Horace Sydney Thompson

Horace Sydney Thompson (1897-1918)

Text and Research by Brian Roote

Resting in Caterham Cemetery since 5th October 1918 is the body of Horace Sydney Thompson whose name appears on the war memorial in the church.  When Peter Saaler wrote his book The Soldiers of Caterham he noted that little was known about Horace.  His name did not appear on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Debt of Honour Register, nor did he have a CWGC headstone.  Since then much more information has become available, and having found his war record his story has become much clearer.

Horace was born in Caterham on 27th April 1897, to William Thompson and Mary Louisa Start, who married in Croydon Parish Church on 1st May 1879.  The family moved to Hawthorn Terrace and then to Coulsdon Road, where they lived for many years.  His father William was a carpenter and builder.  A brother, Charles, later worked at Caterham Asylum as an attendant, and a sister Eleanor as a kitchen maid.

Horace decided to join the army, and signed on at Aldershot on 27th January 1912 when he was still only 15.  He was accepted into the Bedfordshire Regiment, with a service number 9120, and posted to the reserve.  Whilst in the reserve he continued his education and passed several examinations.  He was recalled to full service on 5th August 1914 and given a new service number, 203125.  His age precluded him being sent overseas so he served at home.  He qualified as a stretcher bearer on 12th November 1916.  On 5th February 1917 the unit (including Horace) was sent to Egypt.  Unfortunately he contracted tuberculosis and was repatriated to an army hospital in England on 20th June 1917.  He was examined, declared unfit to serve and discharged on 27th August.  His medical records are endorsed ‘total incapacity as a result of active service’.  He was awarded a weekly pension of 27s.6d. which at the time was the highest amount for servicemen suffering advanced cases of incurable disease.  He was also awarded a Silver War Badge to avoid any problems during his ‘retirement’.

Horace came home to his family on Caterham, but his civilian life was short-lived as he died on 29th September 1918 and was buried on 5th October.  It is obvious that the Army was notified, as his pension form 36 – Death of a Pensioner is clearly endorsed ‘died 29th September 1918’.

To qualify for War Graves status the death of a serving soldier must have occurred between 4th August 1914 and 31st August 1921, from any cause.  If the soldier had been discharged from a cause attributable to service and then died from this cause during the period then he would qualify.  Horace’s death certificate gives his cause of death as pulmonary tuberculosis, ie the reason for his discharge.  It was my opinion that Horace should be accepted, and I submitted a claim with evidence to the authorities.  This was finally accepted, and his name appears in the CWGC United Kingdom Book of Remembrance.  There are special CGWC headstones for servicemen who are buried in a cemetery but where the site is unknown, and these headstones are engraved with the legend ‘buried elsewhere in his cemetery’.

On 3rd March, Horace’s death was finally given the credit he deserved and a headstone was placed on his burial plot in Caterham Cemetery.  No member of his family has been found, despite an appeal in the local newspapers and on BBC Radio Surrey.  If anyone knows of a family member, please get in touch.


The National Archives

St Mary’s Church, Caterham, records

Census returns


Ernest Ralph Cave Moy

Information supplied by Victoria (grand-daughter of Ernest Ralph Cave Moy) and Chris Booth

Ernest Ralph Cave Moy (known as Ralph) was born to Henry and Eliza in Malden, Surrey, in approximately 1899.  In 1911, the family were living at Cleever House, 24 Grove Crescent, Kingston on Thames.  In the years before Ralph was old enough to enlist with the Army, he attended Kingston Grammar School.

On 11 November 1916 he enlisted with the Army and served with the colours for two years. In 1918 he was placed into the 3/8th London Regiment, something which sparked concern with his father and older brother, William.  In May 1918, both wrote to the War Office to request Ralph’s transfer to the Royal Field Gun Artillery, with whom William was serving, so that the elder brother could keep an eye on his young brother.  The letter below shows William’s request to the War Office:

William Cave Moy's Letter to the War Office

Title: William Cave Moy's Letter to the War Office
Description: Thanks to Victoria and Chris Booth by-nc

Thankfully, the War Office relented and allowed Ralph to join his brother’s regiment, with the 50th Brigade.  By 11 June 1918, Gunner Moy had won the Military Medal for bravery.  C.A. Howse, his former Headmaster at Kingston Grammar School, wrote to the eighteen year old’s parents to congratulate them on their son’s achievement, noting that he was the first from the school to do so.

