Tag Archives: First World War

Mustachioed man in military uniform, a sash running right to left over a metal breastplate.

William Frank Smith (1889-6 May 1917†)

William Frank Smith (Lives profile) was born in 1889 in Reigate. He was the second child of Frank Smith and Clementina (nee Trumble). They had married at St George in the East on 20 November 1886, probably Clementina’s home parish as censuses describe her as being born in Wapping. Frank was Reigate born and bred (some censuses record his birthplace as Leigh, a small village south west of Reigate), so it’s not clear how they met, though perhaps Clementina had been working in Reigate. In 1881 she was a house maid in Kensington. The marriage record shows that Frank could only make his mark, not sign, in the register. The later correspondence with the army after William’s death also seems to have been carried out only by Clementina. Frank was the son of John Smith, they were both farm labourers, Frank’s address is given only as Reigate. Clementina was the daughter of John Thomas Trumble, Inspector of Nuisances (the final word is unclear), and living at 227 Cable Street.

Their first child, Dorothy Clementina, was born in in 1887, her birth was registered in the third quarter in the Reigate registration district, and she was baptised at St Mark’s, Reigate on 3 July 1887. The family were then living on Nutley Lane, Reigate. William followed in 1889, the brith was registered in the third quarter, again in Reigate registration district. He was baptised at St Mark’s on 1 September 1889, the family were still living on Nutley Lane. Frank’s occupation is now given as carter. The family were still in Nutley Lane, at No 44, at the 1891 census on 5 April. The family also had a lodger, William Comben (36, no occupation stated).

Arthur Christian Smith was born later in 1891, registered in the 4th quarter in the Reigate registration district. He was baptised at St Mark’s on 13 December, the family were still living at 44 Nutley Lane. Frank is now recorded as a labourer. Sadly Arthur died aged just 2, and was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard on 21 February 1894. The family’s address was still Nutley Lane. Later that year Charles Henry was born on 28 August 1894, registered in the 4th quarter 1894 in the Reigate registration district. He was baptised in the parish of “Nutley Lane, St Mark’s” on 18 November 1894. This indicates that Charles at least was baptised in what’s now called St Philip’s, Reigate, then a proprietary chapel within the parish of St Mark’s (it is still not a full parish in its own right). It’s possible that the other children were also actually baptised there as St Philip’s had opened in 1863. William’s obituary also tells us that sang in the choir there as boy. The family’s address was then given as 30 York Road (now Yorke Road).

By the 1901 census (31 March) the family were at 42 Yorke Road. Frank is now recorded as a bricklayer’s labourer. Dorothy (13) has been apprenticed to a tailor; William and Charles are presumably still at school. There are two visitors with the family: Ada Walker (17), a housemaid born in Headington, Oxfordshire, and Doris M Hind (6), born in Norwood.

Aged 13, so in late 1902 or early 1903, William went to work as gardener for Philip Woolley at Broke House in Reigate Hill. Over the next few years William also joined the local men’s British Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment. William’s obituary tells us he passed the certificate of proficiency seven times. He also joined the local miniature rifle club, apparently becoming a crack shot, and of course he also became a bellringer at the old parish church of St Mary’s.

It perhaps came as a bit of a surprise to the family when in early 1907 Clementina found she was pregnant again, 13 years after Charles Henry was born. Arnold John Victor was born on 26 September 1907, and baptised at St Mary’s on 10 November. The family were now living back on Nutley Lane, Frank is now recorded as a bricklayer.

The first definite record of William as a ringer is his first peal on 21 March 1908, when he rang the seventh to a peal of Grandsire Caters at St Mary’s. It is probable that he’d been ringing for some time before that. The following day he also rang in touches of Grandsire Triples and Caters for Sunday service. He also rang a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples on 16 November 1911, and another peal of Caters on 27 November 1909. The last of those was rung for the Sussex Association, he being one of three of the band proposed as members beforehand. He also went on the ringing outing to Hughenden and High Wycombe in July 1911. His obituary indicates he rang a total of four peals, but the other two have not yet been traced.

By the 1911 census on 2 April 1911 the family were living at 77 Nutley Lane. Frank (48) was a bricklayer’s labourer, Clementina (47) has no occupation given, so was presumably a housewife looking after Harold (3), Dorothy (23) was a ladies’ tailor, William (21) a gardener, Charles (16) was an errand boy for an ironmonger. They also had Sarah Mocock (11), a niece of the head of the household staying with them. As she was born in Wapping it seems likely she was the daughter of one of Clementina’s sisters.

On 2 July 1912 Dorothy Clementina married local policeman William Robert Prangnell at St Mary’s. Both were 25-years-old. Dorothy’s address was recorded as Holly Cottage, Nutley Lane, William’s as 14 South Albert Road, Reigate. William was the son of William Henry Prangnell (deceased), a maltster and brewer. A month later the newly-weds boarded the SS Corinthic in London, bound for Tasmania. William is recorded as a constable, so presumably he was going to join the force in Tasmania.

