Lance-Corporal Henry Davis

This story is the result of an investigation of documents held by Surrey History Centre. The file (SHC ref. CC7/4/4, nos. 1-50) contains correspondence and insurance claims on behalf of Surrey County Council Education Department employees who had been killed in action during the Great War. The cases date from 1915 to 1918.

Name: Henry Charles Davis

Occupation: Assistant Teacher, Caterham Hill Council School

Birth Place: Caterham, Surrey

Residence: Caterham, Surrey

Date of Death: presumed killed 28th March 1918

Age: 32 years (born 30th November 1880)

Location: near Arras

Rank: Lance-Corporal

Regiment: 1/5th (City of London) Battalion (London Rifle Brigade)

Number: 303283

Henry was the son of the late Robert and Matilda, nee Lung. They had ten children, eight boys and two girls. Henry’s father, Robert, had various jobs: a ‘kitchen man’, a ‘servant in the asylum’, chef. He appears on the Caterham Asylum wage book (1887-1899) as a ‘kitchen man’.

Henry was born in 1881 and christened at the Caterham Asylum Chapel in February 1882.

In 1901 (census), Henry was boarding at 10 Albert Street, Islington, and describing himself as an assistant teacher.

By 1911, Henry was working as an elementary school teacher in Caterham. In December 1909 he married Florence Westley in her home town of Northampton. In 1911, the couple were living in Hill Cottage, Livingstone Road, Caterham.

By the time of Henry’s death Florence had moved to 14, West Street, Reigate, Surrey. They had one son, Alan, who was three years old in 1918.

Henry’s date of enlistment is not known, but we do know he went to France on 4 December 1916. He joined the 1/5th (City of London) Battalion (London Rifle Brigade) which had been in France since 1915. It had fought at Second Ypres in 1915 and the Somme in 1916, where it lost heavily on the 1 July at Gommecourt. Most recently, in October, it had been involved in fighting around Les Boeufs-Morval where, of 563 men going into action, just 110 men answered the roll afterwards. It was a tough, veteran unit.

In 1917, presumably with Henry now in their ranks, the 1/5th Battalion fought in the battles of Arras, Third Ypres (Passchendaele) and Cambrai, where it continued to suffer horrendous casualties. In January 1918 the battalion was in the area Frévillers to the north of Arras. In February it marched to trenches to the north of Arras, where the War Diary describes it as being somewhere on the ‘Bailleul-Willerval line’. It also notes that the battalion had been working on defences, just in case of German offensives.

From the 21 March 1918, the Germans began a series of offensives along the Western Front in an attempt to win the war before the Americans arrived in strength. The first was against the British 5th Army on the old Somme battlefields, and despite early successes, the offensive was finally halted at Amiens on 5 April.

Towards the end of March, the 1/5th London Regiment was in the Gavrelle sector, just to the east of Arras. On the 25th, it captured a German soldier who warned them that a major offensive by two divisions was imminent. This was to be part of the German offensive called ‘MARS’ to be directed against the British at Arras.

On the 27th, it had to extend its front to cover the withdrawal of British troops moving south to stop the German offensive on the Somme. On the 28 March, at 3 a.m., an intense two-hour bombardment of the battalion preceded an attack by the enemy at 7 a.m. The War Diary notes the Germans attacked ‘with very large forces and immediately broke through the front-line system’. The 1/5th initially held them back, but was forced to withdraw, strongly contesting the ground the whole time.

By the early morning on the 29 March, when the ‘remnants of the battalion’ were relieved, the battalion fighting strength had been reduced from 23 officers and 564 other ranks to 8 officers and about 60 other ranks. It was during this action that Henry died.

After his death, Henry’s family pursued an insurance claim with Surrey County Council, who had taken out an insurance policy on behalf of Henry. As part of the process, the Council carried out an investigation into the circumstances of the family. In correspondence, his wife Florence, now 38, was described as unable to earn through ill health, and as a result she was living with friends.

The insurance pay-out should have been up to £100, but a document from Surrey County Council dated 3 July 1918 indicated that subsequent underpayment of premiums and overpaid salary to Henry meant that the council believed Florence was only owed £31 and 11 shillings.

The overpayment appears to have caused by Henry’s death only being assumed in March 1918, and so Florence continued to receive his pay from the council. She wrote to the Education Committee on the 1 July stating that she could ‘hardly understand’ this position. It may be that Florence won; a later document dated 8 July from the insurance company enclosed a cheque for £104 15 shillings, but the final position of the council is not recorded.

Henry’s body was never recovered, and he is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

He is entitled to the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Sources

Surrey History Centre File CC7/4/4 file 49
The History of the London Rifle Brigade (5th London Regiment) 1859-1919, (London, Constable & Co., 1921)
Regimental War Diary – 1/5th (City of London) Battalion (London Rifle Brigade)
England Census
Commonwealth War Graves Commission – https://www.cwgc.org/
Ancestry website – https://www.ancestry.co.uk/

Sergeant John Gamble Waller

This story is the result of an investigation of documents held by Surrey History Centre. The file (SHC ref. CC7/4/4, nos. 1-50) contains correspondence and insurance claims on behalf of Surrey County Council Education Department employees who had been killed in action during the Great War. The cases date from 1915 to 1918.

Name:                                       John Gamble Waller

Occupation:                             Haslemere School

Birth Place:                              Manchester (Longsight), Lancashire

Residence:                               Haslemere

Date of Death:                         Killed in Action 11 September 1916

Age:                                           29 years (born 1 December 1886)

Location:                                  Nasiriyah, Mesopotamia

Rank:                                        Sergeant

Regiment:                                1/5th Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment

Regimental Number:            T/1519

John was the son of Herbert and Marian Waller of Brinkley, Southwell, Nottinghamshire.  They had eight children of whom seven survived. The 1911 census shows them living with John and two brothers and two sisters. Incredibly, in the census all family members were described as teachers apart from Marian.

On the 12 February 1917, Herbert wrote a letter to the Surrey Education Committee giving details of the family: Herbert B. (38 years old), Flora E. (36), Eva M. (34), Lily (31) was married and farming in Australia, Arthur F. (25) and training to become a teacher at St John’s College, Battersea, and Sid H. (24) a soldier, possibly commissioned.

By the beginning of the war, John had moved to Surrey, and was living at Lomond Villa, West Street, Haslemere. At the time of his death he had been teaching at Haslemere Council School for two years.

The Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser of Saturday, 14 November 1914 listed all Surrey County Council staff that had joined the forces by that date. It lists John as having pre-war service in the ‘5th West Surrey Territorial’, a part-time soldier.

He was ‘mobilised’ (called up) in Bramley, Surrey, on 5 August 1914, joining the 1/5th Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, which was a Territorial Force (T.F.) battalion – part-time soldiers.

It had been formed in 1908 out of the old 2nd Volunteer Battalion formed following a reorganisation of the army. As it was a Territorial unit and therefore established for ‘Home Service’ only, soldiers, including John, had to volunteer for overseas service.

