Philip Alexius de Laszlo (1869-1937)

Written and researched by Jenny Mukerji

Philip Alexius de Laszlo (1869-1937)

Philip de Laszlo and his wife Lucy Madeline, nee Guinness (1870-1950), are buried in the churchyard of All Saints’ Church, Tilford, Farnham.

Philip was born in Budapest, Hungary on 30 April 1869 and, at the height of his career, he was considered to be the most important court painter in Europe. After successes in Europe, Philip came to London, with his young family in 1907. Co-incidentally and conveniently, this was at the same time as John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), the American portrait painter in England decided to give up painting portraits.

Philip’s decision to come to England was the result of his marrying (on 7 June 1900 at Stillorgan Church in Ireland) Lucy Guinness, who wished to bring her children up in England rather than in Hungary. Lucy’s sister, Eva Frances Guinness (1868-1930), owned a house, The Willows, at Tilford and the de Laszlos often stayed there. Sometimes they stayed with the Trouton family at Melbreck, in Tilford and Philip also often rented Hammondsworth, a cottage in Frensham, for the summer months.

In 1910 Philip had painted a portrait of the German Emperor, William II. However, immediately prior to the outbreak of the Great War, Philip was granted naturalization as a British subject, his sponsors being Lord Devonport, Arthur Balfour, Arthur Lee and Howard Guinness, his brother-in-law. The timing was unfortunate as Hungary entered the war on the German side and Philip was attacked in the Hungarian Press and his money in Austria was seized. It also saw him fall under suspicion in England as the war progressed and his pictures began to be refused at exhibitions despite his giving generously to the Red Cross.

In 1915 Philip was commissioned to paint a portrait of Desmond Gardiner Trouton (1893-1917) who was the second of the four sons of the distinguished physicist Professor Frederick Trouton (1863-1923) and his wife Annie, nee Fowler. They also had three daughters. Lucy de Laszlo was the cousin of Desmond’s father and both families spent their summers in Tilford. Desmond was a major in the Royal Field Artillery when he was killed during the Battle of Passchendaele on 13 October 1917. He had been mentioned in despatches and is buried in The Huts Cemetery, south-west of Ypres. His eldest brother, Captain Frederick Thomas Trouton of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) was killed on 25 September 1915 and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial.

Philip was keen to support his family in Budapest, especially his mother, and sent money in letters to her via friends in the neutral countries of Holland and Spain. Although these letters were innocent, they were intercepted and in 1917 Philip had to appear before Sir Charles Matthews, the Director of Public Prosecutions, who gave him a warning. Then, unfortunately, a Hungarian internee came to Philip’s house, begging for help and was unwisely given £1. As a result, Philip was arrested and imprisoned in Brixton Prison. After a trial Philip was removed to Holloway Internment Camp where he suffered a nervous breakdown. Due to his illness, he was released in 1918 but remained under house arrest at a nursing home at 20 Ladbroke Gardens, London. Here he was only allowed to be visited by his wife and children. During his time of internment, Philip was supported by his fellow artists, including Sir Luke Fildes (1843-1927) and the art critic Alfred Lys Baldry (1858-1939).

Later, in peace time, Philip continued to paint and for relaxation he enjoyed playing golf at the Hankley Common Golf Club with his friend Charles Edmund Clare (1882-1963). Philip died at 3 Fitzjohns Avenue, Hampstead, on 22 November 1937.

Sources: Luke Fildes R A – A Victorian Painter by L V Fildes (Michael Joseph, London, 1968).

A Brush with Grandeur – Philip A. de Laszlo 1869-1937 (published by Paul Holberton, London, 2004).

‘A Policeman’s Lot … ’: the Surrey Police in Wartime. Part 4: 1918

Written by Marion Edwards

During World War I, the Chief Constable of Surrey, Captain M L Sant, sent a series of extremely detailed reports (usually quarterly) to the Standing Joint Committee which oversaw the Surrey Constabulary. These reports (see SHC ref CC98/1/4-5) outlined the extra duties and demands placed on the overburdened and under-strength force by the war and the blizzard of orders and requests for information from central government.

Report of March 1918 The Chief Constable began his first report of the New Year by declaring that from now on he would not give details of DORA orders and amendments, as ‘they have been arriving practically every day’ and he had since 10 December received 83. However, other instructions were still flooding in, covering subjects including: the relaxation of liquor regulations over the Christmas period; the prohibition of the import of ‘certain seditious publications’ (of which there were 18 in all known so far; others were added later); Italians returning to Italy under the Convention concluded between the British and Italian Governments; a new system for the issue of air raid warnings by day; regulations for the use of gas for driving vehicles; alterations to arrangements regarding the escape and recapture of prisoners of war; proposals for ‘better co-operation’ between County and Borough Police Forces in connection with matters arising from Emergency Legislation; the uses to which private and hire cars might be put; and the protection and disposal of ‘enemy aircraft brought to earth’.

Captain M L Sant, Chief Constable of Surrey Constabulary (SHC ref 9017/4/3)

Two related confidential matters caused the Chief Constable some difficulties this quarter. The first, arising from conferences between himself and the Competent Military Authorities of the Aldershot and Eastern Commands involving ‘certain steps’ to be taken by the Military and Police in co-operation in the event of an emergency being declared, was ‘of so secret a character’ that he could not actually report it. Subsequently, he received a confidential letter from the Home Office (the contents of which he was unable to give in detail) regarding applications by the Police for military aid in case of disturbance, although he found that it ‘practically forbids the Police to ask for such aid except in cases of absolute necessity’; in connection with this, he described in detail a riot by railwaymen and employees of Dennis Bros and Drummonds in Guildford on 2 February, who refused to allow butchers to distribute meat, and discussed at length what could or should be done in the event of a greater disturbance with a reduced Police force and without military aid, especially in light of 480 Russian soldiers (possible ‘Bolsheviks’) at Minden Barracks, Deepcut.

Other demands on the Chief Constable’s time were i) the provision of data for the Minister of National Service to complete the Minister’s records regarding male alien enemies exempted from internment; ii) monthly notification of the arrival, departure or death of all male alien enemies; and iii), more irritatingly, a request for action from the Local Food Control Committee regarding food hoarding, in response to which he pointed out with some asperity that it was their own responsibility to obtain a search warrant and make a search (although he did promise to allow an officer to accompany them).

