Tag Archives: Lives of the First World War

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.

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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.

Thomas James Coppard (1871 – September 1925)

Thomas James Coppard (see also his page on Lives of the First World War) was the second child of Edward Coppard and Est[h]er Elizabeth nee Botting (the spelling of her name varies between sources as to whether the h appeared in Esther).

His parents had married at St Mary’s, Bletchingley on 30 May 1868, both were Bletchingley born and bred. At the time of their marriage, Edward was a general labourer, he could only make his mark, rather than sign, in the register. His father, Thomas, was also a labourer. Ester was the daughter of James Botting, a blacksmith, she could sign her name, but the rather scratchy and blotted signature doesn’t suggest a great deal of comfort in using a pen. Their ages are not given in the register, just that they were of “full age” (ie over 21). Their first child, Alice Hannah, arrived in early 1869, she was baptised in St Mary’s on 25 April 1869. The 1871 census was taken on 2 April, it was some time after that that Thomas was born, he was baptised at St Mary’s on 27 August.

The family was enlarged over the next few years with the arrival of Albert Edward (baptised 31 May 1874), Ellen Elizabeth (baptised 26 November 1876) and Kate Isabel (baptised 27 April 1879). At the 1881 census the family were living at Tilgate Cottages, Bletchingley. Edward was 36 and a general labourer, Esther, 38. More children followed over the next ten years, Minnie Gertrude (baptised 26 February 1882), Edwin George (baptised March 1885) and finally Charles Botting Coppard, born 24 November 1888 and baptised on 30 December.

At the 1891 census the family were still at Tilgate Cottages, Barfields, Bletchingley. Thomas was now 19 and working as a domestic groom. Alice Hannah, Albert Edward and Ellen Elizabeth weren’t in the family home, the rest of the children were still too young to work.

Thomas James Coppard and Mary Ann Jones married at St Mary’s on 30 December 1894. He was 23, and now a labourer, she was 19. Her father, William Henry Jones had been a labourer, but was deceased. The witnesses were Charles Overy and Alice Hannah Overy – Thomas’s brother-in-law and sister who had married just over a year previously on 26 December 1893. Thomas and Mary’s first child arrived just four months later, on 28 April 1895. He was hastily baptised (privately) on 29 April, but died the following day. He was buried in the churchyard on 4 May.

The following year, Louisa Annie Coppard was born to the couple on 3 June 1896, and baptised on 28 June. From the following year, Thomas begins to appear in the electoral registers, showing that they were living in Tilgate Cottages still (probably a different cottage to his parents though). A third child, Albert Henry, arrived on 6 February 1898, and was baptised on 24 April, he was followed by Francis James on 2 September 1899 (baptised 26 November). It was just over a week before Francis’s baptism that we have the first evidence so far found of Thomas as a ringer, when he is listed as ringing the third to a peal of Grandsire Triples at Bletchingley on 18 November 1899. He had presumably started ringing a little while before this, but no earlier reports have yet been found.

1900 brought more sorrow, with the death of a second child in infancy, with Albert Henry dying early in the year, he was buried in the churchyard on 1 February 1900. Their second daughter, Elsie Elizabeth, arrived on 18 February 1901. The 1901 census was taken on 31 March, the family are shown at 3 Tilgate Cottages. Thomas (now 29) is shown as a bricklayer’s labourer. No occupation is given for Mary, unsurprisingly given the recent birth of Elsie. Florence Gertrude (or May – Gertrude in his army record, May in the baptismal record) was born on 3 October 1903, and baptised on 29 October. She was followed the next year by Edward George on 30 October (baptised 29 January 1905), then Arthur William on 23 February 1907 (baptised 31 March) and Leonard Charles on 1 September 1908 (baptised 25 October). On the occasion of this last baptism, Thomas’s occupation is for the first time given as painter.

