Three of the ringers from St Peter, South Croydon served. It appears all returned (physically) unscathed. They initially appeared quite a challenging group to identify, with no obvious candidates appearing in the 1911 census, nor in a first review of available military records. Fortunately the ringing related sources helped greatly, and they are now probably three of the best documented among those researched for this project.
The first breakthrough came via the Obituaries index produced by the Library Committee of the Central Council for Church Bell Ringers. This showed that an obituary for a Reginald Brough of Croydon had been published in The Ringing World early in 1974. Having obtained a copy via the Librarian of the CCCBR (then John Eisel), this gave the clue that this man had lived in Crayford before the First World War, and later worked for Creed of Croydon (which manufactured teletype and other telegraph and communication equipment). This allowed me to identify the most likely candidate in the 1911 census as Albert Reginald Creed, then a 16-year-old apprentice scientific instrument maker in Crayford. The census also gave his birthplace as Earlsfield, Wandsworth: with this information I was able to find his Royal Naval Air Service record in ADM 188/643/875 (digitised and downloadable). This showed his service number was F51876. I knew that if he had continued serving after the formation of the RAF, his service number should have become 251876 (RNAS transferees with a service number beginning with F were given RAF service numbers 6 digits long, beginning with a 2 and sufficient zeroes to pad the number to six digits). However, something seemed to go slightly wrong in this case, and he actually ended up as 251875, and his record can be found in AIR 79/2271/251875. These records haven’t yet been digitised, but I was able to photograph his.
The next one I managed to resolve was W Rowe. I had begun going through the wartime issues of The Ringing World and the issue of 25 September 1914 stated that Sapper W Rowe of St Peter’s, Croydon was serving with A Fortress Company with the British Expeditionary Force on the Lines of Communication in France. What is more, it was one of the very few entries which gave a regimental number, 15409, and there was indeed a Medal Index Card for Sapper Walter Rowe. There are alternative versions of these cards on Ancestry, these ones also show the reverse of the card, and this proved to be one of the very small number which actually have information on that, in this case an address in North Stoneham. Returning to The Ringing World, the following week’s issue had him mentioned again, this time stating he was W G Rowe from North Stoneham (once again giving his regimental number), and his father W Rowe Senior was also a ringer, as was his brother W Rowe junior who was a regular in the Royal Engineers, based in Egypt for five years; a third Rowe from North Stoneham was serving on HMS Dreadnought. With this information I was once again able to find the family in the 1911 census. Walter was 23-year-old blacksmith, and his father William a bricklayer. The younger William was indeed serving with the Royal Engineers in Egypt. A later further mention in The Ringing World additionally tells us that he had been working for the bellfounding firm of Warner and Sons at the Spitalfields Foundry.
Finally was the man listed on the original roll as L F Garfath. Once again The Ringing World provided the vital clues, there were several mentions of an H L Garfath ringing in Surrey, though for some time, no connection with Croydon. Then in a follow up to an article describing the centenary of a peal rung at Farnham to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo, it was mentioned that one of the ringers was the grandfather of H L Garfath of Croydon, formerly of Guildford and Farnham. This again gave me sufficient information to find him in the 1911 census, listed as a 32-year-old telephone clerk with the National Telephone Company. I discovered this was later taken over by Post Office, bringing him into civil service appointments which can be tracked in the London Gazette and also in the Postal Appointment Registers which have been digitised and are available online. These also showed his move to Croydon. A later The Ringing World entry describes him as a Motor Transport driver with the Royal Flying Corps, then based at the Curragh in Ireland (then still part of the United Kingdom). Now having his full names, I found his subsequent RAF record in AIR 79/193/17182.
To finally round things off, I found a further Ringing World entry actually placing Reginald Brough in Croydon during the war, ringing a quarter peal at St Peter’s on Ascension Day 1916. This was interesting as his obituary implied he had not moved there until after the war, while his RAF record give his next-of-kin as his wife, at an address in Crayford. Perhaps she had moved back to her parents’ while he was serving?