A Weybridge Conscientious Objector

Taken from Surrey and Hants News, 13 July 1916

‘Herbert Bankes (34), provision manager of Weybridge applied for the variation of his certificate on conscientious grounds.  The Local Tribunal had granted him exemption from combatant service only, but he now asked to be exempted from military service altogether an expressed willingness to do work of national importance. – Applicant said that for conscience sake he could not take up non-combatant service. He added that he was a member of the Plymouth Brethren and produced letters to show that he had held his belief or a number of years. – Case adjourned for a fortnight, appellant meanwhile to be given an opportunity to take up work of national importance’.

Witley – 1914

The pace of life was still quiet in the opening years of the 20th century, regulated by an ages-old pattern of church events and the seasonal farming calendar. The Witley parish magazines before September 1914 (SHC ref WIT/16/33) record regular events such as the Easter service which was ‘bright and hearty’, meetings of the Witley troop of Boy Scouts, who in April attended a talk on aeroplanes and airships and summer outings for the ‘Mothers’ who enjoyed a trip to Southsea and the Bellringers and Choir who went to Brighton, and the Sunday School children who went off to Hayling Island for the day. Also that summer there were cricket matches to play, Empire Day teas to enjoy, and a special visit by the Bishop of Winchester to celebrate.

There is little mention of the outside world, especially not anything ominous, until the September 1914 magazine. Immediately the news of the war dominates and the Vicar writes

‘we have been suddenly plunged into war…the safety and honour of our country has made clear what is our duty. On the Church Door I have placed a list of some 40 names of those who are serving their Country on sea or land or in the air. There is a space for recruits which, I am glad to say, is now rapidly filling up. Witley will soon have cause to be proud of its roll of honour. Yesterday I helped to drive some 50 recruits from Witley, Chiddingfold and Godalming into Stoughton Barrarcks. It was a noble procession of motor cars we made. Most of the drivers would have preferred to have been left at Stoughton’.

The magazine, always a source of local news, now becomes an important vehicle for information to the parishioners about the war, and it is interesting to see how the tone of the notices and ‘letters’ from the vicar changes as the war progresses. So at the start in September under various headings including Work for the Wounded we read about how the women of the parish have rallied and established an executive committee to coordinate donations and offers of help; how over 600 yards of material was already cut out according to Red Cross patterns and over 220 garments for the Red Cross have been sent out by September. ‘Well done the women of Witley!’

There is information about a national scheme for the relief of special distress and the prevention of unemployment arising from the war, and how it was quickly adopted and a committee for Witley and Milford established.

In October an insert is added to the magazine from the Bishop of Winchester sending out the request to all parishes that at noon a bell might be rung for a few strokes to sound out ‘across the woods and pastures of our beautiful and quiet land, these country “curfews”, not to extinguish but to light the flame of heavenward aspirations’ which ‘being mentioned in letters to our gallant defenders will vividly suggest our loving remembrance of them offered to God’.

Written by Carole Garrard, Surrey History Centre based on information from the Witley Parish magazine.

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Witley – 1915

In the magazine of January 1915 (SHC ref WIT/16/36) there is a Roll of Honour listing 98 men with the regiments they have joined, two already noted as wounded, one as a prisoner. In addition the first two deaths are recorded. The writer notes that the list includes 4 or 5 names of those who had moved elsewhere but who still had parents living in the village, a useful reminder to present researchers that some men recorded on war memorials may seem at first not have been connected with that particular town or village.

Click here to see a transcript listing all the names and to download a pdf (PDF) copy of the page.

Roll of Honour from the January 1915 Witley Magazine. SHC ref WIT/16/36.

Roll of Honour from the January 1915 Witley Magazine. SHC ref WIT/16/36.

In February 1915, we find mention of three companies of the Army Service Corps being billeted in the village and the vicar now describing Witley as a ‘garrison town’ and asking for magazines to be donated to the Institute which had been offered for use by the servicemen on Sunday afternoons for relaxation and afternoon tea.