Report of May 1918 Subjects of instruction and information this quarter included: the declaration of County Clare, Ireland, as a Special Military Area; an order making it a summary offence for any woman suffering from venereal disease to solicit or have sex with any member of HM Forces (for which the Chief Constable gloomily predicted that the Police will ‘have to do all the work’); the maintenance of discipline of troops of Allied Forces in the UK (at present just US Forces, whose own Courts Martial should deal with matters arising); the procedure to be followed should a discharged soldier wish to be taken on in the Police Force; the prohibition of the opening of any new retail trade or business without a licence; the control of passenger traffic between Great Britain and Ireland by a permit system (for which application should be made to the police); and no student to be admitted to any ‘school of Wireless Telegraphy’ until his credentials had been checked (by the police, naturally).

Again, letters from the Home Office caused problems. The first outlined the duties of the police in case of invasion, but it appeared to the Chief Constable that ‘Should such an emergency arise, it would appear to me that each Constable will have to be in several places at one and the same time!! I can only hope that such a contingency may not take place!!’; in response to the second, stating that the Police were to take over the 5 Military Aircraft Observation Posts, the Chief Constable managed to persuade the HO to concede that Sergeants (who could not just stay at home waiting for a call) were not to neglect their Police work for observation duty, and that ‘if they were out [on duty] at the time the call came, no one was to be blamed for neglect to comply with the order’.

Further irritations included: the ‘incredible’ number of enquiries which had to be made regarding the ‘misconduct’ and ‘improprieties’ of wives of serving soldiers (which the Chief Constable considered a ‘disgraceful’ use of police time); a letter from the ‘Dorking and District Flag Day and War Charities’ asking for his ‘observations thereon’ (‘No doubt my reply will be laid before the Committee’); and the compilation of yet another census of livestock, this time including poultry.

Report of September 1918 Sant began this report by reminding the Chairman of the Standing Joint Committee that ‘all the duties of a permanent nature imposed on the Police … are still being carried out’ and that all the subjects of instruction and information outlined this quarter were either new or amendments to old ones. They included: permission for the use of lights in dining rooms and sittings rooms of hotels, inns and boarding houses up to midnight; the possible protection from military service of members of the Special Constabulary (the Chief Constable was to forward to the Home Office the names, ages and grades of any in his force); alterations to licences for the sale of horses at auctions and fairs; a new Road Transport Order and the registration of Goods Carrying Vehicles (forms to be issued at Police Stations); provisions for billeting women ‘who are enrolled for employment by the Army Council’; the seizing and destroying of ‘Hostile Leaflets’ (a list of 147 was supplied); the use of hay and straw for horse transport; the requirement of American citizens in the UK to either to serve with the US Army or return to the US (the taking of a census of Americans of military age by the Police was requested), the same to apply to Greek citizens (who might serve in the British Army); assistance to the Board of Trade in dealing with desertions of alien seamen and Danes (the Chief Constable did not consider that the Police had any power to ‘demand from the Seamen or Danes, their passports, etc’); Czechoslovaks to be treated as ‘alien friends and allies’; the movement of alien prisoners of war (who on the whole the Chief Constable found well-behaved and good workers) employed in agricultural and other work; the discontinuance of the Separation Allowance in cases of immoral army wives; and the responsibility of the Police to ensure that every alien, without exception, had an Identity Book.

The Home Office persisted in its demand that the police should be ready to man ‘at any moment night or day’ the Military Aircraft Observation Posts (now 6 in number), to ‘free for other duties … men of the Royal Defence Corps, hitherto employed to man the observation posts’; however, this time the Chief Constable made no comment other than to cite parts of the letter, although later in the report he considered that as the manning of the observation posts was obviously a military duty, it should be performed by the Volunteer Defence Corps.

He dealt sympathetically with two requests. The first, from the Assistant Provost Marshal at Aldershot, asked that the police assist in dealing with ‘hawkers etc’ who, ejected from military camps, could defy him by travelling on roads passing through the camps, over which he had no jurisdiction; this was acceded to by the Chief Constable, who also wrote (presumably to HQ) recommending that camp byelaws be extended to those roads. The second, from the Ministry of National Service, asking that the Chief Constable allow the police to assist in the gathering of the harvest as it was of ‘national importance’ was also dealt with promptly, and Sant received ‘gratifying reports of the way in which the Police came to the aid of the farmers’.

The Assistant Provost Marshal at Aldershot also made the welcome suggestion that the Military Authorities might aid the Chief Constable in the conveyance to Holloway (via Godalming and the Guildford Petty Sessions) of prostitutes apprehended by the Police in the neighbourhood of the camp at Witley by providing a vehicle for the purpose, for which the Chief Constable might apply officially; however, the eventual reply received from the Surplus Property Disposal Board merely invited the Chief Constable to ‘make an offer for any vehicle which might suit my purpose!!!!! [sic]’.

Sant noted the receipt of an ‘extremely interesting’ addendum to the pamphlet concerning German Aeroplane Bombs, but noted (possibly with some glee) that ‘the contents are secret, and must not be communicated’. Also received were ‘certain sealed orders’ from the Home Office, with instructions ‘not to open the envelope unless I received a telegram to do so’.

The case of the alien enemy Andre von Drumreicher, who had served in the German cavalry and subsequently in the Egyptian Civil Service, and who had now come to England from Egypt, was described in detail; with some amazement, Sant noted that he was ‘for some inexplicable reason’ released by the Home Office from internment and is now residing at Farnham.

Report of November 1918 The Chief Constable used this short report to discuss his meeting in October with a deputation of members of the Surrey Constabulary over rates of pay; the ‘deplorable, and disgraceful’ Metropolitan Police strike was also mentioned.