Letter from C.A. Howse to Ralph's Parents

Title: Letter from C.A. Howse to Ralph's Parents
Description: Thanks to Victoria and Chris Booth by-nc

Letter from C.A. Howse to Ralph's Parents

Title: Letter from C.A. Howse to Ralph's Parents
Description: Thanks to Victoria and Chris Booth by-nc

On 22 August 1918, Ralph was gassed while fighting in France, and was temporarily blinded in both eyes.  A soldier in his regiment wrote to Moy’s parents to inform them of the news, which was quickly followed by reassuring note on 24th August from Ralph himself (ghost written by a friend).  In this note, he sought to calm his parents’ nerves:

Ghost-written Letter Home

Title: Ghost-written Letter Home
Description: Thanks to Victoria and Chris Booth by-nc

 ‘Don’t be worried because this is not in my handwriting as I was gassed on the 22/8/18 so I am blind for a day or 2.  You will be very pleased to here [sic] that I am being sent to England and shall be leaving shortly.  Love to all.  Ralph’

Ralph was sent to Normanshurst Hospital, near the village of Catsfield in East Sussex, to recuperate.  The photo below shows Ralph (back row, right of the VAD nurse) with his fellow wounded soldiers.  He was not to see action in the war again, and he was discharged from the Army on 16 April 1919, after being declared no longer physically fit for war service.

John William Adcock

Research and text by Marigold Cleeve, Researcher at Carillon War Memorial Museum, Loughborough

Served under the alias of ‘John Arthur Jennings’.

John William Adcock was born in 1877 in Syston, Leicestershire.  He was the elder son of Richard Adcock, a framework knitter, and his wife Ann Jane (née Cart) of Brookfield, Syston, who were married in 1876.  Richard and Ann Jane Adcock had one other son, Joseph Richard, and a daughter, Florence Elizabeth Ann, before Richard died, aged 28, in 1887, in Loughborough.  In 1891, John was living with his widowed mother, brother and sister at 6 Barrow Street, Loughborough, Leicestershire, and his mother was supporting her family by working as a hosiery seamer.  John, aged 14, was now an apprentice brick maker.  Later that same year John’s mother remarried to Thomas Yeomans, a bricklayer.

On 29 August 1894, John, a labourer, attested at Leicester for the 3rd Leicestershire Regiment under the name of ‘William Adcock’.  He was send to the Depot as Private 4179.  On 5 October 1894 he was transferred to the 2nd Leicestershire Regiment.  On 7 March 1896 he deserted from Aldershot.

By 1901 John’s mother Ann Jane and Thomas Yeomans were living at 14 Southfield Road, Loughborough, while his wife had moved to 58 Salop Street, Birmingham, to be a housekeeper for George Nicholls, a motor body finisher.

John, aged 38, and a rope maker, enlisted in London on 15 September 1915 using, as later testified by his brother, the alias ‘John Arthur Jennings’.  John gave his home address as 9 Buckhorn Square, Loughborough, stated that he was married, and that Anna Caroline Jennings was his next-of-kin and dependant.  Prior to 1915 John had met Anna Caroline Olsen, a Norwegian domestic cook who was working for Eric and Dorothy Burder of 129 Ashby Road and by 1915 John and Anna appear to have been living together at 9 Buckhorn Square.  Anna Caroline Olsen was subsequently described by the military authorities as John’s unmarried wife and sole legatee.

John joined the East Surrey Regiment at Kingston-upon-Thames as Private 11870.  Ten days after he enlisted he was punished for being absent from tattoo, being drunk in the barracks and being deficient of kit.  One month later he was again punished, this time for ‘overstaying his pass’.  Nevertheless, he successfully completed his training as a Bomber with the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion at Dover.

He was sent to France on 17 March 1916 and joined the 7th (Service) Battalion of the East Surreys at Sailly Labourse on 19 March.  The battalion then moved to billets in Bethune before going into the trenches at Vermelles.  On 10 April the battalion moved into Brigade Reserve at Annequin before being sent to guard the Hohenzollern Redoubt.  On 22 April 1916 John was killed in action, aged 40.  He is buried at Vermelles British Cemetery Grave II.H.24.  His gravestone is inscribed with the alias under which he served in the Great War.


