Frank Pelham

Family story contributed by Henry Pelham

Frank Pelham was born 19 April 1897 in Leigh, near Reigate in Surrey, to Henry and Mary Pelham (née Chantler), and was one of eight surviving children, three boys and five girls. Frank, like his father and brothers, was employed on the land as an Agriculture Labourer.

Frank enlisted and followed his elder brother Harry by joining the Royal Garrison Artillery at Woolwich, in early 1916. His army number was 81220 and with the rank of Gunner. He firstly, he was in the 149th Siege Battery with his training completed at Bexhill in Sussex. He was sent to France on 2 December 1916 where he joined the 223rd Siege Battery, with which he stayed until 1919.

Frank’s war records have not survived, most likely because of the heavy bombing of London in the Second World War; these are now known as the ‘Burnt Records’.  The Siege Batteries did not keep war diaries themselves due to the part they played in battles, being constantly on the move wherever heavy bombardment was needed, and hopefully not to get located and targeted by opposing German Artillery.  The war diaries were kept by the Battalions to whom the Siege Batteries were allotted and this is from them we are able to follow Frank’s unit’s movements.

The 223rd Siege Battery, together armed with four 6 inch 26 cwt Howitzers, went to the Western front in France on 2 December 1916, and joined the 19th Heavy Artillery Group the Fifth Army on 7 December 1916. They were taking part in operations on Ancre, Miraumont, Thilloys, Rettemoy Graben, the Hindenburg Line, and Bapaume and the first attack on Bullecourt. He was transferred on 13 April 1917 to 46th Heavy Artillery Group to counter the German attack on Lagnicourt.

On 20 June 1917, Frank was transferred to the 70th Heavy Artillery Group of the First Army, who were joined by the 360th Siege Battery. The combined unit was taking part at the Souchez River, and the capture of Avion and Oppy Wood. On 24 October 1917 he was transferred to the fourth Heavy Artillery Group, with whom he saw action at the Battle of the Ancre in 1918.

Frank was demobilised in 1919, and returned to working on the land. He married Emily Emma Morley in 1937, living in Burstow and Smallfield for the rest of his life. Frank and Emily had one son Henry Frank, born 25 March 1942. Frank died in 1974, aged 77.

Harry Pelham

Family story contributed by Henry Pelham

Harry Pelham was born 31 October 1887 in Leigh, near Reigate, to Henry and Mary Pelham (neé Chantler).  Harry was the second child and eldest boy, of eight surviving children (three boys and five girls).

On leaving Leigh Village School, Harry joined his father working on the land of a local estate (Mynthurst) as an Agricultural Labourer.  Harry later went to work at Netherne Asylum, near Coulsdon, as an Asylum Attendant.  It is from here that he enlisted on 15 November 1915.  He joined the Royal Garrison Artillery at Woolwich; his army number was 68578 with the rank of Gunner.

He was sent for training the next day (16 November 1915) and, following training, was mobilised on 29 February 1916, joining the 123rd Siege Battery in France, with which he remained until 18 June 1917.  The Siege Batteries did not keep war diaries themselves due to the part they played in battles, being constantly on the move wherever heavy bombardment was needed, and hopefully not to get located and targeted by opposing German Artillery.

The war diaries were kept by the Battalions to whom the Siege Batteries were allotted and it is from them it is possible to follow Harry’s unit.  The 123rd Siege Battery went to France armed with four 6 inch 26cwt Howitzers and on 18 July 1916 joined the third Army.  On 23 July he became part of the 47 Heavy Artillery Group, and was involved in defending Vimy Ridge against German attack and the battles of the Somme through 1916, and in 1917 the retreat of German Forces back to the Hindenburg line and the many battles of Arras and capture of surrounding areas.

Following the capture and defence of Roeux (13 – 16 May 1917) and action following the Hindenburg line (20 May – 16 June 1917). Harry Pelham was transferred to the Royal Artillery workshops in Boulogne on 18 June 1917, and became a ‘Gunner/Fitter’ and was involved with the maintenance and repair of Fire Power Equipment operated by the Royal Garrison Artillery.

Harry Pelham remained in Boulogne until 13 May 1919 when he was transferred to Beauval; he stayed there until 27 May 1919, when he was transferred back to England and released from the army.

Harry returned to working on the land with his father. In 1920 he married Louisa Elderfield and had two daughters, Marjorie and Evelyn. Harry continue to work on the estate and was given the task of starting and running a turkey farm by his employers. Unfortunately, Harry died in 1929, aged 43, and is buried in Leigh churchyard, Surrey.

This information has been gathered over a long period of time, and it must be mentioned that the family does not know when he had home leave; but, he must have done so, as pictures exist of him in uniform and were taken in Reigate, near his home in Leigh.