In October 1914, the 1/5th Queen’s embarked at Southampton on board the SS Alaunia for India, arriving in Bombay on the 2 December 1914.  It appears the battalion was then dispersed around India carrying out garrison duty until October 1915 when it was warned to be prepared for a move. On 2 December 1915, it sailed from Bombay, and then Basra, Mesopotamia (Iraq) arriving on 7 December.

Here the battalion joined ‘Tigris Force’, comprising regiments newly arrived from Gallipoli and India. In a Territorial Forces Record Officer letter dated 20 September 1916 within John’s Surrey Education Committee file, it describes him as being a member of Expeditionary Force ‘D’ Persian Gulf. This was an army group established in 1914 and responsible for protecting the oil wells in southern Mesopotamia (Iraq).

Tigris Force’s role was to relieve 8,000 British and Indian troops trapped in Kut, 100 miles south of Baghdad. In trying to reach the besieged men, the 1/5th Queen’s supported the relief column, fighting several engagements as it went. The relief failed, and Kut surrendered in April 1916.

The battalion was then based in Nasiriyah, and spent the summer fighting disease and the heat more than the enemy. On 11 September 1916, the Battalion was part of a column that sought to engage a significant number of ‘Arabs’ or ‘Turkish Irregulars’ around the village of As Sahilan.

John was a member of ‘D’ Company which initially supported the 90th Punjabis in the attack. The ‘Arabs’ withdrew, and the village was captured although at the cost of casualties to the battalion, including ‘D’ Company. After engineers had destroyed buildings in the village, the British started to withdraw, but confusion led to a delay and the ‘Arabs’ had time to return. The ‘Arabs’ continued to contest the British withdrawal, and it was not until after two hours of difficult fighting that the Battalion was finally clear.

The Surrey Advertiser of Saturday, 21 October 1916 was the first to report the incident under the banner ‘Mesopotamia Fighting – Casualties to Surrey Territorials’:

‘It was reported last month that on Sept. 11th a British force from Nasiriyah attacked a body of Turkish irregulars who had molested patrols and defeated them. The engagement cost us some casualties, which West Surrey Territorials shared.’

A week later the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser of Saturday, 28 October 1916, in ‘Surrey & The War, Surrey Territorials in Mesopotamia’, confirmed the casualties:

‘It now appears that in the successful attack by a British force in September, on a body of Turkish Irregulars who had molested our patrols, the West Surrey Territorials took part, and sustained some casualties. Two officers and eight non-commissioned officers and men were killed… the list included 1519 Sergt. J. Waller’.

On 17 September, Captain F.E. Bray wrote to John’s father:

‘You will have heard your son was killed in action on the 11th, and knowing him as I did, I can understand how heavy a blow it must have been to you.

I was near him when he was killed, just as we had begun to work back after covering the party destroying the village which was our objective. I went up to him at once, but he was killed instantaneously by a bullet through his head.

It is just about 4 years since I first knew him, when he was transferred to my company on going to Haslemere, and during the whole time I have never known him to do other than the right thing, and it has always been a pleasure to me to help him get the quick promotion he deserved. But he was much more than merely a good N.C.O. Everyone, officers and men who had anything to do with him, liked him for himself, and I know that I feel I have lost a friend more than a subordinate.’

The officer commanding the 1/5th, Lieutenant Colonel W.L. Hodges also wrote:

‘Last Monday we had to attack an arab [sic] village and destroy it. Your son was right in the thick of the fighting and early on in the action he was struck by a bullet and killed instantaneously. His death is a great loss to us as he was one of our best Sergeants and a type of man will can ill afford to lose. I trust that the thought that he gave his life for his country may be consolation to you in your loss’.

A comrade, Sergeant G.E. Smith, wrote on the 15th

‘I am writing on behalf of the Sergts. Of “D” Company. 1/5th Queens and on my own behalf to offer you our deepest sympathy in the loss sustained in the death of your son Sergt. G. Waller [sic], who, as you have probably already been informed, was killed after an attack on the village of XXX.

He was shot through the head and died almost instantly.

May I suggest that at least you have the consolation (perhaps a poor one in such cases) that he died for his Country and trying to do what he could to further its interests.

Personally my sorrow is of the deepest, for he was in my platoon and I was near him at the time, so that I can testify to his ability, efficiency, and cheerfulness as a soldier and also his staunchness as a mate.’

Another comrade Lance Sergeant Stafford (No. 138) wrote on the 11 September:

‘You will doubtless have heard… of poor Jack’s death in action which occurred this morning, but I feel that I must write to offer you my sincerest sympathy in your sad bereavement. While in India Jack was my closet friend, altho’ the exigencies of the service have not allowed of such close and intimate companionship just lately he was still my best chum. I was not with him when the bullet hit him and cannot give you details of his death but I can assure you he died in the thick of the fighting, and that he died instantaneously.

Last September we spent the holidays together and twas only yesterday that we were recalling some of the splendid times we had… I can only say that I have suffered the loss of the best pal a chap could have had, and both cases the wrenches are very great.’

Finally, A P.H. Crozier, a chaplain with the I.E.F. wrote a quite different type of letter on 18 September:

‘May I convey my deep sympathy with you in your sad bereavement. Your son was amongst those who were to voluntary services (sic). He was killed in action on Sept. 11. He died an Englishman’s death worthy of the traditions of the Regiment to which he belonged he is deeply mourned by those who knew him. He is with a goodly number of men who have laid down their lives in their Country’s cause, and as such he is honoured’.

After his death, John’s family pursued an insurance claim with Surrey County Council, which had taken out an insurance policy on behalf of John.  As part of the process, the Council carried out an investigation into the circumstances of the family. In one letter his family is described as ‘all in good positions’ and in no financial need. His father, however, wrote to the council in January 1917 stating that they had raised eight children on limited means, and it had been ‘no easy matter to struggle through’.

The family was eventually awarded £85 12 shillings and sixpence.

John is buried in the Basra War Cemetery, Iraq, and remembered on memorials at the following locations:

He is entitled to the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Sources

Surrey History Centre CC7/4/4 File 18

Colonel H.C. Wylly, History of The Queen’s Royal (West Surrey) Regiment in The Great War, (1925)

The History of the Hampshire Territorial Force Association and War Records of Units, 1914-1919

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – https://www.cwgc.org/

Ancestry website – https://www.ancestry.co.uk/

Pioneer Walter Norman Welton

This story is the result of an investigation of documents held by Surrey History Centre. The file (SHC ref. CC7/4/4, nos. 1-50) contains correspondence and insurance claims on behalf of Surrey County Council Education Department employees who had been killed in action during the Great War. The cases date from 1915 to 1918.

Name:                                       Walter Norman Welton

Occupation:                             Woodwork Instructor

Birth Place:                              Attleborough, Norfolk

Residence:                                Wallington, Surrey

Date of Death:                         Died 26th June 1916

Age:                                           31 years

Location:                                   No. 4 Casualty Clearing Station, Beauval, France

Rank:                                         Pioneer

Regiment:                                 1st Battalion, Special Brigade, Royal Engineers

Regimental Number:              128805

Walter Welton was born in 1885 and was originally from Attleborough, Norfolk, and the son of George, a former school master, and Elizabeth Welton, of Norwich. He married Alice, a farmer’s daughter from Norfolk, that same year, and in 1915 he became the father of a son. They were living at 8, Demesne Road, Wallington, Surrey when he enlisted.

