King Alfonso XIII and the search for Private Albert Gilbert.

The St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, parish magazine recorded the sad story of Ada Gilbert’s search for her husband, Albert.  In August 1918 it was reported that:

Albert Gilbert, husband of Mrs Gilbert, has been for many months a prisoner of war in Germany. Mrs Gilbert heard from several sources in Germany and we think officially that he was dead. Through the kindness of a friend the King of Spain was told of the circumstances and the King at once made enquiries through his ambassador at Berlin, and the Ambassador made a personal investigation with the result that he reported on June 20th that Albert Gilbert was alive. This seems strong evidence that he is alive, although no letter has come through for many months. We recognise with gratitude this kind act of the King of Spain in making the enquiry.

However, it seems that Mrs Gilbert remained convinced of her husband’s death, and the following month it was recorded that:

It is our sad duty to record the death of Mrs Gilbert, who passed away after a brief illness in the Caterham Cottage Hospital. We cannot but think that the anxiety concerning her husband greatly weighted upon her mind and hastened the end. At the last she seemed convinced that her husband had passed beyond the veil, and seemed happy in the thought of meeting him there. Mrs Gilbert was but 25 years of age, ripe as we believe in spiritual life though young in age.

It seems that Mrs Gilbert was correct in her assumption and Albert’s death is officially recorded as having taken place on 28 November 1917.


St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, Parish Magazine, August and September 1918, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.



Coombs’ body was imprisoned, all but his head, and there he lay for 32 hours…

Harry Coombs was Parish Clerk for St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, and was a Reservist for the Scottish Fusiliers.  The St Mary’s Parish Magazine recorded Harry’s dramatic experiences in France:

Harry… was called to serve at the beginning of the war, first at Glasgow and then shortly after in France. We are not revealing State secrets (there is no Censor here!) when we say that he was fighting near the Belgian border at Levantie – not far from Lille, when he and two comrades were buried with the bursting of a shell in the trenches. The latter lost their lives, and Coombs’ body was imprisoned, all but his head, and there he lay for 32 hours, while fierce fighting was going on all around and no one could be spared to attend to him. Coombs is somewhat crippled with sciatica and rheumatism. He is receiving massage and electric treatment at the Schiff Home, owing to the kindness of the Matron, the doctor and the Government masseuse, Miss Farmer.

On 9th December 1914 the Stoke D’Abernon Men’s Club held a smoking concert to welcome home their fellow member, Coombs. Coombs related his experiences first hand, telling how:

‘he eventually became unconscious and was extricated by his friends and removed to a French hospital, where he was most carefully looked after by French nurses’, before being returned to England. He said that ‘he considered himself lucky, because more than once he had given up hopes of ever getting back to England’.


St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, Parish Magazines, January to December 1914, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

Captain Wilfrid Herbert Cecil Brownlow

In July 1918 the St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, parish magazine recorded the death of Captain Wilfrid Brownlow as follows:

Captain Wilfrid Brownlow, Northumberland Fusiliers, only son of Colonel and Mrs Cecil Brownlow. He joined the 5th Fusiliers in 1909 at Dover, where he gained the Royal Humane Society vellum certificate. He returned from India in December 1914, with his regiment. He was dangerously wounded in an attack to retake a trench at Ypres on February 21st, 1915. He joined the RMC [Royal Military College], Sandhurst, as Staff Captain, in August, 1916. He left for the front on May 15th last, and joined the Northumberland Fusiliers on the 25th. His Major writes: ‘on 28th May I was in command of a composite force fighting a defensive action. He was mortally wounded by a piece of shell during the action. He was perfectly wonderful amongst the men’ – From the ‘Times’ Obituary.


St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, Parish Magazine, July 1918, SHC Ref: 8909/8/1/4.

I was at the evacuation of Anzac…

In April 1916 the St Andrew’s, Oxshott, parish magazine published Archibald George Ritchie’s account of his experiences at the evacuations of Anzac Cove and Cape Helles on the Gallipoli peninsula.