Alongside his main Red Cross work William also served as ambulance instructor to the Reigate Borough Fire Brigade (his father had been a fireman for some years). Over Whitsun 1914 (Whit Sunday – Pentecost was 31 May 1914) he travelled with a detachment from the brigade to Ivry-sur-Seine in France, and with his ambulance section took first place among the various fire brigades represented there following a display by the brigade under the command of Captain Rouse and Superintendent F Legg.

Just under a month later, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, and Europe spiralled into war. To start with William continued to work as a gardener, but later in 1914 The Ward Hospital opened as an auxiliary hospital on Reigate Hill and he took up a post as ward orderly. The hospital was named after Lt-Col John Ward, an MP and trade union leader (who had been a private soldier in his younger days), and run by his wife. Some sources suggest it had been a convalescent home for children before the war. Lt-Col Ward raised the 18th and 19th Battalions of the Middlesex Regiment (1st and 2nd Public Works Battalions) during the First World War.

Charles Henry, who was a motor driver, enlisted in the Army Service Corps in London on 10 February 1915, and arrived in France on 31 May 1915. The same day Charles enlisted William was presented with a clock by the members of the Voluntary Aid Detachment to mark his service with them. William carried on at the hospital, but the manpower situation was becoming acute and by the latter part of 1915 it was becoming increasingly clear that conscription would be introduced. William attested under the terms of the Derby Scheme in Reigate on 11 December 1915, and went onto Army Reserve B the following day, carrying on at the hospital for the time being. Meanwhile Charles was appointed acting lance corporal (unpaid) on 28 December 1915.

William was called up in February 1916 and reported to Regent’s Park Barracks on 9 February. After medicals and so on he was posted to the Royal Horse Guards on 11 February, becoming 2602 Trooper William Frank Smith. The ringers marked his departure (in absentia) by dedicating the service ringing on 17 February to himHe would then have trained at Windsor (where the depot of the Household Cavalry still is) and Knightsbridge Barracks. It was probably at some time during this phase of his training that the photo of him in uniform was taken.

Mustachioed man in military uniform, a sash running right to left over a metal breastplate.

Corpl W F Smith is pictured in the uniform of the Royal Horse Guards, complete with cuirass (breastplate), so this picture was probably taken on completion of his initial training, before he was transferred to the newly raised Household Battalion, an infantry unit formed from the reserves of the Household Cavalry not required for mounted duty in France

It was on 1 September 1916 that he was transferred to the newly raised Household Battalion, receiving the new regimental number 107. It was infantry that was needed on the Western Front, not heavy cavalry. The Household Cavalry had more than enough reserves, so some of the men were transferred to the infantry role, although by raising a new battalion, they maintained the traditions of the Household Cavalry (and the higher rate of pay that the cavalry received). This higher rate of pay seems to have been a bit of a bone of contention with the Foot Guards NCOs brought in to give them instruction in the finer points of infantry tactics, who gave the new battalion a bit of a rough time as they trained for their new role in Richmond Park.

The battalion was inspected by the King (who had had to approve all the details of the raising of the battalion) in Hyde Park on 2 November. This was preparation for their imminent departure for France. Members of the battalion attended a service at Brompton Parish Church on Sunday 5 November, then a route march in London on the Monday, photos in the barrack square on Tuesday, then to Southampton from Waterloo on 8 November, and thence overnight to Le Havre arriving early on 9 November. This first part of the battalion travelled on SS Mona’s Queen, while the remainder followed on SS Australind the following day. Once in France the battalion joined 10th Infantry Brigade in 4th Division. Initially they were some distance behind the lines in Abbeville, but in December they moved to the now quiet area of the Somme. Initially they were at the very southern end of the British Front, but in March moved a little further north. On 22 February 1917 Smith was promoted to Corporal. Given his leadership experience in the Red Cross, this is not surprising.

Although they had been in-and-out of the trenches throughout this time it was only in April 1917 when the battalion was committed to the Battle of Arras that received their real baptism of fire in large-scale actions. On 11 April 10th Brigade were tasked with taking Greenland Hill and Plouvain. Unfortunately they were spotted by German reconnaissance planes while forming up and heavily shelled. Nevertheless, the attack continued, but with little success, and heavy casualties. By the time they were pulled out of the line on 13 April the total casualties were 170. They had only a short respite before returning to the trenches on 16 April until relieved late on 20 April. For this period they were merely holding the line, rather than engaging in an attack, but still suffered further casualties. Then a slightly longer period out the line, but training for the next operation, before heading back to the trenches again on 30 April. The next attack came early on 3 May, with the German line between Roeux and the River Scarpe as their objective. Again there was little progress. A smaller scale operation was ordered for 6 May, which in the end was little more than a reconnaissance patrol, followed up by a grenade attack.

It was during this operation that Smith was killed in the early hours of 6 May 1917.

