Tag Archives: Bellringing

Diary entry written in pencil: "5/7/16 - 2 Lieut Saywood + 1 telephonist killed by a direct hit on a dug out at Infantry Brigade HQ in Sunken Road about 10 pm. A, B, C 95 cut wire on Quadrangle Trench.

Albert Arthur Stoner (1896-7 July 1916†)

Albert Arthur Stoner (see also his profile on Lives of the First World War) was born at Ifield in Sussex in early 1896 (or possibly late 1895), the birth was registered in the Steyning registration district in the first quarter 1896. His surname is occasionally given as Stonor.

He was the second child of Arthur Stoner and Emily Rosina (nee Lee), whose marriage was registered in the Horsham registration district in the third quarter 1893. His elder sister, Edith, was born in 1895 (or possibly 1894) in Horsham.

By 1901 the family had expanded further, with the addition of two more sisters, Emily Annie, born 3rd quarter 1897, and Alice, born about March 1901 (she is listed on the census taken on 31 March, but the birth wasn’t registered until the second quarter). On the census night the family were living at Jinnan’s Cottages, Ifield. Albert, Emily and Alice are all listed as being born in Ifield. Arthur is shown as being 36, born Worth, Sussex, and a carter on a farm, Emily was 32 and born in Horsham. A final sister, Lily, was born in early 1904 in Burstow.

By 1911 the family were living at Bridgecham Cottage, Burstow. Arthur was now a garden labourer. Albert had found work as an officer boy at a builder’s yard.

It’s not clear when Albert began ringing, no reports have been found until suddenly, in early 1914 he is shown ringing the treble to a peal of Grandsire Triples at Horley on 19 March 1914. The other ringers were J Kenward 2, A Streeter 3, H F Ewins 4, S Kenward 5, A Harman 6, O Gilbey 7, P Etheridge 8. Albert Streeter was a Redhill ringer, Henry Frederick Ewins (Reigate) and Harman another Burstow ringer. All three are listed on the roll of honour. And just two days later, a peal of Plain Bob Minor at St Bartholomew’s, Burstow on Saturday 21 March 1914. Albert A Stoner (treble), George Ellis (2), Alfred Wisden (3), Revd Edward J Teesdale (4), Charles Varo (5), Albert Harman (6). Teesdale was the Vicar of Burstow, Varo his gardener. As already mentioned Harman is also on the roll of honour, and so is Varo. It was the first peal of minor for Stoner and Wisden.

Stoner does not seem to have joined up immediately on the outbreak of war, the amount of war gratuity paid out to his estate suggests an enlistment date in December 1914, and The Ringing World has him in a roll of honour list published on 25 December 1914 has him (with fellow Burstow ringer Maurice Sherlock) training at High Wycombe. He entered France on 10 September 1915, which fits with him being with 21 Division’s artillery, the exact unit was not stated then, and there were some reorganisations of the various artillery brigades, so he may not have been with 95 Brigade RFA as he was at the time of his death. The High Wycombe location for his initial training also fits with 21 Division. He was already a bombardier (then a rank carrying a single stripe, artillery had corporals in addition during the First World War, now a bombardier in the artillery is equivalent to corporals in other arms, and wears two stripes). If he’d carried on working in the builder’s office after 1911 he would presumably have had a good degree of literacy and numeracy, and potentially have been used to calculating the quantities of materials that need to be ordered and so on, all things that would have been useful to an artillery NCO. He even have had some experience of using a telephone

21 Division had a baptism of fire during the Battle of Loos, with the infantry being hard hit. Command of the division was then taken by Major General David Campbell. A cavalryman, he had begun the war commanding the 9th Lancers. He was a renowned trainer of men, just the man to rebuild the division after their initial shock, and restore their reputation. They would not have to wait long to return to action. The Chantilly Conference in November 1915 had agreed a joint Allied offensive should take place in 1916. From the start of February 1916 this became more critical as the French came under increasing pressure at Verdun, leading to more of the combined British and French part of the offensive falling on British shoulders. The two armies joined where the front crossed a river in Picardy, the Somme, so it was around the Somme valley that the offensive was to take place.

For the artillery the battle started on 24 June when a bombardment on an unprecedented scale began. A series of posts on the Mitcham War Memorial blog put this into context well, from the point of view of an artilleryman in 96 Brigade, RFA, also part of 21 Division’s artillery complement. The series starts with a post called The Somme Centenary (follow the links at the bottom of each post, pointing right, the next is The “Big Push” is coming….

The infantry assault began on 1 July, and as has been well rehearsed over recent days the British Army suffered almost 60,000 casualties that first day, with close to 20,000 of those being killed. The battle did not stop there though, and the artillery had to continue supporting the ongoing offensive. On 5 July, 95 Brigade were assigned to cutting wire around the positions known to the British as The Quadrangle which guarded the approach to Mametz Wood (see trench map).

It seems that Stoner was accompanying Second Lieutenant Charles Saywood who was acting as a forward observation officer. The war diary says:

The Sunken Road was probably the one running north from Fricourt (there are several around the area). The description of the other rank as a telephonist is interesting, adding to our knowledge of Stoner’s role. The reason it seems reasonable to assume that the telephonist was Stoner is that Stoner and Saywood lie in adjacent graves in Norfolk Cemetery, Bécordel-Bécourt. Stoner is in I. C. 92. and Saywood in I. C. 93.