During the early 1900s, he specialised in woodwork and learnt his trade by attending the Norwich Technical Institute.  He became a certified teacher of practical skills at Bandon Hill Manual Training Centre, South Beddington, from 1913 onwards. His will suggests that he also worked at the Coulsdon Roke (Surrey) Handicraft Centre.

In a letter after Welton’s death, dated 12th July 1916, the Surrey Education Committee described Walter as ‘…one of the Committee’s Instructors of Woodwork’. 

Walter was living and working in Wallington when he volunteered for the 4th Battalion Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment at the start of the war.  His technical skills were probably soon recognised and likely led to his transfer to the Royal Engineers.

There is no evidence of when Walter went to France with the Royal Engineers. On his death he was a pioneer, the equivalent of a Private, with the 1st Battalion, Special Brigade, Royal Engineers. The Special Brigade was responsible for one of the most controversial elements of the Great War, poison gas.

Poison gas was first used on the Western Front by the Germans against allied units in the Ypres Salient in 1915.  The British developed their own response and, according to the official history of the war, its use at the Battle of Loos had warranted ‘further development’.  In January 1916, Kitchener agreed to expand the original four gas companies of the Royal Engineers.  By May 1916, five ‘Special Brigades’, containing four battalions, each of four companies, were ready; initially manned by volunteers and then ‘drafts of suitable men’.   Each ‘Special Brigade’ was attached to an army group in France, and Walter’s 1st Special Brigade went to the 4th Army, which was preparing to fight the Battle of the Somme.

There is evidence from war diaries and histories that Walter and his comrades were part of the preparations for the Somme offensive. A 4th Division report states that the Special Brigade had taken casualties on the night of 25/26th June. Shrapnel hit one of the phosgene gas cylinders the men were handling causing a leak. Walter and several of his comrades were evacuated to No. 4 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) located at Beauval. 

A letter from H.B.W. Denison, Chaplain, No. 4 CCS letter dated 27th June 1916 completes the story:

‘It is with deep regret that I write to tell you of the death of your husband, Pioneer Welton, in this hospital. He was admitted yesterday suffering severely from gas poisoning and he died during the evening. Everything possible was one for him and for his comrades suffering from the same horrible gas, but it was of no avail. I am burying him with four of his comrades this afternoon in Beauval cemetery.’

The R.E Record Office confirmation of his death, dated 4th July 1916, states that Walter ‘died from Drift Gas’.

After his death, Walter’s wife, Alice, pursued an insurance claim with Surrey County Council, who had taken out an insurance policy on behalf of Walter. In correspondence with the Council Alice makes the point that she has a son to look after. A letter from the Surrey Education Committee to the Clerk to the County Council states that Alice is ‘badly off and is (going back) to live (in Norfolk to) get work of some kind’. She is described as ‘a capital young woman and deserving of all help’. Alice would have eventually received approximately £100.

Walter is buried at the Beauval Communal Cemetery, Somme, France where his inscription reads “In Ever Loving Memory of My Dear Norman Rest in Peace”.

His name also appears on two memorials in Norfolk and a school memorial in Wallington. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/56145028

In addition, his name appears on the “Beddington & Wallington” War memorial, which is close to where his widow lived for at least two decades after the war.  An image can be seen online here:

https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/111198?search=search_map%253Fsearch_value%253Dwallington%2526memorial_name%253D

Walter was entitled to the War Medal and Victory Medal

Sources

Surrey History Centre Files CC/7/4/4

J. E. Edmonds, Military Operations France and Belgium, 1916: 2nd July to the End of the Battle of the Somme, (MacMillan & Co., London, 1932).

War Diary – 4th Division

The Special Companies of the Royal Engineers (poison gas), (‘The Long, Long Trail’, 30th July 2015), https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-corps-of-royal-engineers-in-the-first-world-war/the-special-companies-of-the-royal-engineers-poison-gas/

England Census

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – https://www.cwgc.org/

Ancestry website – https://www.ancestry.co.uk/

 

 

Lance-Corporal John McLean Wiseman

This story is the result of an investigation of documents held by Surrey History Centre. The file (SHC ref. CC7/4/4, nos. 1-50) contains correspondence and insurance claims on behalf of Surrey County Council Education Department employees who had been killed in action during the Great War. The cases date from 1915 to 1918.

Name:                                        John McLean Wiseman

Occupation:                               Assistant Master, Richmond County School

Birth Place:                               Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Residence:                                Richmond

Date of Death:                          Killed in Action 11th March 1917

Age:                                           28 years (Born 1888)

Location:                                   Zillebeke, Ypres Salient

Rank:                                         Lance-Corporal

Regiment:                                 7th (City of London) Battalion, The London Regiment

Number:                                    354253 (previously 8135)

John was the son of John Mclean senior, an estate clerk, and Harriet, of Nacton, Ipswich, Suffolk. John senior had married Harriet in 1883.

In the 1891 census, John senior had listed his profession as elementary school teacher, probably at the National School in Nacton, but had given this up by the turn of the century. In Kelly’s Suffolk Directory in 1912, he is recorded as being the clerk to E.R.H. Moorsman, a land agent.

In the 1911 census John and Harriet stated they have five children: Winifred (a school mistress), Maud, John, Archibald, and Marian. John had left home by this point. He is recorded in the University of London ‘War List’, which lists the military services of students and former students, as attending Birbeck College before the war.

By 1911, John was now boarding at 35, Larkfield Road, Richmond, and was already an assistant master, Richmond County School. He was single. It is not known when John enlisted.

When he did, he enlisted into the 7th (City of London) Battalion, The London Regiment, which was a pre-war Territorial Force unit, part-time soldiers. It was mobilised for war on 5th August 1914 at Finsbury Square, going to France in March 1915. Since its arrival it had fought at Festubert, Loos in 1915, and in 1916 at Vimy Ridge, and High Wood and Warlencourt on the Somme. This last engagement in October 1916 cost the battalion 300 casualties.

As John did not qualify for the 1914/15 Star, awarded for service in 1914 and 1915, it is likely that he arrived in France in early 1916.

The battalion then moved to the Ypres sector and saw in the new year there. They were based around the area of ‘Belgian Chateau’, a reserve area, still within the range of enemy artillery, to the south-west of Ypres. Much of January and into February was filled with working parties and parades, but from the 4th of February they moved up to the trenches. The War Dairy then paints a picture of the front-line being relatively quiet with few casualties, and limited enemy activity.

On 11th March 1916, the War Diary records the situation as all quiet. It notes that the enemy heavily shelled the trenches in the area, but little damage was done to 7th Battalion trenches. It then notes simply ‘Casualties 2 OR killed, 1 OR wounded’. John was sadly one of the other ranks killed.