At the 1911 census the family were still at Tilgate Cottages, Thomas is listed as a house painter, no occupation is given for Mary, and the children were all still of school age except Lousia Annie who was working as a general servant for the Legg family at Newlands, Bletchingley. Archie Legg (28) is described as a grocer and draper, with him are his wife Ethel Kate, their son William Gregory (1) and Ethel’s younger brother William Geoffrey (15). They’d been married for 2 years, and had had another child who had died before the census. Later that year Thomas and James had another son, Richard Frederick, on 11 October 1911. In 1913 the family moved to Bank Cottages, Bletchingley. On 5 July 1914, their last child, Jack Stanley, was born – just under a month before the outbreak of war.

Thomas joined up at Reigate on 7 November 1914. He joined the 7th Supernumerary Company of the 2/5th Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). Supernumerary companies were raised by several Territorial Force battalions, initially for those registered as part of the Territorial Force Reserve or National Reserve, little more than lists of men held by the county territorial associations of those who had previous military experience. Thomas states he had 8 years’ service with the Volunteers. No other evidence of this has yet been found, and the use of the term Volunteers implies it was prior to 1908 when the Territorial Force was created. The surviving portions of his record are rather sketchy, so it’s difficult to work out exactly what his service entailed especially for the first couple of years. The supernumerary companies were mostly employed on the defence of strategic points (such as railway bridges), and in guarding POWs. In late 1916 he was posted to 41 Protection Company as the supernumerary companies were brought together to form the Royal Defence Corps, his duties would have remained much the same. From a subsequent medical report it seems he has based at Barking around February 1917 and this was when he began to develop myalgia and rheumatism. A further reorganisation saw him posted to 6th Battalion RDC on 11 August 1917. On 24 August he was examined by No 4 Travelling Medical Board at Dovercourt (on the coast of north Essex) and placed in the medical category CIII (the lowest) – presumably he was based somewhere in that area at the time. On 27 February 1918 he again went before a medical board, this time an invaliding board at Felixstowe. This recommended his discharge on the basis of the rheumatism and myalgia he had developed back in February 1917. The board originally rated him at under 20% disabled, when his discharge was finalised this was set at 10%. As a result, rather than an ongoing pension, he was paid a lump sum of £37 15 shillings (this accounted for his disability and dependent children Florence, Edward, Arthur, Leonard, Richard and Jack). He left the army in London on 20 March 1918 after 3 years, 134 days service.

The marriage of his daughter Louisa Annie to another of the Bletchingley ringers, Horace Gordon Kirby, was registered in the 3rd quarter 1920.

Despite is discharge on the grounds of ill-health he seems to have subsequently become a more active ringer than he had been previously. He rang a quarter peal on 14 May 1921 for the wedding of another Bletchingley ringer, C V Risbridger, seven of the eight ringers are listed on the roll of honour: G Kirby treble, S J Coppard [sic – but no ringer known with those initials, so presumably Thomas J] on 3rd, L F Goodwin 2nd, A Wood 4th, A Cheesman 5th, W Cheesman 6th, W J Wilson. Over the next three years he rang three more recorded pieces of ringing (each of Grandsire Triples), a quarter peal on 20 November 1921 (with G Kirby Treble, L F Goodwin 2nd, W J Wilson 3rd, A Wood 4th, T J Coppard 5th, F Balcombe 6th from the roll of honour), another quarter peal for Easter Day 1922 (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) a peal on 12 May 1922 (with Gordon H Kirby Treble (1st peal), George F Hoad 4th, Albert E Wood 5th, Thomas J Coppard 6th all on the roll of honour) and a quarter peal on 28 October 1923 (with L Goodwin 2nd, W T Beeson junr 3rd, W Wilson 5th, T Coppard 6th from the roll of honour).

Thomas died aged 54 in September 1925 at Redhill Hospital and was buried in “Centre Old Cemetery”, grave reference D3, on 22 September 1922. Mary survived him and continued living at Bank Cottages, she died on 22 January 1933 and was interred in the same plot on 26 January.

Frederick George Balcombe (1876-1958)

Born in 1876, Frederick George Balcombe, was the son of John and Jane Balcombe, both natives of Bletchingley whose marriage was registered in 1872. At times the surname is given as Balcomb, and it appears this was also Jane’s maiden name. It appears John was probably married before, the birth of a son John Christopher had been registered in the 3rd quarter 1870. At the 1881 census, John, Jane, John Christopher, Frederick and 8 month old Clara Florence were living at Dormers, Bletchingley. John was a labourer in the local quarry (described as stone pits).