In October 1915 there is a request for donations towards the £5 cost of material to make black-out curtains for the church windows under the new lighting order to prevent Zeppelin attacks.

In December, Christmas parcels of socks, letter wallets and cigarettes are being organised for the Witley men at the front and at sea, over 100 in total. The entries in this first full year of the war are practical, involved and energetic, and the vicar’s ‘letters’ are positive and patriotic, God is definitely on their side, and the fight still noble.

Written by Carole Garrard, Surrey History Centre based on information from the Witley Parish magazine.

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Witley – 1916

Witley Parish Magazine cover, May 1916. SHC ref WIT/16/36.

Witley Parish Magazine cover,
May 1916. SHC ref WIT/16/36.

The second full year of the war in 1916 brings a subtle change in tone to the magazine, the resolve is still there but it is subdued and there is less reporting of war activities.

By Lent in 1916 the vicar writes ‘There is scarcely a home now in the Parish which has not some one near and dear, in the Army or Navy. We are all filled with anxiety for the safety and welfare of those whom we love. Many are feeling very much this time of stress’.

In May 1916 ‘It was decided [at the Easter Vestry meeting] to stop the striking and chiming of the church clock, for the period of the War’ and there is self-examination and doubt ‘Very much has come to light which shows the need for amendment and renewal of life. It is sad to find how little the manhood of the nation as represented by men in training camps and the like is really touched by the church’.

As the year continued mention is made of the raising of funds for the new Star and Garter Home for totally disabled soldiers and sailors, of the provision of afternoon teas at the Institute for soldiers, of the opening of Great Roke as a Convalescent Hospital for Wounded Soldiers and a reminder that from October the church bells will no longer be rung after dark.

Written by Carole Garrard, Surrey History Centre based on information from the Witley Parish magazine.

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Witley – 1917

Whereas the tone of the reports in 1916 was introverted and maybe reflected the general shock felt by the duration of the war and the harsh realities of the news from the trenches, this subtly changes again in the New Year of 1917 when it becomes brisker and more practical. It is as if some resolution has been made to be more positive and supportive of the parishioners as times become harder, as they did. January 1917 begins with a new Roll of Honour, but this is now a list of those who have died or are missing in action, 20 in all, rather than one of those serving.

Click here to see a transcript listing all the names and to download a pdf (PDF) copy of the page.

WIT_16_36 Jan 1917 RoH SGW

Roll of Honour from the January 1917 Witley Magazine. SHC ref WIT/16/36.

In February there is a detailed account of two Parade services with the deposit of the colours of two battalions of Canadian Infantry, the 123rd and 124th, at the church. The next month details the declaration of a National Lent with severe restrictions on the consumption of bread, meat and sugar, with this powerful exhortation ‘Each one of us has been placed upon our honour. We know the sacrifices the Boys at the Front are making. What sacrifice have you made?…Are we in England alone to live on as if there were no war?…It would be appalling if the glorious sacrifice of life so freely made by our Lads was rendered vain and useless, and they were robbed of Victory by the greed and gluttony of the Stay-at-Homes’. In the same month the vicar reports with justifiable pride the award of two Military Medals to Witley boys, Lance Corporal Percy Windybank of the Machine Gun Corps and Corporal Bert Davis R.A.M.C. Salonika Forces.

Below are two images of All Saints church, interior, dated 1917, looking east with flags of the 185 Battalion Cape Breton Highlanders on the left and 85 Battalion Nova Scotia Highlanders on the right with Roll of Honour on left also, SHC refs 6316/6886 and 6316/6887.

On the home front at Easter the schoolchildren collected over 300 eggs to take to the wounded soldiers at the War Hospital in Warren Road, Guildford and more Canadian colours were deposited at the church for safe-keeping, but the Press Bureau forbade the publication of the name of the battalion.