Both have beautiful headstone inscriptions. Stoner’s reads “In ever loving memory of our only son & brother”, while Saywood’s is “A brave and gallant soldier beloved by all”. While Stoner was just 20, had joined only for the war, Saywood was 37 and a veteran soldier. He joined the Royal Artillery in 1898 and served in the Second Boer War with A Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, receiving the Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps for the Battle of the Tugela Heights and the Relief of Ladysmith. In the interwar years he served with Y Battery, with service in South Africa and India, and was steadily promoted until he reached serjeant. He had married Norfolk girl Mabel Margaret Dawes in Potchefstroom, South Africa on 4 May 1909. At the 1911 census both were in barracks at Mhow, India.

Perhaps frustrated by his battery remaining in India at the outbreak of war it appears that Saywood volunteered to return to England to train newly raised artillery units. He was posted to the artillery of 24 Division on 18 November 1914. He was commissioned on 6 March 1915, and probably posted at that time to 97th Brigade, RFA (also part of 21 Division’s artillery). For a while he was a temporary captain while commanding a brigade ammunition column (which brigade is not clear). He reverted to second lieutenant on 21 May 1916 when the ammunition arrangements were altered and a single divisional ammunition column formed.

Perhaps there was a bit of fellow feeling between the two men, Saywood is shown as having been a clerk before his original enlistment.

Stoner does not seem to have left a will. The Soldier’s Effects register shows all monies owing (£5 19S 6d on his account, and £8 as a war gratuity) were paid to his father. It’s not clear if any of his sisters married, the surname Stoner is quite common in Sussex, and their forenames are also fairly common. His father seems to have died around 1923, his mother possibly about 1943.

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Thomas James Coppard (1871 – September 1925)

Thomas James Coppard (see also his page on Lives of the First World War) was the second child of Edward Coppard and Est[h]er Elizabeth nee Botting (the spelling of her name varies between sources as to whether the h appeared in Esther).

His parents had married at St Mary’s, Bletchingley on 30 May 1868, both were Bletchingley born and bred. At the time of their marriage, Edward was a general labourer, he could only make his mark, rather than sign, in the register. His father, Thomas, was also a labourer. Ester was the daughter of James Botting, a blacksmith, she could sign her name, but the rather scratchy and blotted signature doesn’t suggest a great deal of comfort in using a pen. Their ages are not given in the register, just that they were of “full age” (ie over 21). Their first child, Alice Hannah, arrived in early 1869, she was baptised in St Mary’s on 25 April 1869. The 1871 census was taken on 2 April, it was some time after that that Thomas was born, he was baptised at St Mary’s on 27 August.

The family was enlarged over the next few years with the arrival of Albert Edward (baptised 31 May 1874), Ellen Elizabeth (baptised 26 November 1876) and Kate Isabel (baptised 27 April 1879). At the 1881 census the family were living at Tilgate Cottages, Bletchingley. Edward was 36 and a general labourer, Esther, 38. More children followed over the next ten years, Minnie Gertrude (baptised 26 February 1882), Edwin George (baptised March 1885) and finally Charles Botting Coppard, born 24 November 1888 and baptised on 30 December.

At the 1891 census the family were still at Tilgate Cottages, Barfields, Bletchingley. Thomas was now 19 and working as a domestic groom. Alice Hannah, Albert Edward and Ellen Elizabeth weren’t in the family home, the rest of the children were still too young to work.

Thomas James Coppard and Mary Ann Jones married at St Mary’s on 30 December 1894. He was 23, and now a labourer, she was 19. Her father, William Henry Jones had been a labourer, but was deceased. The witnesses were Charles Overy and Alice Hannah Overy – Thomas’s brother-in-law and sister who had married just over a year previously on 26 December 1893. Thomas and Mary’s first child arrived just four months later, on 28 April 1895. He was hastily baptised (privately) on 29 April, but died the following day. He was buried in the churchyard on 4 May.

The following year, Louisa Annie Coppard was born to the couple on 3 June 1896, and baptised on 28 June. From the following year, Thomas begins to appear in the electoral registers, showing that they were living in Tilgate Cottages still (probably a different cottage to his parents though). A third child, Albert Henry, arrived on 6 February 1898, and was baptised on 24 April, he was followed by Francis James on 2 September 1899 (baptised 26 November). It was just over a week before Francis’s baptism that we have the first evidence so far found of Thomas as a ringer, when he is listed as ringing the third to a peal of Grandsire Triples at Bletchingley on 18 November 1899. He had presumably started ringing a little while before this, but no earlier reports have yet been found.

1900 brought more sorrow, with the death of a second child in infancy, with Albert Henry dying early in the year, he was buried in the churchyard on 1 February 1900. Their second daughter, Elsie Elizabeth, arrived on 18 February 1901. The 1901 census was taken on 31 March, the family are shown at 3 Tilgate Cottages. Thomas (now 29) is shown as a bricklayer’s labourer. No occupation is given for Mary, unsurprisingly given the recent birth of Elsie. Florence Gertrude (or May – Gertrude in his army record, May in the baptismal record) was born on 3 October 1903, and baptised on 29 October. She was followed the next year by Edward George on 30 October (baptised 29 January 1905), then Arthur William on 23 February 1907 (baptised 31 March) and Leonard Charles on 1 September 1908 (baptised 25 October). On the occasion of this last baptism, Thomas’s occupation is for the first time given as painter.

