When drawing up the Colliers Wood entry, I indicated that I hadn’t yet been able to trace the RAF service record for William Crossley. This was true, but I’ve just rediscovered some handwritten notes which hadn’t made it into my main spreadsheet. These reminded me that I had found a record for a William Crossley, born Merton on 28 June 1900 (all consistent with the census information and birth registration I had found) as a rating in the Royal Naval Air Service. He joined in January 1918 (the exact date is unclear) when he would have been just about 17-and-a-half, which fits with the conscription regualtions in force at the time as I understand them (you could wait until compulsory call up at 18, or opt to serve with a Young Soldier’s battalion, or volunteer for the navy), and was given the official number F45883. He was initially based at Royal Naval Air Station Tregantle, located at Fort Tregantle, a Victorian coastal defence fort, protecting the approaches to Plymouth. On 4 February 1918 he was posted to RNAS Cranwell (which would become the location for the present RAF College Cranwell). He transferred to the RAF on its formation on 1 April 1918. All RNAS men with official numbers beginning F were given RAF numbers which dropped the F, and added a leading 2 and as many zeroes as necessary to make a six figure number (i.e. a number in the range 200001-299999, though not all the men numbered in this range were necessarily ex-RNAS), so he would have become 245883. RAF airmen’s records which have been transferred to The National Archvies are in the series AIR 79, 245883 would be in piece AIR 79/2213 – but it is is indicated in Discovery that AIR 79/2213/245883 is not available. This suggests he continued serving in the RAF after the war. It is anticapted that these files will be transferred from the Minsitry of Defence quite soon.
Christchurch, Colliers Wood (or Mitcham as it was listed in the original roll) sent thirteen ringers to war — the largest contingent of any tower — and was fortunate enough for all of them to return (though three are marked on the original roll as having been wounded, and others suffered illnesses and other problems). An impressive effort for a six bell tower, though of course it was in a more densley populated, and urban, area than much of Surrey was at the time. There are three sets of brothers among the thirteen, two Druetts, two Jennings and three Parslows (a fourth Parslow also served, but does not appear to have been a ringer, though it is known their father was). Alfred Miller may also have been brother-in-law to the Druetts. This just goes to show what a family business ringing could be (and still is). Horace Charles Druett is one of the handful of men named on the roll who were commissioned during the war. He seems to have considered joining the Indian Army permanently, having transferred to the Indian Army Reserve of Officers, but thought better of it and returned to the East Surrey Regiment. There are some indications in his records that he felt he had been misled as to his prospects in India.