According to a letter written by a lieutenant of his company to Smith’s fiancée (who sadly is not named in the newspaper obituary which quotes the letter) he had been taking a message to the CO when he was shot by a sniper. The letter states:

He was a magnificent man, never flinching or wavering from any task, however difficult, and always performing it with willingness and patience.[…]He died as he would have wished, right up in the front line, and I can but offer my own sympathy and tell you how the regiment from the Colonel downwards feel his loss as a loss to the regiment and to himself. He was buried behind the lines and a cross put up over the grave, which is being tended with all possible care.

That grave is now II. C. 4. in Crump Trench British Cemetery, Fampoux. The battlefield cross has been replaced with a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone, bearing the family inscription “Peace, Perfect Peace”.

Following Smith’s death the Town Council sent their sympathies to the family following a council meeting on 25 June 1917, this was due to his work with the Fire Brigade. His was also one of the first set of 56 names inscribed on the war memorial erected at St Mark’s Reigate in November 1917. Sadly there would be several more to add before the war was actually over. This was the first permanent memorial in Reigate, and one of the earliest in the country.

The war had not finished with the Smith family. William Prangnell enlisted in the Australian Field Artillery on 7 September 1916. He was killed in action in Belgium on 12 September 1917. By the time he joined up he and Dorothy and moved from Tasmania to Melbourne. He had left the police and was working for Victoria Railways. They do not seem to have had any children. After the war Dorothy took the offer of a free passage back to the UK from the Australian government and returned to Reigate. Charles Henry Smith developed valvular heart disease and a goitre during his service in the ASC, and was discharged as no longer fit for war service on 21 March 1918.

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An off-white headstone with a slightly curved top, a regimental badge above the details of Sydney Smith, with a cross below, and the inscription chosen by his family

Stanley Smith (14 January 1896 – 18 March 1917†), Mitcham

Stanley Smith (Lives profile) was the youngest child of William Shipp Smith and Ellen, nee Dench. His father was also a ringer, and quite a prolific conductor for the Surrey Association in its relatively early days, and was also a composer.

William and Ellen married at Stephen’s, Twickenham, on 15 September 1889. William was then 22 and a carpenter, Ellen was the same age. They were both living at 6 Sandycoombe Road, just a short distance from the church. Ellen must already have been heavily pregnant as their first child, William Thomas Smith, was born less than a month later, on 8 October 1889. By the time he was baptised at St Mary’s Twickenham (the original parish church) on the family were living at the Mission House. The 1891 census tells us that this was on Church Lane, right next to St Mary’s. As the next property listed on the census returns was the Queen’s Head (now the Barmy Arms), this suggests the Mission House was perhaps on the site now occupied by the Mary Wallace Theatre. Shortly before the census Ellen Ethel Smith had arrived on 1 February 1891, she was baptised on census day, 5 April 1891, both the baptismal record and census entry agreeing on the Mission House as the family’s residence. The census lists Ellen’s mother, Mary A Dench as head of the household. She was a 65-year-old widow and a laundress. Her son (Ellen’s brother), Henry, a 40-year-old painter was also living in the household, along with William (still a carpenter), Ellen, and the two children. Based on later censuses, the birthplaces of Henry and William appear to have been accidentally switched, this census indicates that Henry was born in Paulerspury, Northamptonshire, and William in Twickenham, it seems far more likely that William was born in Paulerspury and Henry in Twickenham like his mother and sister and the two children. There’s at least one report of William ringing while in Twickenham (Bell News, 9 August 1890, p241 reports W Smith of Twickenham joining various visiting Surrey ringers on 19 July). The very common surname makes an exhaustive search extremely time consuming. There were also bells in Paulerspury, so he could have learnt to ring there.

Some time in the next five years the family moved to Wimbledon. Stanley was born there on 14 January 1896, and baptised at Holy Trinity, South Wimbledon, on 22 February, the family’s address is recorded in the register as 121 Russell Road. Bell News suggests the move could have been as early as 1893 with reports then and in 1894 of W S Smith ringing at Wimbledon (18 July 1893, p201 reports ringing on 28 April 1893 and 14 May 1894, p113 reports ringing on various dates in April). Despite these early connections with the tower at Wimbledon, William seems to have been mostly associated with Mitcham, which had a strong band at this time, eventually becoming steeplekeeper. Since he was a carpenter he may also have been working for the ringing master there, J D Drewett, who ran a local building firm (he was also a local councillor and Master of the Surrey Association).

By 1901 the family seem to have moved just next door, to 123 Russell Road (or there may have been some renumbering). William was still a carpenter, no occupation is given for any of the other family members, they still have Ellen’s mother living with them too. There also seems to be a second family (the Robins) living in the same house (and the same can be seen for all the nearby houses), so 9 people in total in the property.

