Wartime reports on Reigate County School for Girls

Research by Geraldine Foy

The Surrey Mirror reported in depth occasions such as school dpeech days. During the war, the visiting dignitaries often commented on the progress of the war, and how the girls could contribute to the war effort. The following extracts are fine illustrations of this.

The first Prize-giving after the commencement of hostilities was in November 1914 at the Market Hall, Redhill. The opening speech by the Chairman, the Rev. F.C. Davies, reflected on the different circumstances under which this ceremony was being held:

“The Chairman said they were meeting under somewhat different circumstances to those of last year. There were two factors operative that enabled them to have that gathering and which they ought to bear in mind. Away on the plains of Flanders, the sons of the Empire were fighting a battle which it was believed would make abortive the attempt of the enemy to invade their native land (applause). Perhaps an ever more important factor was that away in those great grey ships in the waters of the North Sea, their sailors were engaged in perhaps a harder task, for they had to face sudden death in order that those at home might carry on the normal work of their country (applause). People sometimes asked what the Navy was doing and he thought they would agree with him when he said it was doing the greatest work that any Navy had done in the history of the world (applause). Those present that evening were helping to build up characters and therefore in the work they were doing, while remembering in their prayers and every other way, those who were actually engaged in the battles of the country, they would be doing their part in the work of the country and preparing for the part they were to take in their future life (hear, hear).”
Surrey Mirror, November 1914.


In his speech at the same event, Sir Jeremiah Colman said

“The advantages of education grew greater and greater with every year that was added to the age of a child. It was very often just at the time when a parent wished to take them from school they were getting most advantage from what they were being taught. Even if it was a little sacrifice to leave them at school, they would be well repaid by the results. There was of course a use and misuse of education. They would all have heard of Germany. That country admirably illustrated as to the misuse of education. He did not think there had been a nation in the world which had paid more attention to the technical education and where students were more industrious and evidenced greater ability. So long as it was used properly it was a great advantage and Germany largely used this resultant ability properly. It gave them trade throughout the world. It gave them knowledge and it gave them the means to provide for their Army, Navy and everything which went to make a nation strong. But they were not content, they had got swollen heads, they became arrogant and they thought they could do anything and no one would stand against them. The result was this dreadful war. It had to be fought out now. What was going to be the result to Germany? Well he thought he knew, and he could ask those present to wait and see. In one nation was the evidence of the uses and misuses of education. He hoped the scholars of the school would have a good education, but he hoped it would not teach them to be swollen headed, arrogant or boastful.”
Surrey Mirror, 11 December 1914.

Miss Anderton, Headmistress, led her pupils by example. The following report from a Council meeting is a typical of her attitude.

“A letter was read from Miss A.B. Anderton, Headmistress of the County School for Girls, suggesting that as it was war time, she should forgo her annual automatic rise in salary this year, and asking that her letter could be forwarded to the County Education Committee.
The Chairman recorded that while they appreciated Miss Anderton’s action, they would probably agree with him that in view of the heavy work load that fell upon her, that the automatic rise in salary should stand ……..proposed a letter to that effect that while the Committee appreciated Miss Anderton’s willing sacrifice, they could not concur with the proposal….. motion carried.”
Meeting of Borough Education Committee, Surrey Mirror, 23 March

Whilst Miss Anderton was keen for girls to assist in the fundraising, she was concerned about their moral welfare, and wrote a letter of caution to the local organising committee in 1916:

“I was especially anxious to come in order to make a plea against the use of young girls in the collection of money. We all, when we think of it, set great store by modesty and simplicity among girls; they are the most charming characteristics that a girl can have; and I am quite sure the street collecting has a strong influence against these. Girls may find that they may go up to and speak with any man or boy, and that the more winning they are, they more money they will get….” One gentleman had declared to her that it was “Just giving them a push in the wrong direction”.

Miss Anderton suggested that the borough should introduce a regulation similar to that sanctioned by the Home Office in 1915 (they had forbidden the collecting of money by girls aged under 16 within six miles of Kings Cross). Thus it was mainly Old Girls who accompanied Miss Anderton.

At their 1917 Empire Day celebration, the girls were addressed by the Mayor of Reigate, Mr. Malcolmson, who advised them:

“……the influence that we, as girls of today and women of the future, may exercise for the benefit of those around us. He reminded us of the present need for economy, and that we, being gifted with the far-penetrating influence peculiar to womanhood, could do much to assist our country in carrying put the strictest economy; and that we must do this now in order that we may neither be defeated by the submarine menace nor any other means our enemies may take to weaken the strength and shatter the glory of the Mother Country and her Colonies.”
He also spoke of the opportunities of service for women in the Empire, and their responsibility, especially at this time, in the management of food and the care of the home”.

School Magazine, June 1918


Click here to read more about Reigate County School for Girls.

Belgian refugees in Cobham

Cobham Remembers

Official records estimate that 250,000 refugees came to the UK from Belgium during WW1, the largest single influx in the country’s history (BBC News magazine September 2014) and most were taken in to private homes.

The exodus started in August and the Cobham Parish Magazine (October 1914) reported that the secretary of the Cobham War Relief Fund Committee had just received from the Local Government Board a notice saying that further help in providing for Belgian Refugees would be welcomed by the Government. “They feel sure that there are many persons in this country who would wish to show their sympathy for the sufferings which Belgium has endured, as well as their admiration for the valour and courage of her army, and who would be willing to give temporary accommodation to some of these refugees”. Readers who were willing to help were asked to contact the Honorary Secretary L G Evans, Doonside, Cobham clearly stating “(1) the number of adults or children, or both, for whom they are ready to provide, and also (2) the period of time during which the offered hospitality may be counted upon”.

