The Impact of WW1 on the Lingfield and Dormansland Area in 1914

Research and text contributed by the RH7 History Group

During the period of WW1 radio was in its infancy and newspapers were one of the main means of reporting news and also communicating official information and instructions.  Both the Surrey Mirror and The East Grinstead Observer continued to be published weekly during the war.  The main theatres of the war and national events were covered but from the point view of the impact of the war on the local area the two publications are a rich source of information.  Reports of events in the RH7 area are usually brief, however the ‘snippets’ which were found give an insight into the life ‘on the home front’.


Preparations for War
In the months before August no mention of war was found in the local papers, although contingencies were quietly being put in place.  On 25 July The East Grinstead Observer reported on a Red Cross Field Day held at Imberhorne Farm.  A rest station was prepared ‘near an imaginary battle’ and Territorials in battle kit acted as ‘eounded’, while stretcher bearers administered first-aid and dressed wounds.

The declaration of war on 4 August 1914 initially did not have a great impact on daily life.  The Surrey Mirror edition on the same day carried a cautious report on Britain’s involvement in war.  By the 11 August edition on the same day reported that all doubts were now removed and ‘we know that practically the whole of Europe is in the grip of war…the Fleet is ready and the army mobilising.’

Once war was declared, however, it did not take long for things to step up a gear and for the public to get behind the war effort.  Territorials guarded lines of communication.  Important sections of practically every railway line in the country were guarded, especially lines between Southampton, Aldershot, Chatham and London over which troops might have to be conveyed.

Locally Boy Scouts were posted to guard the viaduct bridge over Cooks Pond, Dormans Park.

Advertisements appeared in the papers for Army pensioners to act as Recruiters and by September the British Red Cross was asking for bandages, instructing people to boil the calico before tearing, leaving no selvedges; the length and width were to be marked with ink and fastened with safety pins.

The Lingfield Emergency Committee was formed.  ‘All the chief residents, farmers, tradesmen and many members of the working class were invited to serve’.  The committee would deal with recruiting, relief, food supply and other urgent matters.  There were appeals for aid for wives and families of soldiers and it was recorded that Lingfield Church gave £25 to the Prince of Wales Fund.  On 25 November the Dormansland school log reported that the children would give an entertainment in aid of the National Relief Fund; this took place in December and raised £13 2s. 11.5d.

Spy Mania
In October 1914, the Surrey Mirror reported that ‘a suspicious foreigner’ was found wandering in a field at Lingfield.  Karl Horvath, aged 18, was unable to give a good account of himself and was remanded; there was no report of what happened to him subsequently.

Alarming stories began to circulate in the local papers.  The Surrey Mirror reported that on Sunday 9 August a troop train near South Godstone was fired at and several windows smashed, although no-one was injured.  From the train four men were seen in a field on the east side of the line.  Three shots were fired at which the men then jumped into a motor car and drove away.  The train was pulled up and Territorials stationed at Redhill, together with police and motor scouts scoured the surrounding country.  ‘Residents in the neighbourhood joined warmly in the chase, one gentleman lending powerful motor car and also guns for six men to go with it.  But it was all in vain and those who man the attack got clean away.’  The next day an attempt was made to fire at Territorials on guard at the L.B. & S.C. Railway loop line at Holmthorpe just outside Redhill .  Sentries fired a round or two and called out the guard.  Two men were seen running away from the embarkment and a search was made but no-one was found.

At about the same time come reports of a troop train being fired upon at Edenbridge.  A rifle bullet was found in the woodwork of a carriage.  The police description of the suspect was circulated as someone ‘tall and dark with a sallow complexion and dark moustache’.  It is not clear what these reports meant but there has been some suggestion that these stories were a deliberate invention with the intention of keeping troops and Territorials on their toes.

