Tag Archives: Officers’ peals

John Harley Bridges Hesse (5 December 1872 – 18 October 1946)

This is the seventh in the series on the men who rang in the officers’ peals of 1919, Hesse rang the tenor at Putney.  He is also listed on the Surrey Association roll of honour as a Kingston ringer.

A middle-aged man in the uniform of a major of the Army Service Corps. His right sleeve also carries three "wound stripes". Other men in uniform can be seen behind

Hesse from the photo of the band which rang at South Croydon on 3 May 1919 (he is front left in the full photo)


Hesse was born in Sealcote, Punjab, British India (now Sialkot, Pakistan) on 5 December 1872. His father, John Valentine Hesse was an officer in the 58th (Rutlandshire) Foot (which later became 2nd Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment). His mother, Ellen McGhie Bridges was originally from London, though her father subsequently had a substantial farm in Devon. They married in Jersey on 8 January 1863. Hesse had two older sisters, Rose Ethelind, born 6 April 1866, Azimgarh (Uttar Pradesh) and Ellen Margaret, born 13 July 1868, Benares (now Varanasi).
His father’s regiment returned to the UK in 1874, until it was posted to South Africa in 1879 due to the Zulu War. It seems that Ellen and the children at least settled in Teignmouth, or at least that’s where they were for the 1881 census. Hesse’s paternal grandfather was Vicar of Rowberrow, Somerset until his death in 1878 (while his great-uncle was Rector of Chiddingfold with Haslemere). After that his grandmother settled in Wrington, which began a long association between the Hesse family and the village.
Hesse followed his father and uncle to Sherborne School, and then after a period cramming with the Rector of Melbury Osmond (who seems to have had a sideline as a private tutor) in 1891, he went to University College Bristol to study engineering. By 1901 he was in Belfast under articles as a mechanical engineer at the famous Harland and Wolff shipbuilding yard: he was also introducing method ringing to Belfast and helping to raise standards within the Irish Association more generally.
Not long after he moved to London. He seems to have been based close to Fulham as he became a regular member of the band at All Saints. He may have been working at Thorneycroft’s yard in Chiswick as he certainly had close connections with Thorneycroft later. By 1905 he was in partnership with Gerald Savory at the Teddington Motor Car and Launch Works, Twickenham Road, Teddington. In addition to cars and boats (for which the Hesse Patent Reversing Gear was a key selling point) the firm also got involved in engines for aeroplanes. At this time Hesse was living in Kingston (5 Downhall Villas), and regular ringer there. On 24 February 1906 he married Phyllis Winifred Young at All Saints Kingston. He was now 33, she was just 19. She was living with her mother at The Lodge, Kingston Road, Teddington. By 1911 the couple were living at 15 Bolton Gardens, Teddington, along with their first child, John William Valentine Hesse, who had been born on 16 February 1908.
In January 1913 the partnership with Savory was broken, with Savory becoming the sole owner, although Hesse initially continued as a manager. The third partner, Robert Bamford, took over what had primarily been a showroom in Chelsea, and began a new firm, which would become known as Aston Martin. In May 1913 Hesse moved to become manager of Thorneycroft’s vehicle repair workshop on Vauxhall Bridge Road.
Given his father’s military service it’s no surprise that Hesse was fairly quick to offer his skills following the outbreak of war, though he was overage. In fact one of his earliest interventions related to the restrictions on ringing that were introduced under the Defence of the Realm Acts, the Ringing World of the 30 October 1914 carried a letter from him explaining that an aviator he knew had a few years earlier told Hesse that the bells of Weybridge were very clearly audible while flying at considerable height, Hesse had suggested that College Youths practices should finish before dark even before official restrictions on ringing after dark were introduced.
He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Army Service Corps (ASC) on 25 January 1915, and initially worked as a vehicle inspector at Aldershot. At the start of May 1915 he was briefly posted to the ASC depot at Grove Park, London, before proceeding to France on 13 May 1915. Here he joined No 358 Motor Transport Repair Unit. He was promoted captain on 1 August 1915 and attached to No 2 Heavy Repair Shop (320 Motor Transport Company) at Rouen. Around this time he was also granted leave home to the UK as his mother was ill and subsequently died. He was Mentioned in Despatches in the 1916 New Year Honours (one of the first ringers to be so honoured). While engaged in censoring letters, he realised that one of the men in his unit was also a ringer, a rather alarmed Private H Harrington was summoned to see the captain, to discover that Hesse just wanted to talk about ringing. At the end of 1916 he had 6 weeks sick with trench fever and jaundice, including some time convalescing at Cape Mentone. He was promoted acting major on 20 January 1917 and posted as workshop manager to No 4 Heavy Repair Shop (899 Motor Transport Company) at St Omer. He was ill again in mid-1917 and was granted sick leave for three weeks to the UK, returning to duty on 1 July 1917. In October he left the repair shop, returning to the vehicle inspection branch. In March he returned to the UK, reverting to the rank of captain. It had been decided that he would be more valuable to the war effort returning to Thornycroft, working under the Ministry of Munitions on their military contracts, rather than in the army. He relinquished his commission on 14 April 1918, retaining the honorary rank of major. It’s not clear exactly what work he did, he may have contributed to work on their coastal motor boats given his patent on reversing gear. He also seems to have to some degree reverted to his pre-war work at Vauxhall Bridge Road. It seems to have been at this time that the family moved to Haslemere, where he would become tower captain for many years, and first Master of the Guildford Diocesan Guild following the creation of that diocese. Once the war ended he continued to work for Thornycroft until his eventual retirement. He remained closely associated with Wrington too, and died there on 18 October 1946. He had two further sons, Peter Harley Frederick Legrew Hesse in 1919 and Rodney Harley Legrew Hesse in 1925. All three sons followed their father to Sherborne.