At the 1911 census the family were still at Tilgate Cottages, Thomas is listed as a house painter, no occupation is given for Mary, and the children were all still of school age except Lousia Annie who was working as a general servant for the Legg family at Newlands, Bletchingley. Archie Legg (28) is described as a grocer and draper, with him are his wife Ethel Kate, their son William Gregory (1) and Ethel’s younger brother William Geoffrey (15). They’d been married for 2 years, and had had another child who had died before the census. Later that year Thomas and James had another son, Richard Frederick, on 11 October 1911. In 1913 the family moved to Bank Cottages, Bletchingley. On 5 July 1914, their last child, Jack Stanley, was born – just under a month before the outbreak of war.

Thomas joined up at Reigate on 7 November 1914. He joined the 7th Supernumerary Company of the 2/5th Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). Supernumerary companies were raised by several Territorial Force battalions, initially for those registered as part of the Territorial Force Reserve or National Reserve, little more than lists of men held by the county territorial associations of those who had previous military experience. Thomas states he had 8 years’ service with the Volunteers. No other evidence of this has yet been found, and the use of the term Volunteers implies it was prior to 1908 when the Territorial Force was created. The surviving portions of his record are rather sketchy, so it’s difficult to work out exactly what his service entailed especially for the first couple of years. The supernumerary companies were mostly employed on the defence of strategic points (such as railway bridges), and in guarding POWs. In late 1916 he was posted to 41 Protection Company as the supernumerary companies were brought together to form the Royal Defence Corps, his duties would have remained much the same. From a subsequent medical report it seems he has based at Barking around February 1917 and this was when he began to develop myalgia and rheumatism. A further reorganisation saw him posted to 6th Battalion RDC on 11 August 1917. On 24 August he was examined by No 4 Travelling Medical Board at Dovercourt (on the coast of north Essex) and placed in the medical category CIII (the lowest) – presumably he was based somewhere in that area at the time. On 27 February 1918 he again went before a medical board, this time an invaliding board at Felixstowe. This recommended his discharge on the basis of the rheumatism and myalgia he had developed back in February 1917. The board originally rated him at under 20% disabled, when his discharge was finalised this was set at 10%. As a result, rather than an ongoing pension, he was paid a lump sum of £37 15 shillings (this accounted for his disability and dependent children Florence, Edward, Arthur, Leonard, Richard and Jack). He left the army in London on 20 March 1918 after 3 years, 134 days service.

The marriage of his daughter Louisa Annie to another of the Bletchingley ringers, Horace Gordon Kirby, was registered in the 3rd quarter 1920.

Despite is discharge on the grounds of ill-health he seems to have subsequently become a more active ringer than he had been previously. He rang a quarter peal on 14 May 1921 for the wedding of another Bletchingley ringer, C V Risbridger, seven of the eight ringers are listed on the roll of honour: G Kirby treble, S J Coppard [sic – but no ringer known with those initials, so presumably Thomas J] on 3rd, L F Goodwin 2nd, A Wood 4th, A Cheesman 5th, W Cheesman 6th, W J Wilson. Over the next three years he rang three more recorded pieces of ringing (each of Grandsire Triples), a quarter peal on 20 November 1921 (with G Kirby Treble, L F Goodwin 2nd, W J Wilson 3rd, A Wood 4th, T J Coppard 5th, F Balcombe 6th from the roll of honour), another quarter peal for Easter Day 1922 (Treble G Kirby, 2 L F Goodwin, 3 A Wood, 4 W Mayne junr, 5 T J Coppard, 6 F Balcombe (conductor), 7 W J Wilson, 8 J Balcombe) a peal on 12 May 1922 (with Gordon H Kirby Treble (1st peal), George F Hoad 4th, Albert E Wood 5th, Thomas J Coppard 6th all on the roll of honour) and a quarter peal on 28 October 1923 (with L Goodwin 2nd, W T Beeson junr 3rd, W Wilson 5th, T Coppard 6th from the roll of honour).

Thomas died aged 54 in September 1925 at Redhill Hospital and was buried in “Centre Old Cemetery”, grave reference D3, on 22 September 1922. Mary survived him and continued living at Bank Cottages, she died on 22 January 1933 and was interred in the same plot on 26 January.

Able Seaman Alfred Bashford (19 November 1885-1 November 1914†)

A young man in a classic sailor's uniform. His cap tally shows his ship to be HMS Lion.

Bashford as pictured in The Ringing World on 11 December 1914. The photo actually dates from his service on HMS Lion between 21 September 1901 and 17 July 1902 when he was 16. (Courtesty of The Ringing World)

The second member of the association to die, Able Seaman Alfred Bashford, met his end half a world away from Walter Markey, aboard the ill-fated HMS Good Hope off Coronel in Chile.

Alfred was born on 19 November 1885 at Nutfield. He was the son of Alfred Bashford and Mary Harriett (nee Day). There is some evidence that he was usually known as Fred, presumably to avoid confusion with his father. Alfred was from Bletchingley and Mary from St Mary’s, Southampton, they married at St Peter and St Paul, Nutfield on 21 June 1879. William Day Bashford was born in 1880, baptised at St Peter and St Paul’s on 6 June 1880. Twins Allen Alfred and Annie Bashford followed in 1882, baptised on 9 April, but sadly died just two days later and were buried in the churchyard on 15 April. The 1911 census suggests two more children also died in infancy, but it has not yet been possible to identify them.