Camberley Special Constables on Armistice Day (SHC ref 9152/2/2/4/1b)

Addendum Report [November/ December 1918] The Chief Constable first reported a decrease in the number of duties the police had been called upon to perform in connection with the war. Continuing with the case of one Louisa Frost, the maid of Lady Stanley (who lived at Furze Hill, Pirbright) and the wife of an interned German, whom he had been asked to remove from ‘the vicinity of the camps at Pirbright’ to the Metropolitan Area, Sant moved on to list more subjects demanding his attention, including: the inclusion of all Spanish and Portuguese Jews in the class of Turkish Subjects; identification marks on military vehicles; the enforcement of regulations preventing the shooting of carrier pigeons (as it was legal for a farmer to shoot any pigeon alighting on his land and several had done so); the withdrawal of posters issued in October regarding cattle feed stuffs and the supply of new ones; the regularisation of arrangements regarding the exemption of police eligible for military service from enlistment; the supply of information to the Ministry of Food regarding the addresses, members and purpose of registered clubs; the compilation of a ‘complete census’ of all horses, mules and asses in the county; regulations regarding the slaughter of horses for food (‘It is important that no horseflesh which is unfit for food may be sold for human consumption’); police procedure in the case of deserters and absentees from the Royal Navy; arrangements for Belgian refugees to remain in their present places and not to go to London or ports for repatriation (‘I anticipate that the duty of carrying out these arrangements will fall on the Police’); and – with obvious relief – authorising the ringing of church bells and the use of fireworks and bonfires upon the ‘welcome information that an armistice has been signed by Germany’, and cancelling all DORA regulations. At the very end of this last wartime report, the Chief Constable quoted from a letter received from the Ministry of National Service: ‘I should like to take this opportunity of thanking you for the untiring and willing help which you have given to the Department in the past and I need hardly say how helpful this assistance has been’.

In October, the Chief Constable was asked to give evidence before a Committee dealing with DORA regulations on prostitutes, but he felt that the best evidence they could obtain would be that of one Superintendent Jennings of the Godalming Division and the Assistant Provost Marshal of Witley Camp, both of whom have seen the ‘indescribably filthy condition’ (he enumerated here several nasty symptoms) of some of the 31 women so far prosecuted. The problems of ‘females in camps’ lead to the appointment of ‘Women Constables’, and the Chief Constable included a separate, special report dated 5 December 1918 on ‘Women Police’, which described their formation, eligibility and duties in detail.

‘A Policeman’s Lot … ’: the Surrey Police in Wartime. Part 3: 1917

Written by Marion Edwards

During World War I, the Chief Constable of Surrey, Captain M L Sant, sent a series of extremely detailed reports (usually quarterly) to the Standing Joint Committee which oversaw the Surrey Constabulary. These reports (see SHC ref CC98/1/4-5) outlined the extra duties and demands placed on the overburdened and under-strength force by the war and the blizzard of orders and requests for information from central government.

Report of March 1917 Requests and instructions from the Home Office and other bodies, including the Military, continued to arrive and subjects included: ensuring that where a gunsmith’s licence had expired the ‘ex-licencee’ had in fact discontinued his activities; the procedure to be adopted when manufacturers had neglected to suppress glare from furnaces at night; the regulation of the sale of ‘intoxicating liquor’ at Christmas; non-observance by Aliens of the Aliens Restriction Order; the issue of ‘Inland Passes’ to persons employed in munitions work (to be the same as those supplied to Allied journalists without the stamp ‘Allied Press’; amendments to regulations on cocaine and opium licences for manufacturers; the forwarding to MI5 of any enquiry from persons in ‘Neutral Countries’ seeking information with regard to named individuals living in the UK (on no account were the Police to reply); the compilation of a return of all available firewood within a 10-mile radius of Guildford and of persons owning such wood (this took three weeks to complete and ‘gave the Police a very considerable amount of trouble’ as the area covered four police divisions); the compilation of a return of all motor cars and lorries in the county; the compilation of a register of all billeting accommodation in the Weybridge district; the compilation of a return of firearms of 45 calibre ‘in stock in my area’ (none answering that description were actually found); restrictions in the use of wheat for seed purposes or making flour; the mobilisation of all officers and men on leave in case of emergency; the forwarding to the War Office of particulars with regard to Aliens who had served in the armed or police forces, and those permitted to reside in Prohibited Areas – to ‘assist MI5’, the Chief Constable was requested to obtain ‘in as many cases as possible’ a specimen of each alien’s signature both in Roman characters and ‘in his own language’ (presumably Cyrillic); and assistance to next-of-kin summoned by telegram to visit serving relatives either in the UK or abroad, not ‘in a position to pay their fares’.

Captain M L Sant, Chief Constable of Surrey Constabulary (SHC ref 9017/4/3)

An order received in December 1916 from the Provost Marshal in France to obtain 200 men from the Provincial Police Forces to complete a force of Mounted Military Police was another thorn in the Sant’s side. However, despite having between 70 and 80 of his constables enlist and having been informed that his force should not be reduced below a certain minimum, the Chief Constable still managed to release two more men for the Army. He requested advice on whether this was now a reduction too far, and was informed that ‘the question whether I could spare any men had still to be decided by myself’. A further blow was the fact that the two men thus released were not accepted, ‘presumably, because they had not the necessary qualifications’ (perhaps the ability to ride). In February 1917 two more constables received enlistment papers, causing Sant once more to query the selection criteria (determined by age); however, one of the two constables had given false information as to his age when applying to enter the force, and was discharged and sent to join the Army ‘at once’.

The many requests for compilation of various data was another headache for the CC, those for firewood, vehicles and billets ‘practically monopolized the services of the Police for the time being’; nonetheless they were followed closely by another for firearms. More work was occasioned by daily enquiries after persons attempting to evade military service.

Despite all these trials and tribulations, the CC received a ‘gratifying letter’ from General Sir Archibald Hunter, Commander Aldershot Area, which reported the decrease in crime in that area and stating ‘This is attributed … in some measure to the … co-operation which our Military Police have received from the Civil Police of the district [who] have been more than ready to assist whenever occasion arose’.