Sir Henry and Lady Samuelson provided a home at Hatchford to some eighteen Belgian refugees, most of whom were women and children with some married men who came with their wives after acting as civic guards but who were disarmed by order of the Government. It was made clear to avoid criticism that they were running away from the fight that two men who came had since gone back, one to fight in Belgium and one in France.

The Vicar wrote “It is a great pleasure to us all to have representatives of this splendidly heroic little nation here in our midst and we cannot show in a better way the gratitude we owe to Belgium for what they have done for us and for indeed the whole of Europe than by joining in this warm welcome that is being given to these representatives of the nation in our midst. Some, in their ignorance, might imagine that all able-bodied Belgians could go back and join their army, but this is not easy to arrange in a small country that is harried by the enemy from end to end, and nearly the whole country overrun with soldiers, burning, pillaging and shooting, all men and women being driven out or shot down”.

In November 1914 it was noted that Sir Henry and Lady Samuelson had, in addition to providing a home for refugees, converted the two best bedrooms and the billiard room in their house at Hatchford into a convalescent home for wounded Belgian Soldiers.

By February 1915 Colonel Trollope, a member of the committee of the Cobham War Relief Fund, was able to report “It will probably be a matter of great interest to have some record of what is being done in our midst for those of that unhappy country Belgium who have come to us as welcome guests taking refuge from the frightful and merciless persecution so many of their fellow countrymen and women have experienced at the ruthless hands of the German soldiers. The largest community is probably that located at “Fairfield” [Green Lane], which excellent house was placed at the disposal of a small committee of ladies by the family of our late neighbour, Mr H Sanderson Poole. As soon as the scheme was mooted and made known a most generous response was made both to the request for a loan of the necessary furniture and also for funds sufficient to sustain a party of 20 persons for 6 months. Everything so far has worked smoothly and the committee were very fortunate in securing the gratuitous services of a lady, Miss Prout, who resides at Fairfield and superintends the housekeeping and general arrangements.”

The party at Fairfield comprised:

Madame Van den Eynde (age 70)

Monsieur and Madame Bogaert, son-in-law and daughter.

Monsieur and Madame Van Boxel, son-in-law and daughter

Rene and Maria Van Boxel, their children.

Monsieur and Madame Leclercq (ages 69 and 67)

Monsieur and Madame Leclercq, junior

Mlle Germains (sic) Leclercq, their daughter

Madame Brigode (nee Leclercq) husband in Brussels

Helene and Horace Brigode, their children

Monsieur J Schmidt, who has a little employment in London

Madame Schmidt; Joseph, Charles and Fernand Schmidt, their children.

All these people came to Fairfield through HRH the Duchess of Vendome’s Hostel at Wimbledon, and they arrived in this country with little more than the clothes they had on. All are learning English and the children of suitable age attend the National Schools. The men of the party are seeking suitable employment and hope soon to be successful.”

According to a Rates List of 1915 flats were made available for use of refugees over what is now part of Farrants (see accompanying Post Card image) and on the other side of the Cobham High Street above what is now Savilles.

Knowle Hill: From peace to war

Cobham Remembers

Written by Stephen Spark. Article first published in the Cobham Conservation & Heritage Trust magazine – August 2017

In November 1910 Knowle Hill House became Britain’s first permanent home of recovery. The hired motor ambulance carried post-operative patients several times a week from metropolitan hospitals to recuperate in the fresh air of Cobham. For those who had never ventured outside the capital’s sooty streets, the tranquillity of Knowle Hill’s sweeping parkland must have seemed like Elysium.

Recognising that good nutrition plays a crucial role in convalescence, the farm and kitchen garden were developed to supply fresh milk, eggs, vegetables and fruit. Each ward had its own kitchen, so meals went straight to the patient’s bedside and were tailored to individual dietary requirements – quite a contrast to the modern hospital experience.

One sister, five staff nurses and six probationers looked after around 60 patients under the supervision of secretary-superintendent Lt Col John Willoughby Wray. For £50 a year the Rector of St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, the Rev Blackburne, provided spiritual sustenance. Margaret Traill was appointed the Home’s first matron, but proved unsatisfactory, being replaced in 1911 by Miss Sandifer.

The matron problem – which persisted for decades – is a clue that even Col Wray found it hard to keep the Home on track. Without regular injections of cash from its deep-pocketed benefactor, Sir Ernest Schiff, it is doubtful the institution could have survived for long.

Britain’s declaration of war on Germany on 4 August 1914 gave the Home a role its founders could never have foreseen: the post-operative care of wounded soldiers. The War Office gratefully accepted Sir Ernest’s prompt offer of 20 beds for military use, and on 19 September the Home became the first outside London to accept military convalescents. Between this date and 1 April 1920, when the last batch departed, some 2,000 British and Belgian servicemen passed through Knowle Hill.

Local people were keen to help, bringing gifts of illustrated papers, cigarettes, tobacco, boots and games, but eventually the constant round of visits proved counter-productive. In 1915, the managing committee ruled:

that no entertainments, except amongst the staff and the patients themselves, be allowed without the previous consent of the Committee, and that the matron be reminded that the regulations of the War Office discountenanced the promiscuous visiting of the patients by the general public.”

The following year it became necessary to add a new injunction:

As the grounds are exceptionally large and commodious, the patients are not to be allowed to go for drives or to entertainments, public or private.”

An exception was made for Rev Blackburne, who was allowed to entertain two soldiers to tea, accompanied by a nurse, every Friday. In 1917, the vicar went off to act as a chaplain to the Forces, and was replaced by Rev G D Brookes of Fairmile.

