Thomas Hendra

Surrey in the Great War                                                                                                                                                  Jenny Mukerji

Thomas HENDRA (1889-1972)

Soldier and Woking Photographer

Thomas was born in Truro, Cornwall on 4 November 1889, the son of Henry HENDRA (1863-1894) and his wife Elizabeth, nee CLEMENS. He was the youngest of their four children. Henry HENDRA was a watchmaker and jeweller and after his death, aged 31, his widow married Philip Henry TONKIN in 1899. Philip TONKIN was a game dealer and seed merchant and he helped Elizabeth to raise her four sons at their home in Union Place, Truro.

Thomas’s disembarkation papers dated 20 November 1910 when he arrived at Ellis Island (United States) off the SS Carmania (out of Liverpool), tells us quite a number of things about him. He was 20 years old and a store man. He could read and write and was English speaking. His contact in England was his mother Mrs P H TONKIN of 11 Truro View Terrace, Truro. He was 5ft 8 inches tall and of a fresh complexion, dark hair and brown eyes. In 1908 he had visited the US before, this time going to Baltimore. In 1910 he was to visit a friend Miss E ELLERY* of 320 19th, Sacramento, California. However, giving his occupation as store man, he was wealthy enough to buy his own ticket and to hold the required $50 (to cover any costs so that he would not be a burden on the State).

Henry does not appear to have returned to England in time to be included in the 1911 Census but the next time he is found is when he enlisted in the 7th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert’s) on 18 November 1914. This was a battalion of volunteers in the Second (Kitchener’s) New Army and had been formed in Taunton on 13 September 1914. They then moved to Woking as part of the 61st Brigade of the 20th Division. They then moved to Witley, near Godalming. In March 1915 they moved to Amesbury and then to Larkhill, near Salisbury. Henry was definitely with them when they were mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne on 24 July 1915. The battalion was given trench familiarization and training in the Fleurbaix area before engaging with the enemy at the Battle of Sorrel (Hill 62) at the beginning of June. Henry may have been with the battalion at the start of the Battle of the Somme (1 July 1916), fighting in the area of Delville Wood. As he was discharged from the Army and awarded his Silver War Badge on 7 September 1916 due to sickness, the extent of his participation in the battalion’s later action is not clear; nor is it known why he should be considered unfit for further military service.

It may have been during his original time in Woking in 1914 or as a possible patient in a Woking Military Hospital, that he met the Woking photographer Marguerite REED (1884-1969). She was, as Margaret Emma REED, the youngest of the three daughters of postal worker Thomas REED (1855-1924) and his wife Elizabeth, nee WILSON (c1856-1929) of Stone House, 2 Sandy Lane, Maybury, Woking. Marguerite had taken over the Studio, formerly run by Alfred WILDMAN (1867-1916) at 88 Maybury Road, Woking in April 1917. On Saturday 2 June 1917 Thomas and Marguerite were married at the Guildford Registry Office. Their professions were given as Army Pensioner and Photographer respectively. Both gave their age as 28.

Marguerite had left the 88 Maybury Road studio by 1924 when Sidney FRANCIS took it over. The 1939 Register lists Thomas and Marguerite living at Stone House and both of them are photographers. Thomas was also an ARP Warden. Marguerite continued her business at Stone House and died in 1969. Thomas was still at Stone House when he died on 9 March 1972.

* Further research has uncovered the ELLERY family with whom Thomas planned to stay. William ELLERY (1848-1936) was a ship’s carpenter in 1871 and he was the son of James ELLERY. He married Mary Jane LLOYD, daughter of John LLOYD of Birmingham in May 1880 in England. William had already been to the United States in 1878 and in all the couple had five children of whom only 2 were still alive in 1910. They were 28 years-old Mary Elsie Ellery (born in England) and 14 years-old Lloyd (born in California – in 1930 he was an accountant at the Customs House). The two Marys had arrived in the US in 1884. William, his wife Mary and daughter Mary had all become Americans in 1888. In 1910 William and his family were living at 320 Sacramento, California and he was now a house carpenter, owning his own home. In 1930 William, Mary and Lloyd were living in Oakland City, Alameda County, California. William and Mary Jane ELLERY are buried together in Sacramento. Children Winifred and Cyril are in the same plot. Winifred Selwyn ELLERY was born in Truro in 1881 and died 13 July 1885. Cyril William, born 1887 and died on 26 January 1891.