Report of May 1917 Further information and instructions from the Home Office were received on subjects including: regulations dealing with the manufacture of malt for beer, the manufacture of bread and the use of sugar; the use of lights while ploughing at night by motor tractor; the extinction of street lights; the cleansing of all drinking vessels in licensed premises; information to be sent to MI5 regarding aliens of Chinese, Japanese, Siamese, Persian or Egyptian nationality; the drawing down of blinds in railway carriages at night; Easter closing time in public houses; restrictions on the feeding of game; a Paper Restriction Order; the compilation of censuses of horses and mules, cattle, sheep and pigs, and agricultural implements (the demand that these be complete and accurate, and ‘obtained in as short a time as possible’ caused further work for the Police, especially as 8000 forms were dealt with in about 10 days); the closure of ‘clubs or other premises’ if they were ‘habitually frequented by alien enemies’; the reduction of the bread ration for troops in billets; and the avoidance of wasted food during summer months.

Further withdrawal of exemption certificates from constables by the Godalming Local Tribunal annoyed the Chief Constable, who reported in detail his response. Later he was to go to the Home Office for a discussion on the subject (reported at length). However, the return to the police forces of those men classified under medical categories and not needed by the Army may have alleviated his concerns somewhat, although a later request for the release of men in the police capable of skilled work on the land must have seemed yet another burden on numbers. Sant did not think it feasible to grant leave of absence for this purpose (although he thought it possible that constables could give assistance in kitchen gardens, allotments or farms in their vicinity in their spare time), and there were further concerns that any such man who was injured while working on the land might lose his police pension. At the end of his report Sant stated that he had received a ‘secret letter’ from the Ministry of Munitions, the contents of which he was not permitted to divulge, although he was able to state that it contained a request for the assistance of the police to guard munitions factories and ‘requiring the employment of such a large number of men that even had my force been at its full strength, it would not have been possible to accede to the request to which I have alluded’.

On a lighter note, Sant reported the receipt of an ‘extremely interesting secret Circular on the subject of Air Raids’ and also detailed at length the assistance he and his constables were able to give to the Officer Commanding the Remount Depot at Redhill in his task of purchasing 80 horses a week.

The severing of telephone wires near Blackheath on 20-21 April by persons unknown caused some excitement, although no suspicious persons were found in the area; conclusions were that ‘some malicious or mischievous person’ had committed the act, rather than a spy, and reasons for this conclusion quoted at length.

Report of September 1917 This quarter, requests and information from the Home Office included: new regulations prohibiting the use of ‘Motor spirit’ [petrol] in hire cars except in certain circumstances; the prohibition of the publication of any new newspaper without a licence; the prohibition of ‘wasteful and unnecessary lighting’ including ‘sky signs’, illuminated advertisements, theatre lights and shop display lights; the declaration of lead in combination with Oleic Acid ‘or other higher fatty acids’ (sold as ‘Diachylon’) as a poison under the Pharmacy Act (in consequence of the practice of using it to procure abortion); economy in food for feeding to dogs (the regulations for this are quoted at length with the estimate that food consumed by dogs would feed ‘half-a-million persons’); pensions for disabled soldiers; damage to allotments by trespassers; the encouragement of ‘the destruction of House Sparrows and Rats while discouraging the indiscriminate slaughter of other birds, which are beneficial in devouring insects and other pests’ including the formation of ‘Sparrow and Rat Clubs’; the treatment of Jews or Arabs as aliens and not alien enemies; the issue of railway warrants by the police to relatives of soldiers in hospital; the police to be informed of gun or bombing practice and circulate the information to allay public alarm; measures to be taken during a threatened railway strike (which did not occur); the prevention of treatment of venereal disease other than by qualified medical practitioners; and the display of posters prohibiting the shooting of carrier pigeons.

Special Constables at Guildford (SHC ref PH72/Box 7/85)

Sant detailed at length the case of Hugo Greef, a registered alien enemy who bought Durfold Farm, Dunsfold (which was close to the signalling station at ‘One Tree Hill’ and to the prohibited area of Sussex), and whose son brought 22 homing pigeons from Leicester with a permit from the Leicester Police, which appears to have caused some interest and excitement in the county.

Probably to the Chief Constable’s relief, a letter from the Home Office in early July stated that ‘in view of the pressure of work devolving on the Police the Home Secretary has been in communication with the Army Council with a view to steps being taken to reduce, where possible, the work which the Police are asked to undertake on behalf of the Military Authorities’.

Report of December 1917 Aside from the usual influx of amendments to DORA, information and instructions from the Home Office continued to flood in and subjects included: assistance to airships wishing to land; the payment by the police of rewards of £5 for information leading to the capture of escaped prisoners of war (to be refunded by MI5); the prohibition of the sale of dried fruits outside the UK, restrictions to the prices of flour and bread; the prohibition of the sale by occupiers of agricultural holdings of horses used for cultivation without a licence; the reporting of cases of the fraudulent display of notices by persons claiming to have been disabled by the war in order to enlist the sympathy of the public (the police were to report every such case to the Home Office); all French citizens to be repatriated to serve in the French Army or remain and serve in the British Army; restrictions on petrol; the enforcement of Food Orders; control measures for the sale and purchase of livestock; and the printing, publishing or distribution of leaflets relating to the present war or ‘the making of peace’ to be a summary offence, unless the full names and addresses of the author and printer are included. Sant noted at the end of his report that, in this quarter alone, he had received ‘no less than 42’ DORA orders and amendments.

Demands that Special Constables might take over the duty of guarding General Store Depot 35 at Horley caused more irritation to Sant, and details of his communications with the Ministry of Munitions on the matter were given at length. Another cause of concern was a ‘somewhat peremptory’ request by Eastern Command (Hounslow) to have ‘certain confidential returns’ – that were to be drawn up by police in connection with the action to be taken by them in the event of emergency – within two days ‘without fail’, even though ‘It was impossible … to explain to my Superintendents … exactly what particulars they were asked to supply, in fact, I was myself in some doubt’. Sant subsequently issued an order (reported in form outlining the action to be taken by Special Constables in the event of a threatened air raid, which he gives in full.

Complaints concerning the behaviour of a number of Russians living in huts at Deepcut, Frimley, resulted in a letter to the General Officer Commanding at Aldershot (this and its reply) are also given in full. Sant could not ‘understand how this large number of Russians was allowed to land in this country, eating up the food urgently required by the inhabitants’ and considered the whole situation ‘most unsatisfactory’.