Sadly William Thomas Smith died in the first half of 1909, aged 19. I’ve not managed to find any details beyond the index entry for the death registration in the 2nd quarter of 1909 in the Kingston registration district. The 1911 census indicates that William and Ellen had had 3 children, one of whom had died, which was the first indication I found of the death of William Thomas. The family were then still at 123 Russell Road, now just the four of them (though there was still another household recorded at the same address too). William was still a carpenter, Ethel Ellen had become a female sorter in the Civil Service, possibly in the Saving Bank Department (“S Bank Dept” appears to be what’s recorded against her entry), Stanley was an assistant in a warehouse.

Stanley did not rush to the colours at the outbreak of war. He enlisted, or rather was conscripted, on 30 August 1916. He made his attestation at Wimbledon, he was now a timekeeper, 5’6″ tall, weighed 122 pounds, and had a 36″ chest (with 3″ of expansion). He joined 4th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment. It seems likely that he had some time on Army Reserve B awaiting his call-up proper. He managed to ring his first (and only) quarter peal at Mitcham on 17 September 1917. After his training with 4th Battalion, he joined 9th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment in France, probably in early 1917. This was the battalion in which the playwright, R C Sherriff, was an officer. Transcripts of his letters home, which provide some insight into what the battalion faced can be found on Roland Wales’ website under R C Sherriff’s Letters from France. It was a cold winter, with a lot of snow. By March though the battalion were based in Cité Colonne, near Loos, where the front line went through small villages, so the men could find shelter in what was left of the houses.

An off-white headstone with a slightly curved top, a regimental badge above the details of Sydney Smith, with a cross below, and the inscription chosen by his family

Stanley Smith’s grave in Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery British Extension, courtesy of Alan Regin ©

Early 1917 is also described in the book The Journey’s End battalion, the 9th East Surrey in the Great War. Stanley seems to have been rather unlucky, the battalion suffered only 5 deaths in March 1917, 3 of them were on 18 March, Herbert Lewis Reynolds and William John Woodall being killed with him on that day and Fred Cyril Benham died of wounds the following day. No particular mention is made in the war diary, except that the four men are listed as casualties of the 18 March in the appendix for the month. The brief obituary published in The Ringing World on 13 April 1917 states that he was killed instantly by a shell (though such reports have to be taken with a pinch of salt, those writing home often wishing to spare the families full details). Stanley was buried in Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery, British Extension with Reynolds and Woodall either side of him. After the war the family had the inscription “Thou gav’st thyself for me, give myself to thee” added to his headstone, the last two lines of the hymn “Thy Life was giv’n for me”, words by Frances Ridley Havergal.

The Mitcham ringers rang a half-muffled quarter peal of Stedman Triples in his memory on 1 April 1917, the band was A J Lambert 1, J D Drewett 2, C Dean 3, C W R Grimwood 4, A Calver 5, T Steers 6, W H Joiner (conductor) 7, J Currell 8. Calver and Joiner would also serve.

In 1919 Stanley was among the ringers commemorated at the National Ringers’ Memorial Service at St Clement Danes on 22 February. Then on Easter Day (20 April) the Mitcham ringers unveiled a memorial to the three Mitcham ringers killed in the ringing chamber at Mitcham. This was reported in The Ringing World:

WAR MEMORIAL AT MITCHAM.
TABLET UNVEILED IN THE BELFRY.
On Easter Day, before the evening service at the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul, Mitcham, the Rev C Aubrey Finch (Vicar), Alderman R M Chart, Dr T Cato Worsfold (churchwardens), Mr J D Drewett, Master, Surrey Association and Mitcham Society, and members of the Mitcham Society, together with relatiyes and friends, assembled in the church tower for the purpose of unveiliug and dedicating a marble tablet erected in the belfry to the sacred memory of those members of the society who fell in action during the war. The tablet which is the gift of Mr J D Drewett, whose son is among the fallen, is of an appropriate design and noble character, inscribed as follows –

“Sacred to the memory of members of the Mitcham Society and Surrey
Association of Change Ringers who fell in action in the Great War,
1914-1918
Douglas Walter Drewett, 1st Cameron Highlanders, killed in action, October 31st, 1918
Benjamin Arthur Morris, 4th Coldstream Guards, killed in action, November 28th, 1917
Stanley Smith, 9th East Surreys, killed in action, March 18th 1917
They died that we might live.
Rest in Peace.”

It is proposed to establish a fund in connection with the memorial, the money to be invested, and any interest that may accrue therefrom is to be used for the purpose of assisting any member of the Mitcham Society who may be in need of help.

Unfortunately this does not seem to have survived, on a visit a few years ago I noticed that there are still large brackets on the wall that could have supported a marble tablet. On 6 September Ethel Ellen married Richard Pethybridge, a widower with children and 13 years her senior. He is probably the same as the R Pethybridge ringing with her father in the earliest reports of William ringing at Wimbledon. Ethel does not seem to have had any children of her own.

The centenary of Stanley’s death was marked with a quarter peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Mitcham on 17 March 2017.

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.

Streeter brothers: Albert (1896-8 October 1916) and William (1893-?)

