Bletchingley Women’s Institute (WI) in the Great War

Written by Linda Oliver, archivist of the Surrey Federation of WIs, using SHC ref 7610/2/1 (minute book).

Bletchingley WI was formed at a meeting in the village hall on 20 March 1917 and from the beginning, gardening was an important activity. At that first meeting Miss Bosanquet was asked to organise members to assist any Bletchingley women who needed help in the cultivation of their gardens. Over the next year she reported regularly on the work that was being done; sadly the minutes of the branch are very brief and no detail is given. The Annual Report for 1918 records that the WI’s allotment garden had been successful and that Miss Bosanquet and Mrs Ashley had also looked after the garden of Glenfield House.

In April 1917 a small sub-committee was formed to discuss the question of a Welfare Committee for the village, but no further mention of this idea occurs.

At the May meeting, Miss Hilliard gave a talk on War Savings and a Waste Paper collection was inaugurated, with sorting to be done at Church House, with local schoolboys being made responsible for house-to-house collections. The Annual Report for 1917-1918 records that £1-5s-1 ½d was raised by these collections for the District Nurses’ Fund.

In July 1917 Mrs Edwards Webb, a Surrey County Council Lecturer, gave a lecture and demonstration of fruit and vegetable bottling and jam making. She returned in May and July 1918 to give further demonstrations of fruit canning and pulping. The Annual Report for 1918 records the purchase of a fruit canner to assist in the preservation of the gooseberries and currants from the Glenfield House garden, but generally the fruit crop was poor that year and the canner was underused.

At the beginning of 1918 the District Council asked the WI Committee to consider the question of a communal kitchen. Mrs Wood was requested to discover if a suitable place could be found and the Committee was to make further enquiries from established National Kitchens. Subsequently they decided to canvass the village to discover how much support would be given to such a project. The canvassing was to be done by the War-Loan Collectors. Two parish councillors, Mr Tobilt[?] and Mr Ashdown, would attend the meeting to receive the reports and discuss the matter. It was found that public feeling was slightly in favour of the National Kitchen but no suitable place had been found. The Committee decided to write to the Parish Council expressing the willingness of the WI to manage the kitchen if a suitable place was found. Thereafter no mention is made in the minutes, but the minutes for 1919 are missing or may never have been taken as the WI had an uncertain few months.

(Glenfield House is/was at 29 High Street. Map in Bletchingley Village and Parish by Peter Gray (SHC Ref 7185/11/6) shows it between Melrose Cottage and The Cobbles, south side of the High Street facing the Old Market Place: ‘Glenfield House is the most imposing house on the High Street, dates from early 18th C, part of the Clayton estate’.)

The West family – a Cobham dynasty

Cobham Remembers

When studying the life of Cobham at the beginning of the 20th century it is impossible not to encounter the West family. For the first quarter of that century with their businesses and marriages they were part of the fabric of the village.

William Henry West was born in Storrington, West Sussex in 1857, and in 1879 he married Martha Brigden at St Andrew’s Parish Church, Cobham. William’s “rank or profession” entered on the marriage certificate was “Corn & coal merchant”, as was his father, by then deceased.

Martha was a daughter of James Brigden, master grocer of Church Cobham, who was himself born in Storrington in about 1817.

The West family lived in Storrington until some time in the 1890’s when they moved to Cobham and the 1901 census shows them living in Church Cobham, with six of their children, close to the Brigdens, where one of their daughters Mabel was living. William is by then listed as a grocer with three of his sons working in the business. Clearly he was a successful businessman although maybe not so good as a family man as by 1911 he was boarding in a Worthing hotel, listed as a “Gentleman, private means”. (He died in 1922 in slightly mysterious circumstances. His probate record shows that he died in Hove where he was last seen alive on 26 June but his body was only found on 19 July!)

But in 1911 his family were well established in the community.