Photographing the Fallen

Ivan Bawtree was my great-great-uncle. He was born in 1894 and grew up in Sutton, living most of his life at Clapham Lodge off the Banstead Road South. When war broke out in 1914 Ivan was working at Kodak and helping to run a company of the Boys’ Life Brigade. In March 1915 the Graves Registration Commission had come into being under the leadership of Fabian Ware, with the mission to record the positions of graves of fallen soldiers and to ensure that they were, as far as the military situation permitted, adequately marked and cared for. By May it was decided that the Commission should seek the services of three professional photographers to meet growing demand from bereaved relatives for photos of graves. Ivan volunteered for the task and within a week was in France.

He wrote:

‘In France at first we travelled in an officer’s car to various cemeteries: Bailleul, Bethune, Ypres, Kemmel etc. but as more and more work came in we went for several weeks and stayed at a Graves Registration Section. There we had a number of these: Bailleul, Poperinghe, Estaires, Amiens, Arras, Dunkirk, Dickebusch etc. From those sections we got a lift in a car when possible but otherwise carried our equipment on our backs and rode a push bike. The more formal cemeteries were reached first by car and then on foot through communication trenches etc. Quite an adventure and a certain amount of shelling as we worked close by some of our batteries. It was not always funny.’

The cemeteries tended to spring up either in close proximity to the front line or next to field hospitals and casualty clearing stations. Ivan was therefore often moving around near the front line and was prone to shellfire. On numerous occasions he had to run for cover or change routes: ‘If shelling got too heavy the officer would withdraw us. One day he very nearly got hit and was bowled over while we hid behind a tree to dodge the shell splinters.’ He was mentioned in despatches in December 1917 for his willingness to obtain requested photos under circumstances considered ‘too lively for photography’.

Grave of Sgt Harry Daniels, Royal Engineers

Title: Grave of Sgt Harry Daniels, Royal Engineers
Description: Sgt Daniels was killed in action on 15 January 1915 near Ploegsteert, and is buried at the London Rifle Brigade Cemetery. He was actively involved with Ivan in the Boys' Life Brigade in Sutton. Image courtesy and copyright of Jeremy Gordon-Smith by-nc

By the time he was discharged from service in October 1919, Ivan had taken more than 28,000 photographs of war graves. More than 600 photographs survive, the majority of which were donated to the Imperial War Museum in 1975. While many of the photos depict war graves, Ivan photographed a great many other things too – many which starkly show the loss and devastation of war. His photos also show some of the early operations of the Imperial War Graves Commission that was established in May 1917 (the successor to the Graves Registration Unit). The collection can be viewed on the IWM website.

Ruins of the Cloth Hall, Ypres

Title: Ruins of the Cloth Hall, Ypres
Description: Ivan took numerous photographs around Ypres after the armistice. The iconic ruins of the Cloth Hall feature in many of them. Image courtesy & copyright of Jeremy Gordon-Smith by-nc

As well as numerous photographs, several of Ivan’s diaries, letters, memoirs and other documents have survived, allowing me to put together a book about his unusual war service. His writings and photographs have given me a personal window to engage with the enormous scale of loss, sacrifice and devastation of the Great War, as well as the opportunity to follow in his footsteps around the Western Front.

All quotations in this piece are from Ivan Bawtree’s memoirs, the handwritten pages of which are in the author’s private collection but which are reproduced in full in his book about Ivan Photographing the Fallen (see hyperlink in preceding paragraph).

George and Herbert Bunce of Caterham, photographers

Guards Depot, Coulsdon Road, Caterham. Men, mostly in civilian clothes, parading and having weapons training, with tents in the foreground. Photograph by Bunce Brothers. SHC ref 4209/3/156/3

Guards Depot, Coulsdon Road, Caterham. Men, mostly in civilian clothes, parading and having weapons training, with tents in the foreground. Photograph by Bunce Brothers. SHC ref 4209/3/156/3

In 1903 the brothers George and Herbert Bunce established themselves as professional photographers in a wooden hut to the rear of their father’s home in Asylum Road, Caterham. In 1906 they moved across the road to a new building at 26 Asylum Road (a road later renamed as Westway), Caterham. Photographing Guardsmen at the nearby Guards Depot was to become the core of their business but they also photographed many local families, buildings and activities.