Lance Corporal Fred Billing – Killed in Action 2nd March 1916

Fred Billing was born in Buckland St Mary, Somerset, on 13 August 1882, to a family whose name can be found in the parish registers as far back as the 16th century. His father, John Hake Billing, was an agricultural labourer and his mother, Jane, was from nearby Combe St Nicholas. They had one other child, a daughter, Rosa Jane, in 1887. As a teenager, Fred became a grocers’ porter in Swanage.

Charles Aylwin, a Sussex-born carter, labourer and railway platelayer, moved his family to Burgh Heath in the late 1880s. By 1901, one of his daughters, Amy Augusta Aylwin, had moved to Dorset and was working as a parlourmaid when she met Fred. They married at Wareham in 1903 and had 3 children in Swanage (Grace, Rosa and Frederick) before moving their young family up to Burgh Heath to be closer to Amy’s family, who lived at 5 Oatlands Road.

The Billings lived at 5 Wheeler’s Cottages, which probably used to stand on the Green. Fred worked as a builder’s labourer. Another boy, Frank, was born in 1911 and finally another daughter, Ethel, in 1913.

Fred (32 years old, 5ft 5in, weighing 145lbs with blue eyes, light hair and a fair complexion) joined the 8th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers at Epsom on 7 September 1914, one of the busiest recruiting days of the war.

They arrived in Boulogne on 31 May 1915 and underwent a period of trench training at L’Epinette, spending time in the line alongside more experienced units so as to learn the ropes. They were in the trenches on their own by the end of June.

They were lucky enough not to take part in the Battle of Loos in September but buried the dead from the battle, “a sickening fatigue. Men not able to work at it continuously as all bodies were in advanced state of decomposition.” They took part in their first real action on 18th October, capturing a German trench and then later holding off a counterattack.

They spent much of a wet and cold winter resting and training but were back in the line in February 1916. News of the death of Fred’s mother would have reached him in late February, just days before his own.

The Hohenzollern Redoubt was said to be the strongest fortification on the Western Front and it was in German hands. A carefully-conceived plan, in exhaustive detail, was prepared to capture one of the trenches on its western face.

On 2 March 1916, four huge mines under No Man’s Land were detonated by the Royal Engineers and the men of the 8th and 9th Royal Fusiliers dashed across to capture the German trench known as The Chord from its dazed defenders and to garrison the newly-created craters. Rain and snow had made the ground heavy going and the Bavarians opposite the 8th Royal Fusiliers put up a fight, virtually wiping out their first party of 50 men. The trench was captured but, despite the careful planning, the 8th had suffered 254 casualties, Fred among them. The Chord was not in British hands for long.

Like 37 other men of the 8th Royal Fusiliers who died that day, Fred has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, on the Buckland St Mary war memorial, on panels in the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Buckland, in All Saints, Banstead, in St Mary’s, Burgh Heath, and in the Burgh Heath War Memorial Hall. He was 33.

Fred was awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1914-15 Star.


Research by James Crouch and Rosanna Barton

Fred was commemorated on the 100th anniversary of his death, at All Saints church, Banstead.

Hatchlands Park

Text by Mark Harvey, House Steward

Hatchlands Park

Title: Hatchlands Park
Description: Copyright: National Trust by-nc

In 1913 the estate had been inherited by Hal Goodhart-Rendel, the last private owner of Hatchlands. Hal held a commission in the Grenadier Guards, but did not see active service due to his poor health. He suffered from terrible asthma, but smoked strong Turkish cigarettes for most of his life. However, Hal remained an important part of the regiment for the rest of his life, coming out of retirement in the Second World War to train younger recruits and rewrite the Grenadiers’ Squad Drill Primer book.

Hal Goodhart-Rendell

Title: Hal Goodhart-Rendell
Description: Copyright: National Trust by-nc

The Great War of course also had an impact on the neighbouring village of East Clandon. Out of a population of just over 300 people, 80 men from the village served throughout the war, including Hal Goodhart-Rendel. The War Memorial, designed by Hal and erected in 1922, still standing in the village today, shows us that 14 of these men were killed in action.