Enlisting
Long lists of men who had enlisted were printed.  On 5 September 1914 the East Grinstead Observer reported an appeal from the vicar of East Grinstead for men to join up.  He expressed his hope that the rugby club would join up and cancel games as ‘this was no time for young able-bodied men to be playing or watching games’.  The scoutmaster for the 1st Lingfield and Dormansland troop. Captain Henry Lloyd Martin enlisted; he was later to be killed at the Battle of the Somme.  The scouts from Lingfield and Dormansland competed against the Oxted and Limpsfield scouts in a shooting match.  Several of the scouts taking part went on to enlist: assistant scountmaster Henry Cox became a gunner in the Royal Artillery; Arthur Potter and Albert Friend joined the Royal West Kent Regiment and George Skinner joined the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment.

Patriotism
Patriotic verses written by readers were published each week in the Surrey Mirror; these started off by being very jingoistic:
Still shall she rule the waves
Crushing usurping power…
but within weeks become much more sombre:
O God of our fathers hear our prayer
In this dark hour of strife…

National Loans meetings were held in Lingfield and Blindley Heath.  In Lingfield the meeting was chaired by Mr Gow of Batnor Hall; the Lingfield Band played patriotic airs and three cheers were given for ‘our soldiers in the trenches’.  At the Blindley Heath meeting the cry was ‘every man of military age and medically fit who has not joined the Colours must ask himself the question – why do I not enlist?’

Life goes on as Usual
On Saturday 1 August the annual church parade at Lingfield took place.  Taking part were the Fire Brigade, Friendly Societies with banners and sashes; the Lingfield and Dormansland Boy Scouts; the Copthorne Prize Band, the Dormansland Institute Band and Lingfield Band.  In September the Lingfield Harvest Festival went ahead as usual.  At Christmas Aladdin was playing at the Croydon Hippodrome.  Aladdin, played by Miss Lillie Lassae, encouraged the audience to help her with “Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers” and “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”.

In October, Lingfield Park Racecourse announced that the first autumn meeting would be held as usual.  It was felt that if it was stopped it would mean hardship for those employed.  Also if ‘the interest of owners is allowed to wane there would be serious blow to horse-breeding and the supply of animals to the army would be severely affected.  There should be no false sentiment about the propriety of holding the races’.  It was announced that all serving officers of army and navy were welcome to the course and enclosure free of charge.  Wives and daughters of members away serving in the forces would be allowed to use the member’s badge.

Food
There were official warnings against the hoarding of food but it seems that these appeals were generally ignored by the general public.  At the outbreak of war panic buying broke out and shops such as Sainsbury’s issued notices to the effect that its regular customers would be kept supplied.  The requisitioning of delivery horses by the army also affected distribution to Sainsbury’s branches and customers were asked to carry smaller parcels home themselves.

Demon Drink
By September it was recommended that due to the large numbers of troops billeted in East Grinstead the sale of intoxicating liquor was to be restricted.  The sale of alcohol was therefore suspended between 9pm and 9am.  The Government had grave concerns about the amount the public were drinking and was especially worried about the amount of beer munitions workers were drinking.  There followed new national regulations allowing the watering of beer.  This becomes known as ‘Government Ale’.  A line from a popular music hall song of the time went:
…But the worst thing that ever happened in this war
Is Lloyd George’s Beer.

The British Red Cross issued a warning to chauffeurs in charge of convalescent soldiers out for an airing in private motors who had been seen stopping off at public houses and treating the men to a drink.  It was requested that anyone seeing cases of this kind should report it to any Red Cross Convalescent Home in the neighbourhood.

Fuel
During the autumn and winter of 1914 supplies of fuel and light were curtailed, street lamps dimmed and no lines of light were permitted.

Events in Belgium
After the German invasion of Belgium many of the population were displaced.  By December the Surrey Mirror had started a weekly column in French for the benefit of the local influx of Belgian refugees.  Accommodation was offered in many places; locally The Colony (now Young Epilepsy) in St Piers Lane offered places for 36 refugees.

 

For information on the Lingfield and Dormansland covering the rest of the war years click the following links:

1915

1916

1917

1918

 

Cranleigh in November 1918

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

At last – the end of the fighting!

