Father and Son – F C Selous and F H B Selous

A Father and Son killed on the same day one year apart

Two names on the Great War memorials at St Michael and All Angels Church in Pirbright commemorate the sacrifice of an extraordinary father and son – Frederick Courteney Selous and Frederick Hatherley Bruce Selous. Nineteen year old Frederick died in the skies over Belgium on 4th January 1918, a year to the day after his father had been killed by a sniper while fighting in East Africa, aged 65.

Frederick Courteney Selous was born on December 31st, 1851 into an aristocratic family of Hugenot descent, one of five children living at 42 Gloucester Road, Regents Park. At the age of nine he went to school at Bruce Castle, Tottenham where he gained a reputation for rebelliousness and an independent spirit. His life was destined to be full of adventures, and almost came to an early end when he was involved in a disaster on the ice in Regent’s Park, which took place on January 15th, 1867. Around 200 skaters on the frozen lake were suddenly plunged into the water, of whom 40 died from drowning or hypothermia. Somehow fifteen year old Freddy managed to scramble to the shore.

His education continued at Rugby School. According to his official biography –

“While at boarding school young Freddy was found by a schoolmaster laying on the cold floor beside his bed in the middle of the night. When asked by the schoolmaster what he was doing young Freddy replied “Well, you see, one day I am going to be a hunter in Africa and I am just hardening myself to sleep on the ground.”

F C Selous as a young man in hunting gear. F C Selous as a young man in hunting gear.

Frederick Selous did exactly that and set off for South Africa at the age of 19 where he became famous as a hunter, naturalist, explorer and soldier. His exploits became the stuff of legend and he is thought to be the model for the character of Allan Quatermain created by the novelist Sir H. Rider Haggard. In later years he was to become a friend of US President Theodore Roosevelt and Cecil Rhodes, and donated many specimens to national collections – a statue of him has a prominent place in the Central Hall of the Natural History Museum. He took part in the First Matabele War of 1893 in which he fought alongside Robert Baden Powell.

After many years of African adventures he returned to England and in 1894 married Gladys Maddy, buying a house called Heathland in Worplesden alongside which he created a museum housing a number of his specimens. The couple had two sons, Frederick Hatherley Bruce, and Harold Sherborn Selous. Frederick senior loved outdoor sports, particularly cricket, and played regularly for his local club at Worplesdon, taking part in all their matches until 1915. He remained extremely fit and was an enthusiastic cyclist, as a diary entry from September 5th, 1909 (when he was 57 years old) attests:—

“I got home yesterday evening, having bicycled all the way from Gloucester—about 100 miles—in pouring rain most of the way, and over heavy, muddy roads, in just twelve hours, including stoppages for breakfast and lunch. I am not at all tired to-day, and next year, if I can get a fine day, I shall see if I cannot do 120 miles between daylight and dusk.”

Upon the outbreak of the Great War, despite the fact that he was now in his sixties he sought to enlist and sought the support of M.P.s and a friend, Colonel Driscoll, to plead his case. His application for service was submitted directly to Lord Kitchener, and he received this reply via H. J. Tennant, M.P.: ‘I spoke to Lord Kitchener to-day about you and he thought that your age was prohibitive against your employment here or at the seat of war in Europe.’

In November, 1914, he was acting as a special constable at Pirbright and was rather depressed that he could get nothing better to do, and that his eldest son Freddy would soon have to go into training as a soldier. Eventually his persistence paid off and on February 4th, 1915, he went to see Colonel Driscoll, who said the War Office had stretched the age-limit in his case, and that he would take him to East Africa as Intelligence Officer. His wife also went into service for the country, travelling to Le Havre to work in the Y.M.C.A. hut there.

Selous landed at Mombasa on May 4th, 1915 with his battalion, the 25th Royal Fusiliers. His company were an odd assortment, including “men from the French Foreign Legion, ex-Metropolitan policemen, a general of the Honduras Army, lighthouse keepers, keepers from the Zoo, Park Lane plutocrats, music-hall acrobats, but none the less excellent stuff and devoted to their officers.”

By the end of June the battalion was in action, crossing swamps and scaling cliffs to attack German forces on the Western bank of Lake Victoria at Bukoba. Selous was chosen to lead a patrol reconnoitering the town of Bukoba itself in which they encountered heavy opposition form snipers and machine gun emplacements. Eventually the town was taken, at the cost of 8 dead and 12 wounded.

Promotion from Lieutenant to Captain followed and on 26th September 1916 Frederick Courteney Selous was awarded the DSO for conspicuous gallantry, resource and endurance. General J. Smuts, who was in command of the British Forces in German East Africa, gave an account of the fighting on January 4th, 1917, when Selous met his death:-

“Our force moved out from Kissaki early on the morning of January 4th, 1917, with the object of attacking and surrounding a considerable number of German troops which was encamped along the low hills east of Beho-Beho (Sugar Mountain) N.E. of the road that led from Kissaki S.E. to the Rufigi river, distant some 13 miles from the enemy’s position. The low hills occupied by the Germans were densely covered with thorn-bush and the visibility to the west was not good. Nevertheless, they soon realized the danger of their position when they detected a circling movement on the part of the 25th Royal Fusiliers, which had been detailed to stop them on the road leading S.E., the only road, in fact, by which they could retreat. They must have retired early, for their forces came to this point at the exact moment when the leading company of Fusiliers, under Captain Selous, reached the same point. Heavy firing on both sides then commenced, and Selous at once deployed his company, attacked the Germans, which greatly outnumbered him, and drove them back into the bush. It was at this moment that Selous was struck dead by a shot in the head. The Germans retreated in the dense bush again, and the Fusiliers failed to come to close quarters, for the enemy then made a circuit through the bush and reached the road lower down, eventually crossing the Rufigi.”

The grave of F C Selous in Tanzania, image courtesy of the South African War Graves Project. http://www.southafricawargraves.org/ The grave of F C Selous in Tanzania, image courtesy of the South African War Graves Project. http://www.southafricawargraves.org/

Frederick Courteney Selous was buried in a lone grave near where he died, beneath a tamarind tree in what is now the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania.

The naturalist, artist and travel writer John Guille Millais wrote a biography of F C Selous, and it included a note from Theodore Roosevelt:—

“There was never a more welcome guest at the White House than Selous. He spent several days there. One afternoon we went walking and rock climbing alongside the Potomac; I think we swam the Potomac, but I am not sure.…. Later I spent a night with him at his house in Surrey, going through his museum of hunting-trophies. What interested me almost as much was being shown the various birds’ nests in his garden. He also went to the British Museum with me to look into various matters, including the question of protective coloration. I greatly valued his friendship; I mourn his loss; and yet I feel that in death as in life he was to be envied.

It is well for any country to produce men of such a type; and if there are enough of them the nation need fear no decadence. He led a singularly adventurous and fascinating life, with just the right alternations between the wilderness and civilization. He helped spread the borders of his people’s land. He added much to the sum of human knowledge and interest. He closed his life exactly as such a life ought to be closed, by dying in battle for his country while rendering her valiant and effective service. Who could wish a better life or a better death, or desire to leave a more honourable heritage to his family and his nation?”

Frederick Hatherley Bruce Selous was born on 21st April 1898 in Wargrave, Berkshire, where his grandmother lived at Berrymore House. He was educated at Bilton Grange and from 1912 at Rugby School, where he proved to be an excellent athlete, being in the Running VIII, and in 1915 Captain of the Rugby XV.

He entered Sandhurst in September, 1915, and on leaving in April, 1916, was gazetted to the Royal West Surrey Regiment and attached to the Royal Flying Corps. On 3rd May 1916, at Catterick Bridge Military School he took his flying certificate in a Maurice Farman biplane and proved to be an excellent pilot. In July, 1916, he went to the front and was awarded both the Military Cross and the Italian Silver Medal of Military Valour. Returning to England in April 1917 Selous joined the Central Flying School as an Instructor.

Replica Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a biplane at Brooklands Museum, Surrey. Replica Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a biplane at Brooklands Museum, Surrey.

By September 1917 he was back in France with No. 60 Squadron, flying Royal Aircraft Factory S.E. 5a biplanes. On 8th November he was credited with a victory over a Rumpler C-type German reconnaissance plane over Klein-Zillebeke, and on 28th December was credited with a victory over another Rumpler C-type that crashed west of Roulers (Roeselare).

The squadron moved bases a number of times but by the winter of 1917 was based at Ste-Marie-Cappel. Frederick Hatherley Bruce Selous died while piloting S.E.5a No: C5334 and leading his Flight over German lines near Roulers (on the Menin Road) on January 4th, 1918, precisely one year to the day after the death of his father. He was still only 19 years of age.

From two contemporary reports he was either involved in a mid-air collision or his aircraft broke up in a dive during the attack. Lieutenant Edward Thornton, flying close to him at the time, described what he saw:— “I was up at 15,000 ft. over the German lines, when I saw Captain Selous take a dive at a German machine some 2000 feet below. What actually happened I do not know, but all at once I saw both wings of the machine collapse, and he fell to the earth like a stone. We were terribly upset at this, as he was idolised by us all’

The major commanding his squadron, wrote a letter of condolence his mother:—

“It is a severe blow to the squadron to lose him, for he was beloved by officers and men alike. In fact, his popularity extended to a much greater area than his own aerodrome. In the short time that I have known him I have been struck with the courage and keenness of your son—always ready for his jobs, and always going about his work with the cheeriest and happiest of smiles. He was the life and soul of the mess.”