Private Joseph Timothy Morley

Information contributed by Henry and Jean Pelham (courtesy of Brian Gudgeon)

Joseph was born in 1891, the eldest son and second (out of seven) child of Joseph and Harriet Louisa Morley.  The family lived in Hollis Row, Earlswood, before moving to The Bungalow, Mason’s Bridge Road Earlswood.  His father had built the bungalow in the early 1900s, was a Chimney Sweep in the early 1900s, and was a chimney sweep by trade.

Joseph had enlisted in the latter part of 1915 and sent to France early in 1916.  He was wounded and sent to England to recover in Red Cross hospital, at Sittingbourne. It was from here he sent a letter to his sister Jessie saying that zeppelins were over Sheerness! He said he was peeling potatoes and getting about generally, though his legs ached, and wouldn’t mind staying there for the duration!

He rejoined the 7th Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment on 2 August 1916 and returned to France the following day. He was posted missing, presumed killed in action, on 28 September 1916, just six weeks from when he returned to France.

The Regiment to War diaries reveal that, on 27 September, the battalion was attached to the 53rd Infantry Brigade for operations:

orders were received and issued for the attack on Schwaben Redoubt and all preparations for same made.

28 September-battalion attacked at 1pm, gaining and holding southern side.

29 September-battalion holding ground gained with continuous fighting at close quarters. At night, battalion was relieved by eighth Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, and proceeded to North Bluff, near Authuille.  Casualties to fighting of 28 and 29 September one officer killed and 10 wounded; other ranks killed 44, missing believed killed one, wounded 251, wounded and missing one, missing 87. Total 384. His body was never found and his name is on the Thiepval Memorial.


Naylass James Vivash

Family story contributed by Wendy Capstick (Great Granddaughter)

Naylass was born on 31 July 1884 in Sunbury-on-Thames, to Charles Albert Vivash (an Engineer) and Jane Stocker Vivash (née Meads). He was baptised in St Mary’s church on 5 October 1884.

Charles and Jane had seven children, five of them survived (1911 census) and Naylass was their third surviving child. His siblings are: Charles Albert (b 1878), Edith Jane (b 1879 ), Elsie (b 1892) and Ernest William (b 1894).

On 13 January 1906 Naylass married Beatrice Turner (her christened name was Emma) in St Mary’s church, aged 21 and 20 respectively. They had 4 children: William Charles James (b 1906), Elsie Rose (b 1909), Nellie Jane (b 1911) and Albert Naylass (b 1914).

Naylas had several jobs during his life. In the 1901 census, Naylass was working as a coachman. In 1906, when he got married, he was a ferryman. In the 1911 census, he was an under gardener. After war broke out he joined the Fire Service in February 1915, to do his bit for the war effort.

When the age limit for enlistment rose from 35 to 38 in May 1915, Naylass and his older brother Charles enlisted in the army. Naylass was originally attached to the RGA but then transferred to the Field Force and later (June 1917) to the Tank Force.  In July 1918 Naylass became a tank driver and was awarded the Military Medal on his first outing. It is reported in the Tank Corps Book of Honour.  A month later, on 8 August 1918, on the first day of the Great Push (the 100 days that led to the end of the war), Naylass was killed by a piece of shrapnel hitting him in the head while in his tank. He is buried in Heath Cemetary, Harbonnieres, France.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone. Courtesy of Wendy Capstick.

He is commemorated on several war memorials:

Sunbury-on-Thames War Memorial
St Mary’s church WW1 memorial
National Fire Brigades Association Roll of Honour 1914 – 1918.


Read about Surrey’s firemen during the First World War:

Harry St. Clair Chad

Henry (Harry) St. Clair Chad was born in 1884 in Redhill, Surrey. He married Alice Levina Ireland on 3 September 1911 and they became licensees of ‘The Marquis of Granby’ in Hooley Lane, Redhill, that year. They had a daughter, Joan Lilian, on 19 February 1915. Harry joined the Army Service Corps (Motor Transport) in May 1916 and trained principally at Marlborough. He was sent to the Western Front where he saw 8 months’ service before being transferred to the Italian Front in 1917. He died from pneumonia following influenza in the 24 Casualty Clearing Station, Italy, on 30 October 1918 and is buried in Montecchio Precalcino Communal Cemetery Extension, 8 miles north-north-east of Vicenza, Italy. His wife continued as sole licensee of ‘The Marquis of Granby’ until she retired to Rustington, West Sussex, in 1961 to be near her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. Alice died in 1971.

