Tag Archives: First World War centenary

Half length photo of a young man in army uniform (no hat)

Henry John Dewey (29 December 1896 – 10 February 1917†)

Henry John Dewey (Lives profile) was the second son of Edward Dewey, himself a ringer at Reigate (and also steeplekeeper at Redhill), and Sarah Ann Sully. In some ringing reports Henry is recorded as Harry, so that may have been how he was generally known.

Edward and Sarah Ann had married at Reigate parish church on 15 October 1892. The Reigate ringers made an attempt to ring a peal to mark the occasion, but it failed, so they had to content themselves with a quarter peal instead. Edward is shown on the wedding certificate as a 35-year-old labourer, residing New Park, Reigate, the son of John Dewey, also a labourer. Sarah Ann was 34 (born Taunton, Somerset), no rank or profession is shown, residing Nutfield. Her father was Henry Sully, who is recorded as having been a gentleman. In 1891 Edward was living with his parents, John and Harriett, and brother James. All the men were brickmaker’s labourers, and the family were living in Brickyard Cottage, Earlswood, all had been born in Reigate. Sarah Ann, despite the claim of her father’s gentility, is recorded as a domestic servant living above stables in Meadvale, Reigate. Reviewing censuses suggests he may have been the Henry Sully born abt 1818 in Taunton who by 1891 was giving his occupation as “retired deputy governor, Taunton Gaol”, in 1861 he is listed as “Chief Turnkey, Taunton Gaol”.

Their first child Edward Frechville Dewey (the middle name appears a few different ways, Frechville, Frecheville, Freschville) was born on 28 September 1893 and baptised at Reigate parish church on 3 November 1893 (there doesn’t seem to have been any particular ringing on that occasion). Henry John was born on 29 December 1896 and baptised at St John’s Redhill on 7 February 1897. It was later that year that, sadly, Edward Frechville Dewey died. He was buried in Reigate churchyard on 3 June, I’ve not established the exact date of death, probably in late May. The burial record seems to be the first time the family were recorded living on Earlswood Road.
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Harold Dennis (1894-7 November 1916†)

Harold Dennis (Lives profile) was another son of a ringer at Redhill, like the Streeter brothers. Harold was born in Farningham, Swanley, Kent in mid-1894, the second child of Edward Dennis and Susan Martha (neé Cousal). They had married at All Saints, Wandsworth on 24 January 1891 when both were living at 57 Cambourn (or Camborne) Road. He was 30 and a gardener and she was 26. They were still living at the same address when the census was taken at the end of March. The census shows that Edward was originally from Leigh in Surrey, while Susan was from Reading, Berkshire.

By the time that their first child was born in the first half of 1892 they had moved to Farningham, Swanley, Kent. The birth of Mabel Emily Dennis was registered in the Dartford registration district in the second quarter of 1892. Harold’s birth was also registered in that district in the third quarter of 1894.

The family then moved to Redhill before the birth (or at least the baptism) of Edith Dennis. She was baptised at St John’s Redhill on 6 December 1896, with the baptismal record noting that she was born on 17 September 1896. Edward is still recorded as a gardener. She was followed by Charles Edward Dennis on 4 February 1900 (baptised 15 April 1900). At the 1901 census the family were living at 11 Carter’s Row Cottages. The family was completed with the arrival of Herbert Dennis on 21 January 1903 (baptised 5 April 1903).

The family were still at 11 Carter’s Row Cottages at the 1911 census. Harold had now followed his father into work as a gardener. Mabel Emily had left the family home and was boarding at 10 Elm Road, East Sheen, and working as a teacher at a church elementary school. The rest of the children were still at school.

Edward features quite frequently in ringing reports from Redhill. Harold was elected to the Surrey Association on 24 July 1914, so had probably been ringing for a little while before that. In 1915 he rang the treble to two quarter peals of Grandsire Triples at Redhill. In the first the band was joined by Pte C A Hughes, a London ringing serving with 17th Battalion (County of London), London Regiment, then stationed nearby, but about to leave the district. In the second they were bolstered by F W Bailey, one of the Bailey brothers of Leiston, Suffolk, very well-known ringers, who was serving with 9th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment.

The amount of war gratuity paid out after Harold’s death indicates that he joined up around June 1915. The Ringing World of 9 July 1915 reports that he was with 3rd Battalion, The Queen’s. Army records show that he enlisted at Guildford. The battalion was then at Rochester, serving as both training unit and on home defence duties. Harold completed his training in October, and was posted to 8th Battalion in France on 13 October 1915. 8th Queen’s, along with the rest of 24th Infantry Division had suffered a real baptism of fire at Loos, with the battalion losing 439 men killed, including 12 officers, and similar (and even worse) losses in other battalions of the division. The battalion was in desperate need of reinforcements.