By 1891, the family had moved to Stychens (still in Bletchingley). John Christopher had now moved out. John (39) was still a “quarryman stone”, Jane was now 37. Frederick, just 14, was general labourer. Clara was a 10-year-old scholar, two younger sisters had now joined the family, Alice Mary (birth registered 4th quarter 1884), and Lilian Jane (birth registered 3rd quarter 1889). It was probably also about this time that Frederick started ringing. He rang his first quarter peal (the third to Grandsire Triples) on Christmas Day 1894, “Jno Balcomb”, presumably his father John, was ringing the treble. He rang another on 13 February 1897, again the third to Grandsire Triples. On Easter Monday 1898 (16 April) Frederick was named among the newly elected members of the Surrey Association, at a quarterly meeting at Betchworth. He rang his first peal on 12 November 1898, once again ringing the third to Grandsire Triples, another Bletchingley ringer on the roll, William Mayne was also ringing. He rang another on 25 November 1899, again with William Mayne, and also George F Hoad (Reigate) and Thomas Coppard (Bletchingley).

Frederick George Balcombe married Kate House at St Mary’s Bletchingley on 11 December 1899. On 21 July 1900 a Surrey Association held a meeting at Bletchingley, the notices published beforehand indicate that those wanting tea at the meeting should send their names to “Mr Fred Balcombe”, Stychens Cottages, Bletchingley – suggesting he was acting as tower secretary at Bletchingley. At the 1901 census he and Kate were living at 9 Stychens, Bletchingley. He was now 24 and working as a house painter – 5 out of the 11 ringers who went to war from Bletchingley had this as their occupation. No other records have been found for him until the 1911 census, when he and Kate were still at Stychens, and he was still a house painter. Now living with them was Reginald Cooper (5), described as an adopted son, born in Fulham.

On 30 April Frederick rang the 6th to a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples at Godstone. J Balcombe (his father John, still ringing?) rang the treble, also ringing were L Goodwin, G Potter (both Bletchingley) and W T Beeson jr (Godstone), all listed on the roll of honour. There was also a visitor in the quarter, Corpl W Cockings. No details as to his unit are stated, but the most likely candidate appears to be William Cockings of the Bedfordshire Regiment, originally from Turvey.

The Surrey Recruitment Registers show that F G Balcombe, a painter aged 40 years and 3 months attested at Guildford on 31 July 1917. He was described as being 5’6″, weighed 210lbs and had a 42″ chest with 2″ expansion. On enlistment he joined the 26th Training Reserve Battalion. Given his age it is perhaps unsurprising that the next surviving record relates to his discharge. He was discharged on 14 December 1918 due to sickness – he had not served overseas. At the time of his discharge he was a sapper in the Inland Waterways and Docks section of the Royal Engineers. There is no further information as to his role, but given his civilian occupation, it seems reasonably likely he would have been painting the boats used by the Royal Engineers.

After the war he does not appear to have rung any further peals or quarter peals – in fact there is no definite proof of any further ringing. However, electoral rolls mean we can trace his movements in general. In autumn 1919 he and Kate were still at Stychens, and the same again up until at least 1923. In 1924 they were registered at Hill Top, Caterham. By 1934 they had moved to The Garage, Old Quarry Hall, Bletchingley (there were also a Leonard and Annie Elizabeth Balcombe at Old Quarry Hall Cottage, but it is not clear if they were related at all). They were still there at the outbreak of war in 1939. From 1938 Bletchingley’s bells were out of action until 1948 after death watch beetle was found in the oak beams of the bell frame (restoration was presumably slowed by the war). By 1945 Frederick and Kate were living at 236 Wapses Lodge, Caterham. Fred died on 12 October 1958, and was buried in the churchyard at Bletchingley on 16 October. The burial records show his address at death as 236 Croydon Road, Caterham (given the identical street number, possibly this is actually the same address as 1945).