Hatchlands itself was put to use as an auxiliary hospital and in 1917 provided 14 beds for other ranks (not officers). The hospital was registered as ‘Convalescent cases only’ so probably provided little or no actual nursing care to recovering patients referred from the much larger Guildford War Hospital.

Patients at Hatchlands Park in the Great War

Title: Patients at Hatchlands Park in the Great War
Description: Courtesy of Mr T Trice by-nc

Despite Hal not seeing active service, Hatchlands did supply several of its own war heroes…

Roland Stuart Hebeler was Lord Rendel’s nephew and land agent, and lived at Dene Place in West Horsley which was built for him to a design by Hal Goodhart-Rendel. Roland served as a Captain in the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment. Captain Hebeler died of his wounds in France in 1915, and today you can see a stained glass window dedicated to his memory in the church in the neighbouring village of East Clandon.

Captain Hebeler's Stained Glass Window, East Clandon Church

Title: Captain Hebeler's Stained Glass Window, East Clandon Church
Description: Copyright: National Trust/James Duffy by-nc

Francis Grenfell was born here in 1880 while his family were tenants of the Sumners, who still owned Hatchlands but could no longer afford its upkeep. He and his twin brother Riversdale both served in the war. Francis is one of only two men from the Guildford area to have been awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery. A monument to Captain Grenfell was unveiled in Guildford town centre in summer 2014.

Beatrice Holme Sumner was also born at Hatchlands, as her parents were the last generation of Sumners to own the estate. ‘Beatie’ as she was best known, was involved in a great scandal in her youth, but went on to the run a naval training ship Mercury. During the war, Mercury under Beatie’s management increased their intake by 50% to train new recruits, reducing the training time by up to three months. Beatie was awarded an OBE in 1918 in recognition of her services.


All image copyright belongs to the National Trust, unless stated otherwise

For more information about Hatchlands Park please visit the National Trust website.


J R Ackerley’s Great War Experiences

Novelist, dramatist, poet, editor and Captain in the East Surrey Regiment

Joseph Randall Ackerley was born in Kent in 1896. He became a Captain in the 8th East Surreys and was profoundly affected by his First World War service, haunted by ‘survivor’s guilt’. His play Prisoners of War (1925) based on his wartime experiences, was outspokenly pro-gay, as were his other books and poems. He also edited and wrote the introduction to Escapers All (1932), a volume of personal accounts of First World War POW camp escapees.

Known for his eccentricity, his personal and professional friends, including many Surrey gay icons, were all part of the homosexual literary set. Ackerley joined the BBC in 1928 and was literary editor of its Listener weekly magazine from 1935 to 1959.

Ackerley and The Great War

‘I was a pretty boy and used to being run after’.

Like most middle class boys in public school education, Ackerley applied for a commission at the outbreak of war and was gazetted a Second Lieutenant in the 8th (Service) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, on 14 Sep 1914; he was a few months short of his 18th birthday. He was later promoted to a Captain. In April 1915, he was billeted in Colchester, along with Captain ‘Billie’ Nevill, who was later killed in the famous East Surrey football charge at Montauban, on the first day of the Somme, 1 July 1916. During final training in Salisbury, in May 1915, Ackerley met his best friend of the war, Bobby Soames.

Photograph of Ackerley (far right), with fellow officers, possibly in France, c.1916 (SHC ref ESR/NEVI/1, p.26)

Photograph of Ackerley (far right), with fellow officers, possibly in France, c.1916,
(SHC ref ESR/25/NEVI/1, p.26)


Life-changing incidents

Two incidents on the Western Front haunted Ackerley for the rest of his life. On the first day of the Somme, the British suffered 60,000 casualties; Ackerley was shot in the arm and peppered with glass shards. Frightened and dazed, he lay in a shell-hole for six hours as men all around him were picked off by German snipers. Ackerley’s cap was shot from his head but he was eventually taken to the safety of a first-aid post. This attack saw the death of Bobby Soames.