I was at the evacuation of Anzac getting soldiers off the beach on trawlers. There were few casualties, but it was pretty hot at times, and while we were waiting for the last batch old ‘Beachy Bill’* gave us rather a warm time. It was a splendid sight after we got away when the whole countryside broke into one mass of flame. Everything had been covered with oil and exploded. On the 28th December I got another job as crew of a motor lighter for the evacuation of Cape Helles. It was a bit harder than the one at Anzac because we were always under shell fire. All went well with us until the night before the last, when we were loading up with guns and gun carriages. The Turkish gunners found us out and put a couple of rounds into us. The first made a hole under the fore part, and sprung our plates, and we started sinking, but as luck would have it we plugged the hole up and were thinking of shoving off when we got another one which killed a couple of soldiers and wounded one of the crew. The last night was the worst. They shelled the beach, and the sea was very rough – but they managed to get everybody off safely. The finest sight was when our people blew the magazine up – but it must have been very uncomfortable for those who were anywhere near it. Myself I thought that Achi Baba had fallen over and landed on the beach!

* ‘Beachy Bill’ was the nickname given to the Turkish battery, which was said to have caused over 1,000 deaths at Anzac Cove.


St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, April 1916, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

‘Anzac Timeline: Events of the Gallipoli Campaign – May 1915’, Gallipoli and the Anzacs,



Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Ernest Champion-Jones

The St Andrew’s, Oxshott, parish magazine first recognised Douglas Ernest Champion-Jones’ service in July 1918, advising readers that he was ‘in Millbank Hospital owing to injuries to his knee sustained in France’, and that they were ‘pleased to say that he is making good progress and on the high road to recovery’.

The following month they were:

proud to note that among the Royal Birthday Honours, Colonel Champion Jones was awarded the DSO [Distinguished Service Order]. The Colonel is still in hospital, but we are glad to know that he his making good progress towards recovery.

In November 1918, readers were advised that Champion-Jones was still in the Middlesex Hospital, but ‘progressing favourably’.


St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, July 1918, August 1918, November 1918 (SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4).

Corporal Orlando Hussey

The St Andrew’s parish magazine first recorded that Orlando Hussey was serving in October 1914. In September 1916 they proudly reported that:


Our readers will be glad to know that Corporal O Hussey, 49444, 95th [Field Company, Royal Engineers], has received the following letter from the General Commanding the 7th Division:-

‘Your Commanding Officer has informed me that you have distinguished yourself by conspicuous bravery in the field on 1st July 1916. I have read his report, and although promotion and decorations cannot be given in every case, I should like you to know that your gallant action is recognised and greatly appreciated.’ We offer our heartiest congratulations and good wishes, and are glad to know that he has received official recognition for his gallantry.


St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, September 1916, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

Major Howard Graeme Gibson

Howard Graeme Gibson was born on 20 May 1883 in Woolwich, London. He was the only son of Arthur Stanley and Mary Gibson, and had a younger sister, Phyllis, born in 1886. Gibson was educated at Felsted School, matriculated at London University in 1902, and graduated from Guy’s Hospital in 1907 as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons and a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians. In June 1911 he married Ethel Beatrice Winter, the eldest daughter of Brigadier General Winter CB CMG and they had one daughter, born in April 1915.

Gibson was commissioned Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps on 28 January 1907 and was promoted to Major in 1909. He specialised in pathology and bacteriology and, whilst stationed at Valletta Military Hospital in Malta in 1909, volunteered to demonstrate the transmission of sand-fly fever by being bitten by a sand-fly which had previously fed on a patient during the first day of his illness.

On the outbreak of the Great War, Gibson was mobilized with the 12th Royal Lancers before being deployed to France with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in August 1914. He was present at the Battle of the Marne and Aisne, before being injured by the bursting of a high explosive shell at the First Battle of Ypres. Having suffered a concussion of the spine, he was returned to England and, once recovered, was posted to the Vaccine Department of the Royal Army Medical College where he developed an anti-dysenteric sero-vaccine. In 1917 he returned to France, having been declared fit for service, and joined Colonel William Leishman as Assistant Adviser in Pathology at the BEF headquarters, working on the effects of the typhoid-parathyphoid A and B inoculation and the use of antitetanic serum. When the influenza epidemic broke out in Autumn 1918, Gibson was appointed head of a research team and, whilst engaged in this work, contracted influenza himself, dying of complications on 12 February 1919 at No 2 Stationary Hospital, Abbeville. Gibson was buried at Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension and is remembered on the Guys Hospital WW1 and WW2 Arch, Oxshott Memorial Cross, and the St Andrews Church, Men of Oxhsott and Canadian Forces Memorial.