Group Captain Alan John Lance Scott, CB, MC, AFC, in his book “Sixty Squadron RAF 1916—1919” (pub. Greenhill Books 1920) wrote in the most glowing terms about Frederick Selous, comparing him to some of the celebrated air aces of the Great War:-

“As good a flight commander as we ever had, he was a great loss to the squadron. Without, perhaps, the brilliance of Ball or Bishop he like Caldwell, Summers, Armstrong, Hammersley, Chidlaw-Roberts, Belgrave and Scholte, to name a few only of the best, played always for the squadron, and not for his own hand. He took endless pains to enter young pilots to the game, watching them on their first patrols as a good and patient huntsman watches his young hounds.

The character of Selous, like those whom I have mentioned, not to speak of many others whom their comrades will remember, attained very nearly to the ideal of a gentleman’s character as described by Burke, Newman and Cavendish”.

Sources:

“Life of Frederick Courtenay Selous, D.S.O. Capt. 25th Royal Fusiliers”, J.G. Millais 1919.

“Sixty Squadron RAF 1916—1919” pub. Greenhill Books 1920, A J L Scott, CB, MC, AFC

Memorials of Rugbeians who fell in the Great War Volume VI

Royal Aero Club Aviators Certificates 1910-1950.

Newspaper stories in the Surrey Times and Surrey Herald.

 

 

Son of Cook Islands: Private Terekia Taura’s WW1 Story

Compiled from service records by Deborah Ancell for the booklet “Remembering the New Zealanders in Walton-on-Thames”, produced by the New Zealand Women’s Association and sponsored by the New Zealand High Commission, London in 2017.

Terekia Taura, born 1894, was a British subject from Atiu, one of the Islands within the Cook Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The Islands were an isolated and tranquil paradise of sunshine, blue skies, white sands and turquoise oceans – a world away from the misery, grey and dampness of the impending First World War.

At 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighing 185 lbs Terekia Taura was fit and healthy when he volunteered for service “for the term of war” to defend the British Empire and a King whom he had never seen and who resided thousands of miles away in England. Initially the British Army would not recruit from the Empire but eventually relented because of the prediction that the War would be lengthy.

In September 1915, 47 Rarotongans enlisted in the 1st Rarotongan Contingent to fight alongside the New Zealanders. One of the volunteers was Terekia Taura. As the recruits left the Islands, their families went into ceremonial mourning for six months as they believed they would never see their sons, brothers, husbands and uncles again.

According to records at the time of volunteering, Taura (he had no first name on the documentation) was unmarried, had never been imprisoned by the Civil power and neither belonged to – nor served in – any military or naval force. He was not registered for compulsory military training and had never been declared unfit for military service. The Army only took the fittest and healthiest to become soldiers. The medical examination certificate noted that Taura had brown complexion and eyes, black hair and he was of the Cook Islands’ Congregational religion. He had neither been ill nor had a fit and his eyes, hearing and colour vision were normal. His teeth were very good, limbs ‘well-formed’ and all of his joints were full and normal as were his lungs, heart and chest which, at 34 inches, could expand to 39 inches.

However, the Medical Examiner noted that “It is difficult to get the natives to properly inflate the chest. Practically all are more than fair divers and all are swimmers. Systematic drill would soon increase the chest capacity.” Taura agreed to be vaccinated and since he was illiterate, he signed the permission slip with an ‘X’. Like his colleagues, Taura could not speak English but was probably able to communicate with the New Zealand Maori soldiers. It is likely too that Taura, again like his fellow Islanders, was unused to the military uniform (particularly the boots) and the Army diet. On enlistment, he also signed his commission papers with an ‘X’ “as his mark” since he had not passed the “Fourth Educational Standard or its equivalent”. He was given his rank and as “Private Taura” Reg. No. 16/1202 he joined his fellow Rarotongans in the 3rd Maori Contingent of the NZEF. As one of 47 Rarotongans he was sent to Narrow Neck Camp in Auckland for training from 30th September 1915 until 4th February 1916.

Pitcher made from a shell case believed to have been engraved by Terekia Taure. Image courtesy of Deborah Ancell.

Pitcher made from a shell case believed to have been engraved by Terekia Taure. Image courtesy of Deborah Ancell.

Lid of a Pitcher made from a shell case believed to have been engraved by Terekia Taure. Image courtesy of Deborah Ancell.

Lid of a Pitcher made from a shell case believed to have been engraved by Terekia Taure. Image courtesy of Deborah Ancell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On 5th February 1916 the Expeditionary Force embarked on HMNZT Navua bound for Suez, Egypt where they disembarked on 15th March 1916. Following a month in Egypt, on 9th April 1916, Private Taura was posted to the Western Front in France during a particularly harsh winter. Once there, the men dug trenches in the Battle of the Somme while being subjected to heavy shelling, gas attacks and bombing from the air. Six days later, on 15th April 1916, Private Taura made his Last Will and Testament so that in the event of his death, his estate would be inherited by Ua Maratai and Tukuvaine believed to be his parents on Rarotonga, Cook Islands.

In October 1916 Private Taura’s casualty form noted that he developed tonsillitis and with hindsight, this probably marked the onset of his fatal illness. He was transferred to England on the hospital ship (HS) St Dennis on 21st October 1916 via Boulogne and admitted to the 2nd New Zealand General Hospital at Walton-on-Thames, England on 8th November 1916. His medical notes recorded that the “Patient cannot speak English but so far as can be ascertained he reported sick with enlarged gland in the neck and cough. He was found to be feverish. The note which accompanied him from France recorded that he had signs of trouble in the left upper chest.” This was most likely the first apparent symptom of his tuberculosis. His hospital notes also recorded that he arrived with a cough and a neck wound with accompanying pain in his abdomen and glands. His body temperature fluctuated from 103 degrees Farenheit in the evening to 100 degrees in the morning. However, following the removal of an infected gland and confirmation of tuberculosis, no further operation was offered. The opinion of the Medical Board at an undecipherable date was that he should be returned to New Zealand by special transport as permanently unfit and to be paid a pension owing to his disability as a result of active service exposure. Private Taura was now diagnosed as permanently disabled and the doctor felt he would be unable to earn a living for “six months at least”.

By 6th November 1916 he was recorded as “seriously ill”. At that time, it would have taken many months for letters from the Cook Islands to have reached him (assuming there was someone literate to write them) and similarly for news of his condition to have reached his home. Private Taura was just 23 years old when he died on 8th January 1917 at Walton-on-Thames – a very long way from Atiu. There is a note that on 9th January 1917 a telegram was sent but to whom is unknown. Ultimately, of those first volunteers, eight had died from sickness, one from being shot and one from wounds.
After his death, it was noted on 29th August 1919 by the Controller of the Soldiers’ Estates Division of the Public Trust Office in Wellington that Private Taura’s estate was paid to the widow of his father through the Resident Commissioner, Cook Islands “upon his recommendation”. (His father had died intestate on 1st September 1917 – some nine months after his son.)

From 30th December 1922 onwards, Private Taura’s plaque, scroll and medals were eventually forwarded to the Resident Commissioner in the Cook Islands “for disposal to next of kin in order of relationship”. It would appear that he posthumously received the British War Medal (with red chevrons) and the Victory Medal (with blue chevrons). However, it was not until 1st October 1923 (some six years after his death) that these medals were noted as ‘complete’ which might mean they were finally given to Private Taura’s family.

Private Taura was buried in Walton-on-Thames Cemetery on 16th January 1917. We do not know who attended his service or burial or when his family discovered the sad news. His name without any initials is engraved on the wall plaque in the Church interior and on the stone memorial in the Cemetery. The inscription reads ‘Private Taura’. But behind that simple inscription lies a much deeper story – of the sacrifices made by a family and a nation to preserve freedom under a King they never knew and for an Empire of which their island was a very small and loyal member.

Surrey Firemen killed in action during the Great War

Before 1941 when a national service was created, fire brigades were organised locally and paid for by their district council. A brigade might have only one permanent fireman, the remaining crew being drawn from local men from a variety of occupations who were ready to respond in an emergency.

Many of these men enlisted during the Great War, although the first Zeppelin raids in 1915 brought a new threat at home in the form of incendiary attacks from the air. With the introduction of conscription in the following year, firemen were not exempt from military service and brigades found it difficult to recruit men to replace those that had gone to fight.

Lingfield - the old Lingfield fire engine and brigade c. 1914. Surrey History Centre ref 7828/2/97/148

Lingfield – the old Lingfield fire engine and brigade c. 1914. Surrey History Centre ref 7828/2/97/148

The Firefighter’s Memorial Trust lists 48 Surrey firemen who were killed in action during the Great War. In some cases, little information is available about them beyond their name and brigade. Official sources, family records and contemporary newspaper accounts shed light on the lives of others. Their ages, backgrounds and occupations vary widely – shopkeeper, lamplighter, house painter, footballer, Charterhouse schoolmaster. In October 2018 a memorial to these men was unveiled at Surrey Fire and Rescue Headquarters, Wray Park, Reigate.