Harold would have been with the battalion when they suffered a German gas attack at Wulverghem in 1916, and then during the Battle of the Somme in the Battle of Delville Wood and the Battle of Guillemont. By November 1916 they had been moved back up to the old Loos battlefield, then relatively quiet. Rotating in and out of the trenches. On 7 November 1916 the war diary records “One casualty – killed – aerial dart”. These were very simple weapons, little more than steel rods, often dropped from aircraft. He was taken to the cemetery at Philosophe, Mazingarbe, for burial.

His death was recorded at the next AGM of the Surrey Association, and of course he is on the roll of honour of the Association, and the Central Council for Church Bell Ringers. The current band marked the centenary of his death with a quarter peal (appropriately of Grandsire Triples) at Redhill on Sunday 6 November 1916. They had also previously marked Albert Streeter’s death.

First World War commemoration concert, Teddington 13/12/2014

Concert poster. All details are in the post belo

Concert poster. Thanks to Andrew Holmes for the photo of Ovillers Military Cemetery

On 13 December 2014 Twickenham Choral Society are giving a First World War centenary commemoration concert at the Landmark Arts Centre, Teddington, starting at 19:30. The programme comprises Domenico Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater, Iain Farrington’s The Burning Heavens (which sets several of Siegfried Sassoon’s war poems) and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem.

As a 2nd tenor in the choir, I’ve written the programme notes for the concert. These look at the music in the concert, Vaughan Williams’ war service, and some of the effects of the war on the local area. In that context I’ve taken a brief look at the service of a few local men, and so I’ve smuggled in one of the men named on the Surrey Association roll of honour, John Harley Bridges Hesse (Kingston) as before he was commissioned in to the Army Service Corps he was a Teddington resident.

I’ve also created a community on Lives of the First World War to group together all the men whose service gets a mention in the programme. This also includes the choir’s second conductor, Charles Thornton Lofthouse who served as an officer in the Manchester Regiment.

Tickets are available via the Landmark Arts Centre website.

Red Cross POW records and a mystery solved

One of the many digitisation projects sparked by the centenary has been carried out by the International Committee of the Red Cross. They have digitised the Prisoner of War records from their archives which were released (80% complete) on 4 August. The site can be found at http://grandeguerre.icrc.org/.

The release of these records has allowed me to clear up one of the outstanding identifications from the roll. Listed under Dorking was a W Hills, recorded as being a Private in the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). From census records the only plausible candidate seemed to be the William James Hills living at Chalkpit Cottages in 1911, but I had not been able to find any military information. The roll also indicates he had been a prisoner, so the Red Cross records were an obvious avenue to explore.

A little experimentation showed that the records tend to be grouped under a single variant, so Hills appeared with those named Hill. At first it seemed I would continue to draw a blank. None of the records for the Queen’s matched, but I noticed that some men were actually in Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment), so eventually I looked at the section for those too, reasoning that the confusion might work both ways.

There I found a record card for William Hills. Using the reference numbers recorded on the original card, this links to 3 other records. These confirmed he was William J Hills, and giving a home address matching the 1911 census, the birthplace of Burpham, Arundel also matched. But he is shown as belonging to West Kents rather than West Surreys

So in fact it was the roll of honour which was incorrect and had muddled the West Surreys and West Kents. With his regimental number from the card (initially wrongly recorded as 14619, but an amendment on the card indicated it should be 17619) I also found a matching medal index card, but sadly (but unsurprisingly) no service record. However this is quite enough to be sure of the identification.

Mobilize

On 4 August 1914 regular army units received a one word War Office telegram: “Mobilize” [sic]. Author Richard van Emden tweeted this image of one such telegram as logged by the orderly room of 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards at Tidworth Camp that day.

2nd Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), stationed at Bordon Camp in Hampshire would have received something similar, their war diary notes that the mobilisation order was received at 5:30pm. Serving with them was Walter Markey of Burstow. In fact, from 29 July, units had been ordered on to a “precautionary period”, meaning that guards had to be placed on strategic points, and mobilisation preparations were begun. The Surrey History Centre posted this photo of the battalion on parade at Bordon in August 1914 – presumably Markey is somewhere in the ranks.

A military formation drawn up in ranks on a parade ground, a few barrack buildings visible in the background. At the front of the formation are five officers on horseback

1st Battalion, The Queen’s, on parade at Bordon, August 1914 (SHC ref QRWS/2/13/7)


You can read their full story here.