Major Gibson’s death was recorded in March 1919 edition of the St Andrew’s, Oxshott, parish magazine as follows:

It is with very deep regret that we have to announce the death of Major Gibson, R.A.M.C., which occurred in France owing to pneumonia following influenza. He had served with distinction in the Great War ever since 1914, and was in the retreat from Mons. He came home for a while on sick leave, suffering from wounds, and shell-shock, and while in England he devoted his remarkable talents to bacteriological research. On his return to France he continued his studies with the special object of discovering the cause and cure of the influenza epidemic. He had just achieved success in this direction when he himself fell a victim to the disease, which he contracted through the culture on which he was experimenting. He did in a very real sense lay down his life for the sake of his brother men. We tender our deep and respectful sympathy to Mrs. Gibson in her sorrow, and we are proud to think that this heroic and disinterested man of science has been connected with our village.


St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazine, March 1919, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

‘Gibson, Howard Graeme’, Kings College London, War Memorials, accessed 20 April 2017,

‘Medical Officers of the Malta Garrison’, British Army Medical Services and the Malta Garrison 1799-1979, accessed 20 April 2017,



Captain Roydon Englefield Ashford Dash

Roydon Englefield Ashford Dash was born on 3rd March 1888 in Mortlake, to Roland Dash, a civil servant, and his wife Jane. By 1911 the Dash family were living at Englefield, Warren Lane, Oxshott, and Roydon was a Technical Assistant in the Valuation Department of the Inland Revenue.

In October 1914, the St Andrew’s, Oxshott, parish magazine recorded that Roydon E A Dash was already serving his country, and in December 1914 readers were advised that he had been given a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the East Surrey Regiment, from the Universities and Public Schools Brigade. In July 1915 the magazine detailed his promotion to 1st Lieutenant, and again in September 1916 to Captain.

Records show that Captain Roydon Dash took his Aviators Certificate, on 30th March 1917, in a Maurice Farman Biplane at Gosport Military School. At this point Dash was Captain of the 2/6th East Surrey Regiment, however it seems that at some time after this he transferred to the newly formed Air Force.

In July 1918 the parish magazine recorded that:

We are delighted to notice amongst the Royal Birthday Honours, that the Distinguished Flying Cross has been awarded to [Captain] R E Ashford Dash, RAF [Royal Air Force], for acts of gallantry when flying in active operations against the enemy.

The Distinguished Flying Cross was only established in June 1918 and so Dash was one of the first to receive this honour.

Sir Roydon Englefield Ashford Dash survived the war and passed away in 1984, at the age of 96, having been knighted sometime previously.


St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, October 1914, December 1914, July 1915, September 1915, July 1918, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

St Saviour’s Church, Stoke-Next-Guildford – 1916.

St Saviour’s Church, Stoke-Next-Guildford

As the second full year of conflict commenced, in January 1916 Reverend Peters reflected upon the fact that ‘almost every family has one loved one away somewhere doing his duty for his King and Country’. In order to support those on the war front, parishioners at home were called upon ‘to be pure and clean in conscience, to know that we personally are not adding by our conduct, behaviour or conversation to the present conflict and strife’, for it was in this way that individuals could ‘do their bit’ for the war effort and demonstrate their patriotism.

The Carol Service in December had been well attended and the sum of £7 0s. 3d., had been collected by the offertory on behalf of blind soldiers. Plans were also in place for the ‘Day of Intercession’, which was to take place on January 2nd and was to include a ‘Special Service for Women’ at 3.15pm, offering them an opportunity ‘for remembering their husbands, sons, brothers, and relatives serving in His Majesty’s forces’.

An annual meeting of the Church Pastoral Aid Society was to take place on January 11th, where Reverend T S Porterfield was to lecture on the subject of ‘Men, Munitions and Materials’.

Finally, the magazine carried the news of Mr and Mrs Scamell’s eventful journey to Egypt, which was a staging post for their onward journey to undertake missionary work in the Soudan.

In February 1916 the work of the church and parish continued as usual, however the effects of war were never far away from people’s lives. Reverend Peters was very grateful that an appeal on behalf of the organ debt had raised the sum of £70 11s.6d. despite the other demands made by war-time. The Sunday School annual prize-givings had taken place the previous month, however readers were reminded that, in common with many other Sunday Schools, the disturbed conditions of the past year had resulted in a ‘marked falling off in numbers and regular attendance’. Finally, the Scouts had given an entertainment on February 16th, entitled ‘De Darktown Boy Scouts’, which they were now hoping to raise enough funds to carry out ‘at various places in the neighbourhood before our brave, wounded soldiers’, particularly bearing in mind that many older members of the troop were now serving, while some had laid down their lives.