His wife Martha was proprietor of West’s Stores in the High Street, roughly where Knight Frank now stands. Two of her sisters, Elizabeth and Marianne Brigden had a milliners/drapers in the High Street.

The eldest son, Allen, born 1881, was listed on the census as a Grocer. He was a prominent citizen being the Parish Clerk, Verger & Sacristan at St Andrew’s Church and a member of the Church Council 1913 -19. In January 1919 the Cobham Parish Magazine reported that “Mr Allen West was obliged last October to resign as Verger and Vestry Clerk owing to pressure of other work. The duties have been divided between Mr Evans, Mr Millikin and Mrs Matthews. Mr Millikin is appointed Verger for Sunday duty. The week-day duty and Vestry Clerk’s work is being done by Mr W J Evans, 6 Leigh Villas to whom Notices of Banns of Marriages and Funerals should be sent”. Evidently a hard man to replace. He died in 1940 and is buried in Cobham Cemetery.

Allens wife, Edith, was the sub-post mistress in the grocery store on The Tilt, the building now domestic but can still be recognised by the wall Victorian post box.

Ernest, born 1882 was a Master Grocer. He served in the East Surrey Regiment and played in their band. He lived for a time at 13 Freelands Road, which had been developed by his father in 1907/08. He was one of the millions who died in the influenza epidemic that followed the war and his name is recorded on the Cobham War Memorial and Roll of Honour.

Hugh, born 1885, was a photographer with a house and studio in Anyards Road where Majestic Wines now stands. Hugh was married to Kathleen, daughter of Henry Hale who ran the post office and bakery in Downside (That building also still stands – a private house at the corner of The Island.) Many of his photos of local scenes and Cobham people survive.

Mabel (b. 1886). In 1901 she was living with her two aunts, Marianne and Elizabeth Brigden in Church Street, where she was employed as assistant in a confectionery shop. By 1911 she had moved to Clapham High Street and her employment was recorded as “manageress – pastrycooks”.

Ethel (b. 1887), a shop assistant in the1911 census, in 1919 she married Frederick Cornell, watchmaker and jeweller in Church Street, later in the High Street. Frederick served in the war and was a prominent member of the Downside & Cobham Rifle Club.

Colin (1889) was a boot & shoe dealer. Kelly’s Directory for 1913 lists his shop on River Hill as a partnership, Dear & West, but he disappears from that listing by 1918. He survived the war during which he served in the Army Ordnance Corps and is recorded on the Roll of Honour.

Ada (1890) married in 1916 Alfred Ludlow, an estate agent’s clerk. He was a sergeant in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps during the war.

The Mount family of Hatchford

Cobham Remembers

The first name recorded in the St Andrew’s Church Book of Remembrance is that of “Francis Mount, Captain, Royal Berkshire Regiment. Fell in action at the battle of Hulluch, 13th October 1915”. As with many of the names on our memorial there is a story to be discovered behind this brief entry.

The 1913 Kelly’s Directory entry for Cobham & Hatchford lists Poynters as the residence of Mrs Mount, with Francis Mount esq. recorded as lord of the manor. Originally owned by Thomas Page, a local landowner and partner in the 18th century firm of printers of maps and bibles, Page & Mount, Poynters passed into the Mount Family of Wasing Place, Aldermaston following the marriage in 1781 of Jenny Page, Thomas’ daughter, to William Mount.

Francis born in London in 1872 was the seventh of ten children of William and Marianne Mount and the house was given to him, the second eldest surviving son, following his marriage in 1910 to Gladys Mary Dillwyn-Llewelyn the daughter of Sir John Talbot Dillwyn-Llewelyn of Penllergaer, Swansea, Glamorgan.

Gladys’ father’s London house was in Cornwall Gardens, South Kensington and Francis had a house in Ennismore Gardens, Knightsbridge. He was a Church Warden at St Matthew’s Church, Hatchford and despite his privileged background had worked for years among the lads in the slums of Bethnal Green. Francis and Gladys quickly made their mark on the village with Downside Common being drained “by the generosity of Mr F Mount who married at Eastertide and received over 400 presents” (Cobham Parish Magazine (CPM) May 1910).