Later that month, in an attempt to exorcise the nightmare memory Ackerley wrote The Everlasting Terror, which was published in the November issue of the prestigious English Review. It is dedicated ‘To Bobby’ and ends with a memorial to him:

And so through all my life and days,
In all my walks, through all my ways,
The lasting terror of war
Will live with me for evermore.
Of all the pals whom I have missed
There’s one, I know, whom Christ has kissed,
And in his memory I’ll find
The sweetness of the bitter rind –
Of lonely life in front of me
And terror’s sleepless memory

The second incident occurred in May 1917 as Ackerley led his men on an attack at Cérisy, Arras. The troops were unprepared for a counter-attack and Ackerley, shot in the buttock and thigh, was again left lying in a shell hole for hours, with dead and dying officers. He was eventually collected by a German stretcher-bearer and after an exhausting journey wrapped in louse-ridden blankets, he ended up at a hospital in Hanover.

Recovery and awakening

After recovering, Ackerley was sent to a string of POW camps before being transferred to a neutral site at Mürren, in the Swiss Alps. He used this experience as inspiration for writing The Prisoners of War, which revolves around a Captain’s comfortable captivity in Switzerland and his longing for an attractive young Lieutenant. At Mürren, Ackerley met the author Arnold Lunn, who confronted him about his sexuality. Lunn immediately set him to read the ‘standard works’ on the subject of homosexuality such as Otto Weinberger and Edward Carpenter. Such writers were a revelation to him.

The war dragged on; Ackerley’s brother, Peter, a Lieutenant also in the 8th Battalion, was killed in France in August 1918 and Ackerley narrowly avoided Spanish Flu, which killed several of the inmates at Mürren. Ackerley finally returned to England in December 1918. Experiencing a precarious relationship with his father, Ackerley felt that the wrong son had returned from the war and this haunted him throughout his lifetime.

The nominal roll for the 8th Battalion shows that Captain J R Ackerley went overseas with the unit on 27 July 1915. The ‘remarks’ column states that he was wounded and missing from 6 May 1917 and recorded as a Prisoner of War. The roll also records Ackerley’s brother, Peter, who was killed in action in August 1918 (SHC ref 8227/2/5).

The nominal roll for the 8th Battalion shows Captain J R Ackerley and his brother, Peter, who was killed in action in August 1918 (<strong><a href="http://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/collections/getrecord/SHCOL_8227_2_1_1_5" target="_blank">SHC ref 8227/2/5</a></strong>)

The nominal roll for the 8th Battalion shows Captain J R Ackerley and his brother, Peter, who was killed in action in August 1918 (SHC ref 8227/2/5)

No service papers can be found for Ackerley and we assume that he did not apply for his medals as no medal index card can be found either.

See Ackerley’s Lifestory on the Lives of the First World War website.

Ackerley, Forster and others

Ackerley is linked to many other Surrey LGBT icons including EM Forster, Noel Coward and Harry Daley; he also discovered and promoted the writer WH Auden, who had been a pupil at St Edmund’s School, Hindhead. John Gielgud was a friend of Ackerley’s and he attended the opening night of The Prisoners of War.

Ackerley met Forster in the early 1920s and the two became great friends, Forster acting somewhat as a confidant and adviser on Ackerley’s complex love life. The two exchanged hundreds of letters over the years and towards the end of his life, Ackerley sold his letters from Forster, for £6000. Ackerley did not live long enough to enjoy the money, dying of a coronary thrombosis at his home in Putney on 4 June 1967. His autobiography, My Father and Myself was published posthumously in 1968 and two years later Portrait of E M Forster was published, with a collection of his own correspondence, The Ackerley Letters, following in 1975.

Obituary notice for Captain J R Ackerley, Queen’s Royal Surrey Regiment Newsletter, November 1967, p.5

Obituary notice for Captain J R Ackerley, Queen’s Royal Surrey Regiment Newsletter, November 1967, p.5

Text by Di Stiff, Surrey Heritage

Read about The Secret History of Australia’s Gay Diggers.