March 1916 saw much of the parish magazine taken up with fund raising and charitable works for the Church Missionary Society. In addition there was the news that Miss Methuen had taken over as Secretary of the local branch of the Waifs and Strays Society, whose resources had been greatly taxed by the circumstances of war-time. With nearly 600 children in their care they had recently received three new cases from Guildford. Readers were also reminded that about 850 old-boys of the society were now serving in the Army and Navy.

Finally, parishioners were recommended to read a small book entitled ‘Before and after the War – History and Prophecy’, which had been written by Sir Andrew Wingate and was available at the cost of 6d.

In April 1916, as the vicar considered what form the forthcoming ‘Mission of Repentance and Hope’ might take, hearty congratulations were offered to:

our friend and Sunday School Teacher, Staff Quarter-Master-[Sergeant] J A Barnett. A.S.C. [Army Service Corps], who has been commended by the General Commanding the 12th Division for distinguished conduct in the field. He enlisted early in the war, August, 1914, and was afterwards transferred to the A.S.C. His fellow teachers and the scholars have learnt of his honour with great satisfaction, but with little surprise, for he always exhibited pains and care in all he undertook, and it is gratifying to know that such qualities have been recognised by the authorities.

In May 1916 little was made of the direct effects of war time, excepting a mention of the important ‘War Work’ which the Church of England Waifs and Strays society was doing ‘by taking into its homes little children, dependants of our soldiers and sailors, who have been left homeless or unprotected by reason of the war’. However, in his consideration of the ‘National Mission’, which the Church of England was organising for the following Autumn, Reverend Peters was taken up with the fact that, while many of ‘our sons and brothers at the Front…are finding a new realisation of God’, ‘how little the manhood of the nation, as represented by the men in the training camps and the like, is really touched by the Spirit of Christ’.

In the following month, June 1916, Reverend Peters letter returned to the war more directly, as he brought the news that:

At the moment of writing the outlook is indeed sad and solemn. After three months of the fiercest conflict at Verdun the French are still holding the Germans in check, but what the neighbourhood like beggars description. The loss of human life is appalling, and the suffering and sadness of it all is beyond words, and what for? At any moment I suppose we may expect to hear of a like conflict in front of the British lines. Such butchery – such destruction of human life…. should after this war become a moral impossibility’.

As if to bring home this message, an update from ‘Dr Barnado’s Homes’, of which there were a number in Surrey, brought the news that, in total, 62 Barnardo boys had given their lives for their country.

In the July 1916 edition of the magazine, Reverend Peters once again reflected upon how much ‘we miss our married men on all sides… [whose absence] throws more responsibility on us who remain at home, and we must do our very best to “keep the home fires burning”. [The War] will be a tax upon their strength and we hope they will return looking as well and vigorous as the younger men’.

On the evening of Wednesday 6th June, a memorial service had been held ‘for Lord Kitchener and his staff and the brave men in our Fleet’. Attendance had been excellent and readers were reminded that there were ‘five homes in this parish where sorrow is keenly felt through the loss of dear ones’. However, discussions of the National Mission, as well as the vacant sittings in the church pews, again highlighted the fact that attendance was neither as regular nor as discerning as the church would wish.

Attention was drawn to a meeting that had been convened for July 6th, in response to an appeal made, by the Mayor of Guildford to the clergy, to start a War Savings Association. The intention was to use the meeting to fully explain the government scheme, which was designed to appeal to ’every class of the community [so that] young and old can help the Government at this crises’.

In August 1916, Reverend Peters reported on the Convention he had attended the previous month, in Keswick. There was the news that an ‘All Day of Prayer’ was to be held on August 4th, the second anniversary of the declaration of war, and parishioners were called upon to use this opportunity to ‘[seek] God’s face humbly, fervently, and devoutly’. The annual sermons of the ‘Colonial and Continental Church Society’ were to be preached on August 13th by the Reverend A S V Blunt, Chaplain of the British Embassy Church in Paris. In the afternoon Reverend Blunt was to give ‘a special address to men on his experiences in Parish during the war’. Also the vicar advised had been asked to become a ‘Friend’ of the ‘Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Help Society’ and would be ‘pleased to help any discharged men in the parish who find it difficult to obtain suitable employment’.

Finally, there was the news that the first meeting of the War Savings Association parochial branch had resulted in subscriptions of £150 17s. 6d. By the following month the secretary, Miss Longworth, reported that the branch had 103 members and had received £253, with a subscription range ‘from £38 15s. 0d. for a £50 Certificate to a 6d. weekly payment… [while] 720 coupons have been used, 305 certificates, and 111 cards issued’.