By the 1891 census the family were on Church Road, Nutfield. Alfred senior (53) was working as an agricultural labourer, William (10) and Alfred junior (5) were both at school and Mary (44) was a housewife. They also had a William J Bowley (21), a blacksmith, lodging with them. At this point there doesn’t appear to be any ringing in the immediate family, but there were father and son John Bashfords in Bletchingley, successively landlords of the Red Lion and well known ringers. By 1901 most of the family were still in Church Road, but Alfred junior was at Pattison Court Stables, and employed as a hall boy, presumably at Pattison Court itself which appears to have been the home of the Nickalls family. Alfred senior was still working as an agricultural labourer, William as a gardener.

On 16 September 1901 Alfred joined the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class, his previous occupation is shown as “garden boy”. He was 5’4″ tall and described as of ruddy complexion with grey eyes and brown hair. He was briefly at the training establishment HMS Impregnable before being posted to HMS Lion on 21 September. He was re-rated as Boy 1st Class on 19 June 1902. He transferred to HMS Minotaur on 18 July, and to HMS Agincourt on 28 January 1903, and then briefly to HMS Camperdown from 17 April-5 May, joining HMS Hawker on 6 May. On reaching the age of 18 on 19 November 1903 he began his full 12 year engagement and was re-rated ordinary seaman. He had now grown to 5’6.5″. On 18 May 1904 he transferred to HMS Exmouth. He was re-rated able seaman on 5 April 1905. He was posted to the Portsmouth naval barracks, known as HMS Victory I, on 2 May 1905. He then went to a torpedo course on HMS Vernon from 14 May-23 September, before returning to Victory I until 28 May 1906. He joined HMS Centurion on 29 May, on 25 May 1907 he returned to HMS Exmouth. In 1908 he applied to buy himself out of the navy, in preparation for this he returned to Victory I on 28 June. After paying £12 and agreeing to join the Royal Fleet Reserve he left active service on 16 July 1908.

There are various reports of an A Bashford ringing during this period, but this is presumably the father. However, there is a report of a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples at Redhill on Sunday 11 October 1908 (which also included W Streeter, who also appears on the roll) featuring A Bashford, which is after Alfred junior left the navy. We can also see that William Bashford seems to be among a number of ringers you moved to Farnham to work at the plant nursery run by Charles Edwards, another ringer, as he is listed in several of the reports of ringing previously found in relation to John William Russell.

After this, no further reports of an A Bashford ringing occur until a one of 720s of Oxford and Kent Treble Bob on 11 March 1911 at Kingswood. This included A and W Bashford, along with J W Russell and W Cheeseman who also appear on the roll of honour. Following this there are a frequent reports, moving into quarter peals and peals. Several other men named in the roll of honour also appear in these. In several, Alfred is the conductor. He is often listed as F or Fred Bashford, and on some occasions this appears to have been incorrectly expanded to Frederick.

At the 1911 census the family were all living at High Street, the Village, Nutfield. Alfred junior and William were both working as labourers in the fullers earth quarry at Nutfield. Alfred senior was now a roadman on the highway.

In 1913 William emigrated to the US. He left Liverpool on the Mauretania on 22 March 1913 and arrived in New York on 28 March (see the Ellis Island records and UK records). He gave his occupation as gardener. As his intended residence in the United States he says he is going to a friend in Boston, Dr A P Nichols – one of the leading ringers in the US (it appears from some reports that there had been a deliberate policy of recruitment from England). William then appears in various ringing reports of the Boston ringers. In May 1914 he moved to Connecticut for a better job. In January 1915 William married a Miss Mulvenny, an event marked by ringing at Hingham, Massachusetts on 31 January.

Alfred senior died in late 1914.

In 1914 a mobilisation of the Royal Fleet Reserve was already planned for mid-July. This was given added urgency by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at the end of June. Alfred junior was posted to HMS Good Hope, an elderly cruiser activated from the Third Reserve Fleet, whose crews were mostly made up of reservists, on 13 July. There was a fleet review at Spithead, and then the reserves would have been demobilised, but in view of the international situation they were kept on active duty, but allowed leave. When the navy was fully mobilised on 31 July he returned to HMS Good Hope. Good Hope was assigned as the flagship of Rear Admiral Christopher Cradock. His squadron was despatched to the South Pacific to counter a German squadron under Maximilian von Spee.

The British squadron was composed entirely of outdated ships, and one converted from an ordinary merchantman. On 1 November the two squadrons sighted each other. Cradock, though he knew his ships were outclassed, decided to fight, possibly influenced by earlier events in the Mediterranean which led to Cradock’s friend Ernest Troubridge, who was now facing court martial after declining to engage with two German ship in somewhat similar circumstances. Good Hope was rapidly sunk, and soon followed by HMS Monmouth. Both sank with all hands, around 1600 men.

A memorial peal was rung at Nutfield on Wednesday 25 November. Today’s ringers remembered the centenary of his death with a quarter peal on 1 November 2014.