Caterham Asylum Farm Staff, October 1917. Photograph by Bunce Brothers. SHC ref Z/516/52/1b

Caterham Asylum Farm Staff, October 1917. Photograph by Bunce Brothers.  SHC ref Z/516/52/1b

The surviving glass plates in the Bunce archive at Surrey History Centre illustrate the breadth of their business and contain some notable images. There are fine series of photographs of events and activities at Caterham School, Dene School and Eothen School, in Caterham. The Bunce brothers recorded carnivals and fetes organised by Caterham Hospital and Caterham Fire Brigade, the activities of Caterham Scouts, V E Day and Coronation street parties, and local football and cricket teams. Aspects of World War II were also recorded including photographs of ARP and Home Guard personnel and the results of bomb damage. There are also fascinating views of the RAF base at Kenley. The majority of the surviving images date from the 1920s to 1940s and there are very few from the World War I period.

However customer order books survive for the war years from April 1916 to December 1917 and from September 1918 onwards which show the types of photographs taken during this period. Customers ordered copies of photographs in a variety of formats including postcards, passport photographs, Victor Panels, Panelettes and Cabinets, some in sepia.

Some images were also hand coloured. In May 1916 W A Fox Pitt at the Guards Depot, Caterham, ordered 12 Imperial portraits and was described as ‘hair fair to medium, eyes blue, moustache lighter, buttons bronze, cap gold’. Captain Bremner of the Salvation Army, Caterham Valley, ordered photographs of a decorated tea table, songsters and soldiers. In 1916 photographs were also made at Bletchingley Isolation Hospital and Burntwood Red Cross Hospital, and Mr Wadeson of William Road, Caterham, ordered 6 pendant photos of Private Walter Wadeson. Miss Brown of Queen’s Park, Caterham, wanted a picture of a soldier for a heart shaped pendant.

Cricket on the sports field at Dene School, Church Road, Caterham, in July 1917. Photograph by Bunce Brothers. SHC ref 4209/3/30/2

Cricket on the sports field at Dene School, Church Road, Caterham, in July 1917. Photograph by Bunce Brothers. SHC ref 4209/3/30/2

In October 1918 Captain Menzies of the Army Gym Staff ordered ‘1 enlargement framed in oak with brass plate and inscription’ and images relating to Second Lieutenant J C Cavanagh, Royal Air Force, were poignantly inscribed ‘God called him to fly higher’. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website shows that John Charles Cavanagh of 218 Squadron was killed on 19 August 1918 aged just 18 and was the son of Mrs Elizabeth Cavanagh of Sunnydene Road, Purley. At the same time ordinary life also went on as people ordered photographs of weddings and babies.




Recruiting an army: postcards of Surrey training camps

Epsom, recruiting parade for the Royal Fusiliers, High Street, c.1914 (SHC ref PC/58/82)

Epsom, recruiting parade for the Royal Fusiliers, High Street, c.1914 (SHC ref PC/58/82)

On 4 August 1914, Britain was at war. By the next day, Field Marshal Earl Kitchener of Khartoum had been appointed Minister for War and immediately issued orders for the expansion of the army. He did not believe that the war would be ‘over by Christmas’ and had a plan to expand the regular army by raising a new component composed of wartime volunteers. Each man would sign up for new “general service” terms of three years or the duration of the war (whichever the longer) and would agree to being sent to serve anywhere the army needed them.

On 6 August, Parliament sanctioned an increase of 500,000 men of all ranks and, on 11 August, ‘Your King and Country need you: a call to arms‘ was published. It explained the new terms of service and called for the first 100,000 men to enlist. This figure was achieved within two weeks. Known as K1, this was the beginning of Kitchener’s Army. As news came from the Front that British regulars were in action and in retreat, the levels of recruitment increased; by 10 December 1914 over 400,000 men had volunteered but it was not until May 1915 that the earliest recruits were ready to be sent overseas. First they had to be kitted out, trained and turned into soldiers.

Woldingham camp - view of soldiers outside a meat store with a bucket of sausages and pig carcasses, c.1915</br>(SHC ref PC/161/12)

Woldingham camp – view of soldiers outside a meat store with a bucket of sausages and pig carcasses, c.1915
(SHC ref PC/161/12)

The new recruit was first sent to his Regimental depot, where he received his kit and was introduced to army discipline and training. Next, he was sent to a training camp to join his battalion. However in practice, none of the regiments had the required stocks of equipment or the manpower to train the flood of recruits, so at first men trained wearing their own clothes and shoes. This led to some bizarre situations where recruits might be issued old stored uniforms, including vintage red jackets. Others bought their own uniform and boots with money paid from public collections. Many regiments were issued with emergency blue uniforms, popularly known as Kitchener Blue.

There was also a lack of officers to train the recruits. The government called up all reserve-list officers, and many British Indian Army officers on leave in the UK were also quickly re-assigned. Men who had been to a public school, who had had some military training in Officer Training Corps, were often granted direct commissions.

The Army also had difficulty supplying new units with enough weapons. No artillery pieces had been left in Britain to train new artillery brigades, and most battalions had to drill with obsolete rifles or wooden mock-ups but by early 1915 many of these problems had been overcome.

Officer Training Corps Camp at Mytchett,</br>No. 3 Battalion marching, c.1915 (SHC ref PC/68/28)

Officer Training Corps Camp at Mytchett,
No. 3 Battalion marching, c.1915 (SHC ref PC/68/28)

Life in the camps for many of the new recruits, although chaotic and initially rather a shambles, must have been a heady mixture of enthusiasm, patriotism and, for those who had joined up with friends in local units often referred to as Pals, bonhomie. The majority were young and away from home for the first time, but fired with the desire to fight for and defend their country. The realities of the cold, uncomfortable and disciplined life in barracks were probably shrugged off by the communal sense of ‘doing their duty’.

These postcards, so different from the later images from the trenches of Flanders, capture this sense of life in the camps. There is a laughter in these soldiers eyes and a sense of comradeship and excitement, not yet overshadowed by what was to come.

Click on the images below to see larger versions.

The Past on Glass: Photographic Archive of David Knights-Whittome at Sutton Archives

Text by Abby Matthews, Project Officer for The Past on Glass 

The Past on Glass is a Heritage Lottery Funded project based at Sutton Archives which aims to clean, rehouse, catalogue, digitise and disseminate a large collection of Edwardian and wartime glass plate negatives by a local high street photographer.

Miss Lily Garnet, 21st September 1911 Copyright: David Knights-Whittome, Reproduced courtesy of Sutton Archives

The collection, of over 10,000 plates, in various sizes and conditions, was the work of photographic artist David Knights-Whittome, who owned shops in both Sutton and Epsom from around 1904 until 1918. The collection arrived in Sutton Archives in 1978 prior to the demolition of the building which originally housed Knights-Whittome’s main studio. They were removed to Cheam library and later the basement of the Civic Offices where they remained untouched for close to 40 years.

The photographs offer a unique insight into the local area during the period. They document thousands of local residents as well as local and regional schools, colleges and theatre groups, social events such as weddings and house parties, grand country houses and other institutions from across the UK and the Continent. Knights-Whittome also held a Royal Warrant and was known as ‘Photographer to the King’, capturing images of Edward VII, his son George V, and his grandson, the future Edward VIII, as well as many European Royalty of the time.

Perhaps most touchingly, the collection contains hundreds, perhaps thousands, of World War 1 soldiers in uniform, a lost generation of men and boys who either lived in the area or were stationed locally before their postings. Work to date has already uncovered images of a number of men whose names are listed on local war memorials but the collection also has national significance due to the number of soldiers Knights-Whittome photographed from the Epsom Woodcote camp who were posted and billeted nearby during their training.

Private E S Huelin, 1 Dec 1916 Copyright: David Knights-Whittome, Reproduced courtesy of Sutton Archives

Despite interest and efforts to research the material during the time it has been held by the borough, the scale of the work has meant that hitherto, the collection has remained largely untouched. In 2014, Sutton Archives was awarded £95,900 by the Heritage Lottery Fund and since December of that year work has started to clean, rehouse, digitise, catalogue and research the collection. The work is largely done by a team of dedicated volunteers who lend the project a few hours each week. Without their help, it would be impossible to make the material available.

One year in, the project has digitised over 3500 plates and researched close to 200 of the individuals pictured, but there is much work to do. Much of the collection is in urgent need of conservation and researching the subjects of the plates is often an impossible task. Images of the digitised plates are being made available to view on the Sutton Archives Flickr page and the project hopes that by making the material freely accessible online, the public may be able to help them identify some of the individuals and places pictured.

The project hopes to secure future funding to continue working on the material after 2016. In the meanwhile volunteer help is always welcome. If you would be interested in volunteering for the project please contact Project Officer Abby Matthews at [email protected] or call on 0208 770 4746.

David Knights-Whittome, Reproduced courtesy of Sutton Archives

Private C G Lovegrove, 10 Jul 1916 Copyright: David Knights-Whittome, Reproduced courtesy of Sutton Archives


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