Gladys soon became involved in the life of the village as would have been expected of a lady of her class. As reported in the CPM of August 1910 “Mrs Mount invited local members of the Mother’s Union to Poynters to be addressed by the secretary of the London Diocesan branch. After tea the more adventurous ladies went out on a punt on the river. The vicar who got out to pull the craft across the shallows, fell backwards into the water, thus adding considerably to the enjoyment of the ladies”. By 1914 Gladys was President of the Mother’s Union and she hosted many meetings of that group at Poynters throughout the war years..

Their world was soon to change and the Hatchford & Downside Notes in the CPM (December 1914) printed a list of names of “Those who have responded to the call of their King and Country since the beginning of the War” including “F Mount (Lieut)”. He was then aged 42 and had at first been turned down for active service on medical grounds. But he persisted and joined the Royal Berkshire Regiment, and by June 1915 “nearly all our Hatchford and Downside soldiers of the new army, including Captain F Mount have now gone to the front” (CPM).

In October 1915 Francis Mount was reported “missing”. Lieutenant-Colonel F W Foley, Captain Mount’s Commanding Officer, wrote to Mrs Mount “It is with the greatest regret I write to tell you that poor Frank is missing and I fear there is little hope of his being alive …

Major Bayley and your husband led the attack in the most gallant manner. Unfortunately before they reached the trench, the Germans had retaken it and brought a very severe machine gun fire to bear on them.”

Captain Mount’s body was never found and he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial in France as well as the memorial in St Andrew’s Church.

But life had to go on and both Mrs Mount and Elizabeth, Francis’ eldest sister who took up residence at Poynters, played an active role in the village. Mrs Mount’s support was mainly financial, her name appearing in almost all lists of donors to good causes. Elizabeth sat on many committees relating to Downside School, the District Nurse Fund, Hatchford & Downside Bed Fund, Cobham War Relief Fund and the Coal & Clothing Club. As a member of the Soldiers & Sailors Families Association she was supportive of the wives of those serving overseas and a number of her letters to help obtain medals for widows survive in the national archives. She was also active in helping provide parcels for the troops. In the CPM May 1915, Hatchford & Downside notes it was reported that “small acts of sympathy are appreciated while more solid gifts such as water boots and other clothing sent by Miss Mount as her own personal gifts have been acknowledged in letters of most touching gratitude”, and in August 1915 “From the offerings given on Easter Day we have sent out some 35 parcels, most of them costing 2/6d each, from the Church to our soldiers and sailors at the front. Miss Mount selected the gifts and together with Miss Chubb packed and despatched them. The children of the school and our energetic work party under Miss Mount’s supervision have made and despatched about 200 sandbags for which Capt. Mount appealed from the trenches and of which our soldiers are badly in need”.

Elizabeth died in 1953 and was buried at St Matthews Church, Hatchford. Gladys died in Reading in 1968.

Major (Quartermaster)Thomas Elson IVEY OBE(1866-1919) & his niece Ethel Ivey GEORGE (born 1897)

Surrey in the Great War Jenny Mukerji

Major (Quartermaster)Thomas Elson IVEY OBE(1866-1919)

Ethel Ivey GEORGE (born 1897)

Thomas Elson Ivey, an Army Major and Quartermaster buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery whose niece Ethel Ivey George was a VAD in Croydon, Surrey.

The major’s grave is in Brookwood Military Cemetery and has a CWGC memorial with the simple inscription:

Major & Quartermaster


Oxford & Bucks Light Inf.

23 October 1919.

The grave number is 184010 with the plot reference VI J 3.