Even at Knowle Hill the soldiers could not entirely escape the conflict. Local historian T E Conway Walker recalled hearing the guns in France from Blundell Hill (the top of Polyapes), and armoured cars destined for the battlefields were tested in Water Lane. By 1915, the committee was debating whether to insure against damage from the air, and even Schiff’s philanthropy and his knighthood in 1911 could not entirely shield him from anti-Germanic prejudice. He died on 5 November 1918 and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery six days later – which, perhaps appropriately, was Armistice Day

Two years earlier, “a kindly but rather frightening bearded man”, 6ft 5in tall, visited the Home and was so impressed by what he saw that he bequeathed the Schiff his own house, Stilemans, near Compton, for use as an annexe.

This was Ernest Penrose Arnold, headmaster of Wixenford School near Wokingham, a feeder for Eton. Ernest was related to both Thomas Arnold of Rugby School and the poet Matthew Arnold, who had lived at Pain’s Hill Cottage, Cobham. Another Compton resident was the artist G F Watts, who just happened to be married to Mary, sister of Etheldred Fraser-Tytler, who had conceived the home of recovery concept back in 1904. It is not hard to see how Arnold came to be involved with the Schiff Home.

Arnold died in 1917, but for legal and practical reasons Stilemans could not be used as a home, so the property was sold. The £9,000 raised was used to build a new wing at Knowle Hill, designed, in a style sympathetic to John Earley Cook’s old house, by Robert Thomson of Wimbledon. The 40 beds in the Clara Arnold and Penrose Arnold wards received their first patients in February 1919.

Cranleigh in October 1917

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

Food production, fund-raising, war deaths and injuries were all on Cranleigh people’s minds this month.

The incredible vehicle in the picture is a Ford car pulling the ‘Eros Tractor attachment’. It was demonstrated at Tuesley Farm, Godalming. The aim behind it was to bring more land into cultivation for food. The Surrey Advertiser reported that it converted the vehicle ‘into a farm tractor capable of doing the work of three or four horses’. It could ‘plough a stubble field with a 2-farrow plough’, and was efficient in both shallow and deep ploughing. The car could be converted back to use on the road in half an hour. ‘And it can be operated with ease by a lady driver’. The attachment cost £90, and was available from the Victoria Motor Works, 21 High Street, Godalming.

‘Our Day’ was held to raise funds for the Red Cross. Flags were sold in the streets of Cranleigh raising £25, and a sale of work by wounded soldiers, organised by Miss Hester Godfrey at Oaklands Military Hospital, raised £60. All the boys of Cranleigh Prep School, with their headmaster, the Rev. Reginald Mertens, marched down into the village with the Officer Training Corps band and ‘a full display of every available flag’. They presented the hospital with £3 15s, collected among themselves by the sale of flags. ‘The wounded soldiers all turned out to greet us, cheers and counter-cheers were given, and we all marched home again in the early hours of the afternoon’.

The Hambledon Tribunal had been meeting regularly to consider exemptions from military service. This month the case of George Collins came before it. George, who was described as ‘36, single, pork butcher and farm hand’, had taken over the running of Collins’ Stores in the High Street when his brother enlisted in the Army. The Tribunal allowed him to remain exempt, on condition that he worked three full days per week on Collins’ Farm. The farm has now been absorbed into the Baynards estate.

Still the bad news came to Cranleigh homes.  Mrs Bax, of The Mount, received official news that her husband, Gunner Alfred Bax, 36, Royal Garrison Artillery, had again been wounded, this time with a severe compound fracture of his left leg. It was only three weeks since he had returned to France after recovering from his previous wound. Happily, he recovered from this wound too. After the war, he ran a market garden business in Horsham Road, where Bax Close is today.

Bax Close, Cranleigh

Title: Bax Close, Cranleigh
Description: by-nc

Sergeant Ernest Cutting, of the Tank Corps, was killed in France by a stray shell on September 29th. Aged 24 and single, he was a former assistant master at Cranleigh Church of England Schools. The headmaster, Mr H.J. Hayman, commented that ‘The late Sergeant had regularly corresponded with the children in his class, and his letters had been eagerly responded to.’ How ghastly for the children to hear of his death!

Two months previously, a memorial service had been held at the parish church for Staff-Sergeant Charles H. Vince, 31, Army Service Corps, formerly the church organist. He had been fighting against the Turks in the deserts of Mesopotamia, where the temperature sometimes reached 124? in the shade. He died of heat stroke at the base hospital, Basra. An old boy of the Royal Grammar School, Guildford, he studied music at Trinity College, London, and had been conductor of Guildford Operatic Society and Cranleigh Choral Society.

‘In Lucem’ [in the light]: Reigate County School for Girls in Wartime

Written by Marion Edwards

Reigate County School for Girls was established in 1905. By 1913, plans for a new building were in hand, but had to be abandoned; instead the intention became a transfer to the school building then occupied by Reigate Grammar School for Boys. However, even this plan had to be shelved when war was declared in September 1914. The new school building would not materialise until 1927.

The war itself appears not to have affected the girls directly. The ‘Half-Century Report’ published in 1955 (SHC ref 3155/8/1) gives this brief resume of the war years:

‘When the girls returned to school in September 1914, war had already begun. Refugees from Belgium had arrived, and soldiers were billeted in the town and its neighbourhood; but the routine of school work continued with little interruption. There were, however, new calls for help to be answered. A weekly collection was made for the Belgians, and parcels of clothing were sent to them, while all spare time was taken up by knitting for the forces. Even during lectures the click of needles could be heard.’

Prize Certificate, 1915 (SHC ref 3155/2/2)

‘Owing to the war, certificates instead of prizes were awarded for good work during the years 1915-18. These were simple and dignified documents, and the mood of dedication characteristic of the first years of the war is well illustrated by the lines printed at the foot of each certificate. In 1915, for instance, they were,

“Who stands if Freedom Fall?  Who dies if England live?”