M. Davidson (Chaplain to the Forces) wrote an undated letter to John’s family:

‘I am sure you feel an honourable pride in giving one to die for his country with all it stands for at present. He has made the great sacrifice for the cause of honour and Justice.

He was killed by a shell and I understand death was immediate. We buried him in a cemetery and a cross marks his last resting place.’

In a letter dated 25th May 1917, the Territorial Forces Record Office informed the family that John had been buried at Railway Dug-outs Burial Ground, Transport Farm, Zillebeke.

After his death, John’s family pursued an insurance claim with Surrey County Council, who had taken out an insurance policy on behalf of John. As part of this process, local enquiries were made into the circumstances of the family. John’s father, giving his address as Owell Park Estate Office, Nacton, Ipswich, wrote a letter to the Surrey Education Committee on 4th June 1917. In making his case he says, rather sadly, that the family had ‘strained our resources to keep him at London University and, quite voluntarily, he was recouping us for our outlay’. It is not recorded how much they received from their claim.

John is buried in the Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm) with the inscription ‘In Loving Memory’.

He is entitled to the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Sources

Surrey History Centre CC7/4/4 File 27

War Diary – 7th (City of London) Battalion, The London Regiment

University of London Student Records, War List 1914-18 http://archives.ulrls.lon.ac.uk/resources/WARLISToptimised-OCR.pdf

England Census

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – https://www.cwgc.org/

Ancestry website – https://www.ancestry.co.uk/

Signalman Frank Vincent Wise

This story is the result of an investigation of documents held by Surrey History Centre. The file (SHC ref. CC7/4/4, nos. 1-50) contains correspondence and insurance claims on behalf of Surrey County Council Education Department employees who had been killed in action during the Great War. The cases date from 1915 to 1918.

Name:                                        Frank Vincent Wise

Occupation:                              Assistant Teacher, Bagshot Council School

Birth Place:                               Virginia Water, Surrey

Residence:                                Virginia Water, Surrey

Date of Death:                         31st May 1916 (DOB 15th September 1891)

Age:                                           24 years

Location:                                   Battle of Jutland

Rank:                                          Signalman

Regiment:                                 Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, H.M.S. Invincible

Regimental Number:              London Z/2954

Frank Wise was born, baptised and raised in Virginia Water, Surrey. By 1901 his mother, Katherine, had been widowed and was living with Frank in Christ Church Cottage, Virginia Water. He was her only child.

By 1911, Frank had moved to New Cross, Deptford, London, where he was attending teacher training college.

There is no information as to when he became an assistant teacher at Bagshot Council School.

Frank enlisted into the Royal Navy on 20th August 1915, appearing to initially be assigned to the Royal Naval Division (R.N.D.).  The R.N.D. was formed in September 1914 to fight on land alongside the Army. It consisted of men brought together from the Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Fleet Reserve, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, a brigade of Royal Marines, Royal Navy and Army personnel. In Frank’s case, he qualified for the R.N.D. as a member of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and his posting was probably more administrative than physical.

He was temporarily assigned to HMS Pembroke, a shore-based garrison, on 26th of November 1914, before joining HMS Invincible as a signaller on 1st December 1915, on which he remained until his death.

HMS Invincible was a battlecruiser launched in 1907, weighing 17,250 tonnes, mounting eight 12-inch guns.  She had already seen action at the Battle of Heligoland Bight and the Battle of Falklands in 1914, and now led the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron into the fight at Jutland.

Entering into action, she was the lead British ship, coming within 9,000 yards of the enemy fleet before opening fire at around 6:20 p.m. Ahead were the German flagship SMS Lützow and SMS Derfflinger, each with eight 12-inch guns, plus other German ships, including the Koenig. Invincible’s steady fire inflicted heavy punishment on the German ships. Commander von Hase of the Derfflinger said “several shells pierced our ship with a terrific force and exploded with a tremendous roar which shook every seam and rivet”. A senior British officer later said, however, that the Germans were also “pouring hot fire into [HMS Invincible]”.  At 6:33 p.m. the Invincible blew up; the official history describes the moment:

“Flames shot up from the gallant flagship, and there came again the awful spectacle of a fiery burst, followed by a huge column of dark smoke which, mottled with blackened debris, swelled up hundreds of feet in the air, and the mother of all battle cruisers had gone to join the other two that were no more (referring to other ships lost that day).”

One survivor, Marine Bryan Gasson, described the moment the ship was hit:

“Suddenly our starboard midship turret manned by the Royal Marines was struck between the two 12-inch guns and appeared to me to lift off the top of the turret and another from the same salvo followed. The flashes passed down to both midship magazines…The explosion broke the ship in half. I owe my survival to the fact that I was in a separate compartment at the back of the turret.”

Only six crew survived. 1,026 crewmen, including Frank, perished.

Incredibly, one of the survivors, H.E. Dannreuther, wrote a letter to Frank’s family dated 8th June 1916:

‘The Invincible was hotly engaged with the German battle-cruiser Derflinger and was giving her a severe hammering when the end came quite suddenly.

At 6.34 p.m. May 31st there was a tremendous explosion aboard – the ship broke in half and sank in 10 or 15 seconds.

Only seven of us ever came to the surface again after the ship sank, and three of these disappeared shortly afterwards.

Death came quickly to everyone and our brave fellows died the death that I am sure they would have chosen, and one of which you may well think with pride and satisfaction.  Everything was going splendidly at the time – everyone seemed with joy and enthusiasm…

I remember F.V. Wise well – a fine fellow and much respected and like aboard. My only consolation I can offer is that he died as I am sure he wished to die – for no finer could fall to the lot of men – and that his end was sudden and painless.’

After his death, Frank’s mother, Katherine, pursued an insurance claim with Surrey County Council which had taken out an insurance policy on behalf of Frank. She had no other source of income apart from an Admiralty payment that would end in November 1916. In the correspondence around the claim her character was described as ‘excellent’.  She eventually received £88 and 15 shillings, paid out at 5 shillings a week allowance, with the proviso that if she needed more there was money available.

Frank’s body was never recovered, and he is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial, Kent.

He was entitled to the 1914/15 Star, War Medal and Victory Medal.

Sources

Surrey History Centre File CC7/4/4

National Archives file reference ADM 337/38/91: Frank Vincent WISE, Service Number: Z/2954 RNVR

https://news.bournemouth.ac.uk/2014/08/04/loss-and-survival-at-sea-the-hms-invincible-at-the-battle-of-jutland-1916/

J.J. Colledge and B. Warlow, Ships of the Royal Navy… from the 15th Century to Present (London, Chatham Publishing, 2006).

Sir Julian S Corbett, World War 1 at Sea: Naval Operations, Volume 3, Spring 1915 to June 1916 (London, Longmans Green and Co., 1923).

Battle of Jutland, 30th May to 1st June 1916, Official Despatches with Appendices (London, HMSO, 1920).

England Census

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – https://www.cwgc.org/

Ancestry website – https://www.ancestry.co.uk/

 

Second Lieutenant Robert Leonard Garner

This story is the result of an investigation of documents held by Surrey History Centre. The file (SHC ref. CC7/4/4, nos. 1-50) contains correspondence and insurance claims on behalf of Surrey County Council Education Department employees who had been killed in action during the Great War. The cases date from 1915 to 1918.

Name:                            Robert Leonard Garner

Occupation:                   Assistant Master, West Street Council School, Farnham

Birth Place:                    Smethwick, Staffordshire

Residence:                     Kingston-Upon-Thames

Date of Death:               Killed in Action 24th August 1918

Age:                               30 years (Born 1888)

Location:                        Near Bray, France

Rank:                             Second Lieutenant

Regiment:                      11th (County of London) Battalion (Finsbury Rifles) attached 21st Battalion (First Surrey Rifles) London Regiment

Born in 1888, Robert was the son of Walter, a glass cutter and merchant, and Maria.  He was the second of three children, with an elder brother and a younger sister. In the 1911 census he is single and describes himself as a student. 

In 1913 he married Maud Minnie, nee Woollacott, in Kingston. Her father was a paper agent, a Justice of the Peace, and a local dignitary who sat on several local council and hospital boards. According to the Surrey Comet of 7th September 1918, Robert had been an assistant master at Elm Road Boys’ School before moving onto West Street Council School, Farnham.

Robert’s enlistment record is somewhat confusing. Early in his career, he was at times a member of the Army Service Corps, 16 Training Reserve (essentially a training unit from which recruits were sent to battalions), and in the 6th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He did no overseas service with any of these units.

Robert was made a Second Lieutenant on 24th November 1917 and joined ‘11th Battalion, The London Regiment’. Records indicate that he went to France with this Battalion. It is probable that he went to the 2/11th Battalion which arrived in France in February 1917; the other Battalion, the 1/11th, was then stationed in the Middle East.

Soon after Robert joined, the 2/11th Battalion was disbanded in January 1918 as part of a wider army reorganisation to cover a gap in reinforcements. Officers and men of the Battalion were transferred to other units, predominantly London Regiment battalions, and it is likely that Robert was attached to the 1/21st London Regiment as part of this reorganisation, but this cannot be proved definitively.

In August 1918, the 1/21st London Regiment was operating around Albert, France. Throughout the month they had been in and out of trenches, carrying out work parties, patrols etc., when on the 23rd they moved up to trenches behind the Albert-Bray road. Their objective was German trenches north-east of ‘Happy Valley’, which was a deep curving valley just north of what is now the Bray Vale Cemetery.

Reading the War Diary it appears they captured the trenches on the morning of the 24th August, but a neighbouring battalion failed to capture an enemy strongpoint on their left. This strongpoint inflicted heavy casualties on the 1/12st Battalion until it was finally overcome with the aid of a tank. Three officers were killed and six listed as missing during the 24th – Robert was one of those killed.

Robert’s servant, Rifleman H.G. Wells (No. 651408), D Company, 1/21st County of London Regiment, wrote dated 28th August 1918:

‘Killed Sunday 26th August 1918.

I am very sorry to break the sad news to you, but your husband was killed while we were in action. He gave me your address before we went over; I stuck by him almost to the last. Never thinking that anything would happen. I am afraid this all I can say, and you have my deepest sympathy. He was always very good to me, and we used to get on well together.’

After his death, Robert’s wife pursued an insurance claim with Surrey County Council, who had taken out an insurance policy on behalf of Ernest. As part of this process, local enquiries were made into the circumstances of his family. His wife was described as ‘perfectly responsible and honourable and in my opinion entitled to receive the sum you refer to… Her father is Mr. A. Woollacott who is this year the Chairman of the District Council…’. His wife eventually received £88.

Mr Woollacott was chairman of the local council, and following his death, his fellow councillors passed a resolution to record their sympathy. Mr Woollacott described how Robert’s death had been a heavy blow to the family.

Robert’s body was never recovered, and he is remembered on the Vis-En-Artois Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

He is entitled to British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Sources

Surrey History Centre File CC7/4/4, file 43

Regimental War Diary – 2/11th (County of London) Battalion (Finsbury Rifles)

Regimental War Diary – 1/21st Battalion (First Surrey Rifles) London Regiment

London Gazette, 24th November 1917 – https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30397/supplement/12289/data.pdf

The Long, Long Trail – The British Army in the Great War 0f 1914-1918 https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/training-reserve/

England Census

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – https://www.cwgc.org/

Ancestry website – https://www.ancestry.co.uk/

Private Edward Cyril Friston

This story is the result of an investigation of documents held by Surrey History Centre. The file (SHC ref. CC7/4/4, nos. 1-50) contains correspondence and insurance claims on behalf of Surrey County Council Education Department employees who had been killed in action during the Great War. The cases date from 1915 to 1918.

Name:                                        Edward Cyril Friston

Occupation:                              Clerk, Motor License Department, Surrey County Council

Birth Place:                               Surbiton, Surrey

Residence:                                Surbiton, Surrey

Date of Death:                           Killed-in-Action 16th August 1917

Age:                                           19 years

Location:                                    Langemark, Ypres

Rank:                                          Private

Regiment:                                  8th (Service) Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

Regimental Number:              43780

Edward was the son of Thomas, a grocer’s assistant, and Janet Friston, of 18, King Charles’ Crescent, Surbiton, Surrey. He was educated at Christ Church School, Surbiton, and Kingston Day Commercial School. He was also a member of the Christ Church choir and the Church Lads’ Brigade.

He was a clerk in the motor license department of Surrey County Council.  An obituary in the Surrey Advertiser describes how Edward was ‘much liked for his bright and cheerful personality’.

He attested into the army on 3rd December 1915 initially joining the 15th County of London (Prince of Wales’ Own Civil Service Rifles), regimental number 6700. During his time in the U.K. he qualified as an Army Signaller, 1st Class. He embarked for France on 24th February 1917, arriving the next day. He was probably placed into a replacement pool as he then joined the 8th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on 19th March 1917. He was one of fifty-nine replacements to join the Battalion that day.

The 8th Battalion was one of Kitchener’s New Army, raised in Omagh, Northern Ireland, in August 1914. By the time Edward joined, it was a battle-hardened unit having fought on the Somme at the Battle of Guillemont and Ginchy at the beginning of September 1916.  In March 1917, the battalion was at rest at a place called the ‘Doncaster Huts’ near Poperinge in the Ypres sector. The battalion went into the line the night of his arrival, but it is not recorded if Edward was with them. The next two months were spent training behind the lines, carrying out work parties or in the trenches.

Edward’s first action would have been during the Battle of Messines when the 8th Inniskillings attacked Wytschaete Ridge on the 7th of June.  As part of 49th Infantry Brigade they supported the attack, acting as ‘carrying parties and mopping up’. Each man carried up to 65lbs of equipment – ammunition, grenades, sand bags, water etc. When they reached the enemy trench, they found them demolished and quiet.  They directly took some 300 prisoners, and throughout the day, the battalion helped process over 1,000 prisoners. Casualties were low.

The remainder of June and July were relatively quiet for Edward and his comrades.  The war diary notes that June was mostly taken up by ‘Battalion, company and platoon training, route marching, individual training etc.’.