How did the people of Cranleigh learn the momentous news of November 11th, without television or even radio? The answer is, in a very low-key manner. The announcement was phoned through to the Post Office and a notice was displayed there. Gradually the news was passed through the village by word of mouth, and flags began to appear in the streets. By midday, the church bell-ringers had been assembled, and the bells began to ring out. The Rector wrote, ‘Though there was no immediate cessation of work here, people walked up and down the village all the afternoon greeting their friends with happy faces.’  In the evening, people gathered at the local churches for impromptu thanksgiving services.

The pupils at Miss Annie Street’s school at ‘Burleigh’ in Knowle Lane, however, did stop work. One pupil described how Miss Street came in and said, ‘You can have the rest of the day off because the war is finished!’ The County Infants and Elementary School also had a half-holiday. Cranleigh School was already closed for two weeks, because of the Spanish flu epidemic. As one small boy remarked, ‘There might have been a half-holiday, had it not been for the flu.’  In reality, of course, he had a fortnight’s holiday at home.

In the evening, people gathered at the local churches for impromptu thanksgiving services.  The Rector described the service at the parish church in these words: ‘Rarely has the church been so full. Pews that ordinarily held four were holding five, and worshippers were sitting on the sanctuary steps, and within the sanctuary itself. Mrs Sumner had found time to deck the altar with white flowers and had most appropriately draped the great Union Jack above and behind the reredos. There was no doubt about the reality of the worship which was offered, and the singing and responsive reading and praying came from hearts tense with emotion. The whole service did not occupy much more than half-an-hour, but it was a half-hour which will never be erased from our memories.’

Meanwhile Joe Cheesman and his prisoner-of-war comrades were having an exciting time in Belgium. Over several days, the Germans forced them to walk long distances ever further east, towards Germany. Then 120 of them were picked out to go as a working party to a town called Turnhout.

‘Well, that took us about 48 hours on the train with only one day’s food, and when we got there we couldn’t get off the train as the German troops had been rioting and taken the law into their own hands, and killed several of their own officers. When we arrived there about 7.30 on Sunday night last [November 10th 1918], the German sergeant in charge of us couldn’t get rations for us, and more than that the rioters would not let him take us back, so they put us in a siding close to the street. The guards had got hold of a barrel of beer and were well away, so we were soon in close conversation with the civilians over the station railings, with the result that a good many were invited and went over the railings into the houses, and had a good feed, the best we have had for months.

We were absent about three hours, and when we came back over the railings, we were told that the rioters were getting up steam in an engine and were going to run us up close to the frontier and let us free. The engine came about 2am in the morning, and we went and got out close to the wire. The German sergeant came with us, and, having warned the sentries just close not to fire on us, they let us go.’

They struggled in the dark through woods and marshes and eventually reached the Dutch border town, where they were given a big welcome, including a ‘fine feed’ and a bath. Imagine the delight of his parents in Victoria Road to receive this postcard:

‘I am writing this from Rotterdam. We are in a big building on the wharf, and are being fitted up with new clothes and expect to sail very soon. I can’t say exactly when. Expect to be on the way by the time you get this. Love, Joe’.

Private Edward Cyril Friston

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

Name:                                        Edward Cyril Friston

Occupation:                              Clerk, Motor License Department, Surrey County Council

Birth Place:                               Surbiton, Surrey

Residence:                                Surbiton, Surrey

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

Age:                                           19 years

Location:                                    Langemark, Ypres

Rank:                                          Private

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

Regimental Number:              43780

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We all sympathise with you in your sad bereavement.’

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

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

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

Edward’s brother, Thomas, survived the war.

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

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

He is entitled to British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Sources

CC7/4/4 File 32

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

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

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

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

England Census

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

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

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).

