Sergeant Cecil Robert Newman

Cecil Robert Newman was born in Twickenham on 24 June 1888. He was the son of Kathleen and Ernest Newman.

Cecil did not follow his father into the banking industry and instead enlisted in the Army aged 18 in 1906. He joined The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment and was posted to its 2nd Battalion.

In 1908 Cecil married Alice Norman, by which time he was a Lance-Corporal. He became a father to twin girls.

Cecil’s Battalion was posted to Pretoria in South Africa and records at Surrey History Centre relating to him (QRWS/30/NEW) describe his visits to the 2nd South African War battlefield at Willow Grange. By this time, Cecil was a Lance-Corporal.

With the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, the 2nd Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment was posted back to Great Britain in preparation for service with the BEF. The Battalion formed part of 22nd Brigade, 7th Division, which landed at Zeebrugge on 6 October 1914. The Division was soon involved in the 1st Battle of Ypres during which heavy casualties were sustained, including Cecil Newman, who was killed on 21 October 1914.

The records at Surrey History Centre include a photocopy of a postcard sent by a resident of Ypres visiting London to Alice Newman (of  2 Park Cottages, Morden) explaining that Cecil Newman had been staying with him in Belgium – ‘he is on the front and full of energy as well as his men and all those of The Queen’s’.

The Surrey History Centre papers also include a photocopy of a letter from Cecil’s wife dated 9 November 1914 describing her sea journey back from South Africa (the Battalion had returned earlier) with their children. During the voyage, there was a measles outbreak on board which affected 380 people. Eleven children died.  Sadly one of Alice and Cecil’s daughters died after arriving at Southampton on 1 November 1914. By this time,  Cecil had been killed in action.



Captain Billie Percy Nevill – a short history of military service

Wilfred Percy Nevill (often referred to by his family as ‘Billie’) was born on 14 July 1894, one of seven children, in Highbury, North London.

Educated at Dover College (where he was recorded on 1911 census), he started at Jesus College, Cambridge, reading a Classical Tripos, with the original intention of following a teaching career. Wilfred gained a temporary commission on 27 November 1914 following the outbreak of war in August 1914.

Although gazetted into the East Yorkshire Regiment, Wilfred was posted to the 8th (Service) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, which was part of 55 Brigade, 18th Division (a ‘New Army’ Division commanded by General Sir Ivor Maxse).

The 8th East Surreys were posted to France in May 1915 and held part of the line near Albert. Wilfred’s correspondence home described life on or near the front line and included some humour despite the front line conditions.

On 1 July 1916, at the start of the Battle of the Somme, the Battalion took part in the 18th Division’s attack at Montauban. The objective of the Battalion was to secure part of a ridge-line near Mametz.

Wilfred commanded B Company, 8th East Surreys, and is remembered for commencing the attack by encouraging his soldiers to kick footballs before them as they advanced towards the enemy lines. Wilfred was killed during the early phase of this assault.

Compared to fortunes further north on the assault front, 18th Division achieved more of its objectives, although at a high cost, the East Surreys suffering over over 400 casualties.

Shown here are some images of ‘Billie’ and fellow officers in France in 1915 and 1916 (from a photograph album described below). Several of these images include two 8th East Surrey officers who were awarded the Distinguished Service Order for gallantry on 1 July 1916. Captain C. Janion (then a Second Lieutenant) rallied surviving soldiers from the Battalion and led bombing raids down the enemy trenches and organised a further assault against the Battalion’s final objective. Captain E. C. Gimson was the Battalion Medical Officer who spent many hours on the front line dressing the wounds of injured soldiers whilst under constant shellfire.

Wilfred is buried at Carnoy Soldiers’ Cemetery and commemorated at Jesus College, Cambridge, and on St Mary The Virgin War Memorial in Twickenham.


Billie Nevill’s Photograph Album

The photograph album was donated to the East Surrey Regiment by Reverend T. S. Nevill, the brother of Wilfred Nevill. The album contains views of trenches at Tambour & the remains of Bercordel (including one of the church bell which apparently was used to warn of gas attacks). The images also show views from Flixecourt, the Somme Valley, Vaux Wood, groups of soldiers (mainly Battalion officers, including ‘Billie’ Nevill), a nurse and occasional civilians, taken 1915-1916. Also an unclear photograph of senior Allied Commanders (Haig, Foch, & Allenby).