Mary Bashford was now about 67, a widow, with no children living nearby to support her. William Bashford returned from the US, arriving at Liverpool on 28 June 1915 aboard the SS St Paul. Having made the trip home, he met up with various old friends to ring throughout July at Nutfield and Merstham. He returned to the US, with his mother, again on the SS St Paul leaving on 31 July from Liverpool and arriving at New York on 7 August.

Walter Eric Markey (1895-31 October 1914†)

Walter Eric Markey was born in early 1895, or possible very late in 1894 at Bexhill-on-Sea. His birth was registered in the Battle registration district in the 1st quarter 1895. His parents, Alfred Eric Markey and Emma Elizabeth (nee Snook) were both originally from Somerset, Penselwood and Wincanton respectively. Their marriage was registered in the 4th quarter 1891 in the Wincanton registration district. Their first child, Cicely Emma, was born in Wincanton in 1893.

Walter followed in 1895, then Samuel Robert in Sidley, a small village on the outskirts of Bexhill. In 1900, Beatrice Mary was born back in Bexhill itself. By the time of the 1901 census the family were living at Keepers Corner, Burstow, Surrey. Alfred is listed as a coachman. In 1902 (Bessie) Minnie was born in Copthorne, and (Jessie) Margaret there in 1905. Elsie Gwendoline was born in Burstow on 20 November 1907, followed by Ethel Winifred in early 1911. By the time of the 1911 census the family were living at Shipley Bridge, Burstow, Surrey. Alfred was still working as a coachman, and Walter was now following in his footsteps, working as a groom.

Sometime, probably in the second half of 1913 (based on the number issued to him) Walter joined The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), enlisting at the regimental depot in Guildford. By the outbreak of war he would have been a fully trained soldier, and went with the 1st battalion to France on 12 August 1914. They were heavily involved in the retreat from Mons and subsequent fighting. By 31 October 1914 the First Battle of Ypres was underway and the battalion was involved in the defence of Gheluvelt. The battalion was all but destroyed, with little more than a handful of men coming out of the line in early November. Walter was among those killed, his body was never recovered, and so he is commemorated on the Menin Gate. He was the first member of the Surrey Association to die in service.

The extent of his ringing career remains unclear, no reports of any ringing have yet been found. He presumably began ringing at Burstow in the years immediately before he joined the army. His death was not reported in the ringing press at the time, and does not appear to have been marked by the Burstow ringers. The only time his name does appear is in a report of a memorial service held at St Clement Danes on the Strand in London on 22 February 1919 for all the ringers killed in the war. As part of the service a roll of honour of ringers from “London and District” was read and he is listed as W Markey. Other services were held around the country on the same day, at Great St Mary’s in Cambridge, Sheffield Cathedral, Chester Cathedral, Winchester Cathedral and SS Philip and Jude in Bristol. Sadly, after this his name seems to have undergone a process of chinese whispers in drawing up the Surrey Association roll of honour, and this then fed into the Central Council roll of honour. Names were listed surname, followed by initial. Markey W seems to have been misheard at some point and transformed into Mark E W, which led to considerable problems in confirming his identity. Walter Markey seemed to be the only plausible candidate, but until the report of the memorial service was found this could not be shown beyond doubt, particularly as his unit is also incorrectly recorded as Royal Garrison Artillery on the Surrey Roll.

Ernest Attwater joins up

On 10 September 1914 Ernest Attwater’s attestation papers were formally approved by a major in the Royal Sussex Regiment. He had been medically examined at Haywards Heath (where he had been a member of the local Territorial Force company for three years prior to his move to London from Cuckfield) as early as 5 September, and had then completed the attestation papers at Chichester on 9 September. He was posted to 9th Battalion, one of the newly raised battalions of Kitchener’s New Army. He became Private 3305, but with his prior TF experience it’s no great surprise that he was promoted lance corporal as early as 12 October (NCOs were in short supply). He stated his age as 25 years, 220 days, and gave his occupation as carpenter and pro cricketer (he was on Surrey’s ground staff at the Oval).

It’s possible his brother Frank Norman joined up at the same time, but as he ended up in 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, it’s not absolutely clear (and his papers do not survive). Certainly both brothers were serving by 30 October when The Ringing World reported that Frank Norman was at Dover with 3rd Battalion, and Ernest was at Shoreham with 9th Battalion.

This would have been a blow for both Streatham towers, Immanuel an St Leonard, as with their other brothers, Louis and Isaac James, the Attwaters had become leading ringers in the area.

Frederick George Balcombe (1876-1958)

Born in 1876, Frederick George Balcombe, was the son of John and Jane Balcombe, both natives of Bletchingley whose marriage was registered in 1872. At times the surname is given as Balcomb, and it appears this was also Jane’s maiden name. It appears John was probably married before, the birth of a son John Christopher had been registered in the 3rd quarter 1870. At the 1881 census, John, Jane, John Christopher, Frederick and 8 month old Clara Florence were living at Dormers, Bletchingley. John was a labourer in the local quarry (described as stone pits).