And in 1916

“Rejoice, whatever anguish rends your heart / That God hath given you a precious dower / To live in these great times and play your part / In Freedom’s dawning hour.”

It was well that the people of that time had no prophetic vision to tell them how soon the light of that dawn would be quenched.’

1916 Prize Certificate (SHC ref 3155/2/2)

However, the school did acquire a physical training mistress in 1914, and in 1915 gave its first gymnastics display, followed in March 1917 by participation in the first of several annual inter-school gymnastic competitions.

Surprisingly, perhaps, the school log book for 1913-1919 (SHC ref 3155/2/2) gives very little detail of war activities, other than those outlined in the Report. However, it does note ‘The Principles for which we are fighting under: What has been, is being, & can be done in country, town & district, for the war’ as the topic of essays for the Empire League Competition of 1915, and that sales of work in aid of the school’s sponsored cot at Reigate hospital continued throughout, despite some reduction in takings.

The log book is more forthcoming for the end of the war. In October 1918, the school took part in the Municipal Procession for ‘Gun Week’ with two floats illustrating ‘Women’s Work’ with girls in the costumes of ‘University women, WAACs, Wrens, Red Cross nurses, hospital nurses, land workers (farmers, gardeners, dairy maid [sic]), post women, bus conductresses, messenger girls, office clerks & girl guides’, and on the 13 November took that day as a holiday ‘In consequence of the signing of the Armistice on the 11th’.

Perhaps the best indication of the affects of the war on the girls and their teachers comes from the school magazines from the war years (SHC ref 3155/7/4), although these were only published in June 1915, December 1916, June 1918 and July 1920.

The June 1915 magazine begins with an editorial discussing ‘the greatest war the world has seen’, whose ‘first results are visible and awful’ and for which ‘We must never rest … until we have fought it down, and established that other spirit in its place, – until men and women live in comradeship and helpfulness and reverence for one another.’ The editorial concludes spiritedly: And there must be no desponding: if our men abroad are to be brave we must be brave at home, and go forward with that deliberate optimism which has faced the worst and has faith to look beyond.’ Poems entitled ‘England Expects!’ (addressed to the men ‘who idle all their days’ and the women who ‘each do their part for her dear land’), ‘England’ (‘For the war-drum throbs – the call has come,/And England has answered; her sons she has sent’) and ‘The Kaiser’ (‘Who burnt down Antwerp, sacked Louvain?/Went to the East and back again,/And, – coward! Travelled in a Red Cross Train?/The Kaiser!’), a piece about ‘Jim, the Drummer Boy’ (who saved his Colonel in the trenches) and ‘A True Story of a German Spy’ are included in this issue.

The editorial of December 1916 begins ‘to feel some hope and see some signs’ of the end of the war, despite fears that, rather than ending in 1917, it will continue until 1918, and considers ‘what the men will do when they come home; what those women will do who will have to give up their temporary work; whether the gathering of our race from the ends of the earth will make a permanently wide brotherhood, … ’. In this issue, poems entitled ‘A Tribute to the Men who go to fight’ and ‘The Greater Love’ honour British soldiers and their allies who are fighting abroad ‘Because of man’s inane desire/To wound and kill his fellow-man’.

The magazine of June 1918 begins with an editorial comparing the delights of a sunny Surrey spring with the fact that ‘over there our men are fighting and suffering and falling in the most fearful battle of all; standing firm and … selling their lives as dearly as they can, that we may keep our England safe’, continues by discussing the role of the England of the future and closes by outlining the ‘Wonderful things’ that have happened in the war. Poems in this issue are entitled ‘Anything’ (‘On “Anything! They bid me write!/What can I write about? … shall I write on aeroplanes/Fighting for us in France? … Of our soldiers, nobly standing/In trenches, water-logged … ’), ‘On the Death of General Maude’ (‘He died a hero’s death … ’) and ‘The League of Nations’, but the largest contribution is the two and a half page ‘Extracts from the Diary of a French Poet-Soldier Imprisoned for a Year in Germany and now in Switzerland’, although there is no indication whether this is a true story or an imaginative and well-conceived essay. Other notices relate news on ‘Franski’ (‘the little Belgian boy whom we help to support’), the Prisoner of War Fund and the work of ‘The White Ribboners’.

No magazine was then issued until July 1920, but the editorial comments on the war as ‘a thing of the past. The awful bloodshed and waste of life are over’, on the resulting peace and on the work of the League of Nations. A poem on ‘The Great Silence At the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month’ is the final mention of the war.

Click here for further reports on the school.

Sutton High School for Girls and the Great War

Written by Sue James, Sutton High School for Girls

When Sutton High School celebrated its 30th birthday on 17 January 1914 the headmistress, Miss Margaret Bell, had no idea of the momentous changes she would be faced with before the year was out. The school magazine of summer 1914 gives no intimation of the war clouds gathering over Europe. Instead “the news of the term” is full of positive contributions about school visits, plays and competitions of many kinds. By the time the school reassembled after the summer break, the war had been under way for over a month and Miss Bell was faced with preparing the school for a war footing; joining the Girls’ Patriotic Union of Secondary Schools and setting up a “war committee”. The other major initiative came in 1916 when Miss Bell set up a branch of the National War Savings Association as “to save is a patriotic action”. She was very keen on promoting this and noted in each magazine how the numbers of those submitting their savings, which could be as small as a sixpence, had grown. She confidently predicted that 15/6d (about 77 pence) would become £1 within five years.