William Charles Layton, Redhill boy given military funeral

Written by Moira Nairn

William Charles Layton was born on 28th May 1898, the first son and third child of Charles Robert Layton and Clara Layton née Clarke. Both parents had been born in South London but, by 1901, had settled with their family in 24 Fengates Road, Redhill where Charles worked as an upholsterer and picture framer. Sadly, in the same year of William’s birth, his sister, Mary Elizabeth, died. A fourth child, Frederick Charles Layton, was born in 1907.

William Charles joined the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) at the age of 16, joining up on 18th May 1915. After training, he was quartered in the borough where he was working as an orderly.

Newspaper report on William Charles Layton's funeral

Newspaper report on William Charles Layton’s funeral

He took ill suddenly and died of peritonitis on 3rd March 1916. A gun carriage carried his coffin to Reigate cemetery where the Last Post was played and a firing party was deployed. His burial on 8th March was reported in a local paper.


‘The 2/5th Battalion on the Queen’s West Surrey Regiment, who are quartered in the Borough, have lost a very promising and popular soldier in the person of Pte W.C. Layton, who died after a very short illness on the Reigate and Redhill Hospital on Friday morning and was buried on Wednesday at the Reigate Cemetery with military honours. Pte Layton, the son of Mr C. R. Layton, 24 Fengates-rd., was a keen soldier. He enlisted in the 2/5th Queen’s on the 18th of May 1915, at the age of sixteen, and, with the military training he received at Windsor and other places developed and looked older than he really was. Since the battalion had been in the Borough he has been engaged as a clerk in the orderly room. He was suddenly taken ill last week and removed to the hospital, where he died in the early hours of Friday morning in the presence of his father and mother.

A large number of people witnessed the funeral, which was of an impressive character. The coffin, draped with the Union Jack, was taken on a gun carriage drawn by six horses to Shrewsbury Hall, the Plymouth Brethern Mission, where deceased attended regularly prior to joining the Army. Mr Joseph Burt and Mr F. Kent conducted a service, and kindly and sympathetic reference was made to the dead solider.

After the service the cortege proceeded to Reigate Cemetery, headed by a firing party under Sergt. Tovey. The band of the Battalion attended, and played suitable music en route. The mourning coaches were followed by the “B” Company of the Battalion, to which Pte Layton was attached. Lte.-Col. St. B. Sladen, the Acting Adjutant, Lieut. Chase, and Regtl.-Sergt.-Major Childs were also present.

The mourners included Mr and Mrs C.R. Layton (father and mother), Miss Cissie Layton and Master Fred Layton (sister and brother) and his aunts and cousins. The Battalion Chaplain conducted the service at the graveside. Three volleys were fired and the Last Post being sounded on the bugles, the company dispersed. A number of floral tributes marked the love and affection and esteem in which Pte Layton was held. They were sent by the mother and father, sister and brother, grandma, “Horace.” Aunt Sophie, Aunt Fanny and cousins Flo and Nellie, Mrs Haylar, Mr and Mrs Manning, Mr and Mrs Gandy, the Misses Woodman and Crawley, Mrs. Canter, and Mr and Mrs Bacon. Lt-Col. St. B Sladen, officers and men of the Battalion sent a wreath, Lieut. Sparks a floral tribute, and the men of “B” company also subscribed for a permanent token of respect. The funeral arrangements were placed in the hands of Messrs Geo.Comber and Sons.’

Keith Field, William’s great nephew recalls his grandfather, Frederick Charles Layton, speaking of his childhood memory of the guns being sounded over the coffin. Nine years of age at the time of his brother’s death, the brothers had been close.

Photograph of William Charles Layton with surround

Photograph of William Charles Layton with surround.

The newspaper report concluded by mentioning a ‘permanent token of respect’ given by his regiment to the family. It does not specify what that might be. However, Keith Field has in his possession a framed tribute containing a photo of his great-uncle. The rear of the frame has two metal stamps, one with his great-uncle’s name and service number, and the other with the name of his battalion.

Might this be the ‘token of respect’ referred to in the article?

My thanks to Keith Field for sharing this information about his maternal great-uncle. Keith and his father, Charles Field have also been interviewed as part of the Oral History project where they talk about Charles Field’s Uncle Charles’ WW1 service.

Frank Woodger

Family story contributed by Brian Gudgeon

Frank Woodger was born on 24 March 1887, to Thomas Woodger and Emma Woodger (nee Sink), in Ockham.  He was baptised on 26 June that same year, at St Mary’s Church, Byfleet.  By the time of the 1901 Census, the family had moved to 2 Sidney Cottage, Poplar Drive, New Malden, with Frank working as a Page Boy.  In 1910, he married Annie Burningham in late 1901, at Croydon Registry Office.  The couple lived at 26 Warren Road, Croydon, while Frank worked as a Nurseryman.

