Alfred Wilton Day

Family story contributed by Brian Gudgeon

Alfred Wilton Day was born on 17 December 1883 to Alfred John Day and Alice Louisa Day (nee Gaunt), in Southwark.  By the time of the 1901 Census, the family had moved to Croydon, and Alfred had enlisted with the 2nd Battalion, East Surrey Regiment.  He was soon involved in military action after being sent to fight in the last few months of the Boer War.  Alfred is listed on the UK Military Campaign Medal and Award Rolls 1793-1949: Campaign of Service South Africa – Second Boer War, Service Date 1899-1902.  He remained with the East Surrey Regiment, seeing service in Poona [now Pune], India, between 1906 and 1909.  In 1913, only a year before the outbreak of the First World War, after rising to the rank of Corporal, Alfred was discharged from the 3rd Battalion, East Surrey Regiment.

Alfred Day with fellow Non-Commissioned Officers of the East Surrey Regiment, 1914. Courtesy Brian Gudgeon.

Alfred must have re-joined his old regiment soon after war was declared in 1914, as in 1915 his sister Alice Florence (Flo) received a Christmas card from him, showing that he was now serving with the 10th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment.  He seems to have been transferred to various different regiments throughout the war: the Middlesex Regiment, the Labour Corps, and the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.  On 16 March 1919, Alfred was Mentioned in Despatches for ‘Gallant and Distinguished services in the Field’ – a brave chap! He ended the war as Regimental Sergeant Major.

Alfred Day (without his false teeth in!) and his daughter, Lily, in 1929. Courtesy of Brian Gudgeon.

He married Mary Amelia Hodge (always known as “Millie”) after the war, in the winter of 1920, and worked as a baker’s roundsman.  Alfred died on 1 November 1933, the same year as his brother William (they were buried in the same plot at Mitcham Road Cemetery).  His Death Certificate states that he died in Teevan Road, Croydon, but had been living at 57 Elmers Road, South Norwood.  The cause of death was attributed to ‘fibrosis of the heart’ (which is most likely as a result of his years of heavy smoking).

Read about his brothers in the First World War:

Arthur Day: https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/arthur-day/

Herbert Day: https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/herbert-day/

Fred Day: https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/fred-day/

Sydney Day: https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/sydney-frederick-day/

Walter Day: https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/walter-daniel-day/

William Day: https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/william-day/

Captain Billie Percy Nevill – a short history of military service

Wilfred Percy Nevill (often referred to by his family as ‘Billie’) was born on 14 July 1894, one of seven children, in Highbury, North London.

Educated at Dover College (where he was recorded on 1911 census), he started at Jesus College, Cambridge, reading a Classical Tripos, with the original intention of following a teaching career. Wilfred gained a temporary commission on 27 November 1914 following the outbreak of war in August 1914.

Although gazetted into the East Yorkshire Regiment, Wilfred was posted to the 8th (Service) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, which was part of 55 Brigade, 18th Division (a ‘New Army’ Division commanded by General Sir Ivor Maxse).

The 8th East Surreys were posted to France in May 1915 and held part of the line near Albert. Wilfred’s correspondence home described life on or near the front line and included some humour despite the front line conditions.

On 1 July 1916, at the start of the Battle of the Somme, the Battalion took part in the 18th Division’s attack at Montauban. The objective of the Battalion was to secure part of a ridge-line near Mametz.

Wilfred commanded B Company, 8th East Surreys, and is remembered for commencing the attack by encouraging his soldiers to kick footballs before them as they advanced towards the enemy lines. Wilfred was killed during the early phase of this assault.

Compared to fortunes further north on the assault front, 18th Division achieved more of its objectives, although at a high cost, the East Surreys suffering over over 400 casualties.

Shown here are some images of ‘Billie’ and fellow officers in France in 1915 and 1916 (from a photograph album described below). Several of these images include two 8th East Surrey officers who were awarded the Distinguished Service Order for gallantry on 1 July 1916. Captain C. Janion (then a Second Lieutenant) rallied surviving soldiers from the Battalion and led bombing raids down the enemy trenches and organised a further assault against the Battalion’s final objective. Captain E. C. Gimson was the Battalion Medical Officer who spent many hours on the front line dressing the wounds of injured soldiers whilst under constant shellfire.

Wilfred is buried at Carnoy Soldiers’ Cemetery and commemorated at Jesus College, Cambridge, and on St Mary The Virgin War Memorial in Twickenham.

 

Billie Nevill’s Photograph Album

The photograph album was donated to the East Surrey Regiment by Reverend T. S. Nevill, the brother of Wilfred Nevill. The album contains views of trenches at Tambour & the remains of Bercordel (including one of the church bell which apparently was used to warn of gas attacks). The images also show views from Flixecourt, the Somme Valley, Vaux Wood, groups of soldiers (mainly Battalion officers, including ‘Billie’ Nevill), a nurse and occasional civilians, taken 1915-1916. Also an unclear photograph of senior Allied Commanders (Haig, Foch, & Allenby).

 

Sources

  • Surrey History Centre Archives reference ESR/25/NEVI (include a photograph album capturing trench and rear area life prior to the Somme battle).
  • Ancestry Institution records, Long Long Trail and Surrey Infantry Museum records.

Charles Alfred Clark DSO MC

Alfred Charles Clark (‘Nobby’ to his comrades) DSO MC was born in Bermondsey in 1879. He was the son of Mary Ann Elizabeth Vaughn and Charles Clark.

Alfred Clark joined the Army in 1896. Initially he joined the militia in 1896 carrying out basic training at Kingston-on-Thames. He then transferred to the East Surrey Regiment, which was based at Dover Garrison. Clark took part in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and in September 1897, following an intensive training course (and having been in the 2nd Battalion East Surreys for 10 months), Clark was promoted to Lance-Corporal.

The East Surreys were posted to South Africa and fought in the 2nd South African War between 1899 – 1902. Documents at Surrey History Centre under reference ESR/25 /CLARK contain Clark’s descriptions (including an unfinished life story) of service in South Africa. These include details of the journey by sea to Cape Town (bread making on board was a notable event!). The Battalion eventually arrived at Pietermaritzburg and shortly afterwards took part in the Battle of Willow Grange (22 November 1899), a moderately successful surprise attack on the Boers, who retreated to Colenso. This was followed by the action at the Battle of Colenso on 26 November 1899 and the fighting at Spion Kop, part of the effort to relieve Ladysmith. Clark witnessed the action at Spion Kop, including the ill-fated attack by the Lancashire Regiments. The East Surreys were pinned down under intense enemy fire for much of the action.

Having survived the South African War, Clark was posted to the 1st Battalion in 1902 and then the 4th Battalion in 1914 – by which time he had been promoted to Company-Sergeant-Major.

Clark eventually received his commission and  was posted to the 9th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment.

Clark was wounded and captured in 1918 during the German March offensive. Clark commanded the battalion at the time as a Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel, and the delaying action by his 9th East Surreys, saving the 72nd Brigade, is well recorded. Having already been awarded the Military Cross for a bombing raid on the Somme, he was awarded the DSO for his leadership in 1918.

Clark was acquainted with RC Sherriff, the famous playwright (who also served in the 9th Battalion) and maintained correspondence with him during the post-war years. In a memorandum written by Clark on 9th February 1929, he described Sheriff’s service with the 9th Battalion – ‘ A steady unassuming young fellow of good presence. Carried a warm charm in his personality and had a certain calm, quiet air of distinction, much respected by his men’.

Clark continued his Army service post WWI, serving in Egypt and Gibraltar. Amongst his documents is a photograph of the visit of the Crown Prince Hirohito of Japan to Cairo in 1921, when the East Surreys provided a Guard of Honour.

During the Second World War, Clark became Chief Air Raid Warden of Folkestone, Kent. He died in 1971.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life of Stanley Skelton

Stanley Skelton was born on 18th November 1894 to Charles, a labourer, and Elizabeth Rosa Skelton of Banstead and was baptised at St Andrew’s Church in Kingswood the following April. He lived in Banstead his whole life, becoming a carman for a local coal merchant by 1911 when the family lived at 10 Fir Tree Cottages on Pound Road. On 7th November 1912 he received notice and joined up to the East Surrey Regiment at Kingston-upon-Thames as a reservist.

With the outbreak of war in August 1914 he was mobilised and, after training, posted to the 1st Battalion whom he joined in the field at Ypres on the 6th April 1915. Less than two weeks later, the battalion took part in the ferocious defence of the recently captured Hill 60. After being subjected to a two-and-a-half hour ‘annihilation bombardment’, their position was assaulted by German bombing parties and infantry attacks. Despite the heavy attack, the East Surreys held the line and were relieved the following day.

The Battalion spent the summer months around Ypres before being moved south to the defences around Maricourt on the Somme. Here they remained for the winter, being rotated in and out of the trenches. After nine months at the front, Stanley was granted his first and only leave in January 1916. That spring, the Battalion was moved again, this time to Arras. It was here the Stanley received a gunshot wound to the abdomen on 24th April and was invalided back to England, spending three months at the Northfield Military Hospital in Birmingham. On 3rd October 1916 he was formally discharged as ‘physically unfit’, earning a Silver Star (Silver War Badge) for his wounds.

After his military service, Stanley returned to Banstead where he eventually found work as a gas stoker. He met Alice Daniels, a war widow, and they were married on 3rd August 1918 at Banstead All Saints’ Church. Three months later the war ended, but peace for Stanley was short lived. Shortly after his 24th birthday, he contracted influenza and bronchitis, succumbing to his illness on 9th December 1918. Three days later he was buried at All Saints’ Church in Banstead and given a military headstone as recognition for his service. His only child, a daughter named Kathleen, was born the following year on 2nd August 1919.

Two of Stanley’s brothers, Thomas and Alfred, would also lose their lives in the First World War and are remembered on the Banstead war memorial.

 

Herbert and Richard Hunt of Chertsey

East Surrey Regiment scrapbook of press cuttings page 13, 3 November 1914 (SHC ref ESR/1/12/11)

East Surrey Regiment scrapbook of press cuttings page 13, 3 November 1914 (SHC ref ESR/1/12/11)

Mrs Eleanor Hunt, a Chertsey widow, had four sons fighting at the front.  Two of her sons, Richard and Herbert, were killed on the same day, at the battle of the Aisne on 9 September 1914.  They were both Sergeants in the 1st Battalion the East Surrey Regiment.

Mrs Hunt’s family

William Robert Hunt, a carpenter of St Anne’s Road Chertsey, married Eleanor Mary Heath Harris of Windsor Street Chertsey, daughter of an upholsterer, on 4 June 1881 in St Peter’s Church Chertsey.  In 1901 the family lived in 3 Finchley Villas, Drill Hall Road and there were four sons.  Richard (18) was a carpenter, Herbert (15) was an Ironmonger’s errand boy, and Archibald (12) and Frederick (9) were still at school.  By 1908 the family had moved to 33 Grove Road Chertsey, and Mr William Hunt died later that year.

Sergeant Herbert William Hunt, 8049 1st Battalion East Surrey Regiment, killed in action 9 September 1914

Herbert was born 27 February 1886 in Chertsey.  He was baptised 9 May 1886 in St Peter’s Church and attended William Perkins School.  Herbert joined the East Surrey Regiment 11 November 1903 aged 18.  He married Elizabeth Cummins at Kinsale Cork 12 December 1913, and their son Herbert Charles Aisne Hunt was born 16 September 1914.