In early August they moved forward to occupy trenches around Potijze Chateau, near Zonnebeke in the Ypres sector. Edward was just about to take part in what would be known as the Battle of Passchendaele.

The battalion were withdrawn to bivouacs between 8th to the 14th July and remained there for the remainder of the month. Already by July, the infamous mud of Passchendaele had appeared, with the battalion history describing a ‘sea of tormented mud under driving rain’. On the 1st of August they again began their way forward to the frontline.

They initially moved into the area of Potijze on the 4th where their Colonel, T.H. Boardman D.S.O.,was severely wounded and later died of wounds the next day. The battalion was in the trenches until the 7th, when they moved back to bivouacs for what the war diary calls ‘resting and refitting’.

On the 14th of August, described as ‘X day’ in the war diary, they moved forward to the frontline. The battalion headquarters, to which Edward was attached, moved to a position called ‘Square Farm’, about 2.5 miles north-east of Ypres. On the 15th they moved forward again, this time in preparation for an attack on enemy trenches the following day. On the 16th they attacked enemy trenches to the south of St Julien as part of the Battle of Langemark.

At 4.45 a.m. they went forward and almost immediately the battalion was struck by artillery and machine gun fire, taking heavy casualties. By 5 a.m. they were being held up by the intensity of the fire. Fire from block houses on one side and a counterattack on the other threatened to surround elements of the 8th Battalion and forced them to pull back. The war diary describes how it was difficult for headquarters to communicate with the troops in the frontline, and ‘orderlies’ were used, several of whom were killed. It may be that, as a battalion signaller, Edward was one of these orderlies, and was killed going forward.

A Letter from 26195 Private M. Cooley, Headquarters Signallers, dated 20th August 1917, may confirm this:

‘I am very sorry to inform you of the death of your son E.C. Friston who was killed on the morning of the sixteenth.

We had just left battalion Headquarters to go forward when he was killed instantaneous by a sniper.

He was a very good soldier and well liked by all who knew him and we signallers sadly regret his loss.

We all sympathise with you in your sad bereavement.’

The attack stalled, and eventually the 8th Battalion was withdrawn. The officer commanding the battalion wrote afterwards that casualties had been heavy, and of nineteen officers that went into action, ‘only one company officer survived’.

Edward’s mother, Janet Friston, in a letter dated 24th November 1917 to the Surrey Education Committee, highlighted the strain on families at home:

‘I ought long ago to have answered your letter, but for some weeks our second son has been lying dangerously ill in France with poison gas, and I have not felt well enough, but I feel you will understand.’

Edward’s brother, Thomas, survived the war.

After his death, Edward’s family pursued an insurance claim with Surrey County Council, who had taken out an insurance policy on behalf of Edward.  The family eventually received £85 and 15 shillings.

Edward is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, and on his father’s and mother’s headstone in Surbiton Cemetery.

He is entitled to British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Sources

CC7/4/4 File 32

National Archives, WO363, Army Service Record – 43780 Pte. FRISTON E.C., 8th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

Sir F. Fox, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in the World War (London, Constable & Company, 1928).

The Surrey Advertiser & the Surrey Comet, 22nd September 1917 – ‘Pte. E.C. Friston Killed – Member of the County Hall Staff’

Surbiton Cemetery: https://billiongraves.com/grave/Thomas-Friston/7851919

England Census

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – https://www.cwgc.org/

Ancestry website – https://www.ancestry.co.uk/

Second Lieutenant Alfred John Carter Hodges

Name: Alfred John Carter Hodges

Occupation: Clerk, Motor Car Accounts Department, County Hall, Kingston-on-Thames

Birth Place: Esher, Surrey

Residence: Esher

Date of Death: Died of Wounds 23rd August 1918

Age: 22 years (born 16th August 1896)

Location: Area of the Albert-Bray road (Battle of Albert)

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Regiment: 1/20th (County of London) Battalion (Blackheath and Woolwich)

Alfred was the only son of John and Florence Hodges of “The Rest,” West End, Esher, Surrey. They kept a small grocery shop and post office just outside Glen Hurst Lodge. The had two children, Alfred and Annie.

Alfred was educated at St Saviour’s College, Ardingly, Haywards Heath.

In November 1915, he enlisted into the 15th (County of London) Battalion (Prince of Wales Own Civil Service Rifles), and went to France with the battalion on 20th June 1916, and eventually became a Lance Corporal. He left the 15th Battalion in October 1916, and was then commissioned on 28th November 1917 into the 1/20th (County of London) Battalion (Blackheath and Woolwich).

When Alfred joined the 1/20th London Regiment in France is not recorded.

The battalion war diary for the month of August 1918 is missing so it is difficult to piece together exactly what happened to Alfred. In August 1918, the 47th (London) Division, to which the 1/20th London regiment belonged, was involved in the great offensives against the Germans – the ‘100 Days’ that led to the end of the war.

On the 22nd of August the battalion was involved in an attack on enemy trenches around the Albert-Bray road. Supported by tanks and cavalry, the battalion advanced, but smoke and darkness meant that they dug-in short of their objective. When morning came, the battalion was exposed to ‘heavy and accurate’ shellfire. Shelling continued throughout the day, making re-supply and reinforcement very difficult. The attack was not successful as had been hoped, and further attacks on subsequent days were necessary to achieve the objectives of the 22nd August.

It is during the advance on the 22nd that Alfred was killed. His commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel T. Oswell Bury wrote to the family on 27th August 1918, and provides details of Alfred’s death:

‘We have been kept much employed lately or I would have written to you before this to express on behalf of the officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the 20th Bt. London Rgt. Their very deep sympathy with you in the loss you have sustained by the death from wounds of your son, 2nd Lieut. J.B. Hodges (sic).

He was badly wounded whilst leading his Platoon in a successful attack in the early hours of Thursday the 22nd inst. And died later in the day. I am told that he was unconscious the whole time as that it will perhaps be of some little consolation to you to know that he cannot have suffered.

It is a great loss to the Battalion as your son was a type of officer difficult to replace nowadays, and we shall miss him very much indeed. He was leading his men forward very gallantly when he was hit, thoroughly maintaining the high reputation he held within the Battalion.

I am not permitted to inform you of the place of burial, but this will be communicated to you by the proper authorities in due course.’

Arnold D. Taylor, C.F. (Chaplain to the Forces) also wrote on 30th August 1918:

‘I had a long talk with your son the Sunday previous to the 22nd, when he was present at a Celebration of Holy Communion. He had been a regular Communicant ever since he came out to the Battalion. He is missed in the Regt., probably more by me than any other.