The number of investigations by the Police into cases of infidelity by soldiers’ wives came as ‘quite a revelation’ to the Chief Constable, averaging as they did ‘two or three a week’. He also noted the many British women married to alien enemies, and outlined the procedure to be followed by Police.

Sant noted (with great satisfaction) that Hugo Greef was ordered to return to ‘the place from whence he came, viz, Carshalton [and] the County is now relieved of his unwelcome presence’; Greef’s son, who was ‘British-born’, was enlisted.


‘A Policeman’s Lot … ’: the Surrey Police in Wartime. Part 2, 1916

Written by Marion Edwards

During World War I, the Chief Constable of Surrey, Captain M L Sant, sent a series of extremely detailed reports (usually quarterly) to the Standing Joint Committee which oversaw the Surrey Constabulary. These reports (see SHC ref CC98/1/4-5) outlined the extra duties and demands placed on the overburdened and under-strength force by the war and the blizzard of orders and requests for information from central government.

Report of March 1916 Subjects of instructions received in this quarter included: lights on vehicles; the necessity of passports; those who act as receiving addresses for correspondence to keep registers of the names and addresses of those persons who ask for letters; the nomination of a police officer to provide ‘assistance’ in the evolution of a scheme for ‘Motor Transport Convoys’ (although a projected conference was never arranged); the posting of notices withdrawing restrictions on the sale of hay; the provision by all hotel, inn, boarding house and lodging house keepers of a weekly return of all aliens residing with them; enquiries to be made regarding the sale of apparatus for signalling; the employment of ‘friendly aliens’ in munitions factories; the discouragement of ‘suspicious’ pigeon shooting contests; a request by Hounslow Sub-District ASC for returns of all ‘Motor Mechanical Transport in the Dorking Police Division’ (the Chief Constable had already supplied this information to HQ 2nd Army and foresaw similar requests form other sub-Districts causing considerable ‘reduplication’); how to deal with Reservists who fail to arrive after enlistment and publication of their names in the Police Gazette as absentees; advertising changes in the Aliens Restriction Order by means of newspapers and posters (‘This order will entail a very considerable amount of increased work on the Police’); alterations (hitherto working ‘most efficiently’) to police arrangements for warning factories of Zeppelin raids; and the issue by police of ‘Identity Books’ to aliens.

A letter from the Home Office outlining the suggestion from Lord Derby that members of the Police forces should be attested and passed into the Army Reserve, on the understanding that they would not be called up for actual military service without the consent of their Chief Officer, caused Sant some concern, especially in light of previous complaints on the matter (see the last report of 1915) and as in several local divisions the ‘point of depletion’ had already passed. However, a letter outlining his reservations received no reply and later he noted that no mention of exemption for Police Constables was made in the new Military Service Act.

The Military Service Act comes into force

Further causes for irritation to the Chief Constable came in the form of i) a demand from the Post Office for 4s 11½d for a telegraph sent to the Home Office regarding the air raid of 13 October (although the sum was ‘trifling’, ‘it appears to me that the Police rate should not be called upon to pay for what is obviously an expenditure in a matter affecting the Defence of the Realm’); ii) the fact that the Police are ‘continually being called upon to act as Bill Posters’ for the ‘formidable number’ of such items issued to them; iii) the ‘greatest confusion’ caused by conflicting Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic) orders; and iv) Constables receiving enlistment forms despite their obviously necessary duties.

Report of May 1916 The Chief Constable began this report by outlining his concerns over the question of Special Constables who also served in the Volunteer Training Corps having now to attest, and the resulting clash of duties owed to two different authorities; he had so far received no reply to his letter asking for assistance from the Home Office and making suggestions.

However, the Home Office continued to send instructions, this quarter relating to: changes in procedures for warning factories of hostile aircraft; reporting the presence of hostile aircraft to military authorities (constables were to be issued with cards for making such reports to ‘the nearest Military Authority’, despite some doubt as to who in the county these actually were); the removal of number plates bearing ‘OHMS’ from vehicles and the issue of a ‘stencil number plate’ and card; amendments to the Aliens Restriction Order regarding their employment in munitions factories; the ‘delicate and difficult’ duties of the Police regarding the inspection of registration cards; the re-arrangement of areas for air raid warning; expelling ‘undesirable persons’ from ‘certain localities’; alterations to the Competent Military Authorities in Eastern Command; the ‘Belgian decree’ requiring all male Belgians aged 20 to report for service and the ascertainment of how many of these were in Surrey; the prohibition of meetings where ‘there is reason to apprehend that the holding of the meeting in a public place will give rise to grave disorder; and watchmen employed for the protection of munitions works to be appointed as Special Constables.

In response to a ‘remarkable order’ from the officer commanding the Chilworth Guard stating that local police, rather than the military, should guard munitions stored at Chilworth station, Sant sent a rather irritable letter to the General Officer Commanding the Central Force, informing him that he only had three regular constables to the 120 soldiers in the area; the GOC, who had not realised the situation, admitted that the approach had been ‘tactless’ and rescinded the order at once. Other such irritations for the Chief Constable were: i) a demand from the Sub Aliens Registration Officer at Weybridge that the police furnish him a weekly return of the change of address of all persons registered – thus proving himself ‘quite ignorant of the magnitude of the work this would entail’ and earning himself a terse response that Registration Officers were responsible; and ii) the Home Office’s order that Police should assist the Army Council in tracing men enlisted under the Military Service Act who have failed to respond: Sant considered that the Home Office statement that ‘the duties (explained here in detail) which will devolve upon the Police … are likely to be onerous’ an understatement.