George Hughes – a Nutfield Lad

George Hughes was born in Hascombe, Surrey, in October 1887, the second child of James and Eliza Hughes, nee Hammond, the brother of my Nan, Ada.  Other children of the family were William, born 1889, and Thomas, born 1891, both in Hascombe, and James, born 1894, and Leonard, born 1897, both in Dunsfold. The family are recorded in the census of 1901 as living in East Horsley and George is described as a ‘Farm Boy’.  James Snr was a woodman and the family lived at The Hermitage, a workman’s cottage on the Horsley Towers Estate. By the 1911 census the family had moved to Nutfield and the last child, Mabel Ellen, was born there in 1907.  They lived at Werks Cottages but George is recorded as a ‘Wagonner’ on a farm living in the household of George Illman at 2 Spicer’s Villas, Charlwood, Surrey (an Illman family were later to be connected to this family).

George was a member of the Nutfield Church Lads’ Brigade and was one of many who enlisted in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps in 1914. George’s service papers show that he enlisted on 17 September 1914 at the age of 26, giving his occupation as a ‘Carman’. No address is recorded. He was 5’3″ tall, weighed 130lbs (about 9 stone) with a chest of 37″, fully expanded to 39″. During his service he is recorded as being ‘Unshaven on Parade’, for which he received 2 days confined to barracks, ‘Slack on Parade’, and as AWOL (absent without leave) from 11 p.m. on 20 December 1914 to 6.15 a.m. on 21 December 1914.

George served in the 16th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He died on 15 July 1916 in the High Wood Campaign, the Somme. He is commemorated in the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, France. The memorial/grave reference is IV.E.8.  George is also on both memorials at Nutfield; in the church the men are recorded in the order that they fell, and in the village in alphabetical order.

In 1919 James Snr completed a form stating all the living blood relatives of his son George. Here we see recorded:

James and Eliza, his parents; William aged 29 living at 34 Charman, Redhill; Thomas (27) living at Churchill Cottages, Nutfield; Leonard aged 22 at 5 Lepold Street, Oxford.  His sisters Mrs Coppard (Ada) and Mabel living at Sunflower Cottages, Chessington [Mabel aged 12 came to live with Ada’s family to help with the children as by this time Ada’s husband, Herbert Ambrose Coppard, had not returned home having been a POW].  Nephews and niece (Bert aged 6, Hilda [my mother] aged 4 and Victor aged 2). Uncle and Aunt by blood: John Hammond at 42 High Street, Cheam, and Ellen Hammond c/o Mrs Rucks, South Nutfield [the rest of this large family are not listed].

This little man, one of my Nan’s brothers who was lost in the Great War, is my new Hero.

Christine Clode, great-niece.

Click here for further information on the Nutfield Church Lads’ Brigade and a further photograph of George Hughes.

Christmas card to Hester Godfrey

Image of a Christmas card to Hester Godfrey: ‘The Season’s Greetings and Best Wishes for Christmas and the Coming Year’.

Woking’s Housing Problem in 1918

Taken from an article in the Woking News & Mail, 22 March 1918

The following article shows the shift in attitude towards refugees in the county, both Belgians who had fled their homes at the start of the war and those who had left areas of London prone to zeppelin air raids for the safety of Surrey.  As the war entered its last year, residents faced severe shortages of food, materials and various resources; this contemporary news article looks at the impact these shortages had on attitudes of Woking’s residents.

“The Housing Problem

Aliens to be Turned Out?

The police have been busily engaged during the week finding billets for soldiers and members of the W.A.A.C.  Great difficulty has been experienced in finding sufficient accommodation and as there are some 400 odd more soldiers coming into the town we hear that the authorities are considering a scheme to turn out all those aliens who have come from air raid areas and paying exorbitant prices for accommodation, in order to find the necessary housing accommodation for those engaged on National Service.

During the past week or two the town has been besieged with panic stricken Jews, who are paying from 5 guineas to 20 guineas a week for furnished apartments and also buying houses to turn the tenants out. This is a grave scandal and we rejoice to learn some property owners who are unworthy of being called Englishmen have had their fingers badly burned in their eagerness to sell their houses and turn tenants out to have been living there for years.

