Five members from St Martin’s, Epsom went to war, all returned home (as did the seven from Christ Church, Epsom Common), though there are some interesting examples of the smaller domestic tragedies that are often overlooked in the narrative of war, and of the way the war had an impact on local affairs. Frederick Ernest Coldman had married in mid-1910, he signed up for service with the Royal Army Medical Corps on 23 April 1915. He was discharged in October 1919, but immediately re-enlisted for a year’s service in the Military Foot Police with the Allied Police Commission under the Black Sea Force occupying Turkey. On his re-enlistment papers he states that he is separated from his wife. One can’t help wondering if there is also some connection with an incident at the end of December 1917, when he was late returning from leave for which he was admonished and forfeited two days’ pay — was he trying to resolve some domestic affairs?
Epsom seems to also have had two of the oldest members of the association to join-up. Certainly Alfred David Young was 49 when he signed up on 7 November 1914 (fortunately his service record is among those which survived Second World War bombing). A former Metropolitan police constable, he moved out to Epsom in the 1890s and worked as a carpenter. He had also served in a volunteer battalion of the Middlesex Regiment (presumably before leaving London). This prior military training made him eligible for the National Reserve, in peacetime essentially just a register kept by the county Territorial Force Association of men who might be useful in an emergency. With the outbreak of war the men were formed into local companies to protect fixed points. Young joined the Epsom company, which subsequently became a supernumerary company of 5th (reserve) Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment. These supernumerary companies were subsequently absorbed into the Royal Defence Corps, whose 41st Protection Company was Young’s final unit. He was discharged from the army on 15 September 1916 with eczema and a large hydrocele on his left side, this had been determined to not be a result of his service, but to have been aggravated by it. As such he was entitled to receive a pension. Pensions were not generally permanent, but reviewed every few months to see if the disability was still present. As a result he was attending Horton War Hospital in Epsom as an outpatient throughout 1917. The other rather older man seems to have been the man listed on the original roll as J W Hart. There are no surviving service records in this case. The only obvious candidate in the 1911 census is William John Hart, a 47-year-old solicitor. He would have been 50 in 1914, and as a professional seems rather unlikely to have served as a private in the Labour Corps. However, tracing him back through the earlier censuses found that he was the son of a long-serving NCO, and was brought up in the serjeant-instructor’s quarters at Tottenham drill hall, making it less unlikely that he would be determined to serve in whatever capacity he could, no matter how menial.
The subtitle of this post is inspired by another unexpected discovery made as a result of researching the men on the roll. The Surrey recruitment registers showed that 16 Epsom men, including Albert Claude Coleman, had signed up to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps on the same day, 26 May 1915. His occupation, both in the recruitment register and the 1911 census, was given as stableman. Given Epsom’s connections with the racing industry, this made me wonder if there was a particular event which prompted this. Looking through the online archives of The Times soon provided the likely answer. Early in the war the new grandstand at the racecourse had been converted to a war hospital. At first racing continued, as did many other sports (though cricket was suspended with the 1914 county championship fixtures uncompleted). Part way through 1915 there were suggestions that the patients be relocated so as not to inconvenience Derby spectators. This led to a great number of angry letters in the pages of The Times, and eventually the Jockey Club bowed to public opinion. On 19 May flat racing was suspended (with the exception of Newmarket), and so a week later (presumably after owners had had a chance to work out what they were going to do with their horses) the 16 men came to join up. Coleman’s service papers show he had worked for a Mr Hahn as jockey and travelling head lad (the 1913 Kelly’s Post Office directory shows an Ernest Hahn at Hill House, Links Road, Epsom). Posted to France in June 1916 he was attached to 52 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery as a serjeant dresser (presumably senior assistant to the brigade’s veterinary officer). He seems to have caught an early dose of the Spanish flu in August 1918 and was invalided to England in October. This gave him ongoing health problems until his medical discharge on 10 February 1919, he was rated as 20% disabled at that time.
The fifth man is listed as J M Lamprill, presumably Joseph Morgan Lamprill. He is listed on the roll as having served with the Machine Gun Corps and having been disabled as the result of his war service. I can find to army records to match, but there is a Joseph M Lamprill who served with 5th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment (based in the right area in peacetime) and the Labour Corps. While Labour Corps service often suggests that a man wasn’t classified as A1 fitness, this man has a 7-figure army number (only issued from 1920). He received the Territorial Force War Medal, suggesting he was a pre-war Territorial and served with the 5th Battalion in India, to where it was posted to relieve regular battalions for service on the Western Front. He also received the Territorial Efficiency Medal in 1923, strengthening the likelihood he had served before the war, but also making it seem even less likely he was disabled.