William (Lives profile) and Albert (Lives profile) were the first and third sons respectively of William and Eliza (née Bradford). They married at Horne on 29 October 1892. William followed shortly afterwards—his birth was registered in the first quarter of 1893 in Reigate. Later census returns indicate that he was born in Outwood, near Burstow. 

William was followed by Ellen Jane in 1894, Robert in 1896, Albert in 1897 (also at Outwood), Rhoda Emma in 1899 and George on 4 September 1900. George is the first child for whom a baptismal record has been found, at Redhill on 18 November 1900. The family were then living at Earlswood Common.  However, by the 1901 census on 31 March, the family’s address is given as Dove Cottage, Lonesome Lane, Redhill. The older William is recorded as a sewerage farm worker. 

Over the next few years the family grew with the addition of Sydney on 28 April 1904 (baptised 3 July 1904), and Percy on 12 July 1908 (baptised 4 October 1908).

In 1911 the family were living at 2 Sewerage Cottages, Redhill. The older William seems to have now become the foreman of the sewage farm. The younger William had moved out, and was living and working at a Temperance Hostel at 106 Brighton Road, Redhill.

It seems the older William began ringing when bells were hung at Redhill in the later 1890s. Other Streeters were ringing at Worth and other nearby Sussex villages, but I’ve not managed to connect them definitely. 

Albert began ringing around 1913, ringing his first quarter peal on 27 March 1913 at Redhill. He rang the treble to Grandsire Triples, his father was ringing the second, and his uncle (William’s younger brother), Amos Thomas Streeter (also his first quarter peal). This was the first quarter peal by a band entirely from Redhill. Ringing the Tenor was E Dennis, father of Harold Dennis who would die just a few weeks after Albert. They repeated the quarter peal a month later, with much the same band. 

On 26 December 1913, Albert rang his first peal, trebling to plain bob major. This was with a mixed band at St Michael’s, Betchworth. It was conducted by George F Hoad, his brother Henry A Hoad also rang, as did Henry F Ewins, all of whom also appear on the roll of honour. 

He rang another peal, this time at Reigate, on 4 May 1914, trebling to grandsire triples. 

Albert doesn’t seem to have managed any further peals or quarter peals before the outbreak of war. He and the younger William seem to have joined up quickly, along with a third brother, with The Ringing World of 11 September 1914 reporting:

Three sons for the country

The members of the St John’s Society, Redhill, met at St. John’s Church on Sunday week for a quarter-peal of Grandsire Triples, and for the purpose of congratulating one of its members, Mr W Streeter, whose three sons had during the previous week, responded to their country’s call, and had signed on for either home or foreign service. One of the sons was also a member of the St John’s Society; and was a very promising ringer. The following ringers constituted the band: H. Dennis 1, W Streeter 2, E Harman 3, A Gear 4, T Streeter 5, H Edwards 6, H Card (conductor) 7, E Dennis 8

Albert is presumably the one referred to as a promising ringer, with the other two probably being William and Robert. While a W Streeter is listed on the roll of honour and I think it’s the younger William (though there are no definite reports of him ringing), Robert never seems to have become a ringer. 

By 4 October 1914 Albert was stationed at Gravesend with 9th Battalion, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). He joined the local band there to ring a quarter peal for their harvest festival, ringing the second to grandsire triples. Also joining the locals was W Denyer of Ewhurst (not listed on the roll of honour) who was also with The Queen’s. 

By July 1915 the battalion had moved to Colchester and Albert had been promoted to Corporal. Meanwhile William had gone to France with the 6th Battalion on 1 June 1915. At some point he would be transferred to 7th Battalion. 

Albert was presumably training as a machine gunner as by the time he went overseas he was with 53 Machine Gun Company. This was part of 53 Infantry Brigade in 18 (Eastern) Division. The division went to France in 1915, but Albert did not receive the 1915 Star, so presumably joined later.

Albert died of wounds in one of the British hospitals based in Boulogne on 8 October 1916. It seems most likely that he was wounded in the period 26-30 September 1916 when the division was taking part in the attacks on Thiepval ridge and the Schwaben Redoubt. 

The Ringers at Redhill attempted a muffled peal in his memory, but unfortunately without success. However it was reported in both The Ringing World and the local press. The Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser report is shown as the featured image for this post, and also includes a photo of Albert (thanks to Andy Arnold for spotting this and sending the image to me). It also mentions an earlier report of his death, which might give more details as to the circumstances, but I’ve not yet obtained a copy. 

William’s 1915 Star medal roll entry indicates that he re-enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers on 18 January 1919. This may explain why it’s been difficult to find him in later records—I’ve not found any definite record of his death, or a marriage record, nor an obvious entry in the 1939 Register. 

A final note on the family, the youngest brother Percy had a son Alan who also became a ringer at Redhill. He married a fellow ringer, Freda M Stanley, and they moved to Nutfield where Alan was tower captain for many years. He died in early 2015. 