In June there is a report of another medal, a Military Cross, for Lieut. C.A.S. Mathias of the East Surrey Regiment, who was killed in action in May and another death, that of Percy Windybank, just lately the recipient of the Military Medal. The next month some cheerful news is given prominence, with the return home of Private Albert Ford, wearing the ribbon of the Military Medal awarded for gallantry at the Somme whilst ‘carrying messages between trenches, bombing a dug-out and capturing a machine gun…He seems to have had a very busy day on July 1st!’

From now until November there is very little mention of the war effort, other than details of a service on the third anniversary in August. The entries are brief and of local interest and the sense of exhaustion creeps back and the absence of any war news is quite telling, was is it so unremittingly bad that the vicar preferred not to report it? In November there are some details of a parochial memorial day on All Saints Day to remember those who have fallen and ‘to give thanks for their noble lives and splendid sacrifice and heroism’. There is also a longer report of a memorial service given for 2nd Lieut. Gerald H Swann R.F.C. aged 18, killed in action in a ‘plucky’ fight with 10 Hun aeroplanes, attended by a large number of officers and men from the Camp; followed by a rather plaintive ‘I wish other parents and friends would ask me to arrange similar Services’. Were the villagers on the home front who so gladly provided teas at the Institute for the soldiers, donated money to war bonds, rationed their food and knitted socks and balaclavas for Christmas parcels now too exhausted by communal grief to engage with their church?

The next month the Vicar reports on the Christmas parcels for the Witley men at the front, 200 this year, double that of 1915. Many of these extra men would have been conscripted by the Military Acts of 1916 and the village life would have been harder and the fears for their survival sharpened by the reality of the previous three years. There is also mention of ‘half-empty’ shops and a ‘serious shortage of food’ and other supplies, as well as the greatly increased shipping difficulties caused, in part, by the bringing to Europe of many thousands of American troops, ‘whom we welcome so gladly as brothers in arms’. In December the Vicar reports that at the request of the Local Food Control Committee he is getting together a Committee, ‘the majority of whom it is hoped will be women who know by actual experience the difficulties of the present time’. One of the first things they will consider is whether they can help by organising hot dinners for school children at a small charge.

Written by Carole Garrard, Surrey History Centre based on information from the Witley Parish magazine.

Use the links below to visit related pages:

Witley – 1918

By February 1918 there is again a shift to more practical reporting of news and the privations seem accepted as just part of everyday life. There is the routine report of the Christmas parcels sent to the front, 250 in total, and of a whist drive that has been held to raise funds for the Surrey Prisoners of War Fund. In the expenditure of the church accounts is a mention of 14 shillings for four, unspecified, prisoners. There also appears the first mention of a memorial; the Canadians in the camp having proposed a memorial to be erected in the church which has become quite the ‘Soldiers’ Church’. Although not to be put in hand immediately it is suggested that the inscription will be:

“Erected by men of the Canadian Division in honour of their comrades from Witley who have fallen in the Great War and in memory of their own comrades who have worshipped in the Church on the way to the Front”.

In March the vicar records the award of the Mons Star to Private G. Street of the 4th Hussars who has been in France since the beginning of the war.
At Easter the vicar takes heart from a service ‘as positive as before the war… never have we had better and more helpful Easter Services than this year’. He is now the representative for the Local Food Committee and can issue Emergency Ration Cards for men on leave or visitors. Also, just a small sign that, despite the difficulties, some things could be relaxed, it was decided to let the Church Clock chime during daytime.

Also in April came a note from the Bishop quoting a speech by the Prime Minister ‘the only way to carry any great purpose is not on your shoulders but in your heart. Carry it on your backs and it will gradually wear you down. Carry it in your hearts and it will lift you along.’

In July the Premier of Canada, Sir Robert Borden, visited the camp and with his Staff came to see the church to view the Colours of the four Canadian battalions and the Canadian Gift [inscribed wood panelling].