Balcombe is the first man where the main details of his life can be found in Lives of the First World War rather than in this blog. His profile can be found here

Lives goes live, and other updates

I’ve mentioned the Lives of the First World War project in a few previous posts. The site has now been generally available (though by no means finished in terms of functionality) for a few weeks. I was invited to write a guest post about how I’ll be using the project to record information related to Halfmuffled, and I also looked at how important I think the site will be. As a first step towards integration, I’ve created a “Community” for the Surrey ringers.

In addition, a few new or updated sources which may be useful have come online. Although Ancestry have had the surviving First World War army service records for many years, FindMyPast have now released their version (which is also incorporated into Lives). They’ve taken a very comprehensive approach to indexing the material, even pulling out brief mentions in other’s records – wartime economy measures meant that entries were often recorded on the back of scrap paper, which had often been used previously. This can include things like casualty lists, and sometimes the mention of a name on one of these, incorporated into the record of someone else entirely can now be the only surviving mention. They’ve also treated WO 363 and WO 364, the burnt and unburnt records 9the second of these series are referred to as the pension records by Ancestry), as a single record set, so both are searched at the same time, and with exactly the same options available. Paul Nixon has put together some useful tips on searching these records. This may reveal additional information I hadn’t previously managed to find.

Other new material has been released by Surrey History Centre, indexes of Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment Prisoners of War 1918 and East Surrey Regiment 1st Battalion. Their material digitised in partnership with Ancestry has also been updated, such as the registers of births, marriages and deaths I’ve referred to previously on this blog.

Operation War Diary is also proceeding apace, along with further releases of digitised war diaries from The National Archives. Volunteers are now also being sought to help with physically resorting diaries for the next phase of digitisation work. This requires spending a minimum of one day a fortnight at The National Archives building in Kew. The first data from Operation War Diary has also now been released, it is described here, with a link to the data pages. This material will also be incorporated into Lives in due course.

This should all help keep me busily researching!

Beta testing Lives of the First World War

In addition to continuing to add the current series on the men who rang in the first Army-Navy peal, I’ve begun doing some of the beta testing on Lives of the First World War. A slow and steady approach is being taken, starting with the simplest features, and building in more complicated ones as time goes by, and the bugs are worked out. This approach also means that the site is less prone to being overwhelmed by the initial inrush of users, as accounts are only being given out slowly. Those involved in the testing can also suggest additional features they would like to see, which can then be voted on by others to help set priorities for development.

Lives of the First World War and other new Surrey resources

Earlier in the year I posted about the initial announcement of Lives of the Great War. A few weeks ago they announced that the public launch will be at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014 at London Olympia, which starts on 20 February. This will be a major centrepiece of the centenary commemorations, and will provide a lasting memorial to all those who served. It will take some thought to work out how to incorporate this project into Lives, though hopefully it will actually speed up production of the individual stories, which so far has been more time consuming than I had anticipated. The site (from initial reports) is designed to make it easier to pull disparate resources together and produce timelines for life events, exactly what I’ve been trying to do with the individual pages here, but in a far more automated way. It will also allow material such as photographs, and digitised letters and diaries to be uploaded and attached to the records. For another take on how important this project will be, see Steve Clifford’s post on his Doing our Bit blog.

In addition to this forthcoming development, the past few weeks have seen a couple of other new resources and projects which should make life easier for Halfmuffled. Firstly Surrey electoral registers held by Surrey History Centre have been digitised and are now available on Ancestry. See a news release here from Surrey and a bit more information on records that are or will soon be going online (this includes tantalising information on school records which will be digitised soon, and some military sources). The Ancestry search page is here. A quick look through the electoral registers shows most of the men I’ve covered so far (or close relatives) make an appearance – coupled with the earlier appearance of London electoral registers this should give pretty full coverage of the places included in the Surrey roll of honour. So far the Surrey rolls only cover from 1918-1945, pre-war records (up to 1915, rolls were not produced in 1916 or 1917 due to the war) should follow in the future. For the moment, I’ll only incorporate the new source into new pages, rather than updating the ones I’ve already done. Ancestry have also just launched a set of records relating to rate payments in London which may also help with some of the places on the roll. The Surrey History Centre have also announced their own First World War projects some of which will also link into Lives, and Halfmuffled will also be feeding into these where relevant.