  • Photograph of Captain J R Ackerley, c.1916 can be found in an East Surrey Regiment photograph album (SHC ref ESR/18/2/2 p.6).
  • Photograph of Ackerley (see above), with fellow officers, possibly in France, c.1916. This photograph comes from an album compiled by the brother of Captain Billie Nevill, who was killed at Montauban (SHC ref ESR/25/NEVI/1, p.26).
  • The nominal roll for the 8th Battalion shows J R Ackerley went overseas with the unit on 27 July 1915. The ‘remarks’ column states that he was wounded and missing from 6 May 1917 and recorded as a Prisoner of War. The roll also records Ackerley’s brother, Peter, who was killed in action in August 1918 (SHC ref 8227/2/5).
  • The war diary for the 8th (Service) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, at Montauban, the first day of the Somme, 1st July 1916, runs to seven pages and includes the deaths of Capt Billie Nevill and Ackerley’s best friend Lieutenant Bobby Soames. The First World War diaries of both the East Surrey and the Queen’s Royal (West Surrey) Regiments are available to view online courtesy of The Surrey Infantry Museum http://www.queensroyalsurreys.org.uk.
  • Obituary notice for Captain J R Ackerley, Queen’s Royal Surrey Regiment Newsletter, November 1967, p.5
  • Peter Parker, A Life of JR Ackerley, 1989.

Short bibliography

The Prisoners of War (first performed 5 July 1925)
Escapers All (1932)
My Father and Myself (1968)
E.M. Forster: A Portrait (1970)

The diary of Private Edgar Barfoot, RASC, 1916


In December 2015, Mr Alan Welland of Tewkesbury presented Surrey History Centre with a tiny diary brought back from the Front by his grandfather, Frank Searle of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), after the First World War.

The diary had been written by Edgar George Barfoot of Richmond, Surrey, who served with the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) and was posted to France in April 1915. The entries cover the whole of 1916 from his service in France to his arrival in Salonika in December, and most are written in schoolboy French and Portuguese.

Most of the diary entries are brief and routine. He describes his daily work as a driver in the RASC, names towns and villages visited, and records duties undertaken such as sentry duty and rifle training. He mentions the names of friends and relatives from whom he has received letters and parcels, Much of his leisure time is spent playing football and cricket, and he also appears to have been religious, attending both Mass and Vespers most Sundays.


Title: SGW/3/1b
Description: SHC ref. SGW/3/1: entries in Portuguese from Edgar Barfoot's diary by-nc


Title: SGW/3/1c
Description: SHC ref SGW/3/1: Entries in French from Edgar Barfoot's diary, 1916 by-nc

While in Marseilles, before disembarking for Salonika, several entries mention “Simone” whom Edgar describes as his sweetheart (“bien-aimée”). On 4 December he spends time with “mon adorée” from 11am until 11pm. Consequently, Edgar is sentenced to a field punishment (FP No 2) of 14 days for being in town about 9pm contrary to Base Orders and being in possession of an irregular pass. Edgar and his fellow soldiers sailed from Marseilles on 16 December on the SS Megantic, arriving in Salonika 4 days later.

Edgar Barfoot was born in Richmond, Surrey, in 1890, the son of George Thomas Barfoot, a hairdresser, and Mary (née Stapleton). Prior to enlisting, Edgar worked as a driver mechanic for Dennis Bros in Guildford. Before and after the First World War, Edgar travelled to Brazil on a number of occasions.

Edgar’s army service record gives his next of kin as his aunt Mrs Frances Poland of Richmond (née Stapleton, a sister of his mother). His records also show that he contracted malaria in Salonika. After the war, Edgar settled in the Guildford area and married Ethel May Bell in 1930. He died in 1975.

We would love to hear from anyone who is related to Edgar Barfoot.





Harold Arthur William Gibbons

Information provided by Pat Clack (daughter of Harold Gibbons)

Wedding of Harold Gibbons (seated second from left) and Florence Emma Young, 24 May 1915

Title: Wedding of Harold Gibbons (seated second from left) and Florence Emma Young, 24 May 1915
Description: Copyright: Family of Harold Gibbons by-nc

Harold Gibbons was born in Bath, Somerset, on 9 March 1886.  The family soon moved to a house called Grosvenor, situated in Maybury Hill, Maybury, Woking.  At the outbreak of the First World War, Harold had been working as a printer compositor in the local area,  but left his job when he was posted with the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment.  Only two weeks after his wedding to Florence Emma Young, he was shipped off to serve in Delhi, India, in 1915 and Poona (Pune) in 1918. He documented his time there by taking a wonderful selection of photographs of Indian landscapes and his fellow soldiers. Harold’s posting to Delhi came at a highly inconvenient time in his personal life, as he and his wife, Florence, had been married only two weeks earlier. Whilst in India, Harold suffered from frequent bouts of malaria, for which he was treated with quinine.