A summary of the biographical information held on this website for 38 of the Surrey firemen who gave their lives for their country is below. Further detail is contained in the individual person records below.

John Francis Barnes
Holmwood Brigade
Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment
Son of James Charles Barnes, of 1, Forge Cottages, Holmwood, Dorking, Surrey, and the late Elizabeth Barnes. Died 27th June 1917 aged 25. Buried at Ypres.

George Frederick Beard
Wallington Brigade
The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)
Born in Camberwell Workhouse. Parents George and Mary Ann. Died on 2nd August 1917 aged 35 years.

Francis George Benson
Byfleet Brigade
South Wales Borderers
Born in Hungerford. Husband of H. T. Benson, of 22, Council Cottages, Byfleet, Surrey. Worked as a Platelayer for London and South West Railways. Was in the Dragoon Guards but then attached to the South Wales Borderers. Died on 21st October 1916 aged 36. Surrey Herald newspaper report says he was shot by a sniper.

George Edward Brant
Southall & Norwood Brigade
Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment
Born in Warfield, Berkshire, the son of John and Caroline Brant. He married Eleanor Cornish in 1899. He arrived in France on 4th January 1915 and died twelve days later on 16th January as a result of German shelling of “D” Company billets. He was aged 39. George Brant is buried in Beaumont Hamel British Cemetery.

Albert George Brind
Sunbury Brigade
Royal Sussex Regiment
Born in 1886 in Sunbury and enlisted there, On 1911 Census is employed as a house decorator/wall paper and living at 7 Amesbury Terrace, French Street, Sunbury. He was killed on 24th August 1918 and is buried at Peronne Road Cemetery, Maricourt, Somme.

George Brooks
Maldens & Coombe
Royal Fusiliers
Born in New Malden. Employed by Malden & Coombe Council for many years and as a member of the local Fire Brigade drove the fire engine a number of times. Joined the Royal Fusiliers along with his brother Henry. A letter from Henry printed in the Surrey Comet of 12th May 1915 states that George was shot in the head by a sniper and killed instantly on 26th April 1915. He was 44.

George Caesar
Godalming Brigade
Royal Sussex Regiment
Lived at 16 North Street, Farncombe. Awarded MM and MSM. Before the war was a leather dresser at Messrs. Pullman’s tannery. A good all-round sportsman he excelled as a footballer, playing for the Farncombe Club, of which he was captain. Known as “Rocky” Caesar. He enlisted in the 8th Royal Sussex Regt. on Sept. 5th, 1914 and went out to France in the following November with the rank of corporal. Died on 7th August 1918 aged 35.He was married to Amy Jane Henson and had a daughter.

Alfred Carpenter
Wimbledon Brigade
Royal Navy HMS Bayano
An Able Seaman aboard HMS Bayano, a former banana boat that had been converted into an armed merchant auxiliary cruiser. It was sunk by Submarine U-27 on 11th March 1915 off the coast of Scotland. Carpenter was one of 194 crew members to lose their lives.

Walter Henry Channell
Ewell Brigade
Machine Gun Company
Born in Worcester Park, the son of Alfred and Elizabeth Channell, he was married to Martha. Worked as a gardener in private homes and for London County Council at Horton Hospital prior to the war. Previously in the QRWS regiment no 6137 before transferring to the Machine Gun Company. Died of Wounds on 6th August 1917 aged 34.

George Cook
Limpsfield Brigade
Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment
Born in Limpsfield, he and his wife Adelaide lived at North Cottage. Died on 8th October 1915 and buried in St Peter’s Churchyard in Limpsfield.

William James Daniels
Woking and Weybridge Brigade
Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment
Lived at Cherry Street, Woking with his wife Esther. Died on 23rd August 1915 aged 44. According to a news report was shot by a sniper whilst trying to retrieve a wounded colleague. Esther remarried, to a man called William Bayes who was himself killed in action in October 1916.

Christopher William Dilloway
Caxton Ltd Guildford Brigade
Queen’s Own, Royal West Kent Regiment
Born in Brighton to Thomas and Elizabeth. He married Lily Georgina Bailey in 1910. A bookbinder who learned his trade at the printers Billings in Guildford. He was a member of the Caxton Ltd Fire Brigade and Football Club. Died of a head wound on the way to a dressing station on 30th August 1918. Buried at Daours Communal Cemetery.

Mark Edwards
Dorking Brigade
Middlesex Regiment
He was the only son of Mark Edwards, the landlord of the Rose and Crown public house on West Street, Dorking. Before the war worked for Dorking Urban Council and was a member of the local Fire Brigade for fifteen years. Lived at Rose’s Cottages, Dorking. Enlisted on March 24th 1916 and went to France on July 13th of that year. He was taken prisoner four months later and died on 9th February 1917 in a Prisoner of War camp in Germany. He is buried at Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel.

Albert Oscar Foster
Guildford Brigade
Royal Navy HMS Viknor
Born Sunbury, 24 Jul 1889. Married to Annie Foster, 6 Comyn Road, Clapham Junction. Served on HMS Viknor. He was awarded the Victory Medal, the British War Medal 1914-18, and the 1914 Star. On January 13th 1915 the Viknor disappeared in heavy weather while on patrol close to Tory Island off the coast of Donegal, without sending a distress signal. She took with her the entire 291-man crew.

James Francis
Byfleet Brigade
Royal Warwickshire Regiment
He was born in Byfleet and married to Minnie Gennetta Bayliss. They lived at 12, Binfield Road, Byfleet. Died on 20th November 1917 aged 33.

Wilfred Edwin Geeson
Molesey Brigade
Queen’s Westminster Rifles
Son of Edwin James and Elizabeth Geeson, of Rose Cottage, Aldingbourne, Sussex, he was born in Fulham. Went to school at Ackmar Road School in Hammersmith and Fulham. Before the war worked as a postman and shop assistant at the Post Office at 446 Walton Road, West Molesey and also served in the local Fire Brigade. Enlisted as a Private in the London Regiment in December 1915 and was mobilized to France in the following June. He served in Salonika before joining the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in Palestine where he was killed in action on 8th December 1917 aged 24.

Alfred Glue
Godalming Brigade
Royal Marine Light Infantry
Alfred Glue was born at Slinfold, Guildford in 1880 and was married. He was on board HMS Alcantara when it was involved in an action with a disguised German vessel SMS Greif. He was one of 68 men on the Alcantara who were killed.

Alfred Ernest Harman
Caxton Ltd Brigade
Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment
Spent early years in Deptford before family moved to Guildford. Educated at Stoughton School and employed for a time at Messrs. Angel, Son and Gray and then at Messrs. Billings. On 1911 Census is living at 49 Dapdune Road and employed as a compositor printer at Caxton Ltd. where he was also a member of the Fire Brigade. Two brothers William and Albert also in the army and both fought at Mons where William was wounded and Albert suffered shell shock. Alfred Harman arrived in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) on 10th December 1915 and was wounded in the chest by gunshot on September 29th 1917 during the Battle of Ramadi. He died on 20th October.

Alfred Arthur Hawkes
Esher and Dittons Brigade
Northumberland Fusiliers
Born in Thames Ditton, the son of Alfred Hawkes and Sarah (nee Tickner). Before the war was a house painter. He was married to Annetta Cilia Hawkes. On 1911 Census is living at 2 Warwick Flats, Thames Ditton. His mother lived at No.6 at the time of his death.

Percival Walker Hepworth
LCC Horton Hospital Epsom Brigade
Royal Navy HMS Hawke
On 1901 Census he was serving in the Royal Navy in Malta on HMS Illustrious. By 1911 he was living at Horton Cottage, Long Grove Road, Epsom and was employed for London County Council as “Foreman Fireman Of London County Asylum Fire Brigade”. He was a stoker on HMS Hawke, an old cruiser that was part of the British Grand Fleet sailing from Scapa Flow in October 1914. HMS Hawke was hit by a torpedo fired by submarine U9 at 10.30am on 15th October and sank within 10 minutes. Percy was amongst the 524 crew members reported missing, believed dead.

Percy Higgs
Byfleet Brigade
London Regiment
The son of Leolin Dousley Daniel and Caroline Higgs, of Lorna Cottage, Byfleet, Surrey. Died on 26th May 1915 aged 21 and remembered on the Le Touret Memorial.

Henry William Jeater
Leatherhead Brigade
Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment
Son of the late Henry Jeater, of Westcott; married to Alice Amy, of Tudor Cottage, Westcott, Dorking. He died on 25th September 1917 aged 28.

William Frederick Lawes MM
Godalming Brigade
Royal Army Medical Corps
Lived at 14 Carlos Street, Godalming. Died on 9th November 1917 aged 26 and buried at Dozingham Military Cemetery.

Henry George John Lewis
Kingston Brigade
East Surrey Regiment
Son of Henry and Elizabeth Lewis, of Ranmore, 39, Caversham Rd., Kingston-on-Thames; husband of Phoebe Selina Lewis, of 6, Fairfield East, Kingston. Was a Lamplighter at a Gas Works before the war. He died on 26th September 1915 aged 32. Buried at the Loos Memorial Cemetery.