May his soul rest in peace. I cannot tell you where his body has been buried but no doubt you will be informed latter…’

Alfred’s batman, Private N. Adams (No. 645006), wrote to his parents on the 29th of August. Private Adams had lost a leg in the explosion that killed Alfred, and appears unaware of his death:

‘I have been wondering if you have heard anything from the War Office concerning your son, 2nd Lieut. A.J.C. Hodges, 20th London Regt. I will tell you all I know as I was the last one to be with him, but I am very sorry to say I could not help him in any way, as I was very severely wounded in both legs, and now have one amputated. Well, we moved forward to the attack on Thursday, 22.8.18 and of course being Mr Hodges’ batman, it was my duty to cling to him which I did. We moved forward when our barrage lifted and when we had caught it up again we knelt down and waited, and it was here that a shell burst about 2 feet in front of us and of course you know the consequences. I was unconscious for about 2 hours, and when I woke I found myself in a shell hole, but had no signes (sic) of Mr. Hodges. But of course I have not given up hopes by any means.

If the worse has really happened just to let you know if there is anything more you would care to know, and if possible I will tell you…’

Private Adams survived.

After his death, Alfred’s family pursued an insurance claim with Surrey County Council, who had taken out an insurance policy on behalf of Alfred. Part of the process was to check the suitability of the family to receive the insurance payout. Referees were asked for their opinion. One referee describes Alfred’s family as ‘very steady and most respectable people in every way’.

Another, Lieutenant-Colonel F. Talbot of Glen Hurst Lodge, Esher, revealed a heart-breaking tragedy that came with Alfred’s death. He described how Alfred’s parents had lost their only daughter, Annie, ‘a year or two ago and now that the son has been killed they have no children.’ Alfred’s family eventually received around £100.

Alfred is buried at Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France; his inscription reads ‘Beati Mundo Corde’ (‘Blessed are the pure in heart’). He is also remembered in the Ardingly College Book of Remembrance.

He is entitled to the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Sources

Surrey History Centre CC7/4/4 File 39
E.H. Maude (ed.), The 47th (London) Division 1914-1919, By Some Who Served with it in the Great War, (London, Amalgamated Press, 1922).
Supplement to the London Gazette, 18 December 1917. 13217 – https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30432/supplement/
Regimental War Diary – 1/20th (County of London) Battalion (Blackheath and Woolwich)
England Census
Commonwealth War Graves Commission – https://www.cwgc.org/
Ancestry website – https://www.ancestry.co.uk/

Corporal William Ernest Mauvan

This story is the result of an investigation of documents held by Surrey History Centre. The file (SHC ref. CC7/4/4, nos. 1-50) contains correspondence and insurance claims on behalf of Surrey County Council Education Department employees who had been killed in action during the Great War. The cases date from 1915 to 1918.

Name:                                       William Ernest Mauvan

Occupation:                             Epsom Church of England School

Birth Place:                              Withington, Herefordshire

Residence:                                Y.M.C.A., Ashbourne House, Waterloo Road, Epsom

Date of Death:                         Killed in Action 9th August 1915

Age:                                           30 years (30th December 1884)

Location:                                  Suvla Bay, Gallipoli

Rank:                                         Corporal

Regiment:                                 2/4th Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment

Regimental Number:             T/3356

William was the son of William and Louise Mauvan, both school teachers at Withington School near Hereford. They lived at 7, Elm Road, Hereford. William had four siblings, and at the time of his death Alice (aged 34) was a teacher in Birmingham, Agnes (29) a typist in London, and brothers Charles (31) and Alec (27) were soldiers.

William’s brother Alec and Charles both served in the war, in the Army Service Corps and the Royal Army Medical Corps respectively. Both survived.

William was educated at the Hereford Cathedral School, before, on the 13th of November 1899, becoming a goods clerk for the Great Western Railway Company, based at Cheltenham station. He was 14 years old. He subsequently moved to Hereford station in October 1900. William resigned from the company on 5th July 1902.

The 1911 census records him as boarding at 12 Sandfield Terrace, Guildford, Surrey, and working as an assistant school teacher with the ‘municipal borough council’. He was working at the Epsom Church of England School, and had been teaching at the local Sunday school.

On enlistment he was living at the Y.M.C.A., Ashbourne House, Waterloo Road, Epsom.

William enlisted into the 2/4th Queen’s, formed in August 1914 and a Territorial Force (T.F.) battalion, which like the rest of the T.F., was established for ‘Home Service’ only.  Territorial soldiers, including William, had to volunteer for overseas service.

William’s army number, T/3356, suggests he may have been Territorial Force soldier before the war. The Epsom Advertiser in September 1915 lends this theory some support by affirming that he had been a member of the 5th East Surrey Regiment, which was a pre-war Territorial battalion.

On 17th July 1915 William and the 2/4th Queen’s embarked on HMT Ulysses at Devenport, heading to Malta to join up with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. They then sailed to Egypt where they spent just over a week before taking part in the landings at ‘C’ Beach, Suvla Bay in Gallipoli on 9th of August.

It was back on 25th April 1915, that British and French troops as well as divisions of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) had launched an amphibious invasion to seize the Gallipoli peninsula from the Ottoman Empire, a German ally. The campaign had, by mid-October, turned into a war of attrition with the Allies bogged down, suffering heavy casualties.

To try and break the deadlock, the allies planned an assault on Suvla Bay to secure it as a base for future offensive operations on the peninsula. It was thought that the Turkish troops defending the bay ‘were not formidable’.  Suvla Bay was shaped like an inverted ‘C’ and was a natural harbour for ships bringing in reinforcements and supplies.

The landings began on 6th August, with William’s battalion going ashore on the 8th at ‘C’ beach, to the south-west of the bay, i.e. at the bottom of the inverted ‘C’. Early on the 9th they were ordered to move forward to support 33 Infantry Brigade which was struggling in an attack on enemy forces in the area of Chocolate Hill (Hill 53), a high point inland overlooking the bay. The battalion moved off at 6.40 a.m. and immediately started taking casualties from enemy artillery.

They made their way to Chocolate Hill and were almost immediately ordered to attack Hill 70, 600 yards to their front and which became known as ‘Scimitar Hill’ because of its curved summit. Between 7.30 a.m. and noon the battalion launched at least two attacks on the hill, all the time taking casualties.  At one point they were also fired upon by the British guns from behind them. By midday, the battalion had suffered 258 casualties; it had gone into action with 700 men. By then, given an absence of orders, the survivors returned to a captured Turkish trench and dug in. They were relieved on the 14th of August. It was during the attacks on the 9th that William died.

The landings failed, a stalemate set in, and for the next two months the battalion remained in and around Suvla Bay, digging trenches and carrying out garrison duty. They were withdrawn on 13th December; only 24 officers and 224 other ranks remained.

The Surrey Mirror on Friday 10 September 1915 (‘The Queen’s in Action’), published a depressingly long list of 2/4th Battalion men who died in the same attack as William.

On the 17th of September 1915, The Epsom Advertiser printed the following:

CORPL. W. E. MAUVAN, who has been reported missing at the Dardanelles, belonged to the 5th East Surrey Regiment and lived at the Y.M.C.A., Ashbourne House, Waterloo-road Epsom. Before enlisting Corpl. Mauvan was a teacher at the Hook-road Council Schools, Epsom and shorthand master at the Technical Institute evening continuation classes. He was very popular with his colleagues, and much liked by all with whom he came in contact.