Thomas was the eldest of the four children of Samuel IVEY (1838-1892) and his wife Caroline, nee ELSON who were married in Clifton, Bristol on 28 July 1861. Samuel was a grocer and a carpenter and was born in Stoke St Mary, Somerset. He moved to the St Paul’s area of Bristol and this is where his wife and all of his children were born.

Initially Thomas was a carpenter’s apprentice but he had probably enlisted in the Army by the time he married Amelia Louisa CONNELL in England in 1896. His regiment, 43rd Oxford Light Infantry were posted to Kinsale, Dublin and stayed in the Curragh until 1897. Thomas and Amelia’s daughter Muriel Elson IVEY was born in County Kildare in about 1898. The regiment also saw service in the South African (Boer) Wars and by 1902 they were in Chatham before being posted to Bombay, India and then to Poona. By 25 September 1903 Thomas had already been serving in the Oxfordshire Light Infantry as Quartermaster Sergeant and on that date he was gazetted with the honorary rank of Lieutenant. Next came a move to Umballa, India and their daughter Millie Laura was born in Lucknow on 2 March 1905.

In 1908 the regiment became the 43rd Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and after a short stay in Burma, moved to Wellington in India where Thomas, Amelia and Millie were listed in the 1911 Census. Their daughter Muriel was at school in Dorchester, Dorset at the time. On 22 September 1913 Thomas was promoted to the honorary rank of Captain in the 43rd Oxford & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

His service during the Great War saw him in the Middle East. He was with the British-Indian Army that was besieged at Kut al-Amara. For an account of this siege see:

History of the 43rd and 52nd (Oxford and Buckinghamshire) Light Infantry in the Great War Vol 1, the 43rd Light Infantry in Mesopotamia and North Russia” by J.E.H. Neville, Naval & Military Press Ltd., East Sussex, 2008.

In this book Hon. Captain & Quartermaster T. IVEY is included in a list of men who were brought to notice for gallant and distinguished service in the field from 5 October 1915 to 17 January 1916. He had already carried out a number of heroic deeds rescuing wounded comrades from encounters with the Turks. He was present at the capitulation of Kut al-Amara on 29 April 1916 which saw the surrender of over 13,000 British-Indian soldiers after 147 days, the worst surrender in the history of the British Army to that date. Thomas was one of these prisoners, but being an officer, he was treated with more respect, despite the accommodation being filthy. During the siege the men had to suffer flies, mosquitoes, heat and sickness as well as starvation. This took its toll on Thomas and being sick he was held back in Bagdad and later sent to Kastamuni.

Being nearly 50 years old at the time of the siege, Thomas’s health suffered and it must have remained poor. He died in Queen Alexandra Military Hospital, Millbank, London on 23 October 1919. His home was at Fairacres Road, Oxford.

His widow married Lt Col. (Quartermaster) Joseph FREEL DCM, OBE (c1863-1930) of the Durham Light Infantry at the Friary Church (St Joseph’s) Portishead on 3 June 1920.

Major Thomas Elson IVEY has a record held at the National Archives at Kew; WO339/5992.

Ethel Ivey Hotson GEORGE (born in 1897)

Ethel was the daughter of Arthur Athelton GEORGE (1865-?1947) and his wife Sarah Elson, nee IVEY (1862-1919). Sarah Elson was the sister of Major Thomas Elson IVEY (detailed above) and was born in Bristol. Sarah married Arthur in 1888 and they had four surviving children of which Ethel was the third. For all of the census returns from 1891 until 1911 the family used the surname of HOTSON, which was the surname of Arthur’s step-father.

Born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, Ethel was engaged by the British Red Cross Society as a nurse in the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) on 1 June 1918, when aged 21. At first she was at the 5th North General Hospital in Leicester until 31 December 1918. Then came a move to the War Hospital in Croydon, Surrey until 15 February 1919 when she was transferred to the Military Hospital in Sidcup, Kent, she remained there from 2 February 1919 until 9 May. She was then transferred to Paddington on 6 June 1919 where she was still serving on 8 July 1919.