By 1891, the family had moved to Stychens (still in Bletchingley). John Christopher had now moved out. John (39) was still a “quarryman stone”, Jane was now 37. Frederick, just 14, was general labourer. Clara was a 10-year-old scholar, two younger sisters had now joined the family, Alice Mary (birth registered 4th quarter 1884), and Lilian Jane (birth registered 3rd quarter 1889). It was probably also about this time that Frederick started ringing. He rang his first quarter peal (the third to Grandsire Triples) on Christmas Day 1894, “Jno Balcomb”, presumably his father John, was ringing the treble. He rang another on 13 February 1897, again the third to Grandsire Triples. On Easter Monday 1898 (16 April) Frederick was named among the newly elected members of the Surrey Association, at a quarterly meeting at Betchworth. He rang his first peal on 12 November 1898, once again ringing the third to Grandsire Triples, another Bletchingley ringer on the roll, William Mayne was also ringing. He rang another on 25 November 1899, again with William Mayne, and also George F Hoad (Reigate) and Thomas Coppard (Bletchingley).

Frederick George Balcombe married Kate House at St Mary’s Bletchingley on 11 December 1899. On 21 July 1900 a Surrey Association held a meeting at Bletchingley, the notices published beforehand indicate that those wanting tea at the meeting should send their names to “Mr Fred Balcombe”, Stychens Cottages, Bletchingley – suggesting he was acting as tower secretary at Bletchingley. At the 1901 census he and Kate were living at 9 Stychens, Bletchingley. He was now 24 and working as a house painter – 5 out of the 11 ringers who went to war from Bletchingley had this as their occupation. No other records have been found for him until the 1911 census, when he and Kate were still at Stychens, and he was still a house painter. Now living with them was Reginald Cooper (5), described as an adopted son, born in Fulham.

On 30 April Frederick rang the 6th to a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples at Godstone. J Balcombe (his father John, still ringing?) rang the treble, also ringing were L Goodwin, G Potter (both Bletchingley) and W T Beeson jr (Godstone), all listed on the roll of honour. There was also a visitor in the quarter, Corpl W Cockings. No details as to his unit are stated, but the most likely candidate appears to be William Cockings of the Bedfordshire Regiment, originally from Turvey.

The Surrey Recruitment Registers show that F G Balcombe, a painter aged 40 years and 3 months attested at Guildford on 31 July 1917. He was described as being 5’6″, weighed 210lbs and had a 42″ chest with 2″ expansion. On enlistment he joined the 26th Training Reserve Battalion. Given his age it is perhaps unsurprising that the next surviving record relates to his discharge. He was discharged on 14 December 1918 due to sickness – he had not served overseas. At the time of his discharge he was a sapper in the Inland Waterways and Docks section of the Royal Engineers. There is no further information as to his role, but given his civilian occupation, it seems reasonably likely he would have been painting the boats used by the Royal Engineers.

After the war he does not appear to have rung any further peals or quarter peals – in fact there is no definite proof of any further ringing. However, electoral rolls mean we can trace his movements in general. In autumn 1919 he and Kate were still at Stychens, and the same again up until at least 1923. In 1924 they were registered at Hill Top, Caterham. By 1934 they had moved to The Garage, Old Quarry Hall, Bletchingley (there were also a Leonard and Annie Elizabeth Balcombe at Old Quarry Hall Cottage, but it is not clear if they were related at all). They were still there at the outbreak of war in 1939. From 1938 Bletchingley’s bells were out of action until 1948 after death watch beetle was found in the oak beams of the bell frame (restoration was presumably slowed by the war). By 1945 Frederick and Kate were living at 236 Wapses Lodge, Caterham. Fred died on 12 October 1958, and was buried in the churchyard at Bletchingley on 16 October. The burial records show his address at death as 236 Croydon Road, Caterham (given the identical street number, possibly this is actually the same address as 1945).

Balcombe is the first man where the main details of his life can be found in Lives of the First World War rather than in this blog. His profile can be found here

Army-Navy peal 1914: Frederick James Souter (1892-3 June 1953)

This is the fourth in the series on the eight ringers who rang the first peal by an armed forces band, it follows on from the previous article on Alfred Arthur Playle.

Frederick James Souter (1892-3 June 1953). Served c1913-c1934.

The birth of Frederick James Souter was registered in the Bosmere registration district, Suffolk, in the third quarter of 1892. He must in fact have been born right at the beginning of June, or maybe later May as at his death on 3 June 1953 he was stated to be 61 years of age. It’s also worth noting that his name was actually registered as James Frederick, but as his father was also James, presumably he was known as Frederick right from the beginning. The family lived in Mendham, Suffolk. The marriage of the elder James Souter and Eliza Prentice had been registered in the Ipswich registration district in the fourth quarter 1891.

The family was already full of bell ringers, with the elder James’ himself along with other Souter’s, Charles, James and William all being ringers in and around Stowmarket (I haven’t quite established the exact family links). They all appear regularly in the columns of Bell News in 1891 and early 1892. Soon after Frederick’s birth, the family moved to Essex. The first record indicating this is ringing at Ardleigh on 9 October 1892 where J Souter is said to be a Little Bentley ringer, late of Stowmarket. However, he then seems to disappear from ringing records for a few years. Charles Henry Souter was born in the Tendring registration district (which included Little Bentley) mid 1894, sadly he died aged 3, in the first quarter 1897. The birth of William Stanley Souter was registered in the third quarter 1896, the 1901 census gives his place of birth as Mistley.