We tend to think of total war as a feature of World War II but there was a Home Front in the Great War and economies had to be made and black-outs sewn. Prizes were reduced from a book to a certificate, programmes were usually hand-made rather than printed, with some large ones at sports days being attached to trees. Students were required to write on both sides of the paper in their examination scripts and fancy-dress costumes were made rather than bought. Parts of the school grounds were dug up to grow vegetables. Although their early efforts were met with some degree of failure the girls improved on their gardening skills as time went on and managed to supply the senior service with vegetables.

Miss Bell led the way in providing mittens, helmets, semmits and socks for the soldiers by insisting that each child should learn to knit. She too was believed to have knitting in most rooms which she would pick up when an opportunity presented itself. A call came out for women to take over men’s jobs so Miss Bell put herself forward for Sutton Urban District Council in 1915; she, plus two others were returned unopposed. Her article in the Spring 1915 magazine explaining her decision to do this is very much an illustration of her belief in duty.

Miss Bell, headmistress of Sutton High School for Girls (reproduced by permission of the school)

News of the war trickled through; the bombardment of Scarborough in 1914 was met with outrage and the school welcomed Belgian refugees as pupils. Belgium, especially Ypres, became a key sphere of conflict in the Great War and the national propaganda about the “Kaiser’s ruffian hordes” led to some very patriotic poetry by the girls. Even the prizegiving addresses included references to the war; possibly the strangest one was in 1917 when the guest speaker alluded to the discovery of a fish in Zanzibar with Arabic looking “markings … which may be taken to foretell the downfall of Prussianism”!

Girls were always expected to take part in charity work but the war increased this aspect of school life ten-fold. Usual charities benefited, such as a hospital in Sierra Leone and Queen Mary’s Hospital in Carshalton but the girls raised money for over forty different charitable appeals as well as collecting kid gloves to make waistcoats for soldiers and “old clothes” to send to displaced people in France. Miss Hunt, who taught science, sold silkworms to raise money for the French Red Cross. Lady Smith-Dorrien, the wife of a prominent general, sent out an appeal in 1916 for bags to be made for use by injured soldiers and every form had to sew these; by the end of the war somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 had been made. Probably the element of competition introduced through form rivalry contributed to the total. The accounts were meticulously recorded in the magazines, down to the last penny.

The archive has many examples of letters sent to “lonely soldiers” and these letters were often accompanied by a parcel. Replies were printed in the magazines and there are intimations of very bad conditions in the trenches although, as one soldier remarked, they had to be careful of the censors, which is probably why the letters appear somewhat sanitised. Sometimes the recipients met a sad end; one sapper in the Royal Engineers was described as having been killed by “76 pieces of shrapnel”.

There were boys in the kindergarten at Sutton High School until the 1950s and the school lost four Old Boys. Sidney Price was probably the most valued as a paragraph sent by his commanding officer appeared in the Autumn 1916 magazine. Sidney is one of over 72,000 names on the Thiepval Memorial at the Somme; he has no known grave. News of casualties must have been a fairly common occurrence as the girls’ brothers tended to be the junior officer class straight from public school. There is no record of the deaths, other than the four Old Boys, except for a remark about the hushed tones when the armistice was announced and the French teacher who wept for her father and brothers “morts pour la France”. It has been quite easy to connect some of the girls to dead soldiers, particularly if they had an unusual name. Margaret Gashion’s brother, Stanley, was killed but his body was never found. ‘The Past on Glass’ project in Sutton Library has found that Stanley’s father took a long time to accept his son’s death and we can only imagine what this must have done to the rest of the family. Margaret went on to train as a doctor and we are left to wonder whether the news of her brother had any effect on her rather innovative choice of career at a time when few women became medics.

Sutton High School hall (reproduced by permission of the school)

There had been a strong Old Girls’ Association since 1905. Musical members put on free patriotic concerts as fundraisers at Sutton Public Hall and many put themselves forward for war work. A teacher, Miss P.M.Tayton, made contact with as many alumnae as she could in 1934 and noted down what each of them had done in the war. It is not exhaustive but it gives a good idea of the variety of tasks they undertook. Old Girls were encouraged to write in the magazines about their work and some did respond. Elsa Chambers Smith wrote about her work with the YMCA “somewhere in France”; Sybil Read, also worked for the YMCA, “canteening” and her sister, Joyce, worked in a shell shop in the Vickers munitions works in Kent. Dora Black used her language skills in the Women’s Emergency Corps and a gymnastics teacher, Hilda Collins, “caused quite a stir” when she left to work in a National Projectile factory in Lancaster. Many of the Old Girls were VADs volunteering as nurses in Benfleet Hall, a large, local house which, like hundreds of others, was transformed into a military hospital. In 1916 the Benfleet Hall VADs arranged for 40 of the injured men to visit the school for tea and games; they called it their “blue letter day”, probably due to the colour of the hospital uniform. The account of this references the hall “ringing with the deep-toned voices of the British Tommy”. Perhaps the most unusual contribution came from Rose Catchpole who found herself stranded in Austria at the start of the war; her account of enemy propaganda combined with the rather tolerant way in which she was treated are quite illuminating. She may have found life uncomfortable as she had to keep her opinions to herself but she was not interned as an enemy alien and the privations she endured were also suffered by the Austrians.

There was some normality in school life and, although one girl recorded being sent home due to an air-raid, this must have been a rare occurrence. Sports matches were never stopped although girls played more local teams, the staff or mothers. Expeditions continued, not to London but out into leafy Surrey. Examinations continued to be taken and successes recorded. Numbers stayed fairly stable, except for the older girls who left school to take up war work. The number of girls who left to help the war effort must have caused concern as an appeal went out from the Chairman of the Council of the Trust, in Spring 1918, encouraging girls to stay at school as “for the sake of England … girls ought to be thoroughly educated”. Miss Bell began an expansion of the school as soon as the war finished which must indicate that numbers were more than viable when the war was over.