Herbert’s Medaille Militaire was sent to his mother with a letter from Colonel JR Longley who was commanding the 1st Battalion the East Surrey’s saying “I forward you a French decoration for your late son Sergt H Hunt which you will please pass on to his poor widow. Believe me indeed when I say how greatly we all feel the loss of your two sons, and deeply sympathise with you and the widow.  I recommended your other son also for a similar decoration.  They were both equally deserving of them: but unfortunately there was only one allotted to the battalion, and that is awarded to Herbert.”  (French Decoration for Dead Sergeant.  Epsom Advertiser 6 Nov 1914 page 3 column d.)

East Surrey Regiment scrapbook of press cuttings page 9, 24 October 1914 (SHC ref ESR/1/12/11)

East Surrey Regiment scrapbook of press cuttings page 9, 24 October 1914 (SHC ref ESR/1/12/11)

On 22 October 1914 Herbert’s possessions, two photos, a letter, a postcard, a lock of hair and identity disc were sent to Mrs Hunt at 19 Married Quarters Wellington Barracks Dublin; and on 26 September 1915 his Diploma of Medaille Militaire was sent to Mrs Hunt Ballyregan Kinsale Co Cork Ireland.  In 1918 his wife remarried, so in 1921 his Mentioned in Despatches certificate was sent to Mrs Elizabeth Morgan 26 Married Quarters, Gandalorpe Barracks Bordon.

Sergeant Richard Henry Hunt, 7978 1st Battalion East Surrey Regiment, killed in action 9 September 1914

Richard was born 5 December 1882 in Chertsey.  He was baptised 7 Jan 1883 in St Peter’s Church and attended William Perkins School.  Richard enlisted with the East Surrey’s in 1902 served in the South African War.  He served in Dublin 1912-1914.  He was married with two sons, Richard George born 9 December 1913 and Lawrence Henry born 12 April 1915.  In 1921 Richard’s Mentioned in Despatches Certificate was sent to his widow Mrs Rebecca Jane Hunt of 39 Marlborough Street Dublin.

Sergeant Archibald Thomas Hunt 30521 6 Mountain Battery Royal Garrison Artillery

Archibald was born in 1888, and was baptised 20 January 1889 in St Peter’s Church Chertsey.  Archibald was a gunner in No 8 Mountain Battalion Royal Garrison Artillery serving in India when the 1911 census was taken. In 1923 he was living in 33 Grove Road with his mother Ellen.

Corporal Frederick Charles Hunt 3582 1st Life Guards

Frederick was born 24 February 1892, and was baptised 17 April 1892 in St Peter’s Church.  In 1911 he was a cabinet maker living with his mother at 33 Grove Road Chertsey, and he enlisted as a Trooper in 1st Life Guards 20 August 1912.

Frederick was wounded in France.  He had two bullet wounds in his right elbow 1 November 1914 and was treated in the Connaught Hospital in Aldershot.  Frederick was transferred to the Guards Machine Gun Regiment 10 May 1918 and was discharged as no longer physically fit for war service 30 April 1919.

East Surrey Regiment scrapbook of press cuttings page 11, 28 October 1914 (SHC ref ESR/1/12/11)

East Surrey Regiment scrapbook of press cuttings page 11, 28 October 1914 (SHC ref ESR/1/12/11)

Back home in Chertsey, he soon set up in business again as a cabinet maker, and advertised in the local newspaper, “Mr F Hunt, who as Corporal in the Life Guards landed with the First Expeditionary Force in France, and fought throughout the War, is commencing business as a cabinet-maker, upholsterer, polisher etc. at 33 Grove Road.”  (Surrey Herald 16 May 1919 page 5 column c.)

Sources

Service records on ancestry.co.uk

Census on ancestry.co.uk

Marriage and baptism records on ancestry.co.uk

1939 register on ancestry.co.uk

School admission registers on findmypast

Other newspaper reports

ESR Casualties – Two well-known sergeants amongst the killed.  East Surrey Regiment scrapbook of press cuttings SHC ref ESR/1/12/11 page 4, 14 September 1914.  (See Military records indexes)

Mentioned in Despatches – Officers and Men who have done Noble Service at the Front.  East Surrey Regiment scrapbook of press cuttings SHC ref ESR/1/12/11 page 9, 24 October 1914.  (See Military records indexes)

Daddy’s Medals.  The Beverley Recorder and Independent on Saturday 13 February 1915 page 2.  Includes a picture of Mrs Hunt holding her grandson whose father had been killed.  The baby was wearing one of his father’s medals and looking at some other medals.  Mrs Hunt is holding Herbert Charles Aisne Hunt, who had been born 16 September 1914, the day after his father Herbert and uncle Richard had been killed at the battle of the Aisne.  (See this online on The British Newspaper Archive – free to use in Surrey History Centre and Surrey Libraries.)

In Memoriam – The Brothers Hunt.  Surrey Herald 14 September 1917 page 5 column c.  (See Newspapers)

Cabinet Making.  Surrey Herald 23 May 1919 page 5 column c.  (See Newspapers)

Private Albert Edward Tickner

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Pte A E Tickner
12th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment
240429
Killed in action, 4.6.1918
Age, 23

E A Tickner, a former pupil of St James’ School (Baker Street), Weybridge is commemorated on the school’s Memorial Board to the Fallen of the Great War, but no such person appears in the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). However, Albert Edward Tickner who was born in Addlestone (c.1895) and by 1911 lived with his family in Pelican Lane, Hamm Moor, Weybridge is listed among the dead on the CWGC’s site. He is known as Edward on Census returns but as Albert Edward in his military records which also confirm his biographical details.

He was the third child of William and Elizabeth (nee Wilson) Tickner who were married at Holy Trinity Church, Aldershot on 10 June 1889. William John was a soldier who had been born in Walton-on-Thames in about 1864 and Lizzie had been born in Ireland in about 1865. In 1901 they lived in Simplemarsh Road in Addlestone and William earned his living as a machine minder in a flour mill. They had five children by 1911: William, Mary, Edward, Kathleen and Arthur. Edward was a shop assistant with the grocery business, International Stores.

Two years later, on 25 November 1913, Edward or as he now becomes known, Albert, joined the East Surrey Regiment’s Territorial Force for a period of four years and was allocated to the 1/6th Battalion (2060). He stood five feet and four inches tall and was 17 years and 6 months of age. For the first three years of the First World War he was home based but from 22 September 1917 he was part of the British Expeditionary Force, embarking from Folkestone the next day. From 2 October he served with the 12th Battalion of the East Surreys. Albert spent two weeks at La Danne in training before being involved in coastal defence near Nieuport Bains, here he had his first experience of enemy artillery and aeroplane action. By the end of November Albert’s battalion was on the Italian Front to reinforce the Italians following their retreat after the Central Powers attacked at Caporetto on 24 October. They remained in Italy until the end of February 1918. The battalion was mostly based in the Montello Range sector where they became used to active artillery and aerial action; on 8 December the Italians brought down a German plane and the injured pilot was very surprised to find himself among British troops! After some respite in billets Albert and his comrades returned to the line on Christmas Eve, they spent the following day in working parties and repairing wire. They had had their Christmas dinner on the 21st.

The 12th East Surreys returned to France on 3 March and after two weeks training were in the line in front of Sapignes. They were caught up in the onslaught of the German Spring Offensive and retreated to a line south of Gommecourt. At the beginning of April, they transferred to the Ypres Salient taking up a position on Passchendaele Ridge where they had a relatively quiet time. Albert’s final location from 2 May was in the Ypres Sector itself where the city was under constant artillery attack. He was in the line from the 25 May until 3 June when there was heavy artillery action from both sides. Albert’s military records say that he was killed on 3/4 June although there is no mention of a fatality at that time in the war diary. However, the diary gives the total number of casualties for June as 3 other ranks killed and 19 wounded. Albert was one of the three fatalities, probably killed in the course of his battalion being relieved on 3/4 June, always a vulnerable time.

Albert is buried in Hagle Dump Cemetery (1.B.5) at West Vlaenderen 75 km west of Ypres (Ieper). His brothers both served in the war and survived; William in the Royal Garrison Artillery and Arthur in the 52nd Bedfords. William died in 1969 and Arthur in 1981. After their mother’s death in 1909 their father remained at his home in Hamm Moor Lane until his death in 1935. He remarried twice, first to Annie Elizabeth Sheldon in August 1913 at St Paul’s Church, Addlestone and after Annie’s death, in 1922, to May Agnes Jackson in 1924. A son, Anthony Charles, was born from this last marriage.

Sources:

British Army WW1 Service Records, 1914-1920, www.ancestry.co.uk
Memorial to the Masters and Old Boys of St James’ School, Weybridge, Who Fell in the Great War 1914-1918, St James’ Church
Surrey, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1937, www.ancestry.co.uk
Tickner & Hyttenrauch Family Tree, www.ancestry.co.uk

John (Jack) Isaac, 8th Battalion East Surrey Regiment

John (Jack) was the paternal great uncle of Peter & Brian Hurn who supplied information to the Oral History Project of Surrey History Centre. He was born on 2nd December 1884 in Battersea to Frederick and Elizabeth Isaac who eventually had eight other children (Effa Mary, George, Elisa, Frederick, Charles, William, Annie and Reginald) and was baptised on 1st March 1885.In the 1891 and 1901 census records the family was living in Lambeth and by 1911 Jack was living in RIchmond, Surrey and working for the railways. In WW1 he served in the 8th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment as a private (service number 8172). He was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916 aged 31 and is commemorated on the Memorial of the Missing at Thiepval on the Somme as well as being remembered on the memorial at The Minster Church of St Cuthburga, High St, Wimborne, Dorset along with his brother Reg.

The stories of other members of the Hurn family: George John Cate, Albert Henry Cate, Ernest Albert Grey and Reginald Lewis Isaac, may be found on this website

My Nineteenth Year, 1917-1918

Herbert ‘Bert’ Frank Boxer was born in Penge, Surrey, in 1898, the son of Thomas and Alice Boxer. In December 1915, Herbert enlisted with the East Surrey Regiment and, by 1917, he was serving with the 9th Battalion on the Western Front.

Herbert Boxer wrote his account, ‘My Nineteenth Year, 1917-1918’, in Poplar Hospital, London, while recovering from wounds inflicted at Vermand, France, in March 1918. Herbert’s diary begins in July 1917 with his battalion returning to the Ypres front. It gives a detailed and matter-of-fact account of the skirmishes and fatalities, his duties as a signaller, and of the horrendous conditions he and his comrades endured. There is a particularly chilling account of a soldier who had been stuck in the mud for 24 hours and had to be shot by another soldier (who had been plied with rum) to put him out of his misery.

Herbert also pays tribute to his commanding officer, Colonel De La Fontaine: ‘Our Colonel came up as soon as the attack started and he was killed. He was one of the bravest men I have ever met, he was everywhere where there was danger, and it was through being so careless of danger that he was killed.’

Remarkably, Herbert writes that, during fourteen days’ leave at home, he ‘had a grand time, although I missed the boys of the Battalion. London seemed very strange, I felt as if I had come back to another world, and strange to say I felt unsettled, I could not understand it. When my fourteen days had passed, I was quite ready to go back…’ His diary concludes, ‘Do I regret those years in the Army, in particular my Nineteenth Year. No, the memory, those wonderful memories will live with me always.’

Yet, according to his family, Herbert did not glorify war; like many of his contemporaries, he hardly ever spoke of it, probably because of the horrors he saw and experienced.

After the war, Herbert worked as a builder and decorator in Enfield. He used his demob money to invest in a barrow and paint, starting by decorating local houses and quickly building it into a very successful building and decorating company with about 40 employees. He married Doris Winnifred Baker in 1936 and they had four children. During the Second World War, he was a fire marshal in London. As a master builder, he helped in the rebuilding of the capital and was granted the Freedom of the City of London. Herbert died in 1970.

A transcript of Herbert’s diary has been kindly presented to Surrey History Centre by his granddaughter, Jo Harman, of Turramurra, Australia (SHC ref Z/704).

 

 

 

 

Acting Corporal Edward Dwyer, East Surrey Regiment – a Victoria Cross hero

Edward Dwyer’s Victoria Cross (VC) citation reads:-

‘No 1052 Private Edward Dwyer, 1st Battalion, The East Surrey Regiment.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty at ‘Hill 60’ on the 20th April 1915. When his trench was heavily attacked by German grenade throwers he climbed onto the parapet, and, although subject to a hail of bombs at close quarters succeeded in dispersing the enemy by the effective use of his hand grenades.

Private Dwyer displayed great gallantry earlier on this day in leaving his trench under heavy shell fire to bandage his wounded comrade.’

London Gazette, 1915.

Edward Dwyer was born in Fulham, London, on 25 November 1895. His mother was Sally Dwyer of 30 Lintaine Road, Fulham. He worked for a short period of time as a grocer’s assistant before joining the Army Special Reserve in 1912 and then the regular army with the East Surrey Regiment. He was described as ‘Honest, sober, hardworking’ when joining the Army.

Edward Dwyer’s pre-First World War service was in Ireland with his battalion. Copies of his service records held by Surrey History Centre (ESR/25/DWYE) provide a glimpse into garrison life, including records of several minor infringements by Dwyer of military discipline – in 1913, for example, Edward received five days’ ‘C B’ (‘confined to barracks’) for attempting to sell a pair of boots!

On the outbreak of war in August 1914, Private Edward Dwyer’s battalion (1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment) formed part of the British Expeditionary Force. The 1st Battalion East Surreys was part of 14 Infantry Brigade, 5th Division (commanded by Brigadier S.P. Rolt), 2nd Corps. The Brigade formed part of the right flank at the Battle of Le Cateau where companies of the 1st East Surreys fought to delay the outflanking movement of the German 4th Corps, 1st Army. The 2nd Corps stood and fought a delaying action ‘rather than turn our backs on the enemy in daylight’ (the words of General Smith-Dorrien, Corps Commander) and this enabled the British Expeditionary Force to continue to retreat  and reorganise after the battles of Mons and Le Cateau.

As described in the citation above, it was during the Second Battle of Ypres that Edward Dwyer was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at Hill 60 on 20 April 1915. He was a Battalion Signaller at the time.

In May 1915, Dwyer was granted leave and returned to England, where he received his VC from the King (he was also awarded the Russian Cross of St George). His leave was extended for recruiting purposes and there is a unique audio recording on the Regal record label of him describing his experiences during the retreat from Mons and life at the front. It includes a recording of Dwyer singing marching songs – apparently used to assist with recruiting, although his description of the ardours of the retreat may not have provided encouragement to potential recruits!

It was also during this period that Edward married a nurse, Maude Barrett-Freeman, from Balham.

The records relating to Dwyer held by Surrey History Centre include a letter dated 30 May 1915 written by Edward to Lieutenant H.F. Stoneham, one of his early Platoon Commanders, who was convalescing following injury, describing to and updating this officer on life and events with the Battalion.

Edward eventually returned to the front and service with his Battalion, having been promoted to Acting Corporal on 27 July 1916.

He was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme at Guillemont on 3 September 1916. Edward is buried at Flatiron Cemetery at Mametz.

Surrey History Centre holds papers relating to Dwyer (reference ESR/25/DWYE/). These include photocopies (undated) of service papers from The National Archives, a letter from Dwyer to Lieutenant H.F. Stoneham, following the receipt of his Victoria Cross, describing his service and the fate of officers of the battalion, and a photograph of Dwyer.

The audio recording of Dwyer is held by the Imperial War Museum and forms track 40 of La Grande Guerre 1914-1918: Volume 2 (https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80030019)

 

Private William James Carpenter

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Pte W J Carpenter
3/6th & 1/6th Battalions, East Surrey Regiment
3554 & T/241187
Died, 31.10.1918
Age, 24

William James Carpenter was born in Weybridge on 25 March 1894 but died far from home in India after 2 years and 358 days of military service. His parents, James William Hyam and Mary were not natives of Weybridge; he was born in Balingdon, Essex c. 1869 and she in Bamsbury, Berkshire c.1865. By 1901 they had settled in Weybridge at 5, Railway Terrace, Heath Road where they still lived ten years later. James Carpenter was a domestic coachman throughout this time. William was the eldest of three children and the only son. He was followed by Violet and Elizabeth. In 1911, William, a former pupil of St James’ School (Baker Street), had started work as a printer’s apprentice, perhaps with Rawlings & Walsh Ltd. located in the High Street. There were also three printers in Chertsey at the time.

He attested at Kingston on 9 November 1915 when he was 21 years and 8 months old. He stood five feet eight and a half inches tall and had perfect vision. He was initially assigned to the 3/6th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment, a depot/training unit which moved to Cambridge in January 1916. William remained with them until he was posted to 1/6th Battalion on 26 March 1916 but as the 1/6th was in India he did not join them until 2 May. They had already been in India for nearly 18 months and since October 1915 had been part of the Jhelum Brigade in the 2nd Rawalapindi Division, a regular army division of the British Indian Army. They were ordered to Aden, arriving there on 7 February 1917.

Aden was not a desirable posting; garrison duty there was limited to one year because of the difficult environment. It was of vast strategic importance to British communications lying as it did on the route from Europe to India. William’s time there would have been largely taken up fighting Turkish guerrillas from Yemen. The 1/6th returned to Bombay on 15 January 1918. They then joined the Dehra Dun Brigade in the 7th (Meerut) Division and moved to the Punjab, close to the north-west frontier.

William was hospitalised between 24 April and 9 May 1918 at Chakrala (now in Pakistan). He was once again admitted to hospital in Agra on 22 October and died of influenza a week later. William’s Commanding Officer wrote that he was buried in the evening of 31 October, the day on which he died ‘…..with full military honours…..He was carried on a gun carriage covered with the Union Jack, and as he was laid to rest three shots were fired and the bugle sounded the Last Post over him…..’ He then went on to pay tribute to William: ‘I have lost a comrade, a good, honest, true Britisher from my company, a man who was popular with his fellows, true to his officers and faithful to Him Who has taken him to rest.’

He is commemorated on the Madras 1914-1918 War Memorial, (Face 15) at Chennai and is buried in Agra Cantonment Cemetery. The Memorial was created to remember nearly 1000 servicemen who are buried in many civil and cantonment cemeteries which it was once believed could not be preserved in perpetuity. However, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is now working to reinstate the graves of many of the men on the Memorial. When this is achieved their names will be removed. William’s parents still lived in Weybridge in 1939.

Sources:

British Army WW1 Service Records, 1914-1920, www.ancestry.co.uk
Kelly’s Directory 1913, UK, City and County Directories, 1766-1946, www.ancestry.co.uk
Memorial to the Masters and Old Boys of St James’ School, Weybridge, Who Fell in the Great War of 1914-1918, St James’ Church
Surrey, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912, www.ancestry.co.uk
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long Long Trail – East Surrey Regiment, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, www.findmypast.co.uk