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Barnard Halsey Tyrwhitt-Drake (22 August 1882 – 25 January 1936)

This is the fifth in the series on the men who rang in the officers’ peals of 1919.

A fairly young man in army uniform, but also a clergyman's "dog-collar", his cap has the cross pattee badge of the Royal Army Chaplains' Department

The Revd Barnard Halsey Tyrwhitt-Drake, taken from the photo of the band which rang the peal attempt on 3 May 1919 (he is front right on the full photo)

Tyrwhitt-Drake was from a family that had provided several MPs for Amersham, with the family’s principal seat being Shardloes.  They descended from Sir Richard Drake, cousin and agent to Sir Francis Drake.  Like many upper-class families, they also provided a number of military officers, and clergy.  Barnard Halsey Tyrwhitt-Drake was the grandson of an army officer who fought at Waterloo and subsequently became one of the family’s MPs.  His father, William Thomas Tyrwhitt-Drake entered the clergy, and was the Vicar of Great Gaddesden when Barnard was born on 22 August 1882.  He was educated at Tyttenhanger Lodge, St Alban’s,  Haileybury College, and then went up to Pembroke College, Cambridge in 1901, and it was there he really took up ringing (he had had some lessons at home).  After graduation in 1904 he was admitted to Wells Theological College for ordination training.  He was ordained deacon on 21 December 1905 and priest in 1906, both in Wakefield Diocese, serving a curacy at Almondsbury, Huddersfield, until 1909.  He then had a year in South Africa with the Railway Mission in the Diocese of Grahamstown, before returning to Hertfordshire for a further curacy at Hitchin until 1912, then Sandy, Bedfordshire, before taking up his first incumbency at Thundridge at the end of 1914.  He married Dorothy Doncaster at Ewell, Surrey, on 11 November 1914.  He was elected president of the Hertford County Association in early 1916.

He was interviewed by the Chaplain General on 27 May 1916 and accepted for service as a Chaplain to the Forces, which began on 19 June 1916, initially at Clipstone Camp in Nottinghamshire and then the Royal Engineers training centre in Newark, before proceeding to France on 20 June 1917.  He was invalided home sick in April 1918, and decided not to his extend his contract when it expired on 20 June 1918 as he was needed in his own parish.

After the war he remained at Thundridge until 1925, then three years at Wiggington, Hertfordshire, followed by a move to Norfolk, first six years in Watlington, then in 1934 to Walsoken where he died on 25 January 1936.  He and Dorothy had had three children: Barnard Peter in 1915, Dorothy J in 1917 and Guy W in 1922.

The Duffield brothers: William Charles (13 November 1895 – 28 May 1984) and Edward Patrick (21 December 1898 – 5 January 1995)

The fourth in this series on the ringers in the officer’s peals of 1919 is effectively combined with what would logically be the sixth post: Edward Patrick Duffield rang the fourth in the original peal at Putney while his older brother, William Charles Duffield rang the sixth.