The school was given two days’ holiday when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in June 1919. The “war to end all wars” did not have the desired effect that many of them expected. Sybil Read, who wrote about “canteening”, married Valentine Searles-Wood in 1918. Their son, John Valentine Searles-Wood was born a few months after the Treaty; he would be killed, aged 21, in the conflagration that was World War II. The school itself had come through relatively unscathed although the teaching of Home Economics to older girls, begun enthusiastically in 1911, was discontinued in 1916, due to falling numbers and was not reinstated for the foreseeable future. The school motto, fortiter (bravely), fideliter (loyally) and feliciter (happily) was proudly adhered to, at least in the formal accounts of the school magazines, although feliciter must have been increasingly hard to achieve as the news of the casualties came in.

The magazines of Sutton High School for Girls for the war years have been published on line.  Click here.

One man’s recollections – A lane long ago

Cobham Remembers

Submitted by Marilyn Eyles. Original text by T E Conway Walker.

When ‘Baa Black Sheep’ was my favourite nursery rhyme the only black sheep I knew were the flock in front of the Stoke D’Abernon manor house and I was a little boy who lived down the lane. Above the lane was a view of Ranmore Church and the old grandstand at Epsom, and it was Epsom Rural Council that looked after our roads. Only a muddy track led to Oxshott, so soft that armoured cars were tested there before being sent to Russia to confront the Germans in the 1914 – 1918 war.

We used Cobham Station in the winter, and daily I was carried even further on the carrier of my mother’s bicycle to Nursery School at what was the Old Rectory on the Glebe at Stoke. The solicitor to the London and South Western Railway lived there, and his only unmarried daughter taught us. Billy Bristowe who wrote the King Penguin book on Spiders, lived next door, opposite the Polo Ground, still a sports field.

Our first house was a little box, built for the bailiff of Knowle Hill Park, the seat of Mr. Hay. He had advertised in a newspaper for a country place ‘Fancy Price Paid’. We were allowed to wander around his woods at the end of our garden, and this continued when the mansion became the Schiff Home. I remember the Surrey Foxhounds meeting there, and later the ‘Three Cheers for Mr. Schiff’ when the hospital opened. This was as soon as patients could be comfortably brought from London by motor ambulance, and only a few years after Harrods motorvan regularly visited Water Lane.

Colonel Wray, the first superintendant, used to invite us to the Christmas entertainment, and, dressed in a black suit, used to ride round the lanes on a nag he had first noticed drawing a coal cart in Cardiff. The Colonel’s funeral procession was headed by the Cobham Brass Band.

Opposite the entrance lodge of the Home lived Dr. Kitching, handy for us before telephones were common. When I was laid on the nursery table and nearly suffocated with chloroform, Kitching was assisted by Dr. Blackwell (of the Crosse and Blackwell family) from Oxshott to hold my yelling body down. Fortunately my physical injuries were few and slight, such as grazing my knee when I fell on the road, running to meet the postman on his Sunday morning delivery.

Our Rubbish was taken to the Schiff Home dump and later to a brickfield on the site of Pony Chase there I saw the lumps of clay being moulded one by one and smelled the burning of the bricks.

Water Lane was a sort of cul-de-sac before the road was made up to Oxshott, and was once closed altogether when a bomb made a crater in the middle of the road. The deep hole was soon attended to, but I remember a smart private car being stuck in the soft infill having ignored a warning sign.

BALLOON Not all that comes from above was perilous, I remember afternoon tea being carried to Balloonists who had descended on Little Heath. This was before World War 1 when we could walk up to Polyapes, now the Scouts camp, to hear the guns in France.

The railway was electrified in 1925 and up to then I could lie in bed and listen to the trains, rumbling over the Mole to Effingham, over the bridge I had walked with the beagles. A Horsebus ran from the White Lion in Street Cobham to the Station. <scribbled out> of course Cobham Station itself is in Stoke Parish and the long straight road to Cobham Village was laid out at the time of the enclosures in the late 18th century). I usually walked to the shops over orchards and fields to the Tilt and back to the village by another path, now a series of (miserable) squeezes past back gardens. We had to tread out a path anew after each ploughing and after that I remember the broadcast sewing of the corn

(now a lost art). My destination in the village was Mrs Harris’s Newsagents shop, now Forbes where I have dealt for 80 years. My weekly penny could buy a satisfactory toy. We might call at the Mill for flour or chicken corn and the rumbling and shaking of the interior was quite an experience.

So narrow was the road here that the Canadian troops at Oxshott in World War 2 had to be banned from driving (their lorries) past the building to wash their lorries in the Mole. All that remains now is the little extension built between 1809 – 1820. It was at River Hill that I last saw the last Water cart in operation. The tarring of the roads has made watering a needless operation.

When we came to Cobham in 1907 the Vicar, Canon Grove who rode a horse around the parish and was wont to travel to (holiday in) Wisley (?) with luggage on the pillion and his wife following on a bicycle.

I (seem to) have nearly forgotten the Ambulance train of World War 1, crawling through Cobham station with patients sitting below, those on stretchers above. The train would have caused congestion on the main line and I wonder how long it would take even to reach Oxshott.

But Oxshott is another story.

The Pilgrim’s Progress: The Pilgrim’s Way Motor Company

Research and text by Peter Minett, as published in the Farnham and District Museum Society Journal and the Surrey Industrial History Group Magazine (Issue No. 215, August 2017)

Plans were submitted in September 1905 for workshops on land at Weydon.  The architects were Messrs Niven, Wigglesworth, and Falkner.  When completed the buildings became the home of the Pilgrims Way Motor Company; its first chairman was Mr Edward Armitage of Greenhills, Tilford, and the works manager was Mr F. Leigh Martineau M.I.A.E.