Throughout this period her address was that of her mother: Laburnum House, Leverington, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. Ethel’s elder brother, Ernest Frederick GEORGE (1889-1915) emigrated to Canada and enlisted in the 8th Battalion Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment) in Quebec on 23 September 1914. He attained the rank of Lance-Corporal but was taken prisoner at the Battle of St Julien (part of the 2nd Battle of Ypres). He died on 26 April 1915 as a prisoner of war and was buried Roeselare Communal Cemetery in Belgium. See .

Her brother John Robert Hotson GEORGE (born in 1891) also served in the Great War and survived. Her sister was Florence Mabel Hotson GEORGE who was born in 1894.

(Edith) Maud MacBRIDE nee GONNE (1866-1953)

Surrey In the Great War Jenny Mukerji

(Edith) Maud MacBRIDE nee GONNE (1866-1953)

Born in Tongham, Surrey and imprisoned in May 1918 for her supposed involvement in a Pro-German Plot.

Known as Maud, Edith Maud GONNE was born in Tongham, Surrey on 21 December 1866, the elder daughter of Lt Col Thomas GONNE (1835-1886) of the 17th Lancers and his wife Edith Frith, nee COOK (c1844-1871). Her sister was Kathleen Mary (born in Ireland in about 1868) who married the future Major-General Thomas David PILCHER (c1858-1928) of the British Army at St Mary’s Graham Street, London on 18 December 1889 when he was a captain in the 5th Fusiliers. He went on to serve in West Africa, in the South African Wars (Boer Wars) and during the Great War as Colonel of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment.

Maud’s mother, who was born in East Peckham, came from a wealthy merchant family that manufactured silk, linen, woollen and cotton goods. She died of tuberculosis when Maud was still a child. The girls were then raised with the help of a French nanny. In the 1871 Census (2 April) their mother was still alive and she was living with Maud and Kathleen in Paddington at the home of Mrs Gonne’s aunt, Augusta TARLTON. However, once her mother died, Maud began to live a very cosmopolitan lifestyle and often acted as a hostess when her father entertained.

In the 1881 Census she was living in Torquay with her sister as a pupil at Miss Margaret WILSON’s school. After her father’s death at the Royal Barracks, Dublin on 30 November 1886, Maud inherited wealth and was able to enjoy an independent lifestyle. She was interested in the theatre and became an actress on the Irish stage. Being beautiful and flamboyant (and rich) she was never short of suitors. One of the most famous, yet unsuccessful (despite four proposals), was the Irish poet W.B. YEATS (1865-1939) whom she met in 1889 through the theatre. She was his muse for the heroine of his play Cathleen Ni Houlihan (1892).

Maud travelled widely and when in Paris in 1887 and recovering from an illness she met and fell in love with the married, right-wing nationalist, Lucien MILLEVOYE (1850-1918). The couple had two children: Georges (1889-1891) and daughter, Iseult (1894-1954). It was the death of Georges, aged two, that rekindled her interest in spiritualism. The BBC Website expands on her interest in this subject. Yet it was her father’s native Ireland that won her heart. She had spent time there as a child and after watching an unpleasant eviction in the 1880s, she had great sympathy for the poor and downtrodden. She became a speaker for the Land League and in 1900 she founded the nationalist group Daughters of Ireland to promote and preserve Irish culture.

During the South African Wars (Boer Wars) Maud helped to organise the Irish brigades that fought against the British army in South Africa. It was during a fund raising tour of the United States of America that she met the Irish revolutionary Major John MacBRIDE (1868-1916) who had fought against the British in South Africa (and against Maud’s brother-in-law, Major-General PILCHER). Maud married John MacBRIDE in Paris in 1903. The couple’s son Sean was born in Paris on 26 January 1904. He remained in Paris after his father’s execution for his part in the Easter 1916 Rising and later became an important Irish politician. He was the Irish minister for External Affairs from 1948 to 1951 and involved himself in Human Rights issues. He died in Ireland in 1988.

However, Maud and John MacBRIDE’s marriage was a stormy one and the couple separated in 1906. Because of his involvement in the Easter 1916 Rising in Dublin, John MacBRIDE was executed by the British on 5 May 1916 in Killmainham Goal, Dublin. Nevertheless, Maud continued to support the revolutionary cause and she was arrested in May 1918 in Dublin for revolutionary activities when it was assumed that she was involved in a Pro-German plot. She was never tried and having been imprisoned in England for six months, she was released due to her poor health. There was, however, a condition placed on her release: she was not to return to Ireland! Immediately she returned to Ireland and began to campaign on behalf of political prisoners in an effort to improve their conditions in gaol.

Maud not only continued to campaign for a Republic of Ireland, but also for women’s rights and universal suffrage. Her objections to the Treaty which divided the island of Ireland into the Republic and (the six counties that formed) Northern Ireland saw her in trouble again, this time in 1923 when she was imprisoned for 20 days by the Irish Free State forces for seditious activities.

Maud died on 27 April 1953 in Dublin and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. Her son, Sean and his wife, Catalina Bulfin MacBRIDE (1901-1976) were later buried in the same grave.

Here is a story with a very different perspective on Surrey in the Great War. Much has been written about Maud; some parts of it are contradictory. However, where Surrey, the place of her birth, is concerned, she appears to have been almost forgotten.

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.


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:

England Census

Commonwealth War Graves Commission –

Ancestry website –

Reigate County School and the Belgian refugees


Many refugees came to England as war broke out, a large number of who were Belgians. The Reigate and Redhill area housed several families. Two of the principal centres were Moat House, Merstham, and Rest Cottage, South Park. Consideration had been given to use of Reigate Lodge (destined one day to be the site where the new Reigate County School was built), but the cost of installing new kitchen ranges was regarded as prohibitive. Miss A C Kingsbury (Matron of Rest Cottage) wrote to the Surrey Mirror (September 11th 1914),

“Thanks to the timely aid of Mrs Fleischl we have been able to take in at once 12 refugees (men and women) in residence at Rest Cottage, South Park and I am entirely relying on generous local support for their maintenance.”

The school was swift to offer help in some way to the refugees. In her Headmistress’ Log on 19th September 1914, Miss Anderton wrote “We are making a weekly collection for the Belgian refugees, and sewing children’s garments for them.”



“Great as has been the suffering and sorrow brought upon numberless people by the great war now raging in Europe, none   perhaps have been called upon to bear such terrible calamities, or such indescribable horrors as the people of Belgium.

The sympathy of many people has been aroused, in consequence, and almost everyone has been trying to do something to help these poor people in a practical way.

It was suggested, on our return to school after the summer holidays, that we should adopt a little Belgian girl, but in this we were disappointed.

Soon after some Belgians came to live in Rest Cottage in Reigate and it was arranged that we should support one of them – a Belgian lady who had been forced to leave her home in Antwerp at the outbreak of the war. Every week subscriptions are brought, and the money is sent over to Reigate.

One day in the Christmas Term, Madame Felstedt and other Belgians came over to spend the evening with us. We greeted them with the Belgian National Anthem, and sang some of our School songs to them after tea.

Besides this, we have made several sets of garments, either to be given to the Belgians in England, or else to be sent to those still living in their own land.

Thus, in a small way, we are trying to do a little, to help these people who are suffering so much.”                                                                                  

 K Ryde – 1915 School Magazine



“Franksi is the little Belgian boy whom we help to support. He lives with his mother at Rest Cottage, South Park. His father, who is not at all strong, does a little work at the Base, but is too delicate to support him and his mother. Franksi’s mother does work also, but she is unable to support both herself and Franksi; thus our little subscription helps things to go more smoothly.”