Other tenants, however, of the more timid and peace loving disposition, have given up possession and are now living in rooms under conditions which are against the principles of true hygiene, and lest the authorities take active steps this overcrowding is bound to lead to an epidemic of disease.

Profiteering in houses is not the prerogative of the small owner; the worst offenders other wealthy people acting through solicitors, and we know of several cases in which the application of the term “bloodsucking profiteer” is a very mild one.

When the town was invaded with refugees last August we were told there was no need for anxiety, and that if needs be the various churches, chapels and mission halls would be available for them. Those arrangements were for the refugees – we ask the authorities what arrangements have been made for the local residents who are being rendered homeless by reason of the influx these refugees?

We say it is imperative that a special meeting of the Council should be called to consider the whole question before it is too late. If the officials want data let them approach the house agents, and some of the residents in the Maybury, Walton, Eve Arnold and Chertsey Roads. They will learn not only of houses having been sold but of rents raised 20 per cent.”

Rev John FAIRBOURNE (1852-1915)

Surrey in the Great War                                                                                                                                    Jenny Mukerji

Rev John FAIRBOURNE (1852-1915)

Wesleyan Minister Rev FAIRBOURNE was born in Bolton, Lancashire in 1852 the son of Edmund and Jane FAIRBOURNE. His father was a corn factor. His early years were spent in Manchester and by 1871 he was living in Stretford, Lancashire where he was a salesman of cotton goods.

He married Elizabeth Jessie WATERER (1851-1935) in the Guildford area in 1880. By 1881 Elizabeth and John were living in New Road, Burnley with Elizabeth’s mother, Harriet. Harriet WATERER, nee CHANDLER (1825-1888) was an annuitant and a widow of Thomas WATERER, a farmer and nurseryman of Knaphill, Woking. John was now a Wesleyan Minister. Elizabeth and John had two daughters, Ethel Waterer FAIRBOURNE (1882-1952) and Adela Irene FAIRBOURNE (1886-1953) and in 1891 they were living in Newark Road, Lincoln. The nature of John’s vocation meant that the family moved around the country and Harriet WATERER died in Wellington, Shropshire. In 1901 the family were living in Walsall, Staffordshire.

However, by 1911 the family had finally settled and made their home at Epworth, Heathside Park Road, Woking. It was here that John died on 18 March 1915 and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery on 22 March 1915. Elizabeth Jessie FAIRBOURNE also died at Epworth, on 9 April 1935 and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery on 15 April 1935. Neither of the daughters married and they were both living at Epworth when they died. Ethel died on 29 August 1952 and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery on 2 September 1952. Adela died on 29 March 1953 and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery on 2 April 1953.

The Surrey History Centre holds a glass plate negative and image of a photograph taken before 1920 of his grave in Brookwood Cemetery SHC 9524/2/43

Godalming Congregational Church in World War I

Written by Marion Edwards.

The experience of Godalming Congregational Church during the war is well illustrated by records held at Surrey History Centre under the reference 1925. They include annual reports (from 1918 re-named year books) and bound yearly volumes of church magazines.

The church’s annual reports are comprised largely of short reports and detailed accounts. However, each opens with ‘The Pastor’s Letter’ and that for 1914 begins with the statement that ‘This Manual is published while we are as a Nation at War … We are holding the fort and the flag is still flying’. From 1915, a ‘Roll of Honour’ is included of all those members of the congregation serving in the forces, with an ‘In Memoriam’ section naming those who have died.  Rather surprisingly, the regular ‘Items of Interest in … ’ detailing events for each year does not mention the war, but 1916 notes that ‘Many Canadians entertained on alternate Sunday evenings after Service’ in October, November and December; 1917 notes ‘Throughout the year a large number of Canadians from Witley Camp have attended our Sunday Evening Services’; and 1918 (now named the ‘Year Book for 1919’) records that in November there was a ‘United Free Church Service on conclusion [of the War]’.

Godalming Congregational Magazine, 1918 (SHC 1925/2/22)

The ‘Godalming & District Congregational Magazine’ is regularly at least 20+ pages long but most of the content comprises uplifting and informative illustrated stories and articles which are not specific to Godalming or indeed Surrey. This is typical of church magazines of the period, both Non-Conformist and Anglican.  Religious publishing houses provided the main content for local magazines, with local information about church services and meetings confined to an insert or short supplement.  Many people who didn’t take a newspaper will have obtained information about the war, in a rather sanitized form, from such magazines which emphasised the activities of Christian organisations and the continuing relevance of faith and traditional Christian teaching amidst the horror.

The September 1914 issue opens with the regular ‘The Pastor’s Column’, which this month states ‘No one dreamed when our last issue was published that within a few days England would be at War with Germany’. However, this is the only mention of the war and it is not until the October issue that the subject begins to feature in any length, with a page naming those men from Godalming and district serving their country and including extracts from a letter sent by a sailor on board HMS Princess Royal in the North Sea, and a short paragraph entitled ‘Mr KcKay on the War’. This final page becomes a feature in every issue of the magazine for the rest of the year, varying a little each time.  November’s ‘Pastor’s Column’ includes the news that soldiers are now billeted in Godalming and Rodborough, and that Belgian refugees are housed at Bramfield.  The same issue includes an illustrated article ‘Floating Hospitals for Children’ in New York harbour.  December’s ‘Pastor’s Column’ also notes soldiers billeted in Elstead, and the magazine includes the homily’ Powers That Promote Peace’. 

Godalming Congregational Magazine, 1918 (SHC 1925/2/22)

No magazines are held at Surrey History for 1915, although whether these were never published or are just missing is not clear. For 1916, a copy of the annual report appears at the front with the January issue and includes ‘The Pastor’s Letter’; from then on all the contents of the magazines for the year run together, with all the individual monthly introductory pages bound together at the back.  The inspiring general articles include a photograph of a sailor with two children entitled ‘Tales of the Great North Sea’ (p69); and the articles ‘The Effect of War upon Public Worship’ by the Right Hon Sir Joseph Compton-Rickett (p93), ‘Why Does not God Intervene?’ by the Rev George McLuckie (p211) and ‘The War Hymns of Charles Wesley’ by Will T Brooke (p261).  It is left to ‘The Pastor’s Column’ and the pages dedicated to local servicemen in each month’s introductory pages to directly address the war and its effect upon Godalming.

The 1917 volume reverts to the binding each month’s introductory pages together with the main contents, with a copy of the year’s annual report bound at the back. Like 1916, ‘The Pastor’s Column’ (disappearing on his departure in August), the ‘Editorial Notes’ and items dedicated to local servicemen in each month’s introductory pages address the war and its effect upon Godalming, stating in February that locally billeted soldiers are coming to Evening Service and including that month thank-you notes from recipients of parcels sent to those serving abroad.  The more general content again attempts to offer a wider perspective on the war including such pieces as: ‘A Winter of War Work’ by ‘JHN’ (May; noting ‘the idea that some of our Tommies [have] that the German guns say “Krupp, Krupp, Krupp”’); ‘The Greatest Enemy’ (June; comparing young men who fight with those who drink); ‘Labour Problems after the War’ (August); ‘Cameos From Camps’ by the Rev W Kingscote Greenland (October); and ‘New Year’s Day on a Troopship’ by the Rev Major W Field. While not directly related to the war, December’s ‘Saving the Babies’ is also of interest, relating to the education of new mothers and their babies, and the care of babies whose own mothers cannot care for them. 