  • Surrey History Centre Archives reference ESR/25/NEVI (include a photograph album capturing trench and rear area life prior to the Somme battle).
  • Ancestry Institution records, Long Long Trail and Surrey Infantry Museum records.

Charles Alfred Clark DSO MC

Alfred Charles Clark (‘Nobby’ to his comrades) DSO MC was born in Bermondsey in 1879. He was the son of Mary Ann Elizabeth Vaughn and Charles Clark.

Alfred Clark joined the Army in 1896. Initially he joined the militia in 1896 carrying out basic training at Kingston-on-Thames. He then transferred to the East Surrey Regiment, which was based at Dover Garrison. Clark took part in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and in September 1897, following an intensive training course (and having been in the 2nd Battalion East Surreys for 10 months), Clark was promoted to Lance-Corporal.

The East Surreys were posted to South Africa and fought in the 2nd South African War between 1899 – 1902. Documents at Surrey History Centre under reference ESR/25 /CLARK contain Clark’s descriptions (including an unfinished life story) of service in South Africa. These include details of the journey by sea to Cape Town (bread making on board was a notable event!). The Battalion eventually arrived at Pietermaritzburg and shortly afterwards took part in the Battle of Willow Grange (22 November 1899), a moderately successful surprise attack on the Boers, who retreated to Colenso. This was followed by the action at the Battle of Colenso on 26 November 1899 and the fighting at Spion Kop, part of the effort to relieve Ladysmith. Clark witnessed the action at Spion Kop, including the ill-fated attack by the Lancashire Regiments. The East Surreys were pinned down under intense enemy fire for much of the action.

Having survived the South African War, Clark was posted to the 1st Battalion in 1902 and then the 4th Battalion in 1914 – by which time he had been promoted to Company-Sergeant-Major.

Clark eventually received his commission and  was posted to the 9th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment.

Clark was wounded and captured in 1918 during the German March offensive. Clark commanded the battalion at the time as a Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel, and the delaying action by his 9th East Surreys, saving the 72nd Brigade, is well recorded. Having already been awarded the Military Cross for a bombing raid on the Somme, he was awarded the DSO for his leadership in 1918.

Clark was acquainted with RC Sherriff, the famous playwright (who also served in the 9th Battalion) and maintained correspondence with him during the post-war years. In a memorandum written by Clark on 9th February 1929, he described Sheriff’s service with the 9th Battalion – ‘ A steady unassuming young fellow of good presence. Carried a warm charm in his personality and had a certain calm, quiet air of distinction, much respected by his men’.

Clark continued his Army service post WWI, serving in Egypt and Gibraltar. Amongst his documents is a photograph of the visit of the Crown Prince Hirohito of Japan to Cairo in 1921, when the East Surreys provided a Guard of Honour.

During the Second World War, Clark became Chief Air Raid Warden of Folkestone, Kent. He died in 1971.








Vice-Admiral Alfred Francis Blakeney Carpenter VC, Royal Navy

Alfred Francis Blakeney Carpenter was born in Barnes in the London Borough of Richmond, Surrey, on 17th September 1881. His parents were Captain Alfred Carpenter and Henrietta Maud Shedwell. The Carpenters had a history of service with the Royal Navy dating back to Napoleonic times.

After attending Bedales School Arthur joined the Royal Navy in 1896 to commence his officer training.

Prior to the First World War, Alfred’s service experience included the British naval task force intervention in Crete in 1898, the Boxer Rebellion in 1900-01 and witnessing the fleet royal review in 1902. Alfred was awarded the Royal Humane Society award for saving the life of a sailor who fell overboard in the Falkland Islands.

Over this period, Alfred developed an interest in navigation and came up with some new ideas and inventions.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Alfred was posted to Admiral Jellicoe’s  staff until he was promoted to Commander in 1915 and served as a navigation officer aboard HMS Empress of India between 1915-1917.

As an Acting-Captain, Alfred commanded HMS Vindictive which took part in the Zeebrugge raid on 22/23 April 1918. HMS Vindictive‘s role was to land 200 Royal Marines to destroy shore batteries as part of the plan to close the port to access from German craft, including submarines.

Alfred was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC). Due to poor weather conditions, darkness and heavy enemy fire, Alfred’s ship moored at the wrong place; however his outstanding leadership contributed to the overall success of the Zeebrugge mission. The VC citation set out in the London Gazette dated 23 July 1918 read as follows:-

‘Honour for  services in the operations against Zeebrugge and Ostend on the night of the 22nd-23rd April 1918.

The KING has graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned:-

Commander (Acting Captain) Alfred Francis Blakeney Carpenter, Royal Navy, for most conspicuous gallantry this officer was in command of ‘Vindictive’. He set a magnificent example to all those under his command by his calm composure when navigating mined water bringing his ship alongside the mole in darkness. When ‘Vindictive’ was within a few yards of the mole the enemy started and maintained a heavy fire from batteries, machine guns and rifles onto the bridge. He showed most conspicuous bravery, and did much to encourage similar behaviour on the part of the crew, supervising the landing from the ‘Vindictive’ on to the mole, and walking around the decks directing operations and encouraging the men in the most dangerous and exposed postions.

By his encouragement to those under him, his power of command and personal bearing, he undoubtedly contributed greatly to the success of the operation. Captain Carpenter was selected by the officers of the ‘Vindictive’, ‘ Iris II’, and ‘Daffodil’, and of the naval assaulting force to receive the Victoria Cross under Rule 13 of the Royal Warrant dated 29th January 1856.’

Alfred was also awarded the Croix de Guerre and also made an officer of the Legion of Honour.

Alfred remained in the Royal Navy post WWI and held several commands, including the role of Aide-de-Camp to the King. He eventually achieved the rank of Vice-Admiral and retired from the Royal Navy  in 1934.

During the Second World War Alfred, commanded the Wye Valley section of the Home Guard.

Alfred married twice during his life. His first wife, Maude Tordiffe, died in 1923. They had one child, a daughter. Alfred married again in 1927, Hilda Margaret Allison Johnson (nee Smith).

Alfred died on 27 December 1951 at St Briavel’s, in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, where he is commemorated at St Mary’s Church. He is also commemorated by a stone slab, unveiled to mark the centenary of the award of his VC, in Barnes.

Alfred’s medals, including the Victoria Cross, are on loan to the Imperial War Museum, London.










Captain Cyril Frisby VC

Captain Cyril Frisby of the Coldstream Guards, son of Mr & Mrs H. Frisby of The Gate House, Heath House Lane, Woking, and husband of Mrs Frisby of Pyrford Lodge, West Byfleet, was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) for most conspicuous bravery, leadership and devotion to duty at Graincourt, France, in 1918.

Cyril Hubert Frisby was born on 17th September  1885 at New Barnet, educated at Haileybury and joined the Stock Exchange in 1911.

Cyril Frisby initially joined the Hampshire Regiment as a Private soldier in 1916 but gained his commission in March 1917 and was posted to the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards.

Cyril Frisby’s VC citation reads as follows:-

‘A/ Capt Cyril Hubert Frisby C Guards (S.R.) attd 1st Bn.

For most conspicuous bravery, leadership and devotion to duty in action on the 27th September 1918, across the Canal Du Nord, near Grailscourt, when in command of a company detailed to capture the Canal crossing, on the Demicourt-Graincourt Road.

On reaching the canal the leading platoon came under annihilating machine-gun fire from a strong machine-gun post under the old iron bridge on the far side of the canal and was unable to advance despite reinforcing waves. Capt Frisby realised at once that unless this post was captured the whole  advance in the area would fail. Calling for volunteers to follow him, he dashed forward, and with three other ranks, he climbed down into the canal  under point-blank machine-gun fire and succeeded in capturing the post with two machine guns and 12 men.

By his personal valour and initiative he restored the situation and enabled the attacking companies to continue the advance.

Having reached and consolidated his objective he gave timely support to the company on his right which had lost all of its officers and sergeants, organised its defences and beat off heavy hostile counter attacks. He was wounded in the leg by a bayonet in the attack on the machine-gun post but remained at duty throughout thereby setting a splendid example to all ranks’.

(London Gazette, 27 November 1918).

Cyril Frisby survived the war and spent much of his time tuna fishing. He apparently became Great Britain’s most famous tuna fisherman, winning major sports fishing competitions.

Cyril married Audrey Grant in 1911 and had one son. He died in Guildford in 1961 and is buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery. Cyril Frisby’s VC is held at the Coldstream Guards’ Regimental Headquarters in Wellington Barracks, London.


Acting Corporal Edward Dwyer, East Surrey Regiment – a Victoria Cross hero

Edward Dwyer’s Victoria Cross (VC) citation reads:-

‘No 1052 Private Edward Dwyer, 1st Battalion, The East Surrey Regiment.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty at ‘Hill 60’ on the 20th April 1915. When his trench was heavily attacked by German grenade throwers he climbed onto the parapet, and, although subject to a hail of bombs at close quarters succeeded in dispersing the enemy by the effective use of his hand grenades.

Private Dwyer displayed great gallantry earlier on this day in leaving his trench under heavy shell fire to bandage his wounded comrade.’

London Gazette, 1915.

Edward Dwyer was born in Fulham, London, on 25 November 1895. His mother was Sally Dwyer of 30 Lintaine Road, Fulham. He worked for a short period of time as a grocer’s assistant before joining the Army Special Reserve in 1912 and then the regular army with the East Surrey Regiment. He was described as ‘Honest, sober, hardworking’ when joining the Army.

Edward Dwyer’s pre-First World War service was in Ireland with his battalion. Copies of his service records held by Surrey History Centre (ESR/25/DWYE) provide a glimpse into garrison life, including records of several minor infringements by Dwyer of military discipline – in 1913, for example, Edward received five days’ ‘C B’ (‘confined to barracks’) for attempting to sell a pair of boots!

On the outbreak of war in August 1914, Private Edward Dwyer’s battalion (1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment) formed part of the British Expeditionary Force. The 1st Battalion East Surreys was part of 14 Infantry Brigade, 5th Division (commanded by Brigadier S.P. Rolt), 2nd Corps. The Brigade formed part of the right flank at the Battle of Le Cateau where companies of the 1st East Surreys fought to delay the outflanking movement of the German 4th Corps, 1st Army. The 2nd Corps stood and fought a delaying action ‘rather than turn our backs on the enemy in daylight’ (the words of General Smith-Dorrien, Corps Commander) and this enabled the British Expeditionary Force to continue to retreat  and reorganise after the battles of Mons and Le Cateau.

As described in the citation above, it was during the Second Battle of Ypres that Edward Dwyer was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at Hill 60 on 20 April 1915. He was a Battalion Signaller at the time.

In May 1915, Dwyer was granted leave and returned to England, where he received his VC from the King (he was also awarded the Russian Cross of St George). His leave was extended for recruiting purposes and there is a unique audio recording on the Regal record label of him describing his experiences during the retreat from Mons and life at the front. It includes a recording of Dwyer singing marching songs – apparently used to assist with recruiting, although his description of the ardours of the retreat may not have provided encouragement to potential recruits!

It was also during this period that Edward married a nurse, Maude Barrett-Freeman, from Balham.

The records relating to Dwyer held by Surrey History Centre include a letter dated 30 May 1915 written by Edward to Lieutenant H.F. Stoneham, one of his early Platoon Commanders, who was convalescing following injury, describing to and updating this officer on life and events with the Battalion.

Edward eventually returned to the front and service with his Battalion, having been promoted to Acting Corporal on 27 July 1916.

He was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme at Guillemont on 3 September 1916. Edward is buried at Flatiron Cemetery at Mametz.

Surrey History Centre holds papers relating to Dwyer (reference ESR/25/DWYE/). These include photocopies (undated) of service papers from The National Archives, a letter from Dwyer to Lieutenant H.F. Stoneham, following the receipt of his Victoria Cross, describing his service and the fate of officers of the battalion, and a photograph of Dwyer.

The audio recording of Dwyer is held by the Imperial War Museum and forms track 40 of La Grande Guerre 1914-1918: Volume 2 (


Regimental-Sergeant-Major James Allford – a lifetime of Army service

James Allford was born in 1871 in Woolwich and enlisted in the Army in 1891 with 1st Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment.

James Allford was a career soldier and his 28 years in the Army included imperial service in Malta and on the North-West Frontier, India. In India, the 1st Battalion formed part of a field force sent to deal with a local uprising and saw action in the Nawagai Valley in 1897. Further campaigns included the Mohmand and Tirah campaigns before the Battalion was posted to Rawalpindi and Sialkot in 1905.

In 1906 James Allford was posted to Permanent Staff Authority and transferred from the 1st Battalion to the 3rd Battalion, which was a Depot training battalion. He remained with 3rd Battalion for the rest of his Army career. He was promoted to Colour-Sergeant in 1907 and eventually Regimental-Sergeant-Major in May 1917.

The 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion remained a training battalion during the 1914-18 conflict, providing drafts to the active service battalions of the Queen’s.

At the outbreak of World War I, the Battalion proceeded to its mobilisation station in the Medway area (with its HQ at Chattenden).  Initially, the Battalion fitted out and drafted over 1,000 reservists for the frontline 1st & 2nd Battalions of the Queen’s. In November 1914, the Battalion was posted to Rochester and was at that time composed of regular and special reservists plus a sprinkling of British Expeditionary Force NCOs and private soldiers. Recruits from civilian life carried out their basic training at Chatham Lines  before being sent to service companies located at the various Medway forts, where they received further training. From 1915 onwards, reinforcement drafts were constantly being trained by the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion and then sent out to theatre in France and Belgium. In 1916, the Battalion moved to Sittingbourne and remained there until the end of the war, when in March 1919 its manpower was absorbed into the 1st Battalion.

James Allford retired from the Army in 1919 after 27 years’ service and settled in Stoughton, Guildford, with his wife Florence and their three children.

During his military service James Allford was awarded the India Medal in 1898, Good Conduct Medal in 1915 and the Meritorious Medal in 1919.

Archive records at Surrey History Centre (QRWS/30/ALLF) preserve, amongst other service records, Allford’s Army account book, pocket ledger, certificates of education and certificates of military proficiency (e.g. marksmanship).

James Allford's certificate of good character

James Allford’s certificate of good character.
SHC ref QRWS/30/ALLF/15.


SHC archives also hold a letter written by Allford from India to a relation soon after the birth of his first daughter, which can be viewed here (click on each image to see a larger version):

The records also include correspondence with the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, regarding the commutation of James Allford’s pension to assist in the purchase of a house in Guildford and related correspondence with the town clerk and solicitors.

Other sources: Ancestry (including 1911 census), the Long Long Trail website records ( and a History of the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment by Colonel H.C. Wylly (London & Aldershot, 1887).



Private James Robert Collins – a short history of military service

James Collins was born in Islington, Middlesex, in 1892, one of five children of John and Annie Collins. Prior to entering military service, James lived in Cromwell Road, Upper Holloway, and was employed as a pianoforte finisher.

On the outbreak of war in 1914, James volunteered for Army service and joined the 8th (Service) Battalion, the East Surrey Regiment, formed in Kingston-on-Thames in September 1914. His Army number was 4723.

After basic infantry training in Great Britain James was posted on 1 September 1915 with his Battalion to the Somme sector in Northern France.

The 8th East Surreys were part of 55 Brigade, 18th Division, which was a New Army Division (2nd New Army) and carried out defensive duties and training in preparation for the major offensive planned for 1916. It was during this period of trench duty, which included active patrolling (fighting and reconnaissance patrols), that James Collins was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry.

On 1 July 1916, the 8th East Surreys with the rest of 18th Division took part in the first phase of the Somme offensive on A/1 sub-sector at Montauban. The objective of the Battalion was to secure part of a ridge line near Mametz. In comparison to the results further north on the attack front on the first day, the Division was more successful, due mainly to the thorough preparation and planning by General Maxse, the Division Commander, albeit casualties were high.

James Collins was killed shortly after the attacked started. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

The information above has been obtained from Surrey History Centre archives (SHC ref COLLINS/ESR/25, which include a letter from the War Office to James Collins’ fiancée, Miss A Humphrey of Highgate, confirming the contents of his will), plus Ancestry Institution, The Long Long Trail, Surrey Infantry Museum records and History of the East Surrey Regiment, vol 2, 1914-1917, by Col H.W. Pearse DSO & Brigadier-General H.S Sloman CMG, DSO (1923).