A young man in a surplice and dark cassock. He is standing with his right hand resting on a small table. His left arm is bent, with a book in his left hand held against his chest. Behind his left arm is an ornate wooden chair

Frank Pickering (1894-15 July 1916†)

Frank Pickering  (see also his profile on Lives of the First World War) was born at Littleworth, Wing, near Leighton Buzzard, Buckinghamshire, in the latter part of 1894, the only child of Merrishaw (or Merryshaw) Pickering and Frances (nee Stockton).

His parents had married at St Barnabas, Sutton, on 9 September 1893. Exactly how they met is far from clear, they demonstrate that even in the 19th century working class people could be surprisingly mobile. Merrishaw was originally from Barnack, Northamptonshire (near Peterborough). In 1881 he was working as a groom nearby on the Burghley Estate, just outside Stamford. Frances had moved the short distance north from her birthplace at Alford, Lincolnshire to Louth and was working as a cook. By 1891, Merrishaw was working at Wheatley Hall, Doncaster, Yorskhire (still a groom). Frances’s brother, John George Stockton, was working as club steward at the Conservative Club in Doncaster, so perhaps it was in Doncaster that Merrishaw and Frances met? Frances herself has so far proved elusive in 1891.

Frances had been at her sister, Clara’s, wedding to George William Heather at St Luke’s, Chelsea on 31 August 1890, and she seems to have been living with them at Myrtle Road, Sutton, at the time of her marriage to Merrishaw. George and Clara were living in Myrtle Road at the 1891 Census, and the 1892 rate book for Sutton also puts them in Myrtle Road. Though born in Camden Town, George was resident in Sutton (Home Cottage, Lower Road), with his parents and siblings in 1881.

Merrishaw and Clara’s wedding register entry gives his residence as Wing, so he had evidently already moved down from Yorkshire by then. Alex Coles, who runs the Wing One-Place Study tells me that the Pickerings were tenants of the famous Rothschild family, who at this time owned Wing’s “big house”, Ascott, (now a National Trust property). It’s therefore likely that Merrishaw (now recorded as a stableman) was working for them. Merrishaw was 31, Frances 34. Frances has no occupation recorded. Her father was John Stockton (deceased), a stonemason. Merrishaw’s father is recorded as John Merrishaw (also deceased), as if Merrishaw was his surname, though the 1871 census records him as John Pickering.

Frank’s birth was registered in the 4th quarter of 1894 in the Leighton Buzzard registration district. By 1901 the family were in Littleworth, Wing. Merrishaw(38) is now recorded as a groom (not domestic). Frances was 40, and again no occupation is stated. Frank was 6.

At some point between then and 1911 Frank moved to his aunt and uncle in Sutton. He would presumably have been in school until he was 14 or so, which means the earliest he would have moved was perhaps 1908. The 1911 census records him with George William Heather (47) and his wife Clara (48 – Frank’s mother’s sister), and their two daughters (Frank’s cousins), Annie Dorothy (18) and May Letty Gladys (13). George is a lamp inspector for the gas company, Frank is a gas fitter, also for the gas company. Annie was working for the Post Office, May was still at school. They were living at the Old Gasworks Cottage, Wrythe Lane, Carshalton. The 1912 rate book suggests (significantly) that this was next to the inn called “The Cricketer’s” with it’s landlord, Frederick William Bird.

The baptismal registers held by Sutton Archives, and now available online via Ancestry, show that Annie was baptised at St Barnabas, Sutton on 16 April 1893. George was then recorded as a plumber. May followed, again at St Barnabas, on 13 June 1897. George was then a gas fitter. On both occasions they were living at 28 Myrtle Road. They were still there in 1901.

Frank did not join up immediately on the outbreak of war. His entry in the National Roll of the Great War (a subscription funded book, so the details were presumably entered by his parents) records that he joined up in November 1915, so he possibly joined up under the terms of the Derby Scheme. He seems to have only ever served with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, with the regimental number C1600. He may have served initially with 19th (Reserve) Battalion, KRRC, which had been formed from the depot companies of the 16th (Service) Battalion (Church Lads’ Brigade) Battalion, KRRC. Frank was presumably posted overseas in the early part of 1916, where he joined 16th KRRC. It is not known whether Frank was ever actually a member of the Church Lads’ Brigade in either Wing or Carshalton. Clearly he was a ringer, and the photo of him in robes suggests he either sang in the choir, or was an altar server, so he was certainly closely connected with the church. 16th KRRC was also known as the Churchmen’s Battalion.

Frank fell during the battalion’s attack on High Wood. He was one of over 100 killed from the battalion that day, with many more missing or wounded. Soldier’s Died in the Great War records that he died of wounds, while the Soldiers’ Effects Registers simply say “death presumed” implying he had been recorded missing initially. Whichever, he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. The Church Lads’ and Church Girls’ Brigade has a fact file on the battalion (and High Wood). Andy Arnold also describes the action, mostly from the point of view of 1st Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), maps in this post show the day’s events well.