June 1918 School Magazine (Note: – The boy may be Francis Verstreaten, who was with his parents Joseph and Hél?ne)

The Dorking and District Local Emergency Committee

An investigation of the Draft Report on Preparations in the Event of a Hostile Landing, spring 1916, prepared by the Dorking and District Local Emergency Committee, acting under the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) 1914 (Surrey History Centre ref. 2634/1

As part of the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) implemented four days after Britain entered the war on the side of the Triple Entente, on the 8th of August 1914, extensive anti-invasion measures were introduced across Surrey, situated precariously where it was between the south coast and the capital. Standard procedure was that ‘Emergency Committees’ would be established to aid the operation of invasion countermeasures without hindrance to the military or the civilian population. Accordingly, the ‘Petty Sessional Division of Dorking’ was speedily amalgamated, along with the ‘Petty Sessional Division of Epsom encompassing the parishes of Headley, Ashtead, Leatherhead, Fetcham and Great and Little Bookham’, as well as the parish of Walton on the Hill in the ‘Petty Sessional Division of Reigate’, into the ‘Dorking and District Area’ with a ‘Local Emergency Committee’ to oversee the anti-invasion procedures.

Working as part of the greater ‘Second Army Central Force’ based initially at Aldershot and then Tunbridge Wells after November 1916, and commanded by General Officer Commanding Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Stopford, a report compiled in late 1915 outlines the boundaries of the ‘area’ with interesting precision: it is described as having been loosely pentagonal in shape, stretching fifteen miles north-to-south from Ashtead to Ockley and at its widest point 8 miles between Walton-on-the-Hill and Effingham, and at its narrowest being 5 miles between Ockley and Newdigate.

The jurisdictional boundaries of the Emergency Committee for the Dorking and District Area

Title: The jurisdictional boundaries of the Emergency Committee for the Dorking and District Area
Description: by-nc

Four months after the declaration of war, in December 1914, Henry Herbert Gordon Clark of Mickleham was appointed Chairman of the ‘Dorking Petty Sessional Bench’ following the departure of his predecessor ‘owing to illness’. His first action as Chairman was the forming of committees and the appointment of ‘Organising Members’ for each parish, with each Organising Member tasked with appointing ‘Special Constables’ in his own parish to enforce the anti-invasion measures. However, the committee’s efforts were dogged by problems concerning the appointment of Special Constables, precipitated by the absence of local men, who had enlisted in the armed forces, the result being that too much work was left solely in the hands of the Organising Members who often felt exhausted by their workload which consequently led to dereliction of duty and resignation.

As per the raison d’etre of the Defence of the Realm Act, the principal concern of the Emergency Committee was the ‘clearance’ (i.e. the evacuation) of livestock and the local populace in the event of a German incursion from the south coast. Under the supervision of the Emergency Committee, the report was confident that a ‘clearance of the Area’ in the event of an invasion would be feasible and efficient.

As outlined in the report, the Emergency Committee’s modus operandi was: to facilitate the easy manoeuvrability of ‘His Majesty’s [armed] forces’ without hindrance to the local population; the provision of ‘voluntary labour’ for ‘emergency works’ like infrastructural repairs; the removal of ‘stock’ (like food, livestock, ammunition and buildings) that could be used by an invader; the safe conveyance of the civilian population, especially the vulnerable and infirm, to places of refuge; the removal of signposts to confuse an advancing enemy; the requisitioning of vehicles, animals and personnel for the military; to utilise ‘scorched-earth’ tactics, viz. the destruction of infrastructure, telephone lines or any resources potentially of use to an advancing enemy.