William was born in Tasburgh, Norfolk on 13 November 1895, and Edward (Ted) on 21 December 1898, sons of William Lant Duffield and Florence Rachel (nee Fuller). They had an elder sister, Rachel Constance, and several younger brothers, of whom James Frederic (Jim) would also serve in the war. Their father was a miller and was steadily increasing his interests in local mills. He was also a ringer and actively encouraged the family to follow him.

The brothers were educated at the City of Norwich school before starting to work for their father. Following floods in 1912 there seem to have been some financial difficulties, and this may be the reason why both William Charles and Ted had moved to Sharnbrook, Bedfordshire, and were working for William Hipwell at Stoke Mills when war broke out.
William Charles joined the Bedfordshire Yeomanry very soon after the outbreak of war and had two spells in France. He was then commissioned into 3rd Battalion, Norfolk Regiment, in 1918 and posted to Egypt where he was attached to 123rd Outram’s Rifles, an Indian Army regiment. He contracted dysentery (again, his two spells in France were also terminated by this illness) on 27 October 1918. He was invalided home on 22 January 1919, arriving at Southampton on 22 February. He was still being treated at 2nd London General Hospital, based in St Mark’s College, Chelsea, at the time of the Putney peal.
After the war, following a few years in South Africa, William Charles developed the family business. As Duffield’s Feeds it’s still a family business today. Ted was a salesman for the firm and lived in Colchester where he was a town councillor (and mayor). He also played croquet to national standard. His war service began only in May 1918 when he joined the RAF. He was still in training when the Armistice was declared. On finally completing his training he was commissioned on 20 January 1919, but demobilised the same day.
The Duffield brothers rang in a peal at Saxlingham on 18 June 1914 when the average age of the ringers was eighteen and a half years old, then the youngest peal band on record.

Eight young men in suits, four standing beind, four seated in front. Positioned in front of the porc of a flint-built church

Back Row from left Edward P Duffield, Alfred Funnell, Cecil Chamberlin, James Duffield, Front Row. William C Duffield, George H Cross, Frank Copeman, Bertie F Turner. All the members of the band served in the war with Alfred Funnell and Bertie F Turner killed. Image courtesy of Jan and Dr Jeff Fox of the Saxlingham War Memorials website (and ringers at Saxlingham)

Major J H R Freeborn FRIBA FRICS (1887-1971), Benhilton’s almost Olympian hammer thrower

The third ringer to be covered in this series on those who rang in the officers’ peals of 1919 is Major J H R Freeborn who has already been extensively covered on this blog as he was a ringer at Benhilton before the war, although he was not actually included on the original Surrey Association roll of honour. The original blog post on him is therefore reposted below for completeness. He was a captain at the time of the peal, only gaining the rank of major during the Second World War.

Head and shoulders sot of a moustached man in army uniform, standing just in front of the right hand end of the arch over a church doorway.

Major John Harley Bridges Hesse, from the photo taken of the band at the peal attempt at South Croydon on 3 May 1919 (he is back, second from right, in the full photo)

halfmuffled

John Howard Richard Freeborn moved to Sutton after graduating from Cambridge in 1914. He rang at Benhilton several times in 1915, but then – despite having lost the sight of his left eye following an accident in his youth – managed to obtain a commission in the York and Lancaster Regiment. His existing injury meant he had no overseas service, and finished the war a captain having spent much of his period in the army as an adjutant to regiments of the Volunteer Training Corps (the Sutton unit of which he had been involved with even before receiving his commission). He was a regular ringer in Benhilton again from late 1918 into 1919. He was commissioned again in the Second World War, that time serving between 1940 and 1943, and leaving the army with the honorary rank of major, after which he was universally known as Major Freeborn. He is…

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Edward Maurice Atkins (11 July 1890 – 16 September 1964)

This is the second in the series on the men who rang in the officers’ peals of 1919. This post is about the man who rang the second bell in the original attempt at Putney, and conducted all three attempts.

A moustached man wearing the uniform of an officer in the Royal Engineers, with a wound strip on his sleeve

Atkins cropped from the photo of the May 1919 band. He is front, second from right in the full photo.