Percy William Lipscomb
Holmwood Brigade
Somerset Light Infantry
Son of William Henry Lipscomb, of 6, Clifton Hill, Brighton. Enlisted at Salisbury. Formerly 3050, Hampshire Regiment. He died on 3rd May 1917 aged 21.

Albert Loveland
Maldens & Coombe Brigade
East Surrey Regiment
Son of Elizabeth Loveland, of 12, Beverley Cottages, Kingston Vale, and the late Louis Loveland and Elizabeth (nee Hemming). Died on 5th May aged 22.

Frederick Maidment
Wootton House Brigade
London Regiment
Born in Tollard Royal, Wiltshire. Enlisted at Guildford. Formerly in the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment service no. 3567. Awarded the Military Medal. Died 22nd August 1918 aged 38, he is buried at Bray Vale British Cemetery, Bray -sur-Somme.

James May
Holmwood Brigade
Possibly James Alfred Tullet May, Son of Matthew and Harriett May, of 4, Spring Cottages, South Holmwood, Dorking, Surrey.

Alfred Stephen Nash
Beddington Brigade
Royal Engineers
Born in 1876 in Tadworth, son of Charles and Ann Nash and married to Elizabeth. They lived at “Aden”, York St., Beddington Corner, Mitcham Junction. Died aged 43 on 22nd August 1918 and buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium.

Alfred Henry Sargent
Epsom Brigade
Devonshire Regiment
Born in Dorking in 1881, the son of William Henry and Amelia Jane Sargent. A Private in the Devonshire Regiment, he died on 25th September 1915 aged 34. He is buried in Dud Corner Cemetery, Loos.

Percy Skelton
Leatherhead Brigade
Coldstream Guards
Born in Ashtead, the son of Daniel and Betsy Skelton; died on 25th January 1915 aged 31.

Albert William Tate
Dorking Brigade
Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)
Born in Dorking in 1877, the son of Henry and Sarah Tate, the report of his death in the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser of August 5th, 1916 states that “he was an old and respected member of the Fire Brigade and was also on the Committee of the Angling Club”. He had only been called up a fortnight before his death on 2nd August 1916, which was possibly caused by a heart attack. He died at the military hospital at Western Heights in Dover. His funeral was attended by a large number of firefighters from Surrey.

Albert James Tayman
Godalming Brigade
Inniskilling Fusiliers
Born at Munstead Farm, the son of Frederick and Mary Ann Tayman, he was married to Edith Jane. They lived in Brighton Road and his mother was a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse during the war. Albert died aged 27 on 16th August 1917.

Harold Francis Thompson
Godalming Brigade
Rifle Brigade
Harold Frances Thompson was born in 1886 or 1887, 5th son of William Thompson, M.A., Rector of Layde, Cushendall, Ballymena and Sarah Margaret Spratt. He was educated at Dundalk and Trinity College Dublin where he won in succession a sizarship, a scholarship, and gold medals for Mathematics. He was an Assistant Master at Edinburgh Academy from 1904, then at Charterhouse from 1910, being heavily involved with the O.T.C. at both institutions. On the 1911 Census he is listed at Charterhouse. Between November 1911 and November 1914 was Chief Officer of the Godalming Borough Fire Brigade. Enlisted 1914 and made temporary Lieutenant on 18th February 1915. In the summer of 1915 he was commissioned into the Rifle Brigade with the 9th Bn. After some weeks in the trenches, he was wounded in the hand at Hooge and invalided home in the autumn. After recovering from his wound, he was for some time stationed at Seaford and returned to France in the early part of 1916 attached to the 12th Bn. He was killed by a shell burst while walking in a town behind the lines. He was the first Charterhouse master to die in the Great War. His obituary in The Carthusian concludes: ‘Capt. Thompson was a man whose straight and manly character had won him the respect and esteem of all his colleagues, while his genial and generous nature and a truly Irish wit had endeared him to masters and boys alike. His early death will be deeply mourned by all who knew him.’ His name is recorded in a list of Masters killed in the War, near the Headmaster’s seat at the West end of Charterhouse Chapel.

Naylass James Vivash MM
Sunbury Brigade
Tank Corps
Born in Sunbury, he died on 8th August 1918, aged 34, a Gunner in the Tank Corps. He was buried in Heath Cemetery, Harbonneres, Somme, France.

Frederick Whicher
Cheam Brigade
Royal Navy
He was born in Dulwich on 3rd September 1883, and married to Ann Webb. Prior to the war had been a member of the Cheam Fire Brigade. Had a son, Henry Frederick, born on 9th July 1911 and baptized on Sept 3rd 1911 at St Dunstan’s, Cheam. Frederick Whicher died in 1914 and was killed in action during the Battle of Coronel, off the coast of Chile.

Stephen Thomas Woodhouse
Reigate Brigade
Royal Engineers
Stephen was born on 17 September 1876 and baptised at St Mary’s Church, Reigate, on 26 November 1876. His parents were Stephen and Esther Woodhouse (nee Brown) and at the time of his birth they were living in Lesbourne Road, Reigate. In 1891 he was living at 69 Priory Road and working as a butcher’s assistant. On 25 May 1896 he married Ellen Pullen at All Saints Church, Kenley, and gave his occupation as plumber. The couple had five children. He died on 6 July 1917 at no. 3 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station, Belgium, after receiving shell wounds in his chest and knee. The Surrey History Centre in Woking, holds a letter from Helen Drummond, a nursing sister at the Casualty Clearing Station written to Stephen’s wife and describing his final hours: “The poor fellow is so patient and so cheery that it is hard to have to realise how dangerously ill he is”. Stephen Woodhouse was buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, near Ypres, Belgium.

William Worsfold
Leatherhead Brigade
East Surrey Regiment
Born on 3rd April 1891, the son of William and Jane Worsfold, of Bridge St., Leatherhead; in the 1911 Census gave his occupation as Chimney Sweep and Firewood dealer. On 21st November 1916 he married Elisabeth Skene Murrison. William Worsfold died on 21st August 1918 aged 27.

Read more about Reigate fireman Stephen Woodhouse – link here.
Read a history of one of Surrey’s Fire Services on the Epsom & Ewell History Explorer website – link here.

Edward Harry Holcombe – One of Reigate’s Heroes

Edward Harry Holcombe was born in 1877 in Reigate, the son of Frank and Abigail Holcombe. As a teenager he enlisted with the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, serving for over 11 years mainly in India, before settling down to civilian life once again in his home town. He married Elizabeth Ann Ware on 11th July 1908 at the church of St Mark with St Phillip in Reigate and in the 1911 Census Edward and Elizabeth are living at 80 Nutley Lane. At the time Edward was making a living as a gardener – in October of that year he gave evidence before the Reigate Bench against a man accused of stealing apples from the garden of Miss Nash of “Gladwin”, Reigate Hill for whom he worked. He wasted no time in enlisting when war was declared, returning to the Queen’s on 10th August 1914, where he joined the hand grenade company.

Holcombe was always willing to take part in the most dangerous missions throughout his military career. On 15th December 1914 he and 23 other volunteers attacked a German patrol ahead of their advance trench. They took a prisoner who was able to provide information enabling a successful attack on the German positions on the 18th. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in April 1915.

Edward was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal “For conspicuous gallantry on May 16th, 1915 at Festubert, when he volunteered to go with a company sergeant major to bomb down a German trench, 500 yards of which they captured, together with 102 prisoners, including three officers”.

The Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser of 14th August 1915 contains an account of these events, based upon an interview conducted whilst Holcombe was home on leave.

“The gallant non-commissioned officer has been invalided home suffering from concussion caused by being knocked over by a shell and also rheumatism, and has been spending a few days at his home. He is a fine specimen of manhood, standing some six feet high, and one can readily understand that to him fear never enters into his thinking or estimation. A few minutes conversation convinces one that he is a born fighting man…. Lce. Corpl. Holcombe is keen and anxious to return to the Front, and says he now feels fit to resume his place in the fighting line”.

The article quotes a remarkable letter Edward Holcombe wrote to his wife at the time:-

“The last attack we were in, it was a terrible sight to see the slaughter on the battlefield. How I escaped with only a slight graze I don’t know, but my poor chum got hit three times, one of them being in the shoulder. Then he got one through the leg. I told him to lie still till we could get back to bandage him up, as we had our work cut out to face the Germans. He did not take my tip to lie still. He wanted to still help, and he raised himself up to throw another bomb. Then he got hit straight through the head, which finished him. This raised my blood I can tell you. We went for the Germans left and right, chased them to a communication trench. We were told not to go any further, as it was believed to be too strongly held. Then we asked the officer in charge if we could volunteer to go, and he let us go at our own risk. We captured 99 prisoners, and took altogether a mile and a quarter of trench. There were only seven bomb throwers…”

The “poor chum” referred to in the letter was Capt. Hugh Sale Smart, who had deserted from his post in the 53rd Sikh Regiment to enlist in the 2nd Battalion of the Queen’s as a private under the name of “Thomas Hardy” in order to get into action more quickly.

In 1916 Edward Holcombe was admitted to Fort Pitt Garrison Hospital in Chatham, suffering from Bronchitis. He died there on 21st February from Ulcerative Endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart and heart valves. Newspapers at the time attributed the cause of death to a septic heart caused by shrapnel wounds received in the previous year. He was buried at St Mary’s Church Reigate.

The Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser of 4th March 1916 describes the funeral and gives a further account of his bravery –

“Another Reigate man has made the great sacrifice for his country. Corpl. E. H. Holcombe, D.C.M., died last week at Chatham from a septic heart, as the result of a shrapnel wound he received last year, and was given a military funeral on Tuesday. It was very impressive, and round the grave at Reigate Cemetery were not only a large number of civilians, but men in khaki, who paid the last tribute of respect and honour to one who distinguished himself more than once in the field of battle. Those who were closely acquainted with Corpl. Holcombe assert that he knew no fear. He was a lion hearted son of the soil, and his name will go down to posterity as one of Reigate’s heroes…
Mr. C. A. Atkins, of Lesbourne Road, who had been invalided out of the Army and with Holcombe at the time, spoke at the graveside to our representative of the dead man’s gallantry. (In March 1915) He swam a river, rescued a man under machine gun fire from the enemy, and returned. They took refuge in an empty house, and while seated, drenched to the skin, a bomb dropped amongst them. Fortunately no one was hurt and they beat a hasty retreat to another house, where they took shelter in the cellar and round a big fire dried their clothes, the Germans all the time shelling the place”.

St. Mary’s was the first church in the borough of Reigate to erect a Calvary in honour of its war dead – while the war was still raging and with an uncertain outcome. The Surrey Mirror of 27th November 1917 reports on the service of dedication. There were already 50 names carved on the memorial, including that of Edward Holcombe, with the inscription “To the glory of God and in loving and grateful memory of those who for our county, our home and for us gave their lives in the Great War 1914 – 19-”.

Edward Harry Holcombe is also remembered on the War Memorial at Reigate and Banstead Town Hall.

Various newspaper clippings about Private Thomas Hardy are in the Surrey History Centre Collections of the Surrey Regiments.

The War on Surrey Commons

An article in The Spectator from 7th November 1914 paints a vivid picture of the growing effect of the war effort on the Surrey landscape:-

WAR ON SURREY COMMONS

The face of Surrey changes with the war. No other county near London offers the War Office such opportunities for development on military lines. It is a county which, with all its beauty—indeed, because of the very reasons which make it beautiful—is dedicated to soldiers. Its wide stretches of common and its high and open hills have been parade-grounds and areas of manoeuvre for every description of troops for nearly sixty years. In 1860 the first meeting of the National Rifle Association was held on Wimbledon Common. When the National Rifle Association left Wimbledon twenty-nine years later they went to Bisley. Chobham Common, Chobham Ridges, Bagshot, Brookwood, Normandy, Worplesdon, the Fox Hills by Aldershot, Tilford, Frensham, Thursley Common, are names as familiar to soldiers as Piccadilly and the Strand to Londoners ; and since the war broke out tens of thousands of Londoners have found the centre of their world shifted from the City to the Surrey hills. That is a world, too, which during the last three months has more than once altered its appearance.

Large View of 'Frith Hill' Internment Camp, England - 1915 - George Kenner GK030a

Large View of ‘Frith Hill’ Internment Camp, England – 1915 – George Kenner GK030a

One of the earliest of the new growths of the war was the prisoners’ camp on Frith Hill by Frimley. Many photographs of this camp have been reproduced in the papers, but no one could get from them a really comprehensive idea of the camp. You cannot get a satisfactory picture by photographing wire enclosures. The wire merely runs lines across and across; you do not realize the depth and the hopelessness of that transparent containing wall until you stand a few yards from it. There are two wire walls, with a space of heathy turf between them. The outer wall is lower than the inner, and is a contrivance of barbed wire fastened to posts, looped and woven and hanging in loose strands which would swing and catch and drag like brambles. The inner wall is high and stiff, deep at the bottom and tapering to the top, with electric cables run along it like threads through a gathering; there are look-out stations at intervals, and great electric lamps swing high over all the camp, so that it is as light by night as by day. The long lines of tents are not easy to count, nor are the prisoners; nor is there much to be seen of what they are doing, or how they spend their time. There might be some hesitation in standing looking at them, if it were not all so distant and aloof a business; but the space of ground between the wire and the free soil outside makes any kind of inspection entirely impersonal. It is only possible to take in the larger features of the camp–the wire shining in the sun, the groups of grey, idle figures, the empty danger zones and pacing sentries, the arrival of supplies and firing. One of the most bizarre of arrangements for feeding the camp was the store of bread. An omnibus without wheels stood near one of the entrance gates. Outside it was marked in large letters “Aldershot and Frimley.” Inside it was piled from floor to roof with loaves of bread, which one German prisoner was tossing out in couples to another much as a bricklayer throws bricks. Another engine of peace put to unaccustomed uses was a locomotive with the iron legend “So-and-so’s Travelling Circus,” which was puffing in at a wire-guarded gateway drawing a huge pile of sacks of meal.

Witley Camp, 1914-1918

Witley Camp, 1914-1918 SHC ref 8511/159/29.

But by far the largest addition to or alteration in the scenery of Surrey and its commons has been the building of the hutments which are to form the winter quarters of the new Army. This is a change which is visible near and far. Go up Hindhead on a clear day, and from that sunlit and windy plateau look out east and north towards the chalk downs and the heights beyond Bagshot. The landscape has changed from the familiar slopes and levels of three months ago. The blues and greys and greens are streaked and slashed with yellow and white. The quiet of the pines and heather and the great stretch of English country spread to view from these high places has gone. It is as if those who had hitherto walked about and looked at the heather and the woods had suddenly discovered that they must be put to another use; which, indeed, is the decision that the owners of the commons have come to, only you do not realize it fully until you see all these camps and preparations for camps set out in rows before you, streak beyond streak and row after row, as a schoolboy may look over his lines of troops set out on the dining-room table. It is a rather strange comment on the efficiency (apart from the presence) of the German spy that the fact that an extra army of a million is being trained in this country should apparently still be refused belief in Germany.

Officer Training Corps Camp at Mytchett,

Officer Training Corps Camp at Mytchett, No. 3 Battalion marching, c1915 SHC ref PC/68/28.

The Cologne Gazette, which observes that statements as to this army are “not very credible,” should arrange with an emissary to climb Hindhead and to gaze out over the small portion of England which is visible from the top. The hutments should be comforting evidence. When you come close to them, the effect is that of a very new and very large village built with three objects kept constantly in mind—warmth, dryness, and rapidity of construction. These hutments spring up like mushrooms. Two months, one month, a week ago, there were large stretches of heather between Milford and Hindhead which were bare and brown and empty, and which still showed traces of the devastating heath fires of three years ago which burned acres of pines to the ground and left other acres with nothing but charred trunks thrusting leafless boughs above the new ling sprouting from the roots. Since two months ago stretch after stretch has changed from heather to flat building ground. The charred stems have been cut down; the heather has been burnt, or re-burnt; posts and flags set out to measure the sites have given place to piles of timber, heaps of bricks, pipes, trestles. Roads are being cut in the peat, and the heavy metal is being placed in the roadway almost the moment after the peat has been cut to make way for it. Beyond and about the roadways are the huts themselves, frameworks of timber posts with weatherboarding nailed on them, and roofs made warm with felt against rain and wind. The lines of huts stand furlong after furlong on each side of the road; they grow longer day after day, and day after day fresh sites seem to be chosen, with fresh piles of timber and bricks and pipes. The railway sidings are full of truckloads of timber, water-pipes, sections of vast cisterns which will be riveted together on the hills miles from the station. Time presses, the camps must be built faster and faster still, and soon a light railway, branching from the siding, will be sending trollies and navvies swinging up to the open heather from the main line from London to Portsmouth.

Hutments to house a million men cover a large area of ground. What will happen to the hutments and the ground they have covered after the war? The main fact to be remembered, surely, is that the hutments will have comfortably housed a million men; that there was no room available for these men until the hutments were built, that they were built fast, and that they answered their purpose. But that is stating in other terms the cheap cottage problem. To house labourers in the country you need sound cottages built fast and cheaply. The architect with an eye to large designs and expensive materials will doubtless provide excellent cottages if someone else will provide the money for them; but if the money is not there? The brick and timber and weatherboarding, at all events, are there, visible and easily movable, on the Surrey commons. It may be that, among its other changes and lessons, war may emphasize the value of tarred weatherboard as a means of providing warm, dry, and healthy homes. There is no cheaper and better housing material.

Article courtesy of The Spectator Archive.

View a gallery of George Kenner’s paintings of Frith Hill camp from Surrey Heath Museum.

View the film Enemy Aliens Interned (1915) by the Topical Film Company. Enemy Aliens of military age on their way to the internment camp at Frimley.

Major Archer Hosking – Principal Medical Officer, Mount Felix Hospital

Photographs and biographical information provided by the Wairarapa Archives and the National Library of New Zealand, with particular thanks to Adam Simpson of the Wairarapa Archive.

Major Archer Hosking (1870 – 1956), a doctor with the New Zealand Medical Corps, served during the Great War at Mount Felix Hospital in Walton-on-Thames.