A new ring of bells was dedicated at Mistley on 25 April, cast the previous year to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Presumably James Souter soon started ringing there, but the report of J Souter (presumably Frederick’s father) as a bellringer at Mistley, is of his ringing 720 changes of Kent Treble Bob on 14 January 1900, and the same method on 4 February and 7 February. The band rang the same again on 1 March, in honour of the Relief of Ladysmith the same day, and on that occasion J Souter conducted. On 16 April they rang 720 Oxford Bob Minor. On 4 July, they were ringing Double Court Minor. On 2 December they rang Double Court and Plain Bob minor. According to the later obituary for Frederick Souter, he was taught to ring by his father and uncle aged just 8, but that was supposed to have been at Stowmarket – his age would put this around 1900. On 31 January 1901, James Souter rang Oxford Bob Minor and on 20 March 1901, Double Court and Plain Bob minor. At the time of the 1901 census the family were living at Cross Road, Mistley. James (33) is shown as being a carter on a farm, Eliza (32), James Frederick (8) and William (4). Around the end of July (no precise date is given) “Jas Souter” rang in a 720 of Cambridge Minor at Mistley, claimed to be the first time the method had been rung at Mistley, though it was subsequently pointed out that the method had been rung at the opening of the bells. After this success, no reports of ringing have been found until a peal of various minor methods was rung at Mistley on 13 April 1904, with James Souter on the treble. This was the first peal on the bells at Mistley. The next report that’s been found is for a 720 of Bob Minor on 9 October 1904 at Mistley.

The reports then again dry up for a few years, until on 9 January both Frederick (aged 14), and James, are reported to have rung in a 720 of Cambridge at Mistley, the first by an entirely local band (and the first 720 rung by Frederick at all). Frederick (listed as J F, aged 15) repeated the feat at Great Bromley on 2 March. Frederick was obviously now a keen ringer, as he was ringing Bob Minor at Mistley on 12 March, though the specific reports then dry up until 16 November when father and son rang 720s of Cambridge and Double Norwich at Great Bentley (the ringing having been arranged specially for them). In December, both rang at the dedication of a new ring at Tendring. On 9 February 1908, both rang in a 720 of Oxford Treble Bob at Mistley, and a touch of Cambridge. Frederick also rang a 720 of Plain Bob Minor on 12 March. On 17 June father and son rang in a date touch of 1908 Bob Minor at Mistley, along with some shorter touches. This was repeated six months later on 16 December.

On 10 January 1909 father and son rang in various touches which marked the departure of the Revd Noel H Johnson (probably a curate) who was about to take up missionary work in India. No further reports of ringing have been traced until 24 June 1910 when Frederick and James, along with S Souter (Stanley?, who would now have been about 14) rang 1910 Bob Minor at Manningtree, where the Revd T Kensit Norman (also Rector of Mistley) was being inducted as Vicar.

At the time of the census in 1911 the family was at Horseley, Cross Road, Mistley. James and Frederick are both described as horsemen, while William Stanley is listed as a general farm hand. No occupation is given for Eliza, but it is shown that she had been married for 19 years, and had had 3 children, one of whom had died. In September 1911, James, Frederick and, presumably, Stanley rang a date touch of Plain Bob Minor on 9 September, and on 28 September 720 of the same method. In 1912 there was a date touch of Plain Bob Minor again on 24 February, along with some other ringing, and more the following day, all in honour of the birthday of the rector’s wife. On 25 September, James and Frederick rang a 720 of Bob Minor.

Frederick joined the Essex Regiment around March or April 1913 (his service record will still be held by the Ministry of Defence, but analysis of regimental numbers close to his of 10188 suggest this date). He would probably first have trained at the regimental depot at Warley, and was then posted to 2nd Battalion which in 1913 was at Bordon, near Aldershot, but was then transferred to Chatham by 1914. Although no reports of ringing by him have been traced in this period, he must have made himself known to the local ringers, and more importantly those who were also members of the armed forces, as he was selected to join the peal band on 8 January which was the first peal by an all armed forces band, and his first peal at all. His younger brother, William Stanley also joined the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion in about June of 1913 (he was given the number 3/1937, 3/1938 joined on 11 June). It was actually quite common to join the Special Reserve, and then subsequently transfer to the regulars, so it’s possible that Frederick also followed that route, but as he would have been given a new number on becoming a regular, it is impossible to be certain without obtaining his service record.

2nd Battalion remained stationed at Chatham, a quiet posting, but then on 28 June 1914 came the assassination in Sarajevo, and ultimately, Britain’s declaration of war on 4 August. On mobilisation, 2nd Battalion, Essex Regiment formed part of 12 Infantry Brigade, 4th Division which was initially retained on home service, in case of German invasion. Stationed first in Norwich, and then on the Norfolk coast at Cromer, they were then moved to Harrow, Middlesex. On 22 August they moved at last to France. This was the very day that British forces first came into contact with those of Germany. They moved up from their landing place at Le Havre, and made contact with the rest of the British Expeditionary Force on 25 August. The BEF had now entered into the Retreat from Mons, and the following day Souter’s battalion was thrown into the holding action at Le Cateau. Of around 40,000 British troops committed to the action during the day, 7,812 would end it killed, wounded, missing or captured. Fortunately, Souter was not one of them so far as we can tell. He remained with the battalion throughout the war, which played its part in most of the major actions of the war. He is known to have had some leave in February 1918 (by which time he was a corporal), and took that chance to return to the bell tower at Great Bromley, along with his father, on 24 February. He ended the war an acting serjeant. So far as is known, he did not receive any major injuries. His brother William was not so lucky. He was presumably called up from the reserve at the outbreak of war. Still only 18, he would not have been eligible to go overseas immediately (the minimum age was 19). As soon as he reached that age, he was posted to 1st Battalion, Essex Regiment, which had landed on the Gallipoli peninsular on 25 April. He arrived on 25 May, unusually arriving as a lance corporal (generally those who had obtained rank at home reverted to private on posting overseas). Five days later he was dead. He is remembered on the Helles Memorial.

