers, and father of Hedley James Wyatt who is also listed on the original roll. It was presumably through this connection that Sydney learnt to ring, the forge was known as the centre of local ringing, with ringing being the main topic of discussion (see Proceedings of the Leatherhead and District Local History Society, Volume 6, No. 9, p6 – thanks to those responsible for the Ashtead War Memorials website for the information). When that happened has not yet been precisely established, but he rang his first peal in December 1913, followed by another on the eve of the outbreak of war, Monday 3 August 1914, in both he rang the treble to Grandsire Triples.

By 4 December 1914 Sydney Reddick, along with George Albert Cook and Hedley James Wyatt, had joined “5th (Reserve) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment” at Wimbledon. This was a battalion of the Territorial Force. The timing suggests this was 2/5th battalion, but it’s not clear if they remained with 2/5th on the formation of 3/5th battalion in July 1915. Nor is it clear why he did not go overseas at this time. Up until 1916 it may simply have been that he did not sign the Imperial Service Obligation (the Territorial Force was designed for home defence), but once conscription came in this distinction ceased. It was not until September 1917 that he was finally posted overseas, initially remaining on the books of 5th Battalion, but after the normal final training period at an Infantry Base Depot he was posted to 26th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. Due to his status as a TF soldier, this led to an administrative transfer to 1st Battalion, the London Regiment, but he never actually served with that unit. Soon after his arrival with the battalion, the CO, who had only just taken command was killed by a German bombing raid, along with some other officers. Sydney’s morale cannot have been improved when word came that his brother Percy had died serving in Mesopotamia. The battalion was transferred to the Italian Front in November 1917, but returned to France at the beginning of March 1918.

The return came as part of the preparations for the half-expected German Spring Offensive. This was launched early on the morning of 21 March 1918. 26th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers were soon thrown into the desperate defence, from late on 22 March fighting in the area just north of the town of Bapaume, and falling back towards Achiet-le-Grand. Sometime before 25 March Sydney received his fatal wounds. His grave is now in Gommecourt Wood New Cemetery – this cemetery was only built after the war, so his original burial place is not yet clear. Within six months the family had lost two sons (and the eldest had died ten years previously). Fortunately the youngest son was not old enough to serve.

On 22 February 1919 a number of large memorial services for ringers killed in the war were held around the country. For London and surrounding districts the service was at St Clement Danes. Sydney Reddick’s name was included in the roll of honour read at the service. Over the next few years he would also be added to the Surrey Association roll of honour, the Central Council memorial book and the Ashtead War Memorials, a plaque inside St Giles’ Church (where he rang) and one in the churchyard at St George’s.

First tower page – Ashtead

The first page for an individual tower is now complete, for Ashtead.  It lists the full names and all units served with for the Surrey Association members from that tower. There may be a few slight tweaks as I go on, but this is the baisc format I am planning to adopt. There will then be an individual page for each man, linked both from the tower page, and the trasncription prepared previously.