Four of Kingston’s ringers served. Of these Major J H B Hesse as he was ever-after known was a major figure in bellringing at the time. He was a founder member of the Towers and Belfries Committee of the Central Council for Church Bell Ringers – his training as a mechanical engineer no doubt coming in useful. Given this background, and the fact he was involved in the motor trade before the war (also in producing engines for both boats and early aeroplanes), it is no surprise that he served in the Army Service Corps (he was also the son of an Indian Army officer), although he was old to receive a commission, turning 40 in December 1914. Having suffered several bouts of trench fever, he was discharged from the army, and returned to Thornycroft for whom had worked before the war. He appears to have been involved in the development of the Coastal Motor Boat. After the war he continued to work for them, and moved to Haslemere, becoming first Master of the Guildford Diocesan Guild.
Hesse and George Edward Naish are easy to tie down in both civil and military records. For William Duffell there is a surviving service record, but there is insufficient evidence to work out which of a couple of men of that name in the 1911 census. However, next-of-kin is given as his brother, which suggests he probably the single man (a house painter) living as a boarder in 1911, rather the married coal merchant. For Howes there is the opposite problem, it is obvious which man he is in the census (and there is evidence that his father was the tower captain at the time), but there are no military records which obviously corroborate the details on the roll.
- Private William Duffell — National Reserve; 3 (Supernumerary) Company, 2/6th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment; 61st Protection Company, Royal Defence Corps. [not absolutely identified in censuses, but as brother given in record as next-of-kin, probably single].
- Major John Harley Bridges Hesse — Motor Transport Inspection Unit Aldershot, 358 Motor Transport Repair Unit Grove Park, 2nd Heavy Repair Shop (320 Company) Rouen, 4th heavy Repair Shop (899 Company) Rouen, MT Inspection Unit, Army Service Corps. Mentioned in Despatches. Discharged April 1918 to return to work for Thornycroft on Admiralty orders.
- Private John Henry Howes — Machine Gun Corps; Wounded 1917. [No definite army records found. Listed as MGA on handwritten roll, MGC in annual report version.]
- Corporal George Edward Naish — 4/3rd Home Counties Field Ambulance, 83 Field Ambulance, 30 Stationary Hospital (Salonika), 25 Casualty Clearing Station, Royal Army Medical Corps. Contracted malaria in Salonika. [A pre-war Territorial]
One further ringer who served has since been identified, Arthur Strutt — Royal Naval Air Service. He was one of a group of ringers who happened to be stationed together and in early 1917 rang at Hoo St Werburgh for the wedding of Commander Dane, Royal Navy. The Strutts were very well-known ringers in Kingston, so it is a little puzzling why he was omitted from the roll. The family ran a tailoring business in Kingston, and Arthur was no exception, so initially it might seem a little puzzling as to how he ended up in RNAS. But Kingsnorth was predominantly an airship base, so his fabric working and tailoring skills would actually have been very useful (and even the aeroplanes of the day were covered with fabric).
Today’s ringers have their own webpage.