The war over, Souter could have left the army with his basic five year service with the colours complete, and served out the remainder of his 12 year enlistment on the reserve. However, he opted to continue serving. 4th Division was broken up in early 1919, and 2nd Battalion, Essex Regiment, was posted to Malta, and then in 1920 to occupation duties in Turkey. However, based on the evidence of his personal life, it seems likely that Souter was transferred to 1st Battalion, which after the war went to Kinsale, Ireland, and was involved in trying to put down the Irish War of Independence. Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty, 1st Battalion was posted to Bordon in 1922. Souter married Kate Griggs back in the Tendring registration district in the 2nd quarter 1920. The birth of Lillian K Souter (mother’s maiden name Griggs) was registered in the Tendring registration district in the 4th quarter 1922, followed by Dorothy J Souter registered Romford RD, 3rd quarter 1924, and Robert J Griggs, Colchester RD, 3rd quarter 1926. 1st Battalion had been posted to Colchester in 1925.

Despite these home postings, Souter does not seem to have found any time for ringing during this time – or at least not for quarter peals and peals (1st battalion moved on to Pembroke Dock in 1929 and Catterick in 1932). The first report of a return to the belfry was a halfmuffled peal of Kent Minor on 12 March 1932 marking the death of his father (registered Tendring RD, 1st quarter 1932). It is described as his first peal of minor. James Souter had been a member of the Mistley ringers for 34 years. Souter presumably left the army about 1934, but remains elusive in ringing reports. At some point he settled in Prittlewell (near Southend), but exactly when is not clear. No more ringing has been traced before the outbreak of the Second World War. This of course largely curtailed ringing until 1943 when the danger of invasion was past, and permission was granted for bells to be rung normally again. During this conflict Souter reportedly trained the Home Guard.

Rather unexpectedly the birth of David M C Souter (mother’s maiden name Griggs) was registered in the 1st quarter 1944, in the Southend RD. I cannot trace another Souter-Griggs marriage, so presumably this was their son, despite the gap of almost 20 years from their previous child! Unfortunately the brief obituary published subsequently makes no mention of his family.

On 19 May 1945 he rang in a peal of Bob Major at Fobbing (near Basildon), and later in the year a quarter peal of Kent Major at Prittlewell on 28 October, followed by Grandsire Triples there on 11 November (despite the date, this does not appear to have been halfmuffled, or explicitly for Armistice Day). He finished the year with a peal of Kent Royal (his first) on 15 December, and a quarter of Bob Major on Christmas Eve at Prittlewell (his surname is given as Sowter in this report). A report of a touch of Grandsire Doubles on 27 January 1945 was stated to include a Frederick Lowler – possibly this was a misreading of Souter.

1946 began with a quarter peal of Grandsire Caters on 6 January at Prittlewell, followed by a peal of the same on 20 January (the 100th peal on the bells). On 23 February a peal of Grandsire Cater, his first (and the first for several other members of the band). The quarter of Grandsire Triples was repeated on 24 March. On 6 April he rang a peal of Bob Royal. On 21 July, a quarter of Kent Major. On 19 October a peal of Kent Royal. Two days later, on 21 October, came a handbell peal (his first) of Bob Minor. This was rung at 73 St Mary’s Road, Prittlewell, presumably either Souter’s home, or that of one of the other two ringers, Edgar Rapley and Frank Lufkin.

1947 proceeded in similar vein, with a peal of Cambridge Major at Stanford-le-Hope (the first in the method on the bells) on 8 March. Then, at Prittlewell on 7 April a record length (9000 changes) of Bob Royal. This marked the bicentenary of the Cumberland Youths, though it was rung for the Essex Association, and the band was mixed, with at least one College Youth among them. An ordinary length peal of Kent Major followed on 15 May, a quarter of Grandsire Caters on 17 August, and a peal of Bob Royal on 8 November. 1948 began with a quarter of Stedman Triples on 18 January but seems to have otherwise seen only a quarter of Grandsire Caters on 7 November, and Bob Royal on 5 December. 1949 began with a quarter peal of Grandsire Caters on 2 January, followed by Kent Royal on 2 May, a peal of Stedman Caters (his first in the principle) on 28 May, a halfmuffled quarter peal of Stedman Caters on 6 November. In 1950 he managed a peal of Stedman Caters on 18 February, Bob Major on 11 May, and a quarter peal of Kent Royal on 28 May.

Sadly about this time his health began to deteriorate, and he disappears form ringing reports, other than his election as a life member of the Essex Association at the AGM on Whit Monday 1952. After three years of illness he died on 3 June 1953, aged 61. His funeral was on 11 June, the bells of Prittlewell being rung halfmuffled by the local band. His obituary describes him as “an enthusiastic ringer and [..] excellent striker”. At the College Youths’ dinner in 1953 he was named as one of the members who had died during the year, but does not actually seem to be included among the online membership lists.