Frank is also commemorated on the Wing War Memorial, the Carshalton War Memorial and the “Willie Bird Cross”, named after the son of the landlord of The Cricketers, who also died during the war. The cross bears the names of those from the Wrythe who went to the war. Although there’s no record yet been traced of Frank’s ringing before the war, he was named at the National Memorial Service at St Clement Danes on 22 February 1919 as among the fallen. Carshalton also rang a quarter peal in his memory that same day, though curiously, it was reported in the local press, but has not yet been traced in The Ringing World. Many towers rang to commemorate their dead that day in conjunction with the service at St Clement Danes, or the local equivalents held around the country.

Frank does not seem to have left a will in the Soldiers’ Wills collection, nor can I find a normal probate record.  However, his entry in the Soldiers’ Effects Registers describes his parents as joint legatees.  They received an initial payment of £3 17s 9d on 5 September 1917, presumably pay that had never been issued to Frank, and then his war gratuity of £3 on 8 October 1919.  £3 was the minimum paid as war gratuity, to those whose enlistment was under a year before their death.  This would be worth no more than £2,400 today, and possibly as little as £285, depending on the basis used to calculate the equivalent.

After the war, a cousin of Frank’s, Ralph Pickering, obtained photos of Frank, Wing church, the Wing War Memorial and the Pickering family grave in Wing (which also commemorates Frank, in addition to it being his parents’ resting place). These passed to his son Roger, who gave them to David Humberston. David Contributed these to the database held at the Thiepval Memorial visitor centre. David was contacted by Andy Arnold who has researched the Carshalton war memorials, and Andy passed on the photos to me with permission to use them on this blog.

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.

Leonard Francis Goodwin (1880-1934)

Leonard Francis Goodwin (see also his profile on Lives of the First World War) was born at Bletchingley in late 1879 or early 1880. He was the eldest child of Hannah (nee Allingham) and Thomas Penfold Goodwin who had married at St Mary’s, Bletchingley on 6 October 1877. Thomas was described as being a painter – no details of his father were recorded. Hannah was the daughter of Jacob Allingham, a labourer. The exact ages of the couple are not given, it is merely stated that they are of full age – that is over 21.

Leonard was baptised at St Mary’s, Bletchingley on 25 January 1880. The birth was registered in the Godstone registration district in the first quarter 1880. Unfortunately the baptismal register entry does not give the actual date of birth, so it’s possible he was actually born in late 1879. By the 1881 census the family were living at Whitepost, Bletchingley. Thomas (28) is recorded as house painter, and Hannah as being 30 (no occupation). On 7 February 1882 a brother, Cecil Allingham Goodwin was born, he was baptised at St Mary’s on 30 April 1882. A sister, Marion Ellen Goodwin followed on 8 May 1884 (baptised 31 August 1884), and another brother, Trevor Thomas Goodwin, was born in July 1888 (baptised 30 September 1888). Sadly Trevor died in 1889, just 13 months old. He was buried in the churchyard on 24 August 1889.

In the 1891 census the family are recorded at St Catharine’s, The Square, Bletchingley. Shortly after another sister, Eva Goodwin, was born (baptised 28 June 1891). Sadly, she also died in infancy, and was buried in the churchyard on 22 August 1896, aged 5. From 1897 electoral registers show Thomas’s (and presumably that of the rest of the family) address as Alma Cottage, Whitepost, Bletchingley. They were still there at the 1901 census. Thomas (48) is now recorded as a plumber and decorator, and an employer. Leonard is listed as a house decorator and Cecil as a gas fitter – presumably both were working for their father.

From 1907 Leonard and Cecil appear in the electoral registers in their own right, one listed at Alma Cottage, Whitepost and the other simply at Whitepost. Their father, Thomas, seems to have lived at Alma Cottage (for which he is listed as an occupational elector), but also seems to have owned Whitepost, for which he is listed as an ownership elector. Both Leonard and Cecil are listed as lodgers.

The marriage of Marion Ellen Goodwin and Henry Page Riste took place at St Mary’s on 8 February 1908. On 5 August 1908 they had a daughter, Eva Goodwin Riste (baptised 25 October 1908). The new Eva was presumably named after her deceased aunt.

Despite the electoral registers, in 1911 both Leonard and Cecil are listed at Alma Cottage with their parents, and their niece Eva Goodwin Riste. Thomas is still listed as plumber and decorator, Leonard as a house decorator, and Cecil as a plumber. This census also indicates that Thomas and Hannah had actually had 6 children, 3 of whom had died. The third of these has not yet been traced.

The first definite record of Leonard as a ringer is on 16 September 1915 when he was among the band ringing for the dedication of a new ring of 8 at Godstone. Five others of the band: treble, H F Ewins (Reigate2, W Beeson jun (Godstone; 4, G F Hoad (Reigate); 5, W Cheeseman (Nutfield) and 6, O Sippetts (Charlwood) are all listed on the association roll of honour. It was also at Godstone that Leonard rang the second to a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples on 30 April 1916. Again the band included several others on the roll of honour, W T Beeson junr rang the fourth and conducted, G Potter the fifth (presumably George, a fellow Bletchingley ringer), and F Balcombe (another Bletchingley man). Also in the band was a Corpl W Cockings, he is not on the association roll of honour, so was presumably stationed in the area (probably William Cockings of the Bedfordshire Regiment).