Archer Hosking was the son of the first doctor in Masterton, New Zealand, Dr. William Henry Hosking – a pioneer of the use of x-rays and hypnosis in the country – and Christina Sloane Archer. Before the Great War he had worked as a general practitioner and already had a lengthy military career. He was appointed as Medical Officer for the New Zealand Rifles on 11th December 1900, a position that he held until 28th February 1903 and again from 1st August 1905 to 29th February 1908. Hosking had a third period of military service with No. 4 Field Ambulance commencing on 6th December 1912.

Hosking married Dorothy Bennett on 12th July 1912. They had three children, Christina, Owen William and Louis. On August 19th 1915 Capt. Archer Hosking was promoted to the rank of Major. In October of that year he wrote to the Director of the Military Hospital at Wellington, Colonel Valentine, complaining of numbers in the ambulance service being depleted by the war and seeking approval to recruit outside of the territorials for new members, a request that was duly granted. He also volunteered to join the Expeditionary force but this was denied due to the requirements of his post in Masterton. However, in April 1917 a further request was granted.

Major Archer Hosking set sail from his homeland on 12th June 1917 on Transport ship 87 “Tahiti”, employed as medical officer in charge, arriving at Devonport on 16th August. The arrival in England of senior ranks from home was not without its difficulties, as it could potentially disadvantage senior captains already in the country who might have been in line for promotion. A rather terse memo from the Deputy Director of Medical Services in the Expeditionary Forces, to the Surgeon General back in Wellington, R S F Henderson, specifically names Hosking “I trust you will realise the difficulties that are created by trying to place the higher rank officers where there are no vacancies….”.

Initially Hosking was based at the camp at Sling, near Tidworth on Salisbury Plain but on 27th Sept he was marched out to Brocton Camp on Cannock Chase in Staffordshire, the home of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade in the UK. This was adjacent to another large camp where “six thousand Germans spent a lazy internment behind barbed wire—well fed, underworked, splendidly housed, and sometimes insolent, though, after one memorable incident, not to New Zealanders!” (Lieutenant H T B Drew, “The New Zealand War Effort” pub. 1923 Whitcombe and Tomb, Auckland).

Wairarapa Daily Times 20 June 1918 - Archer Hosking Surrey letter courtesy of Papers Past, New Zealand

Wairarapa Times, New Zealand 20th June 1918, Hosking letter courtesy of Papers Past.

On 16th March 1918, Major Hosking was transferred to New Zealand Military Hospital 2 at Walton-on-Thames. The glories of spring in Surrey clearly made a good impression on him, as he wrote in a letter to a friend reproduced in the Wairarapa Times newspaper of June 1916:-

“The little peeps of rockery one sees coming into bloom in this country just now make one wish to have such a patch. The gold and purple and white are making themselves evident – alyssum aubretia, etc. But the people are not doing their gardens up in the old style, and I am looking forward to a visit to Kew in the near future. When I was there late last year there was no particular show on – though, of course, the whole turn-out is magnificent, and the rockery arrangement showed what it would be in the proper season.

It would be very hard to say which was the loveliest county in England, where everything is so good, but Surrey is one of the best, and I enjoy long walks by the less frequented roads, through the woods and over the commons. Last week I took a half-day and went to Effingham, about eight miles from here, to see the flowers in the woods that are preserved there. There were acres of primroses, and among them violets in profusion, with white sheets of anemone, and there were many acres of bluebells that will be worth seeing a little later. The woods are getting a sad time with the demands made on them for trees, but the axe is, as a rule, used with intelligence, and I dare say most of the places will only be the better for their thinning out”.

He went on to express his admiration of the spirit of his countrymen in the face of adversity:-

“The war drags its weary way, Even as close as this one gets only a glimpse of what the real thing is, and I am struck with the self-satisfied tone of people and papers in the colonies – they are all too far off to imagine the minutest part of the reality. John Bull is, I am satisfied, at last awake. It has taken a lot of hammering, but he will take a lot of pacifying when it ends; and, given a proper victory, the good will overshadow the evil before long. The boys can claim now to belong to the true “bull-dog breed” – their holding powers are wonderful.

Of our own New Zealanders one cannot be too proud. I could tell you some tales, and hope I may some day, from first-rate men who saw it through, that make our boys right through worthy to rank with the best who have fought in this war. They are of the stuff that sees it out. I have now seen them as new drafts and as old hands in camps, and as wounded and sick men in hospital, and I don’t want to change our crowd for the sons of any other mothers under the sun. Before you read this you will get your telegrams letting you know how the Hun goes. At the moment it is the hardest go, and should he win through it will be harder still, but we don’t believe that can happen”.

Nurses and patients at Mount Felix Hospital c. 1917. Image courtesy of the Masterton Archive, New Zealand ref 16-971-24

Nurses and patients at Mount Felix Hospital c. 1917. Image courtesy of the Masterton Archive, New Zealand ref 16-971-24

Hosking’s sister in law, Nurse Wilmet Annie Bennett, was also stationed at Mount Felix Hospital, where she died following an appendix operation in 1918. She is remembered on the New Zealand Wall in the cemetery of St. Mary’s Church, Walton-on-Thames. The strain on medical staff at Mount Felix can be gauged by this newspaper report published in The Dominion newspaper, 4th March 1919 –

“Dr Archer Hosking of Masterton, has for some time past been the P.M.O. at a hospital at Walton-on-the-Thames (sic). Returned soldiers state that Dr Hosking has been working very hard, and the wonder is that he has not completely broken down”.

In January 1919 his duties at Mount Felix came to an end and Hosking returned to Sling. His sailed from Liverpool on July 5th 1919, and he arrived home in Masterton on 22nd August. Hosking followed in his father’s footsteps, resuming his duties as Superintendent of the Masterton Hospital and continuing his love of gardens and nature. In 1923 he formed the “Masterton Beautifying Society”, the object of which was to encourage the planting of trees and improvement of public reserves, streets and open spaces in the town. He was official retired from the military in August 1928.

Tommy Atkins

With research provided by the Surrey Infantry Museum

The name “Tommy Atkins” has been widely used to represent the regular British soldier of the Great War. There are various theories about the origin of this particular term – the Duke of Wellington is often credited with choosing the name – but it certainly dates as far back as 1815, when it was used by the War Office in its “Collection of Orders, Regulations etc.”

The Imperial War Museum lists no less than 76 servicemen called Tommy Atkins and at least three served in the Surrey regiments. Thomas Ernest Atkins served with the 8th and 10th Battalions The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment. Another Thomas Ernest Atkins claimed to be 19 when he enlisted in the 13th Battalion East Surrey Regiment on 13th July 1915 at Wandsworth. He served with “C” Company 13th Battalion for 179 days until he was discharged aged 16 years and 4 months on 7th January 1916 for misstating his age. (Interestingly, it is believed that the name “Tommy Atkins” was the example name on conscription sheets during the First World War, and that teenagers who were underage often signed up using this alias. However the birth of a Thomas Ernest Atkins was registered in Wandsworth between October and December 1899 so perhaps this young man lied solely about his age).

Thomas Atkins G/37874 headstone Lijssenthoek Cemetery. Image courtesy of Lijssenthoek Archives.

Thomas Atkins G/37874 headstone Lijssenthoek Cemetery. Image courtesy of Lijssenthoek Archives.

We know more about the third Thomas Atkins, who lived in Chertsey. Before enlisting, he was a farm labourer living at 15 Mead Lane. He joined the army under the Derby Scheme and went to the front in November 1916. The Surrey Advertiser reported on 13th October 1917 that he had died of wounds received on 30th September (although his Commonwealth War Graves Commission record says that he died on 26th September). The report states that his wife was living at Keeper’s Cottage, Botleys and that he had worked for Mr. H. Gosling JP of Botleys, Chertsey. He was buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium.

Click here to read more about Thomas Atkins of Chertsey in Graham Webster’s piece on the War Memorial at Holy Trinity Church, Lyne.

The eternal plight of the British Tommy Atkins was immortalised by Rudyard Kipling in his poem “Tommy”, included in his collection “Barrack-Room Ballads” of 1892:-

Tommy

I went into a public-‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,

The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”

The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,

I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:

O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;

But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,

The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,

O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.

 

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,

They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;

They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,

But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;

But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,

The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,

O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.

 

Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep

Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;

An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit

Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.

Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”

But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,

The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,

O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

 

We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,

But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;

An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,

Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;

While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,

But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,

There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,

O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.

 

You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:

We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.

Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face

The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”

But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;

An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;

An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

Gunner George Lloyd – Woking member of tank crew

Based on the text of the book “The First Tank Crews” by Stephen Pope

In May 1916, the first six tank companies were formed at Siberia Camp near Bisley in Surrey. The majority of the soldiers who fought in the tanks were from the Motor Machine Gun Service (MMGS) and the Machine Gun Corps (MGC). After initial weapon training at Bullhousen Farm, Bisley, which is just north of HMP Coldingley and tuition on the 6lb gun by the Royal Navy, in May 1916, the companies moved to Elveden in Suffolk where a secret training location had been established. Over the next eight weeks, the crew members learned to drive and “fight” their vehicles on a specially built mock battle area.

From mid August the tanks and their crews of C and D companies were deployed to France and, after final training across old trench lines near Yvrench, went into action on the morning of 15th September 1916. 49 tanks were tasked to support an attack designed to capture German strong points between Courcelette and Combles as part of the Somme offensive that had begun on 1st July.