In August there are services for the fourth anniversary of the start of the war ‘we enter on it with a good courage, and a fair hope that it will bring us and our Allies victory and peace’. In September they congratulate Sergt. J. Cunningham of the Hussars who has won the Military Medal in Mesopotamia and report that Witley has invested in over £12000 of War Bonds during War Weapons Week in August, ‘No less than four aeroplanes will bear the name of Witley inscribed upon them at the Front. Long Life and Good Luck to them and their pilots!’

In October, along with celebrations for the best harvest for 50 years came the first hint that maybe the tide of war was turning and that some hope could be expressed, but tempered by the mounting roll of honour and the report of a casualty close to the heart of the church, the death of a young Canadian soldier who had attended the church and sung in the choir.

The November magazine also brings the first mention of influenza in the village – the Mother’s Union meeting was greatly depleted and local girl Phyllis Ashdown, who was meant to have had the honour of meeting H.R.H Princess Mary was laid low overnight and the Reverend French of Brook too ill for services at Brook.

But at last after four long years came the news, reported in the December 1918 magazine, of the end of the war – The vicar Edward Newill wrote,

‘Monday November 11th was a great day. The Armistice was signed by 5 am. As I steamed into Waterloo at 11 am the news was out. Windows and roofs were full of cheering men and women. As I emerged from the tube at Trafalgar Square, I was in the midst of a joyous frolicking crowd who were trying to realise that the nightmare of war was lifted. My shopping expedition of course came to nought and after seeing the King and Queen at Buckingham Palace I came back to arrange a Thanksgiving Service. It was 5pm and a wet night when I returned. Messages were sent out and a team of willing bellringers were gathered. The Bells rang out at 7pm and by 7.30 the Church was nearly full for a most hearty and spontaneous thanksgiving, repeated again on Tuesday night.’

In the same magazine the Vicar calls for information so that he can update his Roll of Honour for publication in January and a committee is proposed to begin considering a War Memorial in the church for the Witley fallen.

Written by Carole Garrard, Surrey History Centre based on information from the Witley Parish magazine.

Use the links below to visit related pages:

Witley – 1919

The January 1919 Parish magazine lists the Witley Roll of Honour for those who died 1914-1918 , a total of 41 men.

Click here to see a transcript listing all the names and to download a pdf (PDF) copy of the page.

WIT_16_37 Jan 1919 RoH SGW

Roll of Honour from the January 1919 Witley Magazine. SHC ref WIT/16/37.

On the last day of the year the school children had celebrated the Victory Xmas with an entertainment and tea, and much to their delight Mrs Longmore provided a real Christmas Tree ‘with presents for everyone’ (230 children).

On January 21st a guard of honour and the band of the 8th Reserve come to the Church to claim, on behalf of the Battalion, the Colours of the 124th Battalion, General’s Body Guard. The men of the Battalion are now part of the Canadian Engineers and the Colours will go to Toronto to the Battalion HQ.

The February 1919 magazine contains a Roll of Honour and at the end of the list it says “The full list of all who served is unavoidably left over till next month”. Regretably the later editions of the magazine held in the archive do not include the full list of those who served.

In the April 1919 magazine another Witley honour is recorded, a Military Medal for continuous good service in France and many acts of bravery and leadership on the battlefield for Joe Bonner.

The June magazine reports that on May 5th the last Canadian Colours, those of the 185th Cape Breton Highlanders were removed from the church. The 25th Battalion from Nova Scotia came from the Camp to take them back with them. The Regimental Goat wore his silver shield with the record of his battle honours ‘Poor goat, he will not like demobilisation! What a dull time he will have after all the excitements of trench and camp life.’

In the same magazine there is also the report of the first meeting to consider a memorial inside the church. A bronze statuette of Victory had come down on approval from the Fine Arts exhibition and was generally approved of. Further designs were to be considered later.