It was probably later in 1916 that Leonard was called up. Fortunately his Labour Corps number, 63792, is quite helpful in establishing some facts about his service. This number was issued when the Labour Corps was formed in April/May 1917. Tables in the book No Labour, No Battle: Military labour during the First World War by John Starling and Ivor Lee show that the number was in a block issued to men of 107 Company, Labour Corps, and more that these men had previously been in 37th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. This was a labour battalion raised at Falmer in Kent in May/June 1916. It may well be that Leonard was part of that battalion from the start. The companies of the Labour Corps were more fluid than units in other corps and regiments, so there’s no guarantee that Leonard stayed long with 107 Company. Electoral Rolls suggest that his service was quite protracted, he’s still listed as a Naval and Military voter in at least 1920. Labour Corps units were heavily involved in post-war salvage, and also the grizzly task of recovering the bodies of those lost in the war for reburial in the new war cemeteries.

The death of Thomas P Goodwin was registered in the 2nd quarter 1917. This may explain why there does not seem to be any record of Cecil serving during the war. He married Sarah E Grice in the same quarter his father’s death was registered (but in the Reigate registration district). As a married man, and possibly the only one carrying on the business after their father’s death and Leonard’s call up he may have been able to obtain an exemption from conscription.

Leonard seems to have been home by May 1921, he rang a quarter peal for the wedding of C V Risbridger (another Bletchingley ringer) on 14 May. The band almost entirely comprised ringers listed on the roll of honour: G Kirby treble (Bletchingley), S J Coppard [sic – but no ringer known with those initials, so presumably Thomas J of Bletchingley] on 3rd, L F Goodwin 2nd, A Wood 4th (probably Albert E Wood of (Nutfield), A Cheesman 5th, W Cheesman 6th (both Nutfield), W J Wilson tenor (Bletchingley). The exception was the ringer of the 7th, F W Rice (who also conducted). A similar band rang for another QP of Grandsire Triples at Bletchingley on 20 November 1921 (the Cheeseman brothers being replaced by F and J Balcombe). He also rang in a quarter peal on Easter Day 1922, again many of the band were also men named on the roll of honour: 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. The last ringing in which Leonard is known to have participated was at Godstone on 28 October 1923, another QP of Grandsire Triples. Once more several ringers who are also on the roll of honour were in the band L Goodwin 2, W T Beeson junr 3, W Wilson 5, T Coppard 6. Plus Treble L Trigg, 7 W Claydon (conductor) and 8 W T Beeson senr.

On 9 June 1925 Leonard married Doris Emily Morley at St Mary’s. Leonard was now 45, Doris just 23. Leonard’s occupation is given as builder. Doris was the daughter of Thomas William Morley, an engine driver. Leonard and Doris had a son, Peter Leonard Goodwin on 22 February 1927. Prior to the wedding, Leonard had been living at The Limes with Cecil and his family, afterwards, Leonard and Doris seem to have moved to Middle Row.

Leonard’s health was apparently never that robust (which squares with the fact that his war service was in labour units rather than on the front line). He had several bouts of flu, the last in 1931. On Friday 2 March 1934 he came down with a cold, but continued to work. He seemed to get better over the weekend but was found dead in his bed on the morning of Wednesday 7 March. As he had not seen a doctor since September 1933 an inquest was called, but the coroner was satisfied the death was natural causes. The funeral was at St Mary’s on Saturday 10 March. The funeral was attended by the ringers, the choir, family, staff of the building firm and 60-70 members of the Major Barclay Lodge of the Order of Odd Fellows of which Leonard had been a member for over 34 years, and was a past officer. Among members of the family building firm present were H T Wren and A Huggett, both also ringers, Wren at Bletchingley and Huggett at Nutfield (both also listed on the roll of honour).

It seems that in a way Peter benefitted from his father’s early death. When the 1939 Register was taken on 29 September 1939 Peter was a pupil at London Orphan School, Royal British Orphan School, Reeds School, Watford (now Reeds School in Cobham) which at that time took as pupils largely those who had lost at least one parent. His mother had returned to her parents’ house and was living at 25 Lagham Road, Godstone and was working as a post office counter clerk. Interestingly Harry Page Riste was the post master in Bletchingley.

In the 2nd quarter 1942 Doris remarried to Herbert Edward Beeham Andrews. He was a widower with two sons of his own who ran a tailor’s in Bletchingley. Doris’s death was registered in the 2nd quarter 1953, in the Surrey South Eastern registration district.

Peter had a brief career in the education branch of the Royal Air Force, he was commissioned as a flying officer on 25 September 1962 but was discharged on medical grounds on 20 July 1963. He died on 7 November 1993 at Loughton in Essex.