List of Organising Members for parishes within the Dorking and District Area

Title: List of Organising Members for parishes within the Dorking and District Area
Description: With amendments written presumably in the hand of H.H. Gordon Clark by-nc

Instructions were received by the Dorking and District Emergency Committee which stipulated that, in the event of an enemy invasion, a nationwide ‘clearance’ would be undertaken, starting in the southeast, which would proceed further north and northwest. The committee estimated that, in the immediate aftermath of a hostile landing and the declaration of a state of emergency, the committee could commence moving vulnerable people with or without having received a clearance order. The Special Constables would then commandeer civilian motor vehicles for evacuating vulnerable people such as the young, aged or infirm to either Royal Holloway College in Egham or the Chertsey Union Workhouse on Murray Road in Ottershaw, Chertsey, both of which had been earmarked by the committee to be repurposed for housing the evacuated young, aged or infirm people from the district.

The report goes into great detail regarding the strategic importance of Mole Valley, noting that the area between Dorking and Leatherhead, which the River Mole courses through, is vital in that the main road and railway line connecting Leatherhead and Horsham (the present-day A24) both run parallel to the River Mole. Moreover in this area is the strategically important Burford Bridge: being the largest and only road bridge that spans the River Mole, it would be administered solely for military purposes and likely destroyed in accordance with the ‘scorched-earth’ policy. In the event of an invasion, this section between Dorking and Leatherhead would be the main route by which stock from West Kent and north-east Sussex would be channelled, in a north-westerly direction.

In overseeing the mobilisation of vast numbers of stock and civilians, numerous roads throughout the district would be administered by the military, namely the roads connecting Betchworth and Banstead (the A217 and B2032), as well as the A24 connecting Epsom with East Horsley. The assigned route would be to Guildford via Leatherhead, crossing at Thorncroft Bridge in south Leatherhead and proceeding along the A246 connecting Leatherhead with Guildford.

The report claims that the ultimate objective of the Emergency Committee was the mobilisation of cattle from vulnerable areas likely to be affected by an enemy incursion temporarily to large parks to the northwest, such as Windsor Great Park, Burwood Park (now a housing development in Cobham) and other areas. Livestock being moved from west Kent in a northwest direction would have been kept off the main roads as much as possible and travelled west via byroads from Walton on the Hill to Headley to Mickleham, crossing the A24 into Norbury Park and continuing in the direction of Bookham Common and Cobham. However, the report voices logistical concerns that the suggested locations would quickly exceed their capacity in accommodating such large quantities of stock, therefore necessitating the requisition of other locations in the North Downs, described as having an abundance of ‘considerable stretches of Common’ and ‘forage’ to manage the large influx of cattle.

The report claimed that the committee had received instructions, as per the ‘scorched-earth’ policy, to disable all motor vehicles left behind following the declaration of a state of emergency and the mobilisation of the District’s population by removing the wheels, magneto and carburettor. Moreover, civilians in possession of petrol stocks of more than 30 gallons would have to surrender them to the authorities, who would then duly remove or destroy them. Five surveyors were drafted in by the committee to oversee the destruction of all signposts, for instance a Mr. W. Rapley in Dorking and Mr Sidney R. Drake in Leatherhead. Regarding the provision of vehicles and bicycles for use in the event of invasion, owners of two or more bicycles or motorbikes and the owners of bicycle shops would be required to surrender at least one to the authorities, which would then be requisitioned for official use and/or destroyed.

Special Constables were tasked with directing the movement of livestock and military convoys in transit. They were to be supplemented by Boy Scouts belonging to local troops along with the local Church Lads Brigades and the members of the 10th (Mid Surrey) Battalion S.V.T.C. [Surrey Volunteer Training Corps], whose commandant was the chairman of the Dorking and District Local Emergency Committee, H.H. Gordon Clark. The available quantities of stock, forage, vehicles and manpower were indexed and given to ‘Superintendent Coleman, at the Dorking Police Court’, the District official charged with overseeing the countermeasures upon receiving authorisation from the military after an invasion.

All illustrations are from Surrey History Centre ref. 2634/1 and are copyright of Surrey Heritage.

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).