In 1906 a new Pilgrim car chassis was produced, known as the 25/30 hp, designed by Mr Martineau.  It was unusual in having a 4-cylinder engine of some 5?½ litres placed horizontally across the chassis, the cylinders pointing towards the front.  The speed of the engine was varied by controlling the inlet valve lift with a handle below the steering wheel, and it drove through a pedal-operated 2-speed epicyclic gearbox to the rear axle via an enclosed chain.  This large car had a wheelbase of only 8 ft 6 in, space being saved because the front seat was over the under-floor engine.  The footbrake worked a band on the countershaft, and the hand lever applied large expanding rear-wheel brakes.

The chassis was priced at £492-10s in 1909, but tyres were listed as £42 to £80 extra, presumably because many customers were choosy about their preferred make and size of tyres.  Coachwork was also an additional cost, the style and supplier being chosen to suit the customer’s rquirements.  A Pilgrim car equipped with bodywork by Thomas Warren of Wrecclesham was exhibited at the 1908 Motor Show at Olympia, where it was considered as one of the stars of the show.  The number produced was not large – perhaps 18 cars of this model.

Competition from foreign imports was increasing, especially after Ford had introduced their Model ‘T’.  This was also the time when ladies were starting to drive.  So Pilgrims brought out a new lightweight car of 10/12 hp which became known as the “Little Pilgrim”.  The car was exhibited at the 1908 Motor Show, where it attracted much attention, being of another unusual design by Mr C.T. Hulme.  It had a horizontally-opposed twin-cylinder engine of 1538 cc under the floor, driving forward to an epicyclic gearbox, from which the drive was taken to the front wheels through a differential mounted on a sub-frame.  The car cost £185 complete.

The new small car also formed the basis of a commercial vehicle.  The van had a forward driving position with central steering column which, though commonplace today, was revolutionary at the time.  Because of the front-drive mechanism, the starting handle protruded from the rear !  The spacious bodywork ought to have appealed to laundries and similar operators, yet it seems that not more than half a dozen were made.

The last Pilgrim car was made in 1915, by which time the country was at war.  However, the firm had been bankrupt since 1908, mainly due to competition from cheaper foreign imported cars.  By cutting down on staff and overheads, all debts were cleared by 1918.  Many younger men left to volunteer for the forces, and women were employed throughout the war for production of machine tools and munitions.  Mr Evrard Armitage took over in 1924; he had an engineering degree from Cambridge.  He invented an oil pump called the Pilgrim Pump which was used on British motorcycles right up until 1967, when the firm was sold.

Sub-contract work was undertaken, and large quantities of the Wall Autowheel were produced.  This was a single wheel with a tiny engine, and a petrol tank mounted above it, designed to be attached to the rear of a pedal cycle.  At some point the law changed such that this ‘three-wheeler’ became liable for tax, while the new models of two-wheeled auto-cycle were not taxed.  In 1935 Pilgrims became substantial sub-contractors for Vickers at Weybridge.

During the Second World War the Pilgrim factory made hydraulics for aeroplane undercarriages for Vickers, and also other secret weapons, in some of which Barnes Wallis was involved at Weybridge.

In 1959 the company name was changed to The Pilgrims Way Engineering Co., and Mr Adams joined the firm.  He had invented a thief-proof wages bag, which exploded on pressing a lever, throwing out three long spikes and closing the handle, so that a thief attempting to run off found his fingers in a firm grip?!  However, it did not sell as well as expected.

The firm was sold in 1967 when some of the land was compulsorily purchased by the Council for the construction of the Farnham Bypass.  The buildings were then occupied by Plasmec, a plastics company, until they were finally demolished in 1990.

Red Cross Field Day at Brooklands


Copyright: British Red Cross Museum and Archives

Red Cross Field Day at Brooklands in the presence of their majesties Queen Alexandra and the Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia

The following article details the visit of Her Majesty Queen Alexandra and Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia, presidents respectively the British and Russian Red Cross societies, to the field day organised by the Chertsey division of the Surrey Red Cross branch, which was held at Brooklands on Saturday 20 June 1914.  The event was attended by the high society of Surrey, including Lord and Lady Ashcombe (Lord Lieutenant and President of the Surrey Red Cross Branch respectively).







The Gingell family of Weybridge and Addlestone in the First World War

Researched and written by Jocelyn Barker

Pyles Farm (now Crockford Bridge Farm), c. 1903.

Home Farm, St. George’s Hill, c. 1905-10

I have recently found three interesting articles in Surrey newspapers of 1915-1917 referring to members of the Gingell family and their activities in the First World War.  The 1911 Census shows that William Gingell was then a 44-year-old farmer on St. George’s Hill (other sources name Home Farm; later known as Blue Barn Farm), living with his wife Ellen, seven sons, two daughters and a servant.  The sons include William Henry aged 21, Philip John, 20, Ernest Edward, 18 (the “Nestie” referred to below), Oscar Norman, 17, and Alan Bruce, 14.  The family come from Buckhurst Hill, Essex, at some time between the births of their two youngest sons in March 1902 and March 1905. The eldest son, William Henry Gingell, married Christine F. Rundall in Chertsey in June 1916.