Report of September 1916 Instructions from the Home Office continued in full spate and subjects included: prevention of the spread of ‘groundless rumours’ regarding enemy aircraft, ‘unfounded alarming reports having lately become of great frequency’; searching for ‘Hostile leaflets’; unauthorised use of the Red Cross flag on buildings which have no right to it; the compilation of a list of all aliens at liberty within the Chief Constable’s jurisdiction; the commandeering of wool; permission for the sale of ‘light [low alcohol] beer’ (Sant considered that this would make it more difficult to prevent the sale of ‘strong [high alcohol] beer); the lightening of restrictions on the release of carrier pigeons; no person to enter ‘certain Military Areas’ (to include the ‘North of Scotland’) without a permit (permit books to be issued by Police); the movement of aliens travelling to places offering them employment (the Police to issue certificates showing that such offers are genuine); travel passes for ‘Certain Officers and Officials of Allied Countries’; the prohibition of the sale of hay, oat or wheat straw without a licence; the exemption of kilns from the restriction of lights order; strict regulations and restrictions relating to the sale of cocaine; and the furnishing of returns of all Serbians and Russians between the ages of 18 and 41 within the jurisdiction of the Surrey Constabulary.

The Chief Constable also reported the receipt of ‘an extremely interesting secret Intelligence Circular on the whole subject of air raids’ and another ‘extremely interesting Intelligence Circular on the subject of Bombs, etc’; however, more of concern to Sant was the continued receipt of notices calling for the enlistment of married men, all of which he returned with the statement that ‘in the interests of the State no more members of my Police Force were to be enlisted’, as was understood by the Recruiting Authorities.

Members of Surrey Constabulary serving in the Military Police Corps (SHC ref 9152/1/5/4)

Report of December 1916 Continuing its relentless bombardment, the Home Office sent information and instructions regarding: the requirement for production of certificates of exemption from military service when demanded (the Police to co-operate with military authorities); the declaration of Dover as a designated Military Area; assistance by the Police to Excise Officers with regard to the Entertainment Tax; the reduction in the provision of meat and bread under Billeting Regulations; restrictions to shop opening hours in winter; lamps to be shown at the front and the rear of any group of cattle led along a highway after sunset or before sunrise; and Home Office disapproval of a proposal to billet soldiers on police officers.

Sant took a dim view of ‘considerable agitation in the Press and elsewhere’ regarding the number of unmarried police constables retained in the force, who were considered by ‘persons ignorant of the duties performed by the Police’ to be eligible for enlistment. A constable having had his certificate of exemption withdrawn ‘as a test case’ by the Local Tribunal meeting in Cobham infuriated the Chief Constable, as did other examples of such ‘injustice’, which he described in some detail, along with his own efforts to avoid such ‘unpleasant … agitation’ and the wholesale depletion of his force.

A further cause of irritation to the Chief Constable was an Army Council census of all agricultural holdings of 5 acres or more to ascertain the availability of men for enlistment. The Police were asked to assist in the distribution and collection of census forms, of which there were 2247 in total, and the harassed Sant desired the Committee to realise just ‘how hard the Police had to work in order that that this duty might be carried out with the necessary despatch’ as the forms, received on 16 November, all had to be returned by or soon after 20 November.

Lance Corporal Fred Giles – Died 28th December 1914

Frederick John Giles was born to John and Mercy Ann Giles in New Headington, Oxfordshire, on 6th April 1875. He was one of at least 10 children and, like his older siblings, he was baptised at St Andrew’s in Headington.

The family lived in a row of shabby cottages that used to stand in what is now Wilberforce Street, New Headington. John Giles was a bricklayer’s labourer at the time of Fred’s birth but Headington was famous for its quarries, the stone from which was used to build several notable Oxford University buildings, and he later became a mason’s labourer.

Fred grew up to become a labourer like his dad and may have played truant or left early from school to help his father as John was fined 5 shillings (and costs) under the Elementary Education Act in December 1886. The terms of the Act made it compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 10 to attend school and it became illegal for employers to take on children under the age of 13 who had not yet reached the locally-specified standard of education.

John died from heart disease at New Headington in February 1891. The family were hit hard and Fred’s 14 year-old sister, Emily, was arrested for begging on the Banbury Road just three weeks later. She was remanded to gaol for several days.

Later that year, aged 16 and 8 months, Fred was working for a London-based employer (perhaps at the quarries) and living in Edgeway Road, New Marston, Oxfordshire, when he added a year to his age in order to join the 4th Battalion of the Oxfordshire Light Infantry Regiment on 14th December. His medical records describe him as 5ft 6in tall, weighing just 116lbs, with a fresh complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair, “physically equivalent to” 18 years-old, with no distinguishing marks.

The 4th Battalion of the Oxfordshire Light Infantry was a Militia unit and the men were part-time soldiers who could be called out for home defence and domestic crises. They were paid a retainer (which Fred may have sorely needed at the time) and received soldiers’ pay for their time when training, usually on a 2-week annual training camp. Many of the men went on to join the regular army and could claim a bonus for doing so.

Fred drilled for 9 days following enlistment and was recalled for a few days in August 1891 (probably for their yearly training camp) before deciding to join the regulars. He attested with the South Wales Borderers, signing up for seven years with the colours (in the Army full-time), followed by five years in the reserves, on 10th February 1892. He’d grown a quarter-inch, put on a couple of pounds and was still working as a labourer at the time he enlisted.

At the end of the year, the 1st South Wales Borderers sailed for Egypt, where they would be based for the next 2 years. Fred earned his first good conduct badge (and the extra penny per day that went with it) in Egypt in February 1894 and he underwent Mounted Infantry training in June. Mounted Infantry (regular infantry soldiers that would ride horses or camels but dismount to fight) was still quite a new concept in the British Army but it had proven its value in the Sudan and would prove it again in the Boer War. There were no dedicated M.I. units at that time but selected men from many infantry regiments were trained and would take up their M.I. duties within dedicated sections in their battalions if required to.

The Borderers, known as the Bengal Tigers, were stationed in Gibraltar between 1895 and 1897 and Fred was promoted to lance corporal in February 1896. The military provided a basic education for their men, many of whom had received little schooling. Fred’s childhood education may well have been incomplete but he made the most of his opportunity and completed his 3rd Class Certificate of Education (candidates had to read aloud, write from straightforward dictation passages, perform basic arithmetic and reduction of money) in September 1896, swiftly followed by his 2nd Class Certificate (more writing, dictation from a more challenging work, complete examples of regimental accounting, and carry out arithmetic using proportions and interest, fractions and averages) in December of that year. Those examination passes meant that he would be eligible for promotion up to the rank of sergeant.

Fred served in India from November 1897, with another good conduct badge (and another penny per day) awarded in February 1898. His time with the colours was due to be completed in 1899 but he extended his service and he was promoted to corporal in June 1900. He didn’t hold onto his hard-earned stripes for long: he was arrested for drunkenness on 1st April 1901 and was reduced to the ranks, losing one of his daily good conduct pennies as well as his corporal’s pay.

He was posted to the 2nd Battalion on 18th March 1902 and sailed to South Africa to join his new unit at Klerksdorp, where he soon regained his extra penny pay. The 2nd South Wales Borderers had fought throughout the Boer War’s conventional campaign and had latterly been part of the Army of Occupation in the Transvaal.

In March 1902, the guerilla war was coming to an end. Chains of 7-man circular blockhouses, sited at 1000-yard intervals and linked by barbed wire fences, had been built across the veld to frustrate the guerillas and restrict their movement. One of those chains ran alongside the railway and passed through Klerksdorp, part of a network that roughly encircled 19,000 square miles of land around Johannesburg. The South Wales Borderers had been in Klerksdorp for some time, garrisoning the blockhouses or marching with the columns sent to sweep the countryside for guerilla bands. Fred may have joined the Borderers’ M.I. section but he had arrived too late to play a meaningful part in the war’s endgame.

16,000 infantry, mounted infantry, cavalrymen and their horses poured into Klerksdorp in the second and third weeks of March. They had probably left before Fred arrived, on one of the last great drives to round up the bands led by De La Rey, Steyn, Liebenberg and Kemp. They rode through the night, casting a giant net as far as 80 miles before turning and drawing the net in towards a line of blockhouses. Most of the wily guerillas managed to slip through the holes in the net but the new system was fundamentally sound and with better coordination between the several British columns forming the net – and practise – it would be made to work.

Representatives of the governments of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State were granted safe conduct to Klerksdorp by the British in order to meet each other and discuss the possibility of peace. They decided that they would negotiate and returned to their states to discuss with their governments.

The war limped on. A band of 2,500-3,000 men under De La Rey soon ran into a large British reconnaissance party and won a final victory. Another drive brought Kemp to battle at Roodewal, one of the last major actions of the war, where he nearly achieved a surprise success with a reckless charge of perhaps 1,000 men across open veld and into massed British rifle fire but had to settle for escaping with minor losses.

The Boer government representatives returned to Klerksdorp in mid-April to negotiate with Lord Kitchener. Peace was concluded in Pretoria at (literally) the eleventh hour, 11:05pm on 31st May 1902, just 55 minutes before the period of grace granted by the British to the Boers ran out.

Fred’s time with the colours had expired and, with hostilities over, he returned home in August 1902. He was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with 1902 and Transvaal clasps. Fred was transferred to the Reserve in April 1903 and discharged on 9th February 1904 after completing his 12 years’ service.

After his transfer to the Reserve, Fred probably moved back in with his family in Edgeway Road. Parlourmaid Helen Elizabeth Fletcher (born in St Peter Le Bailly, Oxfordshire and nearly 10 years older than Fred) lived two doors down. They soon moved down to London, living together at 80 Bird in Bush Road, Camberwell. Fred found work as a gardener and they were married at Christ Church, Camberwell, on 3rd June 1905.

Fred worked for widow Elizabeth Sutton and her family, who lived in the 20-room mansion known as “Gros mont” at No.46, Palace Road, Streatham. Palace Road was a well-to-do street with many large houses. The newlyweds lived in the stables at No.46.

Fred and Helen had a son, Albert, in December 1906. Albert was born in the British Lying-In Hospital in Endell Street, Covent Garden. The Lying-In Hospital was the oldest maternity hospital in London, having been established as the Lying-In Hospital for Married Women in 1749, but was nearing the end of its time and would close in 1913.

In 1913/14, the Giles family moved from Streatham to Burgh Heath, probably (and certainly later) living at 1 Beall’s Cottages. There were many cottages on the Green by the pond and Beall’s cottages were most likely owned by the local butcher, Charles Beall. Back then the Brighton Road would have been just a single lane in width and the Reigate Road was not much more than a track across the Green.

War broke out in August 1914. Fred was a reservist but was not called up until November. He was working as a gardener, gave his age as 41 years and 7 months (actually he was only 39) and was 5ft. 8in. tall and weighed 154lbs when he attested with the Military Mounted Police Corps at Epsom on 4th November.

The Military Police had been busy all autumn in France guarding prisoners of war, directing traffic, reuniting stragglers with their regiments and bringing some kind of order to the chaotic retreat from Mons. A small unit at the outbreak of war, with only about 750 men, one third of whom were reservists, they were recruited from regular soldiers with at least 5 years service, having a good character and at least one good conduct badge. It rapidly became clear that the Redcaps were understrength and urgent recruitment began in late 1914 with relaxed entry standards. Many civilian policemen swapped blue for khaki (although, at the start of the war, the military police wore blue uniforms with their red caps) and experienced former soldiers re-enlisted as MPs.

The following War Office communique appeared in several newspapers in September 1914:


“                                                          RECRUITING FOR MILITARY POLICE

In connection with the formation of the new Expeditionary Force, the Army Council have decided to increase the strength of the military mounted and foot police, and the following classes of ex-soldiers are invited to re-enlist in this corps:

(1) Ex-military mounted police and ex-non-commissioned officers of mounted branches of the Army or mounted infantry, not being over 50 years of age, for service with the military mounted police. Thirty-three sergeants and 192 rank and file are required.

(2) Ex-military foot police, not over 50 years of age, for service with the military foot police at home.

Applicants should apply in writing to the Officer in Command Records, Military Police Corps, Aldershot”

Edinburgh Evening News 5th September 1914

Those numbers represented a massive expansion for the Military Mounted Police as they had just over a hundred men at the outbreak of the war but they were still a vast underestimate of how many men were required: by the end of the war, the Mounted Military Police consisted of over 3,500 men and there were 25,000 men in the Military Police as a whole.

The Mounted Police were attached to infantry and cavalry divisions, 25 policemen per division, and took care of most police duties that required a degree of mobility. Often a single MMP would be attached to a picket or to a straggler post manned by a detail of ordinary soldiers, with the MMP able to use their powers of arrest if required. Many went to France but they were needed everywhere that the Army was.

A huge number of soldiers were being concentrated in the south of England and there was an awful lot of police work to be done in Surrey, where there were many large camps. Reverend Larner, Rector of Busbridge, visited Guildford one Saturday evening in November 1914 and “came home a sad man” from this latter day Sodom and Gomorrah “concerned for the womanhood and girlhood” of his town as a result of witnessing “numbers of drunken soldiers who were behaving in a disgraceful manner.” The pubs were full to overflowing that night, hundreds of men in uniform (many – but not all – behaving respectably) were strolling around town in search of a drink and a girl, and there were few police and MPs around to keep order. Fred’s comrades would have had their hands full.

Fred was made acting lance corporal, the lowest rank in the Military Police but it was enough to give the policemen authority over most of the men in the Army. He wasn’t far from home, as he was billeted at the Railway Hotel in Haslemere, Surrey, and there were several camps nearby.

At 7:45p.m. on Sunday 27th December, a picket of 20 men of the Military Mounted Police and the Royal Scots Fusiliers was slowly marching down the left-hand side of Station Road, Haslemere, in file, two deep. Eric Hides, a motor engineer from nearby Shottermill, was driving along the road – not fast, probably less than the 10 miles an hour that the speed limit allowed, but with his acetylene headlights off and just his oil sidelights burning – and was struggling to see through his misty, rain-spattered windshield. It was a dark night, the men wore dark coats, moved slowly and were difficult to see but they had just passed a streetlamp on the opposite side of the road and should still have been visible. The men of the patrol heard and saw nothing before Hides’ motorcar ploughed into them from behind. Six men were injured, including Fred, who was walking at the back of the group.

Hides slammed on his brakes and his car ended up slewed across the road with a shattered windscreen. The injured men were loaded into the car and he drove them to Haslemere Cottage Hospital. Fred, apparently unscathed except for a slight bruise developing on the back of his head, was up and about when the doctor saw him, insisting that there was nothing wrong with him and that he wanted to go back to the Railway Hotel. The doctor, seeing that he was “a little dazed” kept him in hospital.

By midnight, Fred had fallen unconscious and the doctor was called. He had fractured his skull, probably when his head hit the road, and he had bleeding on the brain. A trepanning operation was performed to relieve the pressure but, at 4a.m. on Monday 28th December 1914, he died. He was 39.

Hides was not obliged to – and, on the advice of his solicitor, he did not – give evidence at the inquest held at Haslemere Council Chamber, but he was present and his solicitor questioned the witnesses. A witness said that the streetlamp shining on the rain-soaked glass would have made it impossible for Hides to see past the end of his bonnet. A jury verdict of accidental death was recorded. Hides appeared before the Guildford County Bench and was remanded on bail on a charge of manslaughter and later committed for trial.

Hides was tried at the Surrey winter assizes in Guildford on 23rd February. The judge, Mr Justice Horridge, attended church before the trial, his carriage escorted by uniformed mounted men of the Surrey Guides, a home defence unit that he had personally inaugurated, the procession headed by the high sherriff, who was dressed in khaki. They met the mayor, aldermen and town cryer at the church. Convalescent soldiers were amongst the congregation for the service, which began with the National Anthem. The judge was then escorted to the court by the Guides.

A Grand Jury of local notables was sworn in. The judge explained the law regarding negligence as it pertained to manslaughter, saying it “must amount to real recklessness to make it criminal negligence.” The question of whether Hides’ headlamps should have been on was discussed but the main point, in the judge’s eyes, seems to have been whether Hides should have raised his windscreen or not. Mr Justice Horridge suggested that the Grand Jury “might think it was a case where the accused ought not to be charged criminally” as he did not think that a jury conviction could be secured on that point alone. The prosecutor declined to proceed with the case and Hides was discharged.

On 2nd January 1915, Fred became the first war casualty to be buried at All Saints’, Banstead. He is commemorated on the panels in All Saints, Banstead, in St Mary’s, Burgh Heath, and in the Burgh Heath War Memorial Hall.

Fred was commemorated on the 100th anniversary of his death, as part of Banstead and Burgh Heath’s WW1 remembrance project. A service was held during which a bell was tolled 100 times at noon.

No photograph of Fred has been found, so if you have one we would love to hear from you!

A Survivor’s Story – the Effects of Shell Shock

John Russell Pearson Cobbett was born about the 3rd quarter of 1898 in Wrecclesham (1901 Census), the son of Laura Elizabeth Cobbett, who was about 34 years of age at the time of his birth and whose family were from Hampshire.

Surviving WWI military records indicate that he enlisted with the Royal Sussex Regiment on 22 August 1916 and was discharged from the 17th Sussex on 23 August 1919, due to ‘sickness’.

On 28 April 1923, he married Margaret Lilian Nixon at Farnham Parish Church. Ten days later, however, on 8 May, 1923, as described in a report in the Woking News and Mail (11 May 1923, page 7), he was detained by police after being seen running naked through Farnham Borough in an apparently disturbed state of mind.

It is known that Mr Cobbett was a patient at Netherne Hospital, Coulsdon, prior to 1923, and the report in the Woking News & Mail concludes with the suggestion that Mr Cobbett’s behaviour was most likely due to a recurrence of the symptoms of shell shock, the reason for which he may have been discharged from the Army in 1919.

John Russell Pearson Cobbett died at the very early age of 42 on 12 July 1941 at Brookwood Hospital, Woking, after an illness of some three weeks. A funeral service took place at Farnham Parish Church, followed by interment at Green Lane Cemetery, Farnham, on 17 July 1941. An extensive obituary appeared in the Farnham Herald (19 July 1941, page 5).

John Russell Cobbett Obituary.

Title: John Russell Cobbett Obituary.
Description: Obituary of John R P Cobbett, Farnham Herald, 19/7/1941, Page 5. by-nc

Woking News & Mail, 11/5/1923

Title: Woking News & Mail, 11/5/1923
Description: Report on the detaining of John Cobbett in Farnham in 1923. by-nc