Between now and the end of the year much of Reverend Peters’ letter, and correspondingly, the Parish Magazine, was taken up with the ‘National Mission Repentance and Hope’ which took place from October 14th to 18th 1916, and was promoted ‘as an aid to securing victory in the war’, through Repentance, Hope, and Revival.

September 1916 saw the news that the Borough of Guildford ‘War Savings Association’ was to arrange a Patriotic Economy exhibition, to encourage those who are desirous to do so, to economise.

In October 1916 readers were advised that the gifts received for the Harvest Festival had been sent to ‘the Red Cross Annexe for our wounded soldiers’, and in November 1916 an appeal was made for contributions towards the £13 10s. Aircraft Insurance premium that was due, as a direct result of the war. The following month brought the news that ‘two friends’ had contributed 20s. and 2s. 6d. respectively, but further contributions were required to cover this expense.

As the second full year of conflict drew to a close, in December 1916 Reverend Peters wrote of the great surprise that had been brought to them ‘in the billeting of some thousands of soldiers in our ancient and beautiful town’. The vicar trusted that:

Their presence in our midst may be a blessing and not a curse. It will be our duty to see that they are cared for and provided with recreation rooms during the long dark evenings, the halls of the town having been commandeered for military purposes. The Mayor has thrown himself heartily into this work amongst others, and if any of my readers can help by placing a room at his disposal I would suggest they write at once and acquaint him of their wish. Let us pray for the men and work that their stay here may be for their good and for God’s glory’.

The presence of the billeted soldiers was already being felt. The Bible Circle Scheme was having to be held in abeyance until the troops had settled in and they knew what rooms were available, and the Sunday Schools, and The Coal, Clothing, and War Savings Clubs had had to reschedule or relocate their meetings, as the Parish Room and Ward Street Hall had been taken over by the military.

The magazine recorded that Mrs Elias Morgan had acknowledged, with thanks, ‘a welcome present of Comforts for the “Queens” R.W.S. Regiment, of 8 Mufflers, 1 pair Socks, 1 pair Mittens, beautifully knitted, from St. Saviour’s Girls Working Party’.

Finally, in yet another stark reminder that tragedies unrelated to the conflict continued to occur both on distant shores, as well as at home, Reverend Peters appealed for help for a colleague, Reverend J E Woodall, whose Church, Rectory, and all his families belongings, had been destroyed in a forest fire in Canada.


St Saviour’s Church, Stoke-Next-Guildford, Parish Magazines, January to December 1916, SHC Ref: 1946 Box 10.


At 10 o’clock the submarine, which flew no flag, opened fire….

In January 1916, the St Saviours, Stoke-Next-Guildford, parish magazine, reported upon an eventful journey to Egypt that had been undertaken by Mr and Mrs Scamell, two missionaries from Surrey who were returning to the Soudan:

Mr and Mrs Scamell have arrived safely in Egypt after a very stirring experience in the Mediterranean. They embarked at Marseilles on Monday, November 22nd. There were twelve missionaries and six Y.M.C.A. [Young Men’s Christian Association] workers travelling by boat. One morning just after breakfast the whistles were blown and all the crew rushed to their various posts. A submarine had been sighted about 31/2 miles away. Since the Ancona outrage* very strict watch had been kept. ‘At 10 o’clock the submarine, which flew no flag, opened fire by sending an armour-piercing shell after us and then a second, but the captain so skilfully zig-zagged the boat that neither touched us, both bursting alongside. In all she fired seven shots at us, one shrapnel bursting just over the bridge and narrowly missing the captain, and one other officer. At 10.20 it drew off, much to their joy and relief. This boat has a great many woman and children passengers – a floating nursery someone described it as – one woman in the second class has eight children under her care; if we had been hit it would, indeed, have been another baby-killing triumph for the Huns.’ During the minutes of suspense all the passengers remained in the dining saloon and were greatly comforted by the ministrations of Mr Mortimer, a C.M.S [Church Missionary Society] clergyman returning to Cairo. The sang, “Jesu, lover of my soul,” “O God our help in ages past.” So, in the goodness of God, ended what might have been a terrible event for all of us. No one was touched, and of the ship only a few splinters of wood knocked off a spar near the bridge.

* The SS Ancona was an Italian passenger liner that had been sunk by a u-boat, without warning, on 6th November 1915, only 16 days prior to the Scamell’s sailing.


St Saviour’s Church, Stoke-Next-Guildford, Parish Magazines, January 1916, SHC Ref: 1946 Box 10.

‘SS Ancona’, wikipedia, accessed 23 March 2017,