The London Gazette also published a special supplement with the King’s official notice calling up all army reservists and embodying the Territorial Force. This notice would have set Walter Hodges of Benhilton on the way to his regimental depot at Ayr in order to rejoin the Royal Scots Fusiliers. For pre-war Territorials like George Marriner of and George Naish of Kingston it would have caused them to report to their drill halls where their units were moving onto a war footing. Just a few days earlier they would have been anticipating the pleasures of the annual summer camp, but those were largely cancelled as the European situation worsened.

The Royal Navy had actually been mobilised the previous day (an ealier London Gazette supplement contained the notice). In fact, they had already carried out a test mobilisation in July, and many of the men, including Nutfield’s Alfred Bashford, were already back aboard their ships (HMS Good Hope in Bashford’s case). The interesting day-by-day republication of The Daily Telegraph showed how closely this was reported at the time, and the naval mobilisation is one fo the topics most picked out by their archives’ twitter account, which can be seen via the widget below:

For more on the mobilisation process, see today’s Operation War Diary blogpost. The Friends of the Suffolk Regiment are also tweeting the mobilisation process as undertaken by 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, beginning with this tweet:

Also, this blog post, and following ones described the mobilisation of 1st West Kents.

99th anniversaries, and new resources

Yesterday, 31 October, saw the 99th anniversary of the death of the first association member which was due to the war. Pte Walter Eric Markey, 1st Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) of Burstow was killed during the Battle of Gheluvelt, part of the First Battle of Ypres. This desperate action prevented the fall of Ypres to the Germans. A good account of the actions of his battalion can be found on Andy Arnold’s blog. Walter’s body was never recovered and his name is among those on the Menin Gate.

Today is the 99th anniversary of the death of Alfred Bashford of Nutfield. He had served as a regular in the Royal Navy in the first years of the 20th century, but by the outbreak of war was a reservist. Following his call-up he was posted to HMS Good Hope, a rather elderly armoured cruiser, itself in the reserves. A large proportion of the crew were reservists like Alfred. The ship became the flagship of a small squadron of similar vessels sent to the Pacific to deal with German commerce raiders. On 1 November the Royal Navy squadron met its German counterpart off the Chilean port of Coronel. Completely out-classed they suffered a devastating defeat. Good Hope and her sister ship HMS Monmouth were sunk with the loss of approaching 1600 men. They would subsequently be avenged in the Battle of the Falkland Islands.

This all serves to remind us that we are now in November, and the run-up to Remembrance Day, the last which falls before the centenary period. This is likely to prompt some announcements of further details of centenary commemorations: the Welsh government officially launched Wales Remembers this week, and I understand there will be more details on the centrepiece Lives of the First World War project announced shortly.

Coincidentally this week has also brought news of a new bell ringing resource, with the delayed launch of digitised versions of the second thirty years issues of The Ringing World becoming available, this covers the years 1941-1970. This will extend the possibilities for research into the later lives of many of the men recorded on the roll. I’ve also ordered the newer version of the digitised version of Bell News, which has full OCR which should make research into their earlier lives easier too. In the version I currently have there is no full text search, so you have to use the index provided (which only tends to cover towers and the most “famous” ringing names), which means you have to rather guess where someone might have been ringing, and so you miss information on their ringing at unexpected places.

More news on centenary commemorations

On Monday there were further announcements about the official plans for centenary commemorations including the government website where all official details will be posted. Most prominent among the newly announced information was additional detail on a service for Commonwealth Heads of Government in Glasgow Cathedral on 4 August 2014, since they will be in Glasgow for the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games the previous day; and also a candlelit vigil in Westminster Abbey finishing at 11pm, the moment the British declaration of war came into effect.

During the vigil the candles will gradually be extinguished, until the last is blown out at 11pm, based on the Foreign Secretary, Lord Grey’s, remark in 1914 “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our time”. (There is a subtle flaw in the plan as currently stated, British Summer Time was only introduced in 1916, so the service really needs to end at 11pm GMT, ie midnight BST). The hope has been expressed that churches around the country (and indeed the world, it was the whole British Empire that declared war at this time) will hold their own vigils at the same time.

There is an obvious analogue as to how ringing could join the vigil. Begin by ringing rounds on all the tower’s bells, and occasionally stand one of the bells, starting from the treble, until the tenor is tolling. Stand the tenor at 11pm.

Having been away for several days, I aim to resume publishing the stories of individual ringers named on the roll shortly.