Maurice (as he was usually known) was the son, nephew, and grandson of clergymen. He was born in Leicester on 11 July 1890, the son of Edward James Atkins and Edith May Atkins (it’s not clear if his parents were related to each other). His father then had a curacy in Foxton, where his sister, Dorothy May Atkins, was born on 25 March 1894. By 1901 the family were living at the Vicarage in Isham, Northamptonshire. It was there he learned to ring, as did his sister Dorothy.
He went to Wellingborough Grammar School and from there to St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, where he read mathematics and mechanical science. He graduated in 1912, and was articled to civil engineer JB Bell. He was a month short of completing his articles when he was commissioned into the Royal Engineers on 1 October 1914. After initial training at Chatham, he was posted to a field company of the New Army. He seems to have been based around Shrewsbury, or at least found some time to ring there over Christmas 1914. He was posted to France with 104 Field Company, 24 Division, on 1 September 1915. The division was soon thrown into the Battle of Loos, and suffered heavy casualties. In early January 1916 he had a brief home leave.
Then on 14 January 1916, near Hooge, Belgium, on a bright moonlit night, he was moving down a trench when he was hit in the left thigh by a sniper’s bullet. The bullet hit the inside of his thigh and passed right through, breaking the femur. He was evacuated to a dressing station at Vlammertinghe, then by motor ambulance to 10 Casualty Clearing Station. After then being taken on No 7 Stationary Hospital at Boulogne, he was finally brought back to England on 25 February 1916. He spent time in various military hospitals, and had to undergo several operations, also contracting the bacterial infection erysipelas. By October 1917 it was clear that he would not recover sufficiently to return to action and he was discharged from the army, though he continued to receive treatment. He was given a desk job in the Ministry of Munitions, and was living in north west London. He still couldn’t walk far without a stick when he conducted the officers’ peal.
Perhaps because of his wound he did not return to practice as an engineer after the war, but instead became a patent examiner at the Patent Office in Holborn in July 1920. A year later he called a peal of Bob Minor at Isham, the first inside for his sister, and first for the treble ringer, Miss Frances Canaan. On 13 September he married Frances at Isham, with both managing to ring for the service. They settled in London, ringing primarily at St Augustine’s, Kilburn. Their son, David E Atkins was born on 11 November 1924. On Atkins’ retirement from the Patent Office they moved to Teignmouth. He continued ringing until shortly before his death on 16 September 1964.

Albert Edward Christian York Bramble (22 June 1894 – 22 April 1974)

This is the first in a series of posts on the ringers who took part in the peals rung by all-officer bands in 1919, it covers the man who rang the treble.

A young man in RAF uniform stood front of the flint wall of a church

York Bramble, cropped from the photo of the band which rang at Croydon in May 1919. He is back right in the full photo.


Bramble, or York-Bramble as he later became, was born at South Cerney, Gloucestershire, on 22 June 1894, the oldest of four children of Albert Edmund Bramble and Alice Emily, nee Swain. Albert senior does not seem to have had very steady employment, with censuses and baptismal records giving a variety of occupations from journeyman baker, salesman, labourer, and eventually in Albert junior’s service records, male nurse. Albert junior’s brother, Edmund George Robert Victor Bramble would also become an RAF officer.

York-Bramble was educated at Cirencester Grammar School 1905-1910, and from there went to the University of Bristol to train as a teacher 1912-1914. It was here he learned to ring. He qualified First Class in his professional training, and with Distinction in Mathematics. He was then employed by London County Council, and having finished his training placements, began work at Kennington Road Boys’ School, Lambeth in September 1914.

In March 1915 he joined up at the Duke of York’s Barracks in Chelsea. He initially joined 2/2nd London Casualty Clearing Station, a Territorial unit of the Royal Army Medical Corps, but a year later he was transferred to 3/4th London Field Ambulance, by which time he was a serjeant. During some of his early training he was based in Richmond Park where he would probably have had his first sight of the Royal Flying Corps’ balloons, either in the park itself, or at the Roehampton Club.

In February 1917 he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps and began training with them. He was appointed a Balloon Officer in May 1917, and also seems to have come up with some sort of balloon-related invention. He was posted to France in May 1917, but returned to England in December. He had to relinquish his commission on 24 July 1918 due to an unspecified illness. He returned to his old job at Kennington Road.

He had married Marjorie S Lloyd in Brighton in 1917, and from 1921 was teaching in Brighton. He was also involved in a local gliding club, and just before the Second World War qualified as a private pilot. In December 1939 he rejoined the RAF, serving in technical roles, and eventually rising to the rank of squadron leader.

In 1955 he founded the College of Campanology to try to improve teaching of ringing. Due to his somewhat difficult personality this was sadly rather a failure. He died on 22 April 1974.