Three members of the crew of tank C1 “Champagne” were from Woking; the driver Private Horace Brotherwood, Sergeant Fred Saker and Gunner George Lloyd. This was one of three tanks tasked to support the 2nd Canadian Division attack on Courcelette village on 15th September 1916.

The tank lost its steering wheels, due to artillery fire, whilst moving up to its start point and therefore crossed the start line after the infantry. The tank pressed on and crossed the German front line. At approx 7.00 am, the tank became ditched (at map reference R25a3.9) whilst following a German communications trench.

The crew attempted to dig out C1 for 4 hours; during which time they were the target of enemy artillery fire. The Tank Commander, Lieutenant A J C Wheeler was just about to order that the tank be abandoned when Private Brotherwood was killed, a fragment of a German shell severing his jugular vein. The remainder of the crew returned safely to their own lines and later recovered his body. He is buried at Pozieres British Cemetery.

Unlike most of the tanks, which broke down or became ditched, Champagne was never recovered from the battlefield. Her picture subsequently was taken by Capt Frank Hurley of the Australian Army: http://www.awm.gov.a…rn/pozieres.asp

Gunner George Lloyd was born on 20th October 1896 in Woking; the third son of domestic gardener John and Anna Lloyd. The 1911 Census shows him living at 12 Kingfield Terrace, Woking. As a 19 year old Motor Mechanic, employed at Mount Hermon Garage, he enlisted into the Motor Machine Gun Service on 16th November 1915. He deployed to France on 16th August 1916 and, after the first action, was admitted to 4 Canadian Hospital suffering from diarrhoea. He returned to duty on 24th September and joined C Battalion on its formation.

On 5th April he was admitted to hospital again, this time with a dental abscess; thereby missed the battle of Arras; he rejoined C Battalion on 12th June. On 12th September he was posted back to the Reinforcement Depot for service with the infantry. He stayed with them until 21st February (the first day of the Great German advance known as the Kairserslacht) when he was returned to C Battalion.

Transferred to the smaller Whippet tanks, during the final British advance he was wounded on 8th October 1918 near Cambrai. He received gunshot wounds to the upper right arm and right leg and was evacuated to St Luke’s War Hospital in Halifax. Discharged from hospital, and demobilised on 20th March 1919 he returned to the family home at 12 Kingfield Woking where he was still living in 1925. He died on 10th June 1953 at the Victoria Hospital, Woking.

A Wartime Romance – Staff Nurse Elsie Drabble and Private Cyril Lazarus

Woking Community Hospital in Heathside Road was opened in the 1990s, having been built on the site of Beechcroft Hospital – the geriatric wing of the old Woking Victoria Hospital, and prior to that a maternity unit. However, a framed collection of pictures in one of its corridors bears witness to an even earlier use during the Great War. Beechcroft was one of many large houses converted to deal with the casualties from the Western Front.

Handwritten note by Neville Langton about his mother, Staff Nurse Elsie Drabble. Photo courtesy of Neville Langton/Woking Community Hospital

A handwritten caption tells the story:–

“My mother was a nursing sister at Woking Hospital 1916-18, before being sent to Egypt. Some of her patients did some sketches for her. I thought the enclosed could be of some historical interest. My father was wounded in France and it was at Woking Hospital that they met. I have included a photo of my mother, who served with the South African Military Nursing Service”.

Elsie Drabble was born early in 1894 in Royston, Yorkshire. Her baptism took place on 3rd March of that year and she is recorded on the Census return for 1901 as living with her family in Millgate Street, Royston. She was the eldest child of Ada and James Drabble. Her father was a coal hewer. By 1911 Elsie was living in Sheffield and working as a nursemaid. She started training as nurse at Sheffield Royal Hospital on 19th November 1913 and by November 1916 was employed as a Staff Nurse. She also undertook holiday duties at the Jessop Hospital for Women in Sheffield.

On 5th September 1916 she applied to join the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS) – giving her date of birth as 1891 although the reason for the discrepancy is unclear. The application includes details of her father’s occupation – “Colliery Official” – and address as 60 Central Drive, Shirebrook Nr. Mansfield.

Three days later Elsie was informed that she had been accepted, although she didn’t formally sign up until the 7th December 1916. She was deployed to Woking the following day and continued to work there until being given a new posting in Egypt on 19th October 1917. Amongst the many casualties that would have passed through Beechcroft Hospital during that time was the man she was eventually to marry, Cyril Lazarus.

Private Cyril Montefiore Lazarus. Photo courtesy of the British Jewry Book of Honour, 1914-1920

Cyril Montefiore Lazarus was born in Fiji in 1888 into a family that had moved from the East End of London to set up a business. By 1914 however the family was in South Africa and with the outbreak of the Great War he and his brothers joined the South African Regiment. Having been deployed to France in 1916 the regiment took part in the Somme offensive – most notably at Delville Wood where enormous losses were incurred – at Arras and the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917.

Cyril’s brother Joseph Barrett Lazarus of C Company, 2nd South African Regiment died on 15th May 1917 and is buried at the Willesden Jewish Cemetery. Given the date of his death and the location of his burial, he may have died in an English military hospital from wounds received at the Battle of Arras. Cyril served with distinction – The London Gazette of 22nd January 1917 carries a notice that Private C M Lazarus 7843 had been awarded the Military Medal although there are no details of the specific act of bravery. However Cyril himself was wounded during his military service and was transported to the Woking Military Hospital, where he met Staff Nurse Elsie Drabble. A number of years were to pass before they married as, like so many couples, they were parted by the demands of military service.

At the end of her war service on 4th February 1919, Elsie Drabble applied to resign her appointment from the Military Hospital, Helouan, Cairo. Her matron A L Wilson gave her a glowing reference “an excellent nurse – kind and attentive to the patients – most reliable and methodical in her work and has considerable administrative capacity”. She agreed to join the Reserves on demobilisation, which finally came on 6th June 1919. Elsie’s address on discharge was 39 Essenwood Road, Durban, South Africa – presumably she and Cyril were reunited once again.

The National Archive holds Elsie’s military records (TNA File ref WO 399_4779) and they paint a fascinating picture of her struggles with bureaucracy to be paid a war gratuity. Authority for payment of a war gratuity was submitted to the Paymaster General on 12th June 1919. However, the War Office correspondence states that no gratuity can be paid due to the relevant records having been destroyed (in fact all documents up to March 1920 in Egypt had been destroyed by Army Order). This decision was overturned, but only after a great deal of tenacious effort by Elsie to provide the necessary evidence. In 1926 the War Office correspondence finally confirming Elsie’s gratuity is addressed to Mrs. Elsie Lazarus, 8 Wexford Avenue, Westcliffe, Johannesburg.

Elsie and Cyril continued to live in Johannesburg, and she served once again as a nurse in WWII. At some point in the following years, the couple changed their surname from Lazarus to Langton. One of their children, Neville Langton supplied the photograph of Elsie in her South African Military Nursing Service uniform with the distinctive Springbok cap badge.

Sources:
TNA File ref WO 399_4779 records relating to Elsie Drabble.
Entry for Cyril M Lazarus in the British Jewry Book of Honour, 1914-1920.

Surrey Regiment soldiers buried at Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen

Research and text by Dorothy Jones, edited M.A. Jones

The names of 19 British soldiers, including 4 members of the Surrey Regiments, appear on an imposing memorial in the Vestre Cemetery in Copenhagen. All had died between 22 December 1918 and 13 January1919. Amongst their number were a Canadian, an Indian and an Australian from Tasmania. They were all making their way home after having been held as prisoners of war in Germany. After surviving their imprisonment it is very sad that their journey home ended in Copenhagen; they did not get back to their loved ones. The circumstances with regard to why they were in Denmark, what caused their deaths and the funeral ceremonies that honoured them are detailed below.

The Danish Scheme, devised by Captain Charles Cabry Dix, the British Naval Attaché in Copenhagen, was in full swing. It was transporting British prisoners of war who had been held in German camps to the East of the River Elbe to Denmark for transfer to ships that would take them back to the UK. The British Red Cross commission in Copenhagen had set up an Ambulance section under the leadership of Professor Holger Mygind which hired Danish doctors and nurses to attend to the sick and wounded on the ships. This journey often involved a stay of about a week in Denmark. On arrival in Copenhagen or Århus the men would be taken to army camps whilst the majority of officers were accommodated in hotels.

Some of the men still needed treatment for their wounds and some were weak after years of  imprisonment. Given professional treatment, tender care, and good food and with the joy of being free and on their way home most of the men would make the journey successfully. Some were too weak to be taken from the lazaretts (prison camps for the wounded) in Germany where the Red Cross sent them comforts. A number of hospital ships were sent to the Baltic to deal with the sick and transport them home. Some didn’t make it and died on route.

The main killer of most of the 19 ex-prisoners of war was the Spanish flu and its complications. The flu was spreading across the world and its victims also included the young, strong and well fed. Many Danes were affected and the hospitals and staff were stretched to their limit. A good number of Prisoners of War succumbed and the hospitals in Copenhagen had to deal with a sudden influx of several hundred foreign patients who also needed their care and attention.