In late 1915 or early 1916 William Gingell moved to Crockford Bridge Farm, Addlestone (1). Before the introduction of conscription in March 1916, the five eldest sons had all volunteered for military service:


Surrey Advertiser, 6th March, 1915



An interesting meeting of five old St. James’ schoolboys at the front is described in a letter just received from one of them, Oscar Gingell, Blue Barn Farm, St. George’s Hill.  The other chums referred to are Nestie Gingell, the writer’s brother, Reginald Puttock, son of Mr. and Mrs. C.E. Puttock, Lanstephan, Springfield Meadows, Vivian Crapp and Sidney Crump – all contemporary scholars of Mr. E.W. Brown, and prominent in school sports and prize lists of their day.  The brothers Gingell are in the Surrey Yeomanry, and the others are members of the 1st Battalion of “The Rangers” (12th County of London Territorials).

In the course of his letter, Oscar Gingell says: “Yesterday I received a rather pleasant surprise.  Who should I see but Reg. Puttock and another young fellow (who worked in Turner’s office) up in our loft, talking to Nestie.  They had just returned from the trenches: they came out at 4 a.m.  They came out here before us – in fact, they sailed on Christmas Eve – and have had several spells in the trenches.  They have been commended, and have done jolly well.  The Major Hoare that Reg. was orderly to has been killed.  If they can get off, they are coming over to see us again to-morrow, and will bring Vivian Crapp with them, and Sid Crump.  As they had had no tea, they stopped and had tea with us; and we, having received some salmon as a present from British Columbia, were able to give them tea (with milk in), bread, salmon and jam.  One of the fellows had a parcel from home, so we all had a bit of cake.  We always share our parcels.”


Surrey Advertiser, Sat. 1st July 1916

Henry Dance (34), Sanway Cottages, Byfleet, stockman to Mr. William Gingell, dairy farmer, Crockford Bridge, Addlestone, was granted conditional exemption while remaining as such. – Mr. Gingell told the tribunal that he himself had five sons in the uniform, and producing their photographs, handed them to the members. – Mr. Wells: You are not a conscientious objector! – Mr. Gingell: Not half a one (laughter). – Mr. Crosby: Your boys do you great credit.

Mr. Gingell, like other farmers, would have found it increasingly difficult to find labourers as more and more men were called up.  Probably his wife and two teenage daughters, Evelyn and Joyce, had been helping on the farm, which may have encouraged his decision to take a leading role in a scheme more familiar to us from the Second World War:


Surrey Mirror, Fri. 23rd Feb. 1917


The Agricultural Education Committee reported that arrangements had been made for the training of women on Mr. Gingell’s farm at Addlestone.  Inquiries were being made as to other suitable farms for training.  The committee had also considered a suggestion from the Women’s Agricultural Committee that special arrangements should be made for training women in milking, and had agreed to the payment to selected farmers of 2s. 6d. per week for a short course of instruction, subject to the submission of a satisfactory scheme.  A circular had been received from the Board of Agriculture, stating that, in view of the imperative demands for maintaining and increasing the supply of farm labour, the Treasury had sanctioned the provision of further facilities for the training of women to take the place of men withdrawn from the land.  The Board now offered grants to cover two-thirds of the actual cost of any approved scheme for the training of women by means of residential courses at institutions or selected farms, the only restrictions attached to the grant in the case of private farms being that farmers should not be subsidised out of public funds for training workers for their own use, and that in case of farmers providing residential accommodation the total payments for training and maintenance should not exceed 12s. per week per student for a maximum of four weeks.  The Board suggested that the selection of suitable women should be left to the Women’s Agricultural Committee.  The payments made by the committee for the training and maintenance of women on farms exceeded the limit fixed by the Board of Agriculture, and the committee had represented to the Board that, having regard to the present cost of living in the county, they should accept the regulations of the committee for the purpose of the special grant.


The “Runnymede Remembered” archive on Chertsey Museum’s website, compiled by Jim Knight and Emma Warren, tells us something of the brothers’ war record.  A “Surrey Herald” report of 1st February, 1918, gives us a snapshot of their lives. (2) Sergt. William H. Gingell, formerly of the Surrey Yeomanry, was by now of the Queen’s and at present with the British Expeditionary Force in Italy.  A later report shows that he arrived home in August 1918.  Sergt. Philip J. Gingell, Royal Flying Corps, received the Mons ribbon for landing in France in the first week of August, 1914.  He was with the British Expeditionary Force until Nov. 1917, then transferred to a home establishment for a rest.  Before transferring to the R.F.C. he was a first-class scout in the Surrey Yeomanry (Guildford Troop) for 4½ years.  Sergt. Ernest E. Gingell, Surrey Yeomanry, received the bronze medal of the Crown of Italy in March 1917 “for bravery, cool and skilful leading of a small party of men in a rearguard action fought in the Balkans.”  Oscar N. Gingell, a Farrier Sergeant in the 16th Cavalry Corps (Salonica), late Surrey Yeomanry, went to France in January 1915 and after some months was drafted to Salonica.  He was mentioned in the Salonica despatch of 28th Nov. 1917, for gallant conduct and distinguished service.  Alan B. Gingell, a despatch rider in the R.F.C., was serving in Egypt.  The report also mentions the two youngest boys, of whom Charles Alexander, then aged 16, was at Woking Secondary School and a Sergt. Major in the Cadet Corps.  The youngest, George Raymond, only 10 years of age, “does yeoman service on the farm”.


Unusually, all five men survived the War and the 1920 Electoral Register shows Philip, Ernest, Oscar and Alan living with their parents at Crockford Bridge Farm. William Henry and Frances Christina Gingell were by this time at Sayes Court Farm, later moving to Coombelands Farm by 1930.  William Henry was a local Councillor for many years, including a term as Chairman of the Council. He eventually resigned from Chertsey Urban District Council in 1942.


(1) Electoral Registers, 1915 and 1916

(2) The full report is reproduced on the website at: chertseymuseum.org/ww1_archive