Godalming Congregational Magazine, 1918 (SHC 1925/2/22)

In 1918, ‘The Pastor’s Letter’ (returning in September), ‘Editorial Notes’ and items dedicated to local servicemen in each month’s introductory pages directly address the war and its effect upon Godalming, noting in the December issue that ‘The war, we trust, is at an end’. However, like 1917, there is more of interest in the main pages again this year: ‘Behind the Firing Line’ by Gipsy Smith (January); ‘When the Boys Come Home’ by the Rev George Cooper (January); ‘The Home of Happiness’ by Sir Arthur Pearson (February; relating the story of St Dunstan’s home for blind servicemen); ‘Services in the Desert’ by the Rev Major W Field (March); ‘Miracles of Reconstruction’ (April; relating to a ‘shattered French village’); ‘Religion at the Front’ by the Rev Major Field (April); ‘My Boys of the Navy’ by Agnes Weston (June); ‘Camouflage’ by the Rev Fred Hastings (September); the short story ‘On Leave’ by Jeanie Fry (September); and ‘Children in Camp’ (December; about posting Christmas letters home to ‘Mother’). 

Mention of the past war continues until March this year, with in January pieces entitled ‘Looking Forward’ by the Rev Arthur T Guttery and ‘Tennyson’s Prophecies Fulfilled’ by the Rev George Eayrs (which includes the delightful paragraph ‘An Early Vision of Aeroplanes’ in Tennyson’s ‘Locksley Hall’ of 1942), and in March extracts from thank-you letters written by recipients of Christmas gifts to servicemen.

St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Redhill, during the war

Written by Marion Edwards

The contribution made by St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Redhill, to the war effort is well documented in the church’s records, held at Surrey History Centre as SHC ref 6353.

Of particular interest is a report on the work of the War Help Committee, established by St Paul’s church in September 1914, to consider the provision of aid to refugees from Belgium, ‘driven from their devastated homes … to seek refuge in England, the home of liberty and the asylum of the persecuted’. One of the committee’s first actions was to lend rent free a house in Devon Crescent, Redhill, which was at that time unoccupied; at the same time a needlework sub-committee was appointed to provide clothing and furnishings, and the house, named ‘The Haven’, was ready for occupation late in September.  A matron ‘well acquainted with conversational French’ was appointed – this was Mrs Heesom, upon whom ‘Nature had bestowed … the blessed gift of tact’, apparently needed ‘where there is more than one family living in a house [with] a common kitchen’!  A second house in Hatchlands Road, named ‘The Villa Hope’, was opened the same year, this time with the monetary assistance of the Borough Relief Fund.  As the Belgian men were found employment, they and their families began to leave and by June 1916 both houses were closed, those refugees remaining being boarded out with local families.  Between October 1914 and June 1916, the booklet records that 44 Belgians were housed and fed.  Thanks are given to local persons who lent or gave furniture, or painted and wall-papered free of charge, and the aid of the East Surrey Water Company in supplying water free of charge, and the Borough Council for remitting the payment of rates, is also acknowledged.

In addition to aiding refugee Belgians in England, in 1915 the Redhill War Help Committee also began to contribute funds for the supply of bread to British prisoners of war in Germany, and the booklet records that 45 men were provided with bread and other food for several months. Later, the Committee transferred their ‘practical sympathy’ to the new County Association for aiding men of the East Surrey Regiment who were prisoners of war in Germany, Redhill actively supporting 24 prisoners for a time, until obliged to reduce that number to 20.  The despatch of parcels to regimental POWs continued until the Armistice.

St Paul’s Presbyterian Church magazine (SHC 6353/3/9/3)

The booklet also outlines the efforts of the ladies of the needlework sub-committee, who, in addition to providing clothing and furnishings for the Belgian refugees, supplied bandages, clothing and other articles to wounded soldiers then returning home ‘weekly in ever increasing numbers’. Their work continued ‘with unabated zeal month after month, for the ladies possessed British grit and a Divine devotion to duty’, even after the Armistice, as wounded soldiers still arrived and ‘hospitals were full’.  Statistics for the indefatigable ladies are given as 11,974 articles and 1,365 sandbags made during the period of the war, and 35 members of the Redhill needlework sub-committee were awarded the Women’s Emergency Corps medal for their work – one had made ‘129 dozen’ bandages and another 188 shirts.  Extracts of letters of thanks from the Matrons of the Aldershot Military Isolation Hospital and the 2nd London General Hospital are included, as is a lengthy list of hospitals, societies and regiments all assisted by the tireless ladies of Redhill and Reigate.