Frank Woodger WW1 Medal Index Card. Courtesy of Brian Gudegon

In the First World War, Frank served in the 3rd Battalion, London Regiment and the Labour Corps.  He enlisted on 27 March 1916, and was eventually discharged on 23 September 1919, as a result of injuries sustained during his service; he had a pronounced limp as a result of his injuries.

Frank and Mary Woodger (nee Hodge), 1952

At the time of the 1939 Register, Frank and Annie were living at 45 Windmill Road, Croydon, with Frank employed as a Gardener. Sadly, Annie died not long after the recording of this document, in 1943.  Frank remarried a year later: he and Mary Amelia Hodge (Millie) had both suffered the loss of their first spouse (Millie’s first husband, Alfred, had died in 1933).  It was a brief marriage, as Frank died in 1953.

Read the story of Mary Hodge’s first husband, Alfred Day:

Alfred Charles Hodge

Family story contributed by Brian Gudgeon

Alfred Charles Hodge was born in early 1879, to Charles Robert Hodge and Louisa Sophia Hodge (nee Pike), in Croydon.  The 1901 Census records that he worked as a Cycle Fitter, and still lived with his parents.  At the age of 24, he married Ellen Muggeridge, in spring 1903; the couple lived at 70 Princess Road, with Alfred working as a Fitter.  He had become a Milk Carrier by 1911, when the couple lived at Flat 5, 85a Elsinore Road, Forest Hill.

In the First World War, Alfred served as a Private with the Royal Army Service Corps (service number M/303082 – [the M denoting that he was involved with Mechanical Transport])

He died in the autumn of 1925, aged 47.

Read about his brother, Ernest Francis Hodge:

Read the story of his brother-in-law, Alfred Day (husband of sister Mary Amelia Hodge):

Ernest Francis Hodge

Family story contributed by Brian Gudgeon

Ernest Francis Hodge was born on 24 November 1880, to Ernest Francis Hodge and Louisa Sophia Hodge (nee Pike), in Croydon.   Prior to the outbreak of the First World War, Ernest worked as a Signal Lad for the London, Brighton & South Coast railway company, starting on 18 April 1905 at Anerley station (now in the London Borough of Bromley).  Over the next three years, he was transferred to Norwood Junction and Crystal Palace (where he worked as a Telegraph Clerk).  According to the UK Railway Employment Records 1833-1956, Ernest was dismissed on 11 February 1909 for cloak room ticket irregularities.

In the 1908-1933 Surrey Recruitment Registers, Ernest had moved on to be a Milk Carrier (living with his parents at 15 Ingatestone Road, South Norwood) before enlisting with the 4th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, at Kingston on Thames.  He was described as being 5ft 4inches, weighing 115lb, with grey eyes and light brown hair.

Ernest’s First World War Service record states that he served as a Driver for the Royal Army Service Corps (service number T/289678).  He was then promoted to T/Sergeant.  [Soldiers with a ‘T’ prefixed to their number usually served in Horse Transport].  In 1915, Ernest married Florence White; the witnesses were Alfred Charles Hodge (brother), Charles Robert Hodge (father) and Mary Amelia Hodge (sister).  The couple lived at 57 Elmers Road, Woodside, Croydon.

At the time of the 1939 Register, Ernest was working as a Milk Salesman and living at 12 Hawthorne Avenue, Croydon.
He died in 1977.

Read the story of his brother, Alfred Charles Hodge:

Read the story of his brother-in-law, Alfred Day (husband of Mary Amelia Hodge):

Sidney Harold Langridge

Family story contributed by Brian Gudgeon

Sidney Harold Langridge was born on 19 August 1891, to Sydney John Langridge and Lizzie Langridge (nee Saker), in Croydon.  He was baptised on 4 October that same year, at the Church of St Peter & St Paul, Mitcham.  By 1901, the family had moved to the High Street, Colliers Wood, at Sydney Langridge’s general store.  Ten years later, at the time of the 1911 Census, Sidney and his widowed mother (together with the rest of the family) were living at 31 Carmichael Road, South Norwood; Sidney was listed as working as a Clerk at a General Surgical Instrument Maker’s.

In 1915, a year after the outbreak of the First World War, Sidney was posted to France with the Royal Field Artillery, first as a Driver then as a Gunner.  There are two entries for him in the First World War Service Medals and Award Rolls 1914-1920 (both listing him as ‘Stanley’).

After the war, Sidney married Catherine Wheeler, on 20 November 1927, at St Mary Magdalene Church, Addiscombe, Croydon.  The couple lived at 229 Addiscombe Road, Croydon in 1939, when Sidney worked as a Hospital Supplies Manager.  He died in 1979, aged 87.

Read the stories of his brothers here:

Horace Leonard Langridge:

Cecil Herbert Langridge: