Cranleigh in October 1918

Text and Research by Joy Horn (as published in the Cranleigh Magazine)

Ruth and Chris Cheesman of Victoria Road received further news from their prisoner-of-war son Joe, who had been suffering from a bad foot for some months. ‘I came out of hospital a week ago, after a month of it,’ he wrote, ‘but was sorry really, as I was better off in there than in the camp. The food was better, and of course you had no navvying [labouring] to do. We are in a big camp now. There are about 1,200 of us together. We keep getting exciting rumours about the fighting, but we don’t know what to believe. We keep smiling. If you were here sometimes and heard the singing at nights you wouldn’t think we were prisoners, but at other times we know it with a vengeance.’

By October 1918, hopes were high in Cranleigh for a speedy end to the war.  On

October 2nd, the Surrey Advertiser wrote: ‘The news from all fronts, so wonderfully and consistently good, has been capped by Bulgaria’s complete collapse and unconditional surrender … the joy bells are ringing in our hearts’.

Nevertheless, men were still dying on the Western Front, and on October 7th, the newspaper published a lengthy list of recent local casualties.

However, a new threat had arisen. Under the heading ‘Influenza in Surrey: A Widespread Epidemic’, the Surrey Advertiser reported, ‘So far, there have been comparatively few deaths among the civil population, but in the camps, it is a different matter … there are victims by their hundreds’. Mrs Ruth Cheesman wrote to Joe at the end of October, ‘There is a lot of illness in Cranleigh. Influenza going about. Hope we shall avoid it.’

At Cranleigh School, the school magazine reported, ‘The flu came with great suddenness, and within a few days some 260 boys were in bed’. It must have been a nightmare for the staff. Fortunately it proved to be a mild strain, but the boys were sent home and the main school was closed for two weeks to be thoroughly cleaned.

There was nothing ‘Spanish’ about the flu epidemic. Most of the countries of Europe had strict wartime control of the news that was printed. Spain, however, being neutral, published details of the number of its victims, and it was initially thought that the disease had originated here. In fact, the first recorded case was in a US army camp in Kansas, and soldiers brought it to the trenches of the Western Front. It killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide, and particularly attacked people in their twenties and thirties.

Precise details about the impact of the epidemic here are not easy to come by. The parish register of burials does not give the cause of death and does not seem to have many more entries than usual. The Village Hospital annual report is no help either. However, we do know of six victims (verified by their death certificates), and there may well have been more.

Mrs Alice Nightingale, aged 38, wife of Jabez Nightingale, died on November 19th, at her husband’s furniture shop in the High Street. The Baptist Church sent condolences to him from the church members’ meeting.

Mrs Florence Parsons of The Mount was 31 when she died of influenza, leaving two young daughters aged 10 and 8. Her husband, Thomas, was away in the Navy, serving as a Gunner on HMS Shrewsbury.

Dorothy Mandell-Hall died at the age of 24 at Oliver House (recently the Cranleigh Village Hospital shop) on December 6th. She was the manageress of the railway station bookstall.

Particularly tragic were the deaths from influenza of three Gamblin brothers, all farmworkers living at Rye Cottage, who died on successive days in 1919. Two of their brothers, Walter (33) and Ernest (18), had died in the Dardanelles and on the Somme respectively, and are named on the Cranleigh War Memorial. Now John (18) died of influenza at Underslaugh Farm, his sister’s home, on March 5th 1919, followed the next day by William (27) and on March 7th by Henry (25), both of whom died in the Hambledon Workhouse infirmary. Because these two had served in the Army, and died before August 31st 1921, they were entitled to a Commonwealth War Grave in Cranleigh cemetery and are buried together, though they are not recorded on the War Memorial. John is buried separately.

 

Alfred Baker

Text and research by Brian Bouchard

My Grandfather spent his early years living in Great Bookham but had a tough upbringing, with his father dying when he was about 4 years old. When aged about 6, two of his four brothers died on the same night, one from an earlier school playground accident that left him with a broken spine and the other from a fall while playing on his bed. His mother remarried but his stepfather turned out to be an idle drunkard so his mother had to seek work in order to keep the family. This life of drudgery led to her early death when my Grandfather was about 10 or 11 years old. At this time his surviving younger brother was sent up to London and subsequently out to Canada where he spent his working life as a communication linesman on the Canadian railways.

On leaving school at age 13 my Grandfather and his eldest brother were turned out of the house by their stepfather so they found lodgings and gained employment and by 16 my Grandfather was working for a local builder most likely as a bricklayers labourer.

When aged 25 he moved “over the hill” as he and my father called it, (South side of the North Downs) to live in Shere and subsequently in Gomshall. His first accommodation in Gomshall was in cockroach infested rented rooms in a house that is still there today (though I imagine now much modernised). My father told me that as “outsiders” my Grandparents were not readily accepted into the village community, so to address this issue my Grandfather chose his moment and waited outside the local pub (the former Black Horse) for the village bully to emerge at closing time. The ensuing brawl apparently took them down the street and into the Tillingbourne stream. I don’t know if either man was declared the victor but after this event my grandparents were accepted into the village.

My Grandfather married during the First World War while working at the Chilworth Gunpowder Factory. The workers were required to wear wooden clogs to eliminate the risk of sparks that might be caused by hobnail boots. They also worked in small separate buildings so as to limit the toll of any damage/injury/death should an explosion occur.

After the Great War my Grandad returned to the building trade seeking work wherever he could find it. This would often see him jumping onto his bike and cycling off in pursuit of any passing builder’s truck to see if any jobs were available. He had obviously realised that his standard of living would be much improved if he were a bricklayer however in those days a trades apprenticeship was usually only possible by virtue of birthright or via a benefactor.

Undaunted, he set about teaching himself to become a bricklayer and I still possess two of the books he used to educate himself. Looking through these books I am fascinated by the detailed technical content, in particular with regard to the maths and geometry which I am sure would leave many of today’s so called bricklayers dumbfounded. He went on to buy a plot of land in Queen Street, Gomshall, where he built the bungalow in which my father grew up.

During the 1930’s my Grandfather bought another plot of land back “over the hill” at Little Bookham and whilst living in a shed on site, he built (in a matter of weeks not months) his second bungalow into which the family moved about a year before the outbreak of the Second World War.

My father and mother met during the Second World War and they married a year after the war ended. They bought a plot of land about half a mile up the road from my Grandfather and working weekends and evenings/nights he “helped” them build what was his third bungalow. This was the bungalow in which I grew up and where my Grandfather died just three days before his 75th birthday. All three of his bungalows still stand today though now much altered.

As a retired carpenter and builder myself I can fully appreciate the huge physical effort required to single handed and manually excavate the foundations for a bungalow and to manually mix and lay the many cubic metres of concrete required in the ground works and then to continue to complete the superstructure and external works.

The fact that I am here to tell my Grandfathers story is in no small part due to his supreme physical effort and his dogged determination to succeed and I am proud to be a Baker.

William Thomas Cleobury

Research and text by Brian Bouchard

 

William Thomas Cleobury, 15 St. Phillips Avenue, Worcester Park

William was the brother of Frank Harold Cleobury, a son of William Cleobury and Laura Amanda Thompson, born 3 May 1889 (reg. Greenwich 6/1889).

He entered Childeric Road School, Deptford on 3 April 1894. On 4 February 1908 he was reported to have been appointed a 2nd Division Clerk in the Civil Service following an Open Competition and by July 1910 was being employed in the Accountant General’s Office in the GPO.

He appears to have taken up residence at 42 Vesta Road, Brockley, before The Kentish Mercury of 24 March, 1916 reported his arrest and appearance before the Police Court in Greenwich. On 29 September, 1916 a later edition of the newspaper contained an explanation that he had not reported for duty because although he had been offered a Non-Combattant Certificate he had refused it on the principle that ‘the man who makes the shot is as bad as the man who fires it’.

He was taken from the City of London Regiment at Hurdcott Camp (five miles to the east of Fovant, Wiltshire, established on land requisitioned from the Hurdcott farms) to the Royal Fusiliers’ Hounslow depot in order to be court-martialled on 18 October 1916, and sentenced to 1 year hard labour, commuted to 8 months in Wormwood Scrubs.

William was a declared ‘follower of Jesus Christ’, with membership of the No-Conscription Fellowship, and anti-war, ‘absolutist’, Independent Labour Party.

Under the Home Office Scheme, administered by the Brace Committee, conscientious objectors moved from the Army to the HOS by being transferred to Army Reserve Class W. There were HOS work centres in various places and William was employed at Wakefield and Dartmoor during 1917.

Post war he studied at the University of London to be awarded a Bsc (Econ.) degree in1921. He continued to be employed in the Civil Service and by 1927 was resident at 39 Vesta Road, Brockley, London S E 14, probably with his brother Rev. F H Cleobury, PhD. His wedding to Miss Ivy Alice May Hallett was registered at Greenwich, for the March Quarter of 1930 and subsequently the married couple appear to have moved to 33 Troutbeck Road, S E 14. William became a Councillor in Deptford before serving as Mayor, 1933/4. When he was announced as Mayor Elect the local British Legion threatened to boycott the Remembrance Day Service, on account of his Conscientious Objection, should he propose to attend the ceremony.

Mr Cleobury had been made a member of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries during 1933

William died on 21 September 1959 at 89 Copes Avenue, West Wickham (reg. Bromley 9/1959).

Cranleigh in August 1918

Research and text by Joy Horn, as published in the Cranleigh Magazine

The Oaklands Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital in Knowle Lane closed this month. Since January 1915, when the hospital opened, a total of 617 soldiers had been cared for, with no death or infectious illness, and not ‘a single case of indiscipline among the men’. Thirty beds had been continuously occupied, and this had risen to 33 since the German Spring Offensive of March 1918. The average stay of each patient was 35 days. The commandant, Mrs Clementina Rowcliffe, in the final report and accounts, wrote with the ‘keenest regret’ at parting from the team who had worked so devotedly and with a ‘happy spirit of co-operation and absolute lack of petty jealousies’. The hospital was dismantled: some equipment was returned to its owners, articles fit for hospital use only were given to the Cranleigh Village Hospital and others, and the remaining furniture was sold. The building was then handed back to its owners, Sir George and Lady Bonham of Knowle, who had generously lent it to the Surrey Branch of the Red Cross.

No cricket was played during the war on Cranleigh’s fine cricket ground, except by Cranleigh School. This was a cricket-loving region, as evidenced by the presence of cricket grounds in even the smallest village. Nationally, there was no 1st-class cricket either. Wisden’s annual Cricketers’ Almanack [a cricket reference book, colloquially known as ‘the Bible of Cricket] shrank in size, without its normal analyses of the county clubs’ previous season, and national statistics. Its regular feature on ‘cricketers of the year’ had been suspended. However, in 1918 somebody at Wisden’s had the bright idea of publishing its choice of five outstanding schoolboy cricketers.  Among these five was a boy of Cranleigh School, Harry Calder, who had taken a remarkable number of wickets in the 1917 season.

Calder [was born in Hampshire in 1858, before emigrating to South Africa with his family,] had come to Cranleigh from South Africa in 1914 and played in the school 1st XI for five seasons, the last three as captain. He is variously described as an off-spinner or a fast bowler who bowled off a short run-up. After the war, Calder played one undistinguished match for Surrey 2nd XI against Staffordshire, and then returned to South Africa, where he took up golf and tennis instead of cricket.  He thus has the distinction of being the only Wisden Cricketer of the Year never to have played first-class cricket!

Attempts to cope with the shortage of food dominated the news in the Surrey Advertiser. Reports of the harvest in the county were encouraging: ‘motor reapers are at work in many places’. Wheat was a bumper crop, oats varied, there was less hay, ‘so much land having been broken up’, barley was average, but potatoes were promising. A demonstration of potato bread-making was held in Guildford. Here in Cranleigh, the Pig Club Committee planned to buy a boar for £10 10s.

Meanwhile, poor Joe Cheesman, a prisoner-of-war in Belgian Flanders since April, had still not heard from his parents in Cranleigh. Nor did he have any idea whether the letters he wrote home were getting through. His mother wrote frequently and at length, but her letters were always returned, as having an inadequate address. At one point, she reckoned that she had had a dozen letters returned. She kept them all.

Unfortunately, Joe had developed a poisoned foot, and was admitted into the prison camp hospital. On August 9th he wrote home: ‘I am out of the hospital now and am very glad of it too. The hospital is an ordinary hut, the same as we live in, but being nearly empty and always quiet, the rats and mice have got very bold, and they were fond of climbing up my bed and dancing on the pillow, which you can imagine I didn’t like by any means. Besides that, they were fond of clearing up your bread and I can tell you we don’t get enough to feed mice.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cranleigh in July 1918

Research and text by Joy Horn (as published in the Cranleigh Magazine)

At the Guildford Borough Bench, a bar attendant and the manageress of the Lion Hotel in Guildford were both fined £5 on two counts of buying a round of drinks for other people. This was known as ‘treating’, and was forbidden during the war under DORA, the Defence of the Realm Act. In court, it was said that ‘treating was going on wholesale, in spite of the law’.

Postcard of the Onslow Arms, post-marked 1908,

Title: Postcard of the Onslow Arms, post-marked 1908,
Description: By kind permission of Roy Pobgee by-nc

On 14 July, French National Day, the 1st Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) [Regiment] had a photo taken in front of a grand building. They look very smart and well disciplined. This was the regiment in which many Cranleigh men served. After their brave exertions and considerable losses in the Battle of the Lys, they were having some rest this month in the area of Brandhoek, a few miles west of Ypres. Perhaps a reader knows where this photo was taken.

Joe Cheesman, the Cranleigh man who had become a prisoner-of-war in April, had been moved by his German captors from his work as a mechanic in a motor workshop. His letters home describe how, with other prisoners, he had been put into ‘a big, empty factory’, from which working parties went out every day. After a week, 140 of them were moved to another camp not far away. The food was not so good there but at least the camp was registered with the Red Cross, so that they had received some soap at last! Joe was not allowed to disclose his whereabouts in any of his letters, but after the war he told his family that he had not been taken to Germany, despite his address of ‘Limburg an der Lahn’, but was all the time behind the lines in Belgium. Back at home, though, his mother was told by the Central POW Committee that ‘the address “Limburg a/Lahn” is not sufficient for letters and parcels’, so Joe had not yet heard anything from his family.

The Hambledon Tribunal was still meeting every two weeks, trying to be fair in granting exemption from military service, while still securing as many men as possible for the armed services. Sir Charles Chadwyck-Healey of Wyphurst – now St Joseph’s school – applied to the Tribunal on July 10th on behalf of his coachman, G.T. Card, aged 49, declaring that he ‘could not be any use in the Army’. ‘If the worst comes to the worst,’ he said, ‘I shall have to put him on the land.’ (This would have ensured he was exempt.) ‘I have been having German prisoners, but I have not been able to get much work out of them’ (laughter). It is worth noting that Sir Charles was using a coach in 1918: perhaps it was because the use of cars was severely restricted.

The mood of local people may be seen in their popular songs. A song annual on sale this month by The Piano House in Guildford (price one shilling) included these titles: ‘There’s a ship that’s bound for Blighty’, ‘When the bells of peace are ringing’, ‘I never knew how much I loved you till you said “Goodbye”’, ‘I don’t want to go back’ and ‘Ten days’ leave’.

The Surrey Advertiser announced that ‘Nut shells and fruit kernels are urgently needed for the making of charcoal for anti-gas respirators, and all are urged to save and collect them.’ They were to be sent in bags to Captain Rickett, Gas Works, Southend-on-Sea.

 

Clement Henry Cruttwell

Contributed by Brian Bouchard

The marriage of George Edward Wilson Cruttwell to Gwenydd Erskine was registered at Milton, Kent, in the December Quarter of 1893. The birth of their son Clement Henry followed at Chelsea, in September 1896.

He attended Gresham’s School, Norfolk, and was awarded prizes for French and Drawing during 1910.

In October 1914, Cadet Clement Henry Cruttwell, from the University of London Contingent, Senior Division, Officers’ Training Corps was assigned to the 5th Battalion East Surrey Regiment, which comprised volunteers from Streatham, Sutton, Wimbledon and Epsom.

The Illustrated War News of 2 June 1915 published a photograph ‘Fighters for the Freedom of Europe, Officers of the [2nd and 5th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment’ which included 2nd Lieutenant C H Cruttwell. His name also appears on page 134 in the History of the 31st Foot Huntingdonshire Regt., 70th Foot Surrey Regt: Subsequently 1st & 2nd Battalions the East Surrey Regiment, Vol. 3, by Hugh Wodehouse Pearse, ?1916 :-

‘A Company (Captain N. A. Pease) having been already warned, preliminary instructions were now issued. The Commanding Officer, accompanied by Lieut. C. H. Cruttwell and four orderlies, then hastened forward to complete arrangements. ..’

On 9 May 1917, 2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) C. H. Cruttwell was promoted Lieutenant, with precedence as from 1 June1916. He advanced to Temporary Captain in 5th Battalion East Surrey Regiment, 23 July 1920, but relinquished his commission from 3 July 1921.

Between the Wars he became a Civil Engineer, Assoc. M. Inst. C. E. and published a number of articles, for example:-
Construction of new landing-stage and other works at Gosport, 1925
The River Rother Improvement Work, 1930
Barge Places 90-Ton Breakwater Blocks – Engineering News Record, Vol. I3I, No. 3.

The marriage of Clement H Cruttwell to Elizabeth Josephine Vernon Hinde [formerly the wife of Gerald Willoughby Andrews (some time 2nd Lieutenant in The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), eldest son of the late Mr. Leonard Peel Andrews, Dunedin, Ashtead] was registered at Kensington, 9/1933.

Clement’s father, a prominent Engineer, who had been actively engaged during the Great War on work for the Department of Explosives Supply and, from 1925, acted as honorary consulting engineer to the Imperial War Graves Commission, died on 10 November 1933 with an obituary published by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Before that date the family had moved to ‘Rosemary’, Clinton Road, Leatherhead.

On 27 May 1943, C H Cruttwell who had remained on the Territorial Reserve of Officers, with a Service Number 2107, was transferred from the East Surrey Regiment to the Royal Engineers retaining seniority from 1920.  Capt. Cruttwell (2107) having exceeded the age limit relinquished his commission, 27th Mar. 1948, retaining the rank of Captain.

By 1950 Clement Henry Cruttwell had taken up residence in Fowlers Cottage, 12 Rectory Lane, Ashtead. His death was registered at Southampton 6/1966, aged 69. Elizabeth Josephine Vernon Cruttwell lived on until 15 January 1991 when she expired at Preston House, Preston, Cirencester, [Gloucestershire]

Major Ralph Smith

Contributed by John Vickers, Winchester Training College Fallen project

26th July 1892—19th July, 1916
Private Major[1] Ralph Smith, 3243, of the London Regiment, 2nd (City of London) Battalion, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), died of wounds on 19th July, 1916 in France.

Major’s Family—A Snapshot of English Social History
In the mid-1820s, Major’s paternal grandfather and grandmother Smith, Ezekiel and Sarah (née Priest), were born and bred in the Black Country—the area to the west of Birmingham, so-called because of its underlying 30-foot coal seam. Their lives began and revolved around the settlements of Halesowen, Dudley and Rowley Regis; all lie within its ill-defined borders, in the County of Worcestershire. Of these settlements, Rowley Regis features most prominently in the family record.

‘Rowley Regis parish is one of the most populous of the manufacturing districts of Staffordshire, the inhabitants being principally employed in mining and the making of nails, anchors, chains and rivets; the potteries of Messrs Doulton and Co. and Messrs Hingley’s iron works and collieries are of considerable extent.’ [2]

Ezekiel and Sarah were employed in typical Black Country industries: Ezekiel was a rivet-maker and Sarah worked, along with all members of her family who were 14 and older, as a nail-maker.[3] Sarah continued this work after marriage.

There is a symmetry in both sides of this generation of the family. All of Major’s four grandparents carry the name Smith. This unusual situation arose because his father (also called Major Smith) married Ellen Smith. If that weren’t sufficient confusion, his maternal grandfather, Thomas, was also a Black Country nail-maker. His wife brought some variety to the family line as she was a chain-maker, though brought up in a household of nail-makers.

All of these trades left families in grinding poverty, often little more than slaves to the supplier of raw materials and buyer of finished products—more often than not these were one and the same person, called a nailmaster. In the late 19th Century, 50,000 Black Country nail-makers were controlled by 50 nailmasters who could dictate rates of pay, hours of work, and who often owned the houses that workers lived and the tools they worked with and rented from them. None of the grandparents was able to escape this indentured servitude; they were born, lived and died in their trade.

The pattern seemed set to continue. Major’s father was born in Rowley Regis in 1862 and, in 1881, is recorded as a nail-maker. On 5th August, 1889 he married nail-maker Ellen Smith, again of Rowley Regis. Ellen was five years younger than he, and in just over a year, their first child was born: Florence.

By the 1891 Census, his trade had changed to ‘Bedstead [uncertain word] Maker’. This industry, a major employer in the area at this time, was in steep decline.[4] As in the nail trade, pay rates were very low. There was unrest in the workforce and it is possible that his father was involved in the successful bedstead-makers strike of December 1889, seeking better wages. Into this economically struggling family Major Ralph was born on 26th July, 1892, followed by Winifred May (1896) and Gladys Ellen (1898).

The escape from the Black Country and its associated industrial drudgery lay in an unusual direction: Major Ralph’s father became a Congregational Evangelist.[5] [6] The change is recorded in the 1901 Census, where the family are to be found in East Boldre, Hampshire. Set on the edge of the New Forest between Lymington and Beaulieu, this rural village was a far cry from their old haunts.

The new life still had familiar challenges; the job brought with it a meagre ‘salary of £90 per year, most of which was used to pay for their family home.’ [7] The move would have disrupted the older children’s schooling as they settled into village National School alongside the 60 or so pupils there, under the headship of Thomas Lambert Blackwell.[8]

‘…his parents invested a great deal in Major’s future, sacrificing much at their own expense to ensure he would receive the best education possible and ultimately become a schoolmaster. Major spent three years as a pupil-teacher…’ [9]

At the end of his time as a pupil-teacher, in 1910 Major Ralph secured a place at Winchester Training College. The teacher-training he would receive there would, after two further years working as an assistant-teacher, give him Certification status. The fees involved would have been a further drain on the family purse.

By the time Major was part-way through his college course, the family had moved, with Major senior taking up a new pastorate in the village of Medstead, between Winchester and Alton.

Training at Winchester Training College, 1910–1912

Nonconformist students, such as Major, were at a disadvantage at the College, which had a strong Church of England foundation. They would find it difficult to reach the required standard in Religious Education, which was heavily Anglican-centred. This was also a problem for those who had been brought up in unchurched families and educated in Board Schools, where they would not have received much religious education:

William Smoker, who entered college in 1902 at the age of 21, had taught for nearly five years as a pupil-teacher in an East London dockland area school. He spent half of each day at the school and the other half at the Woolwich Pupil Teacher Centre. His religious education had, however, not received the same attention as those pupil-teachers serving in Church schools, and on entering college he encountered some difficulties. Recollecting some of these difficulties in 1966 he wrote:

The Prinny[10] was most assiduous to us in his twice a week Divinity lectures. I had not been apprenticed in a Church of England School, and although I never appeared before the Principal for a breach of College rules, I was interviewed by him twice for my failing in Prayer Book history and for my inability to answer such Catechism questions as, ‘What did your Godfathers and Godmothers then for you?’ [11],[12]

College life was busy: lectures, practical teaching training, Chapel attendance and personal study filled most of the students’ time, but there was a recreational side of college life. Debates, indoor and outdoor games and sports, concerts, social events and other activities played a large part in the cohesion of the student body. Students printed an internal publication of news and events, The Wintonian. In this we read the only reference to him: ‘In the Dormitory Cup competition, Major Smith dressed up as a Red Cross Ambulance man.’

The financing of Major’s time at College must have been difficult. There were fees to find and a list of items he had to buy and take with him at the start of his studies. In later Surrey County Council Education Department files, it is reported that ‘During this time, he relied on his parents’ financial support, as well as the small amount he had earned being a pupil teacher.’ [13]

At the successful conclusion of his studies in 1912, the College records show that Major left to teach at Ludlow Road Boys School, Itchen, Southampton. In order to achieve Certification, the leaving student had to complete two years teaching at the same school. Although we have no direct proof of dates, we must assume that Major completed two years in Itchen and then moved school since he is listed as teaching at Lingfield Council School in Surrey when he enlisted for wartime Army service.[14]

He showed his gratitude for the family’s support throughout his training: ‘when he became a qualified teacher, Major did what he could in return for his parents, becoming a great financial help to his family by sending money home almost every month. Even after joining the army, Smith gave permission for his parents to use his money as sent by the Lingfield School of Managers. Whilst they did use some of his wages, Major’s parents also saved some money in the bank, in the hope of his return.’ [15]

We do not know the exact date of his enlistment into the Army, but his War Gratuity payment, which was based on length of service at the time of death, would place this in November 1914, shortly after he started his in his new post at Lingfield.

 

Life in Khaki

 

Joseph joined the 2nd Battalion London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), enlisting in London. His movements throughout the War are listed on his Medal Roll, where the Theatre of War is given by code, and the dates for disembarkation at and evacuation from that particular Theatre:

Key to the Army Theatre Codes:

4a African Theatre: British East Africa, German East Africa, Rhodesia, Nyasaland and Uganda

2b Balkan Theatre: Gallipoli and Aegean Islands

4a Egypt[16]

1a France and Belgium

These places and dates tell us that he was in the 2/2nd Battalion. His first period marked as 4(a) was simply time spent in Egypt at a transfer station, awaiting onward transport. The second period is of particular importance, between October 1915 and January 1916, when the Battalion was engaged in the Gallipoli debacle. Joseph and his men landed on 7th October and met up with others in the Battalion, who had been in Gallipoli for some time, on the 10th.  At this point in the campaign disease was the biggest enemy. During the week when Joseph’s recruits joined their fellows, one man had been killed, seven wounded, but thirty-four lost to active service through illness. The War Diary records that, on arrival, the new men were only wearing ‘thin Khaki’—unsuitable for the cold, wet weather and supplied probably as a result from being shipped there from Egypt. Within days, the Diary reported, ‘A very cold day. Freezing hard and a bitter wind.’ Many would die of exposure as well as enteric diseases.

As with most men in that invasion, the 2nd Battalion also suffered terribly from the firepower of the enemy. The hell of Gallipoli came to an end in January 1916: Major and his Battalion joined transports, returning them to Egypt as part of the general ignominious withdrawal and the end of the campaign. They would be stationed there, re-equipping and awaiting orders until 17th April, 1916, when the embarked for the Western Front.

The Battalion arrived in Marseilles one week later and were then moved to Rouen. They were to be stationed there until June when they were disbanded. Major was transferred to another Battalion of the London Regiment, the 1/12th.

The Battalion Diary indicates that Major and his new comrades were in the Wulverghem / Messines / Wytschaete sector, holding the line. In typical fashion, they were in trenches for a few days at a time then relieved by another Battalion. They would then regroup, train and parade in billets behind the lines, before moving up once more to relieve others.

We do not know when Major was wounded, but it was a few days before his death.[17] It may be helpful to give an example of one day’s typical War Diary from just from around that time:

Place: Trenches C4 to D4. Date 9-7-1916. Weather fine and warm. The enemy fired a good many larger Trench Mortar shells at our trenches, most of which fell just over the parados[18]… Killed 2 O.R.,[19] wounded 6 O.R., accidentally wounded (Grenade) 5 O.R.

Le Tréport Hospital complex. The huts are of the No.2 Canadian Hospital. Identical huts further to the left housed No.16 General Hospital. In the background can be seen the Trianon Hotel, which housed the No.3 British General Hospital. It stands above the chalk cliffs of Calais

 

Major was evacuated from the front line, to the hospital at No.16 General Hospital at Le Treport.

‘…a letter sent from Chaplain Hubert L. Simpson to Smith’s parents reveals the nature of his final few days, which he spent seemingly recovering in hospital. Simpson wrote of the conversations he shared with Major about teaching and religion, and his love for reading. The two prayed together, and Chaplain Simpson also read some of the Scriptures. Although breathing was difficult, Major did apparently not suffer much, and his parents were told to ‘have pride in his devotion and self-sacrifice […] Everybody was impressed by his quiet, brave, spirit, his gentleness and thoughtfulness.’ [20]

Major is buried in the British cemetery of Mount Huon in Le Tréport, France.

His sister Gladys followed Major into teaching. This was something which had pleased him and he expressed a desire to support her financially. Although his official will left all property, effects and money to his father, some of the money which had been saved in the bank was used to support his sister through her education and training to teach, at Goldsmith’s College.

Major and Ellen Smith wrote that they had ‘no regrets about the expenses or sacrifices’ for their son: ‘he was worthy of it’.[21]

To discover more about the Winchester Training College Fallen click this link.

Read more about Major Ralph Smith’s records from the Surrey County Council Education Department employee records, from Surrey History Centre, click here: https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/major-ralph-smith/

Sources

Ancestry (2018). Home page. [online] Available at: www.ancestry.co.uk [Accessed 2018].

Commonwealth War Graves Commission, (2018). Mount Huon Military Cememtery, Le Treport. [online] Available at https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/11700/mont-huon-military-cemetery,-le-treport/ [Accessed 2018].

Kelly’s Directory (1896). Kelly’s Directory of Staffordshire 1896. [online] Available at: http://specialcollections.le.ac.uk/cdm/ref/collection/p16445coll4/id/339984[Accessed 2018].

Kelly’s Directory (1898). Kelly’s Directory of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, 1898. [online] Available at: http://specialcollections.le.ac.uk/cdm/ref/collection/p16445coll4/id/218262 [Accessed 2018].

The Long Long Trail, (2018). Medal roll theatre codes. [online] Available at: http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/soldiers/how-to-research-a-soldier/campaign-medal-records/how-to-interpret-a-campaign-medal-index-card/medal-roll-theatre-codes/ [Accessed 2018].

National Union of Teachers. (1920). War Record 1914–1919. A Short Account of Duty and Work Accomplished During the War. London: NUT.

Rose, M. (1981). A history of King Alfred’s College, Winchester 1840-1980. London: Phillimore.

Surrey in the Great War (2018) Major Ralph Smith – Case 15. [online] Available at: http://www.surreyinthegrhttp://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/major-ralph-smith/eatwar.org.uk/people/page/10/?s=ham&search=1 [Accessed 2018].

Surrey in the Great War (2018) Major Ralph Smith – Outline. [online] Available at: https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/person/97255 [Accessed 2018]. [Accessed 2018].

Vickers, J. University of Winchester Chapel Memorial Rail image.

 

University of Winchester Archive – Hampshire Record Office
Reference code
Record

47M91W/
P2/4
The Wintonian 1899-1900
47M91W/
P2/5
The Wintonian 1901-1902
47M91W/
P2/6
The Wintonian 1903-1904
47M91W/
P2/7
The Wintonian 1904-1906
47M91W/
P2/8
The Wintonian 1905-1907
47M91W/
P2/10
The Wintonian 1908-1910
47M91W/
P2/11
The Wintonian 1910-1914
47M91W/
P2/12
The Wintonian 1920-1925
47M91W/
D1/2
The Student Register
47M91W/
S5//5/10
Photograph of 5 alumni in Mesopotamia
47M91W/
Q3/6
A Khaki Diary
47M91W/
B1/2
Reports of Training College 1913-1914
47M91W/
Q1/5
Report and Balance Sheets 1904- 1949
47M91W/
R2/5
History of the Volunteers Company 1910
47M91W/
L1/2
College Rules 1920
Hampshire Record Office Archive
71M88W/6
List of Prisoners at Kut

55M81W/PJ1
Managers’ Minute Book 1876-1903

All material referenced as 47M91W/ is the copyright of The University of Winchester. Permission to reproduce photographs and other material for this narrative has been agreed by the University and Hampshire Record Office.

[1] Major is his first name, not Army rank
[2] Kelly’s Directory of Staffordshire 1896, p.294
[3] Often appearing in records as ‘Nailer’ or ‘Nailor’
[4] T. H. Kelly, ‘Wages and labour organisation in the brass trades of Birmingham and District’ (Ph.D. thesis, Birmingham University, 1930).
[5] The Congregational churches were a loose association of independent chapels and not a structured denomination. Each congregation/chapel was autonomous. The local church would appoint a minister directly and agree employment terms and conditions (including, in this case, his title of Evangelist rather than the usual Pastor or Minister). In 1972 many of the Congregational churches joined with the Presbyterian Denomination to form the United Reformed Church
[6] There is no prior intimation that the family had nonconformist connections, but this would not have been unlikely. Nonconformist churches were particularly active and successful in areas of social deprivation and amongst the industrial working class. Their work was at its zenith in the late 19th Century.
[7] Kathleen Gallagher research article at http://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/major-ralph-smith/ The article 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. Major Ralph Smith’s documents are in File 15 of the set.
[8] Kelly’s Directory of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, 1898
[9] Gallagher
[10] The Principal was Henry Martin (b. 1844, d. 1919) Principal 1878-1912, he was a member of the Alpine Club was one of few to have reached the summit of the Matterhorn.
[11] Today this third question of the Shorter Catechism reads as a misprint. It is a grammatically correct but archaic form of ‘What then did your Godfathers and Godmothers do for you?’
[12] A History of King Alfred’s College, Winchester 1840-1980 by Martial Rose
[13] Gallagher
[14] National Union of Teachers War Record 1914–1919
[15] Gallagher
[16] This second occurrence of 4a carries a different definition from the first as the Codes were changed on 1st January, 1916
[17] Gallagher
[18] Parados: The earth mound behind the trench protecting troops, particularly those on the fire-step, from shrapnel, blast, and the possibility of enemy fire from the rear.
[19] O.R.: Other Ranks, i.e. Privates and non-Commissioned Officers.
[20] Gallagher
[21] Ibid.

 

Peaslake W.I., 1918-1922

Contributed by Wendy Cruxton

“The Women’s Institute (WI) was formed in 1915 to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War” (National Federation of Women’s Institutes website). The Peaslake Women’s Institute (WI) was founded in March 1918, one of Surrey’s first WIs.

1918

On 7 March 1918 at 3pm, at the Hut, Peaslake WI took its first breath. It is recorded that “Mrs Ayres read a telegram and letter from the President Mrs Smeaton giving her good wishes to the Institute and her regrets at being unable to attend the meeting.

Voting papers were distributed and Mrs Ayres, Miss Collard, Mrs Elms and Mrs Pullen were elected to serve us committee. Miss Paine proposed Mrs Ayres as a Vice President of the Institute which was seconded by Mrs Pullen and carried by all present by show of hands.

Tea was served and 50 members enrolled”.

In the first Committee meeting one week later (14 March 1918): “It was decided that members of the Institute may bring a friend to the meetings and have tea at a charge of 2d. Regular meetings of the Institute to be held on the first Thursday and committee meetings on the second Thursday of each month. […]”

First full meeting (4 April 1918): “Mrs Ayres read a telegram from the Chairman Mrs Smeaton of good wishes to the Institute then gave a short talk on the use of the Suggestion Box and some ways in which members might help each other and on the possibility of cooperation in canning fruit and vegetables. Mrs Abram offered to make enquiries about the apparatus and cans. Mrs Gregory promised to enquire about pig clubs and how they were managed. Some useful leaflets on the seasons for planting vegetables were distributed[…].”

These two meetings establish the format for meetings in the years to come: business, demonstration/lecture, tea, entertainment (usually by members), and the national anthem to close. In December, a competition was included, with two prizes: 1st prize was 2/-d, 2nd prize was 1/-d […].  Subjects ranged from the practical (a child’s garment from an adult’s), to amusing and fun ones (a hat made in five minutes from a sheet of newspaper and 10 pins). The judges for the competitions we usually invited from […] neighbouring WIs, the speaker at the meeting or someone who suited. For example, one year a member, Mrs Webb from Fulvens Farm, was asked if she would allow Mr Rennie to judge the potatoes which had been grown from the 1lb. of potatoes purchased earlier in the year for the competition.

The Suggestion Box requests helped plan the programme, which, in the early days, was half yearly, and continue to do so for many years. Funds were obviously very limited but, from time to time, outside speakers were engaged. Together with a wealth of knowledgeable and talented members upon which to draw, the subjects of the lectures/demonstrations were numerous and varied with much emphasis on being self-sufficient and making do.

In these formative years, the names Miss Moberley, Mrs Webb and Miss (Sylvia?) Drew are much in evidence, possibly the equivalent of today’s WI Advisers. If a lecture/demonstration for a specific subject was acquired Surrey WI was contacted, by letter, for a recommendation (as there was no yearbook at this time) and these three ladies came themselves on numerous occasions.  It also of note that Peaslake WI members were not immune to the influenza outbreak of 1918, with some members reported absent from meetings due to illness.

The Government (WI) Organiser came in May and “gave a little lecture on the work of Women’s Institutes in other villages and reason for joining the Federation and announced that Peaslake WI was formally affiliated.”

Throughout the year, demonstrations/lectures covered “Herbs and Herb Collecting for the Market”, “Fruit Preserving and Bottling”, “Fruit Drying and Canning”, and the work done by St Dunstan’s [Hospital for the Blind, set up to rehabilitate blinded soldiers] with photographs showing the blinded men working on netting frames invented by Miss G H Weatherby, the speaker.

“At Mrs Smeaton’s request, Mrs Ayres gave a short talk on Independence Day on 4 July, and what it means to 2 Americans and then all stood and sang the Star-Spangled Banner. This was followed by the most interesting address by Mr Heffer, on the war and how the civilian population could help win it by economy, particularly of food and the prevention of all waste.”

By September, the Peaslake WI was well established with increasing references to contact with neighbouring WIs, especially with Ewhurst and Shere; there seemed to be a particularly close bond with Ewhurst. Requests from County and National [WI Federations] for items exhibitions held that year to be declined as time was too short to prepare anything, but, when possible, that was in attendance. […]

The need for more housing was as relevant in 1918 as it is today, as recorded in October: “Mrs Ayres spoken rural housing and the necessity for more and better cottages to be built after the war”. Papers were handed round the suggestions that could be forwarded to the Housing Committee of the District Council, which the Housing Committee requested be returned by 18 November.
Note: interestingly, Miss Ayres is listed on the committee as ex-officio Agriculture Committee.

In December, WI Headquarters sent a directive to all WIs that their meetings must not be used for political or electioneering purposes. Fast forward to September 1920, Miss Austen of Reigate, on behalf of the National Political Union, asked that an emergency meeting of Peaslake WI should be held to protest against the miners’ strike, that delegate should be sent to a meeting of protest in London, and that a resolution of protest was enclosed should be signed by members of Peaslake WI and sent to the Secretary of the National Political Union at once. After due consideration, the committee felt it might savour party politics, but agreed that every effort should be made to stop the strike. Instead, the Resolution from the Union was altered, signed by the members present, and return together with an explanation direct to the chairman of the meeting. Surrey WI was informed of their action. In reply, the County Secretary wrote to apologise to Miss Austin’s letter and stated that the letter the letter should not have been sent.

 

1919

On our first anniversary of the March records and committee minutes clearly show that the ladies of Peaslake had fully embraced the opportunity to come together the friendship; to learn; share knowledge; to support each other and the community; and to enjoy themselves and be involved in all things WI at local, Federation and National level.

Note: it also became clear as the years passed that Peaslake WI did not hesitate to speak out and show support, or disapproval, when deemed necessary.

In July, the committee was read an extract from the Toronto Daily News on Women’s Institutes in Canada and England. In addition, there was a letter from Mrs Watt OBE asking for samples of work to be sent to Canada by 1 August. [Mrs Margaret (Madge) Watt was the energetic Canadian Women’s Institute member who brought the WI to Britain.]

Mrs Smeaton read the editorial on Peace from the August Home and Country and then gave an account of her experience and impressions of the [19 July Peace Day] procession in London, and at the Royal Garden party at Buckingham Palace. A vote of thanks was proposed for the interesting and vivid story, which the whole room seconded by hearty clapping.

In the September meeting, members heard on account of the work of our women police. [The first women police were employed earlier in 1918, to assist in the maintenance of law and order with many male officers away with the Armed Forces]. Three years later at the June committee meeting, Mrs Smeaton reported on the May National Federation of Women’s Institutes Annual Meeting in London. It was decided to ask Miss Sutherland (Federation Secretary) to draw up a letter and have it signed by all the WI presidents and secretaries in Surrey, to be sent to Mr Edgar Horne MP, to urge the government “to give facilities for the passing into law of the Bishop of London’s Bill, the Guardianship Bill and to retain the women police”. The following month the Peaslake WI secretary was asked to send a letter to Mr Horne urging him to oppose the bill for the abolition of women police. Three years later, in October 1925, the subjects surfaced again, when Chief Inspector Champney spoke at Peaslake’s meeting: “she gave strong appeal in support of women police and suggested a resolution, which was proposed at this meeting and carried by a large majority”. Referred to again at the November meeting, members agreed by a large majority that it should be sent to our MP, the Home Office and the Surrey Clerk of Peace. It was also agreed to join the Women’s Auxiliary Service as an Associate. The December meeting unanimously agreed a resolution was to be sent to Surrey to come before the Annual Meeting in February. Peaslake WI sent 2/6d. a year to the Women’s Auxiliary Service as a token of sympathy for the work done by them.

 

1920

In the February meeting, a letter was read from the Village Clubs Association and the Federation of women’s Institutes in conjunction with the Soldiers Clubs Association. The answer sent by the Secretary was to the effect that Peaslake had a Men’s Club, a parish hall and a new Hut, so that the village was well provided for.

 

The Annual Report: “The Institute has had lectures on the ‘Devastated Areas of France and Flanders’*, ‘Citizenship’, ‘Character Learning of Children’ and ‘Lantern Lecture on Burma’. Lectures and demonstrations on home nursing, tinkering and soldering, chair caning, skin curing and glove making, and millinery. The Institute also made 54 comments for the Save the Children Fund. An entertainment was arranged to raise funds to start a library for the Institute**.

Note:

*“Mrs Calvert Spensley spoke mostly about the Belgians. It was most pathetic to hear of the hardships and cruelty they had endured the hands of the Germans.”

**A library for the WI had been requested in the suggestion box. Following the successful fundraising entertainment on 15 December at an extra committee meeting on the 17th a letter was read from Mr Holt saying that if the Peaslake WI would agree to include Peaslake ex-servicemen as members of the new library, under the same conditions as Institute members, a grant of 5 pounds for the purchase of books could be obtained from the United Service Fund. It was agreed unanimously to cooperate with the ex-servicemen.

 

1921

The Annual Report for 1921 detailed a year full of activity and variety. There were demonstrations; travel talks on Russia and Serbia*; and the Rector spoke on the reasons a necessity for the League of Nations, among others. The biggest and most successful undertaking of the WI was the starting of the WI library in conjunction with the ex-servicemen; the volume is now numbered over 400.

*The speaker gave an account of her experiences of the impossible life in Moscow and the Bolsheviks. At a later date a donation was sent to the Russian Famine Fund. Miss Drew spoke of her journey to Serbia the previous year, after which all felt they wished to know the Serbians personally. She asked the small gifts for the Serbian orphans of war. Nearly £1 was collected.

 

1922

In March, the Library Committee had asked the Peaslake WI committee if it was possible for a deputation to meet the committee of the War and Spottiswoode Memorial to ascertain whether and when they would stop building, and whether they would incorporate into their building accommodation for the WI meeting room, library, etc. the Committee agreed and added to request to the Memorial committee that if it thought there was any definite prospect the members would work hard to get funds. It was announced at the August meeting that the trustees declared that women were certainly meant to participate in the benefit of the new Village Institute. Miss Payne, who was a member of the War and Spottiswoode Memorial, proposed to try and get three members of the WI Library Committee co-opted. The Peaslake WI Minute Book holds a vast amount of information on the ongoing dealings between the WI and the Memorial committee, and the hard work the members put in to raise funds

Thomas James Leavey

Research and text by Brian Bouchard

 

The marriage of Thomas James Leavey to Annie Augusta Hurst, 18 October 1879, was registered at Westhampnett, West Sussex, for the December Quarter of 1879. Their first-born son Thomas James Leavey came to be born on 18 July 1880 and he was brought to be baptised at St Mary and St Nicholas, Leatherhead, 21 October1880. His father was a Master Tailor then in business at 31 Church Street, Leatherhead.

The younger Thomas grew up to follow in his father’s footsteps and train as an apprentice tailor. He also entered military service with the 2nd Volunteer Battalion East Surrey Regiment – H Company 5th (Territorial Force) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, which had a drill hall in Hawthorne Place, off East Street, Epsom.

After the University and Public Schools Men’s Force came to Epsom, he enlisted on 14 November 1914 to be assigned to the third Battalion, 20th Royal Fusilers, which had been billeted on Leatherhead, with as Service Number PS/6013. Thomas was described as 6 feet tall with a chest measurement of 35 inches – Fresh complexion, grey eyes & brown hair. His age, experience, and the fact that he was qualified as a Master Tailor seems to explain why he was immediately given the rank of Sergeant.

He was transferred to the depot of 29th Royal Fusiliers, a reserve Battalion training recruits as replacements for the 20th and 21st Battalions, presumably involved in fitting them with new uniforms.

His marriage to Ruth Gladys Ellis is recorded at Warwick, June 1916. She resided at 31 Compton Street, Warwick.

On 31 August 1916 Thomas moved on to 105th Training Reserve Battalion, Edinburgh, with a fresh Service Number 324360. Transfers to 458th and 459th Home Service Employment Companies occurred in 1917 – on 1 November in that year he was based at Catterick.

In March 1918 Thomas was referred for a medical assessment  at the Labour Centre, Ripon, and found to be suffering from ‘Pes Cavus’, commonly known as claw foot ( a deformity of the foot which has a very high arch and is relatively stiff). He was unable to wear regulation boots, could not march and had not been in active service. On 31 March 1918 he was discharged under Para 392 XVI King’s Regulations as physically unfit fot War Service. Under Army Order 29/1919 he was awarded Silver War Badge No. B123451 for his sickness.

Thomas James Leavey of 91 Willes Road, Leamington Spa, died on 27 February 1945 at the Central Hospital, Warwick. His relict Ruth Gladys Leavey lived on until 1954.

Herbert William John Alcoe

Research and text by Brian Bouchard

Herbert W J Alcoe was born on 16 May 1890 in Ashtead to Thomas G Alcoe, Railway Porter, and his wife Elizabeth. The family were then resident at 2 Glebe Road.

His father died in the infirmary at Epsom Union Workhouse on 23 January 1908. The widowed Mrs Elizabeth Alcoe appeared in the 1911 Census, employed as a School Caretaker, with her 5 children. Herbert, aged 20, had taken up work as a Gardener.

At the end of 1914 members of the 4th Battalion University and Public Schools Men’s Force arrived to be billeted on the village of Ashtead, becoming 21st Royal Fusiliers. Local records reveal that Herbert joined this battalion, presumably recruited to fill one of the many vacancies arising as UPS men were awarded commissions.

A move from local billets into Woodcote Camp accommodation at Epsom was organised progressively, to be completed by April 1915. In June 1915 the Public Schools and University Men’s Force of four battalions was transferred to Clipstone Camp, Nottinghamshire, and assigned to 98th Brigade in 33rd Division. During August 1915 these troops moved on to Tidworth, Wiltshire and by 10 August the concentration of the Division on Salisbury Plain was complete. On 4 November the Division was ordered to prepare to move to France. Four days later Her Majesty the Queen inspected the Division at Figheldean Down. Entrainment began on 12 November1915 when the Division embarked for France and Flanders. The 21st Royal Fusiliers left camp at Perham Down for Folkestone, 14 November 1915, to be embarked on SS Princess Victoria for Calais and proceed to Boulogne by rail.

The 21st Royal Fusiliers were assigned on 21 November 1915 to the trenches immediately south of La Bassee Canal to be attached to the 2nd Worcestershire Regiment for training purposes. On 29 February 1916 the 21st Battalion left Bethune by train for GHQ at Wardreques, Pas de Calais. It was broken up on 1 March to provide 400 candidates for commissioned rank and for the remainder to be re-deployed as drafts to other units.

Herbert’s Medal Index Card indicates that he joined the Middlesex Regiment with a Service Number 64164, latter changed to G 39442.

He entered 25th (Garrison Service) Battalion comprised of men classified B1 – ‘fit for employment in labour, forestry, and railway units, base units of the medical service, garrison, or regimental outdoor duty, capable of sedentary work as clerks, skilled workmen at their trades’. They sailed from Devonport on 22 December 1916 and arrived in Hong Kong on 1st April 1917 with two companies going on to Singapore.

During its passage their troopship SS Tyndareus was due to put in at Table Bay, South Africa, for fuel and fresh provisions. On 6 February 1917, however, whilst rounding Cape Agulhas, some 108 miles (173 km) south-east of Cape Town, the 11,000 ton troopship struck a mine laid by the German raider ‘Wolf’, and, badly holed, rapidly began to fill with water to start going down by the head.

All the men of 25th (Garrison) Battalion Middlesex Regiment obeyed the command of the CO, Lieutenant-Colonel John Ward MP, to draw up on parade. Their orderly response enabled boats to be lowered without mishap and, with other assistance, all those on board were saved.

Herbert’s rescue was reported in the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser published on 7 April 1917.

King George V sent a message of approval which read:-

‘Please express to the officers commanding the Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment my admiration of the conduct displayed by all ranks on the occasion of the accident to the Tyndareus. In their discipline and courage they worthily upheld the splendid tradition of the Birkenhead, ever cherished in the annals of the British Army.’

A memorial stone was commissioned by Lieutenant Colonel Ward, recording the gallantry of his men, and erected on Victoria Peak, Hong Kong Island, but this was brought back to the National Army Museum in London during 1994.

In July 1918 the ship Ping Suie brought Middlesex Regiment troops back from Singapore to Hong Kong. On 18 July the re-united 25th Battalion Middlesex Regiment, left the relative security and comfort of their Hong Kong barracks to embark on the Ping Suie and set sail for Russia as part of an unsuccessful international effort at the end of the Great War to save the ‘White’ Russians from the ‘Red’ Bolsheviks.

These troops arrived in Vladivostok on the 3 August, and were soon digging trenches. Initially, the worst enemy was the local mosquito that descended on them in hordes.  Later they engaged in warfare, with the Japanese as allies, fighting against an army of Bolsheviks, Hungarians and Germans.  One action of the campaign took place at Dukhovskaya in Siberia, where Colonel Ward, who commanded the 25th Battalion of The Middlesex Regiment, was in defence. He was under command of a Japanese colonel and had been given charge of a reserve force consisting of one of his own companies and a machine gun section, over one battalion of Czech troops, one company of Japanese infantry, 600 Cossack cavalry and a Royal Navy gun detachment of four twelve-pounders on two armoured trains.  The Middlesex were to remain in Russia for about a year and travelled thousands of miles on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

In August 1919 the 1st East Surrey Regiment was sent to northern Russia to assist in evacuating the interventionist force which returned to England by the following October.

On 18 August 1923, Herbert William John Alcoe, 32, Accumulator Manufacturer [presumably in Peto & Radford’s Greville Works, Ashtead] of 2 Glebe Road, Ashtead, married a Nurse, Kathleen Frances Pullen, from 13 Wyeths Road, Epsom, in St Martin of Tours Parish Church Epsom.

By 1928 they had taken up residence in 10 Long Grove Road, Horton, Epsom, and moved to 13 Wyeths Road before 1951.

The death of Herbert W J Alcoe was registered in Surrey Mid. E for the December Quarter of 1957: he was interred in Plot O109 of Epsom Cemetery on 9 October 1957.

His widow Kathleen Frances Alcoe went to live with their son, also named Herbert W J Alcoe, at 36 Bramble Walk, Epsom. Her death was registered in Kingston upon Thames, 9/1977.