William Church 1st Battalion QRWS Regiment. Image courtesy of the Church family/Dorothy Jones

William Church 1st Battalion QRWS Regiment. Image courtesy of the Church family/Dorothy Jones

On 26th December 1918, William Church of 1st Battalion the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment died. Before the war he had worked at a gas works. He had travelled from Warnemünde on the Cimbria, a ship from the Danish Det Forenede Dampskibs-Selskab (DFDS) fleet taking part in the repatriation scheme, some few days before. Church’s group had been staying at Skov camp, on Amager. He was the first who died of the Spanish flu and pneumonia. The flu epidemic which in an odd way may have saved his brother’s life. Tom was in the Royal Garrison Artillery, serving as a Signal linesman. In April 1918 he was due to leave for France. He later told his grandson that he didn’t expect to survive, as his job involved repairing broken signal wires under fire, and his trade was known to take high casualties. Contracting the flu he was hospitalised and was still in hospital when the Armistice was signed.

By the end of December 1918 five British soldiers had died in Copenhagen. Captain Andrews, an ex Prisoner of War himself who was now working with the repatriation commission, in a letter sent on 30 December to the Danish Committee (Justitsministeriets kontor for hjemsendelse af fremmede krigsfanger) asked if the men could be buried in Copenhagen. A decision was needed and given the number of men ill with influenza it was probable that more would die in the coming days.

Pastor Storm conducting funeral service, Vestre Chapel, Copenhagen, January 1919. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones

Pastor Storm conducting funeral service, Vestre Chapel, Copenhagen, January 1919. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones

On Saturday 4 January a ceremony was held for the first five in the Vestre cemetery chapel and they were subsequently buried in its precincts. Five white coffins covered with British flags stood in the chapel each with a guard of four British soldiers. Wreaths lay on each coffin. Lord Kilmarnock the British Chargé d’ Affairs, Major Hazard, an ex POW now acting as senior British officer for the British soldiers in Denmark, Colonel Willemoes from Sandholm camp, Captain Kühl, Captain Davidsen liaison officer for the Danish and British authorities, Dr. Würtzen and Mrs Mygind from the British Red Cross commission in Copenhagen were present. One hundred and fifty British soldiers who were billeted at Sandholm camp also attended the ceremony.

Pastor Andreas Vangberg Storm, minister from the Kastel Church performed the service. Before the war he had once been the vicar at the Danish Seamen’s Church at Newcastle. His wife was English. He followed the English burial service and spoke in English. The first psalm was “Lead, kindly light!” and then pastor Storm spoke. He based his sermon on Moses’ story that he from mount Nebo was allowed to see into the Promised Land which he would never enter. Another psalm followed then the English soldiers carried their comrades out of the chapel to Handel’s death march “Saul” played on the organ.

The 1st Regiment’s band was waiting outside the chapel and with a Danish guard of honour led the procession to the graves while Chopin‘s funeral march was played. The Danish soldiers took turns with the British to carry the coffins. The weather was terrible, with rain and wind, the tall leafless trees whistling in the storm over the soggy paths. The five coffins were lowered into the graves by the English soldiers while the band played “Nearer my God to thee”. Then “earth to earth, ashes to ashes …..” was recited, first in English and then in Danish. The band played “The last post” and the Danish soldiers fired an honorary salute at the graveside.

Frederick William Rayner gravestone at Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones.

Frederick William Rayner gravestone at Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones.

32 year old Frederick William Rayner of 1st Battalion Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment died on 1 January 1919 of the Spanish flu and bronchitis. Rayner who had been born in Croydon, had emigrated to Canada and worked as a moulder in a brass foundry in Ontario. He was one of five British men buried on 7th January 1919 and in much better weather than the last funerals three days earlier. Otherwise things were done more or less in the same way.

Around 1 o’clock 100 British soldiers who were billeted at Barfredshoj camp and a half company from 23rd. Battalion with the band from 1st. regiment arrived for the service. They stood to attention on each side of the gravel square outside the chapel. Lord Kilmarnock, Major Hazard, Captain Kühl, and Lieutenant Colonel With and Major Cunliffe, Danish and British senior officers from Barfredshoj, attended. Pastor Storm from Kastel Church led the ceremony with the organist and boys choir from the English church St. Albans.

Six British soldiers stood to attention by each of the coffins throughout the ceremony. Each coffin was covered by a British flag and was topped with two wreaths. The organ played and the boys’ choir sang with voices pure and hauntingly beautiful. Pastor Storm spoke about how these five had finally been released from imprisonment only to fall to the last foe: death, whilst still in a foreign country, albeit a friendly one. He told the soldiers that they should take home with them a greeting to those who grieved over the five, and tell them that their graves would be cared for.

The ceremony finished at the graveside with the band playing “Dejlig er Jorden” followed by a threefold volley salute and a trumpeter played “The last post”. In sunshine the English and Danish soldiers marched out of the cemetery in silence. Out on the road the band played “Tipperary” and the soldiers sang along to the tune. Descriptions of the funerals appeared in newspapers and magazines, but it is only in the report of the funeral on 7 January that photos are included. We can see from these photos that others, young as well as old, attended the ceremony to honour these men who after fighting for their country weren’t to see their homeland again.

Alfred Warren gravestone at Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones.

Alfred Warren gravestone at Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones.

The next funeral took place on the following day, 8 January: this time for three men. It was almost a copy of the day before with Kilmarnock, Hazard, Kühl and Davidsen as representatives for the authorities and senior military and with Pastor Storm officiating. British soldiers from Sandholm camp and Danish soldiers from 21st. Battalion with band attended.

Two of these men had died on HMHS Formosa; both were “old contemptibles” who had been prisoners of war for more than four years – William George Dimpsey, 1st Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps and Fred Papworth, 1st Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment. The third was Alfred Warren, 28 years old, who had been a boat builder before the war and served with 1st Battalion East Surrey Regiment. He had been billeted at Greve camp before being admitted to the Epidemic hospital, where he died of pneumonia on 6th January 1919.

George Henry Kelland gravestone at Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones.

George Henry Kelland gravestone at Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones.

The last three were buried on 17th January. They included George Henry Kelland a 25 year old from 1st Battalion East Surrey Regiment who had died on 10th January. He had been billeted at Barfredshoj camp and died of pneumonia in the Garnisons hospital. Pastor Storm led the ceremony as usual, but perhaps this funeral may have touched him more than the others. He had visited one of the men several times while he was ill and comforted him in his hopeless struggle against death. Lord Kilmarnock, Major Hazard, Captain Kühl and Captain Davidsen, Danish soldiers from 3rd and 4th Machine Gun Corps and some English soldiers attended. A few were still in Copenhagen even though the repatriation for the British was more or less finished.

Lord Kilmarnock thanked, through the newspapers, the Danes for all the sympathy they had shown at the funerals, not least for the anonymous wreaths and flowers. Even before the last Briton was buried a collection had been started for a monument. Contributions could be sent to Mrs. Nanni Jarl, married to Carl Jarl, Professor Holger Mygind and Pastor Andreas Vangberg Storm. All three had been involved in British Red Cross work in Copenhagen during the war years. Other committees also collected for monuments for the five Belgian, forty French and thirteen Italian former prisoners of war who also died in Denmark on their way home.

The English soldiers gravesite was bought as a family plot and most of the soldiers were buried two to a grave, double depth. Each of the prisoners of war have their own headstones. A committee of ladies with Mrs. Mygind as chairman collected funds for the maintenance of the graves. Money streamed in for the monument which was to be a stylish memorial for the poor Tommies who died on Danish soil. A preparatory sketch was made – the little trumpeter, playing “the last post”. The memorial monument was unveiled by H.N. Andersen at a ceremony that took place on the 21 August 1920. The sketch hadn’t been used.

War Memorial Monument, Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones

War Memorial Monument, Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones

The memorial consists of a standing obelisk with pointed top in Nexo sandstone on a three part pedestal. The obelisk is decorated with a wreath in relief and a tablet in marble. Inscribed on the tablet is ”To the glory of God and in loving memory of the nineteen British soldiers who died in Denmark 1918-1919 on their journey home from captivity.” The Commonwealth War Grave Commission wanted to remove the monument in 1970’s as it was badly in need of restoration. Fortunately the head of funeral services Erik Rafn’s interest was aroused and he arranged for the restoration of the monument.

Vestre Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Copenhagen and the resting place of many notable Danish people, including the sculptor Edvard Eriksen and the composer Carl Nielsen. The section containing the war graves is referred to as Copenhagen Western Cemetery by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

William Church’s story and memorabilia have been handed on to his grandnephew via his brother Tom. Bill’s medals are mounted together with his death plaque, portrait and a photo of an epitaph. The epitaph is placed at the back of St. Alban’s Church at Copenhagen. The fine marble memorial was designed by professor Dahlerup and donated by local British resident and member of the church, William Mau. Following the text inscribed at the centre of the tablet ”Sacred to the memory of the following British sailors and soldiers who served in the Great War 1914-1918 and are buried in this city” are the 24 names. The epitaph was dedicated at the morning service on Sunday March 4th 1923. Andreas Vangberg Storm, the pastor who had performed the military funerals 4 years earlier, took part.

The story of the British ex-Prisoners of War who passed through Copenhagen at the end of the Great War is being told on The Danish Scheme website.

This story is extracted from In Memoriam – Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen by Dorothy Jones, edited by M A Jones. You can read the full article here.