Further signs that the villagers were eager to try to return to normal include reports of summer Strawberry teas and the return of cricket with a match against Dunsfold ‘the first match since Albury played here on Aug. 29 1914’ as well as requests from the vicar for contributions towards a summer outing to Hayling Island for the Sunday School children, again for the first time since 1914.

In July the Memorial Committee submit three schemes to the parishioners,

  • A Memorial in the church – 2 designs to be submitted, estimated cost £300
  • A large Cross, 14ft high of Portland stone, in the churchyard – one design submitted, estimated cost £150
  • The provision of a Public Recreation Ground and Playing Field – estimated cost £1200 (or a Village Hall with stage and class-rooms but this would be more costly).

In August the decision about the memorials is announced; a church memorial designed by Miss Mary J Newill was adopted, inspired by a doorway of the tenth century in the Cathedral in Cattaro in Dalmatia. A decision was made not to proceed with the stone Cross in order to concentrate on raising money for the recreation ground. On July 6th a Peace service had been held in the Park with over 1000 attending, followed by Peace celebrations on July 19th with sports for the children and demobbed Witley men winning a tug-of-war against the village civvies and Canadian soldiers.

In November 1919 there is a final report about the Sunday teas at the Institute thanking all the volunteers and especially the vicar’s wife Mrs Newill; they had started in May 1915 and continued until May 1919, supplying a total of 20,332 teas that were enormously appreciated by the soldiers. The final balance of the funds is used to pay the deficit on the cost of the Canadian panelling in the church and to fund brass tablets recording the fact that certain Canadian colours hung in the Church.

Written by Carole Garrard, Surrey History Centre based on information from the Witley Parish magazine.

Use the links below to visit related pages:

Witley – 1920

Finally in January 1920 the Parish magazine records the full list of the names and regiments that will appear on the War Memorial in the church, 42 in all, including the last casualty, Arthur Luff of the R.A.M.C. accidentally shot in Boulogne in December 1919, sadly on the same day his mother arrived to visit him.

Written by Carole Garrard, Surrey History Centre, based on information from the Witley Parish magazine.

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Frank Howard Cleobury, 15 St. Phillips Avenue, Worcester Park

Frank Harold Cleobury, a son of William Cleobury and Laura Amanda Thompson, was born 6 November 1892. In 1903 he won a scholarship to Aske’s Boys School, South London, and remained there until 1908. Entering the Civil Service he became established as a 2nd Division clerk in the Foreign Office.

By 1917 the family had come to live in Worcester Park. At a Military Service Tribunal on 15 February in that year he was granted exemption from combatant service provided that he joined the Friend’s Ambulance Unit. From 6 March 1917 until demobilised on 1 January 1919 he worked successively at Jordan’s Farm Camp (Old Jordans, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, the Quaker training centre for FAU), in the London FAU Office, & for Somerset Mental Asylum, Wells.

He married Winifred Sindall, daughter of Alfred John Sindall and Clara Ellen Lucas, registered in Greenwich District 6/1922, and subsequently resided in Deptford. There were two children from that marriage.

Undertaking part-time study, he obtained a BA in Philosophy, 1932, and PhD by 1941. Frank retired as a Principal in the Administrative Grade during 1950.

Subsequently he undertook theological training for candidates for ordained ministry at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, before being ordained priest in the Church of England, 1951. He became Rector of Hertingfordbury until retirement in 1964 but continued to engage in philosophical writings. His death occurred at Herne Bay, Kent, on 25 March 1981.

Articles written for the Thursley Parish Magazine, October 1914

Thanks to the Rev Peter Muir, Associate Vicar of St Michael and All Angels Parish Church, Thursley

The following articles were written by the then Incumbent, the Reverend Charles K Watson, for the September and October 1914 issues of the Thursley Parish Magazines.  In addition, there is also an article written by the Editor for the September 1914 issues of the magazine.

Click here to read the articles.