Captain W.F. Newbevon, Officer Commanding Administrative Centre, 4th Queen’s, in Croydon, replied (undated) to a letter from William’s father:

‘I am sorry that I am not in a position to give you any information myself about him.

I have made inquiries from another Corporal who was in the same Platoon as your son was, but beyond the fact that he informs me that he was not wounded up to the time, he last saw him, he says that he has not seen him since the date he was reported missing, namely, 9th august 1915.

It is not probable that he is a prisoner in the hands of the Turks, but as far as I am aware no official lists of their prisoners have yet come to hand.’

After his death, William’s family pursued an insurance claim with Surrey County Council, who had taken out an insurance policy on behalf of William.  As part of the process, the Council carried out an investigation into the circumstances of the family. In a letter to Surrey County Council, his father describes himself as a retired school teacher on a pension of £55 a year ‘after 35 years of service’.

A referee from the local Naval & Military War Pensions committee describes the father as ‘very lame and can hardly get about’, and that the couple need help. The family was eventually awarded £86.10 shillings and 7 pence.

William’s body was never recovered, and he is commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli (Turkey). He is also remembered on the following memorials:

William is also remembered on the St Martin of Tours Church, Epsom, Roll of Honour, which has the inscription:

WILFRED E. MAUVAN, took part in the operations at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, was reported missing and was presumed killed on 8th August 1915. He was an Assistant Master at the Church of England Boys School and taught in the Church Sunday School.

William is entitled to the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Sources

Surrey History Centre File CC7/4/4, file 19

Colonel H.C. Wylly, History of The Queen’s Royal (West Surrey) Regiment in The Great War (1925)

Regimental War Diary – 2/4th Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment

Surrey Mirror – Friday 03 September 1915, The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, a picture of William as part of 6th Platoon.

Further details of William can be found at: http://www.epsomandewellhistoryexplorer.org.uk/WarMemorialsSurnamesM.html#MauvanWE

England Census

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – https://www.cwgc.org/

Ancestry website – https://www.ancestry.co.uk/

 

Trooper Walter Percy Hayes

This story is the result of an investigation of documents held by Surrey History Centre. The file (SHC ref. CC7/4/4, nos. 1-50) contains correspondence and insurance claims on behalf of Surrey County Council Education Department employees who had been killed in action during the Great War. The cases date from 1915 to 1918.

Name: Walter Percy Hayes

Occupation: General Office, County Hall

Birth Place: Teddington, Middlesex

Residence: Hampton-on-Thames

Date of Death: Killed-in-Action 6th October 1915

Age: 19 years

Location: Gallipoli

Rank: Trooper

Regiment: 1/1st City of London Yeomanry (Rough Riders)

Regimental Number: 2033

Walter was one of seven children of Samuel and Sarah Hayes of “Kildare”, Gloucester Road, Hampton, Middlesex. In the 1901 census, Samuel described himself as ‘a secretary of a public company’.

Walter was born in late 1895, being baptised on 22nd November of that year. He had four sisters, Florence (a school governess), Ethel, Nellie and Mary, and two brothers, Charles and Walter.

Before the war he was employed by Surrey County Council in their General Office, County Hall, Kingston. He is likely to have joined the council very young. In the 1901 census, when Walter was just 16, he described himself as a ‘Clerk – County Council’.

The City of London Yeomanry (Rough Riders) was originally formed for service in the Boer War as the 20th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry. In 1902 it became a regiment and was renamed the City of London (Rough Riders) Imperial Yeomanry, taking the name ”Rough Riders” after a body of volunteer horsemen who had fought under Colonel Theodore Roosevelt in the Spanish-American War of 1898.

With the creation of the part-time Territorial Force (T.F.) in 1908 for the purposes of home defence, the 1st City of London Yeomanry became one of its formations. It is possible, judging by Walter’s regimental number, that he was already in the T.F. before the war. Confirmation of this comes through the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser of Saturday, 14th November 1914 which listed all Surrey County Council staff that had joined the forces by that date. It describes Walter as a pre-war member of the Middlesex Yeomanry (Territorials), a part-time soldier.

Walter was mobilised on 5th August 1914, and as the T.F. was established for ‘Home Service’ only, T.F. soldiers, including Walter, had to volunteer for overseas service.

The early months of Walter’s war were spent with his regiment in East Anglia. On the 11th of April 1915 they left the U.K., arriving in Egypt in May 1915. On the 14th of August he began his journey to Gallipoli on board the HMT Caledonia. The Yeomanry transferred to the HM Cruiser Dora on the 17th of August, arriving in Suvla Bay the next day. Throughout its time in Gallipoli, the 1/1st City of London Yeomanry would fight as dismounted infantry, its horses being left behind in Egypt.

It was back on 25th April 1915, that British and French troops as well as divisions of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) had launched an amphibious invasion to seize the Gallipoli peninsula from the Ottoman Empire, a German ally. By mid-October, Gallipoli had turned into a war of attrition with the Allies bogged down suffering heavy casualties. It would drag on until the troops were evacuated in December 1915 and January 1916.

On the 18th August 1915, the 1/1st City of London Yeomanry war diary makes the remark that they were shelled immediately upon arrival in Gallipoli, and from that moment the regiment appears to have been in almost continual action. Daily shelling, snipers, attacks, patrols, work parties, and then the men had to deal with harsh conditions. On 20th September, the war diarist writes ‘the daily loss of men to shrapnel is getting serious. The men are rather weak, and the diarrhoea is very prevalent’. Walter fought a very tough war.

Although not mentioned by name, it is highly likely that Walter fought in places that have been become synonymous with the brutal fighting at Gallipoli, including Chocolate Hill, Hill 50, and Scimitar Hill. In the days leading up to his death, the regiment was in trenches near a place called the ‘Black and White House’, which was still being used by Turkish snipers, and another building called ‘Owl’s Barn’. On the 3rd of October, the war diarist described the hellish conditions around the 1/1st City of London Yeomanry lines, ‘smell very bad from bodies lying in and around the gulley and all over the fields in front’.

On the evening of 5th October 1915, the War Diary reports that a work party was supporting Royal Engineers in erecting ‘wire entanglement round the end of our line’. Two patrols, one of which included Walter, crawled out ahead of them to provide protection. At some point, the Turks opened fire and the work party and patrol withdrew. In the confusion two men were reported missing, Corporal Austey from the work party and Walter from the patrol. On the morning of the 7th, a Sergeant Garrish bravely crawled out to where Walter was last seen. His body was found, but not recovered – only his personal effects made it back to the line.

After his death, Walter’s family pursued an insurance claim with Surrey County Council, who had taken out an insurance policy on behalf of Walter. His family would have eventually received approximately £100.

Walter is commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Turkey (including Gallipoli).

He was entitled to the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Sources

Surrey History Centre CC7/4/4 file 1
Regimental War Diary – 1/1st City of London Yeomanry (Rough Riders)
Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser, 14th November 1914: ‘Roll of Honour: County Council Staff with the Colours’
England Census
Commonwealth War Graves Commission – https://www.cwgc.org/
Ancestry website – https://www.ancestry.co.uk/