The booklet closes with details of the amounts of money received in various ways and mentions that ‘cards of acknowledgement from the prisoners are tied up in bundles’ and asks ‘would any friend wish to have some to keep as memorials of the great [sic] War?’. It would be lovely to know if any of these still survive anywhere – do any readers know of them?

The church’s year books also include some valuable information, although largely statistical in format, comprising reports of the ‘Office Bearers’ and the various ‘Branches of Work’ (church organisations), and accounts, many of which from 1915 onwards include details of work done for the war effort. In 1915 a lengthy report entitled ‘Help in the War’ outlines the beginnings of the War Help Committee and the work done by it thus far.  This format continues for the 1916 and 1917 year books; those for 1918 and 1919 include a much smaller paragraph on the War Help Committee.  The year books for 1917, 1918 and 1919 also include on the first page a section entitled ‘Pro Patria Mori’, which names of those members of the congregation killed on active service.

Shooting at a Zeppelin, form the St Paul’s church scrapbook (SHC ref 6353/3/9/23)

The monthly ‘St Paul’s Magazine’ is rather practical in approach, with few flourishes and generally quite brief, rarely comprising more than 8 or 10 pages. Unfortunately, only magazines for 1914 and 1915 were issued, as it was deemed too expensive to continue production during wartime.  Most issues include a Roll of Honour of those serving.  The August 1914 issue includes a short report entitled ‘In Camp’, apparently describing life during a Boy’s Brigade outing; however, although there are some military references, as yet the war appears not to have intruded upon life in Redhill and Reigate. The September issue is either missing or was not produced, but the October magazine features a column on ‘How to Help in the War’. In November, a report on ‘The Haven’, one of the houses provided for Belgian refugees, is included. December’s issue features pieces ‘The War and New Zealand’ and ‘At the Front’.  The January 1915 issue includes a paragraph relating to ‘The War Needlework and Clothing Committee’, while February features a homily on ‘The Burden of Prayer and the Burden of the War’ and a report on ‘The Belgian Refugee Homes’.  March’s homily is ‘The Shadow of Lent and the Shadow of the War’, while April includes a paragraph ‘Easter and the War’; May’s issue only has a Roll of Honour. June and July both feature letters ‘From Our Friends at the Front’.  August does not include any items particular to the war, but September’s ‘Message for the Month’ from the Pastor is entitled ‘The Anniversary of Our Entrance into the War’.  October features another homily entitled ‘The Cost of the War and the Cost of Christian Discipleship’, and reports entitled ‘From WAB: At the Dardanelles’ and ‘From CR: Barrack Life in India’. November includes a lengthy report on the work of the Needlework Committee, while December closes with the aptly named ‘The Last Post’, which explains the reasons for discontinuing the magazine during wartime.

The Queen’s at Canterbury from the St Paul’s church scrapbook (SHC ref 6353/3/9/23)

A dilapidated and somewhat chaotic scrapbook of newspaper cuttings has also survived, mostly from Surrey newspapers and unfortunately largely undated, relating to all aspects of St Paul’s and other Surrey churches’ work and members, from about 1915 to the 1950s. Not surprisingly, there are obituaries, with photographs, of those serving officers and men killed. Other items of particular interest include a 1914 feature about A Company 5th Battalion the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment stationed at Canterbury; the bizarre and rather shocking 1916 piece ‘German Pastors’ Frightfulness. The Pulpit an Agent of Militarism. “It is our Duty to Crucify Humanity”’ regarding the attitude of German Clergy who see ‘U Boats as Divine Instruments’; an undated column entitled ‘Prohibition for the War. The Case For and Against Debated at Reigate’; an undated pencil drawing (possibly by a child) showing a rifleman shooting at a zeppelin; and an undated story of a soldier ‘Alive in a Shell Hole for Seven Weeks. Astounding Ordeal of a Man with a Broken Thigh. His Own Story’.