His brothers Reginald, Albert, Ernest and Frederick all served with the British Army, and all survived.

Harold also survived the war, and soon returned to life in Surrey, moving from Woking to Send with his wife.  The couple had one child on 6 February 1925, a daughter named Patricia.  He died on 16 November 1948, aged 62.


Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment in India 1915

Title: Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment in India 1915
Description: Copyright: Family of Harold Gibbons by-nc

George Alfred Shurlock

Information provided by his daughter, Nancy Shurlock (born Annie Elizabeth Shurlock)


George Alfred Shurlock was born in Albury, in September 1871, to James and Louisa Shurlock; he was the fifth of nine children, although, sadly, not all were to survive to adulthood.  George spent his childhood in Albury Heath, where the Shurlock family had been for decades.

Prior to the First World War, George had been working as a house painter on the Duke of Northumberland’s estate in Albury Park, an area of 150 acres that the Percy family had acquired in 1890.  Only four months before the outbreak of war, George married Mary Anne Cumper, who had been a family friend for many years.  The pair were unusual for the period in that they married much later in life than was the norm: on their marriage certificate, George is recorded as 43 years old and Mary as 35.  The marriage was a happy one, and was soon followed by the births of three daughters: Nancy (June 1915), Dorothy (June 1916) and Hilda (November 1919).

Much of his wartime life is unknown, or subject to uncertain family memory, but George was only called up in the latter years of the conflict and was not posted abroad.  He received his orders in April 1918, after the British Government increased the upper age limit for conscription to 50; George was 47, and had been too old to enlist prior to this extension of the Military Service Bill.  The family is fairly certain that George joined the Royal Engineers, the insignia on his cap (see his photograph) looks very much like that of the regiment.  Fortunately, the family still has his silver spoon with his service number engraved: 326867.  It is hard to trace his wartime experience because he did not serve abroad, and therefore was not awarded any medals.  However, he did spend the remaining months of the war in Chalfont St Giles, at a military camp, most likely carrying out essential war work.

Sapper Shurlock, as he would have been known, was demobbed in February 1919, meaning that he was allowed to leave his military duties and return to civilian life.  His eldest daughter Nancy recalls this occasion as her first real memory as a child, then aged nearly 4 years old.  She distinctly remembers seeing her father walking towards the family home by Albury Heath Common, running ‘as fast as [her] little legs would carry [her]’ into his arms.  Like most men of his generation, George would not talk about the war and his time with the Royal Engineers, but was largely unaffected by the conflict in the way that many were.  This was because he did not witness the horrors of the Western Front.  It was very common for returning soldiers to encounter difficulties in finding work, but George managed to secure a position as a painter and decorator for a firm called F.A. Woods and Sons.

George Alfred Shurlock died on 10 January 1941, in St Luke’s Hospital, Guildford, after suffering a heart attack.


The Family

The Shurlock/Cumper family contributed in many ways to the Surrey war effort.

Matthew Shurlock, George’s nephew, was killed in action on the Western Front in 21 March 1918, aged only 21.  He lies in an unknown grave in France, but is commemorated at the Pozieres Memorial.   He was a Private with the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment (Regimental Number: G/22292)

William Arthur Cumper, George’s brother-in-law, fought on the Western Front with the Royal Engineers (Regimental Number: 176621).  William survived the war, but never spoke of his experiences.  Kenny Cannons, a friend, credits William with saving his life by sharing the last of his water with him.

Fanny Elizabeth Cumper, George’s sister-in-law, worked at the Chilworth Munitions Factory, outside Guildford.

Fanny Elizabeth Cumper (right) with friend as Chilworth Munitions girls

Title: Fanny Elizabeth Cumper (right) with friend as Chilworth Munitions girls
Description: Courtesy of Nancy Crick by-nc

Alfred Victor Smith VC (1891 – 1915)

Born in 1891 to William Henry and Louisa Smith in Guildford, Surrey, Alfred is shown in the 1901 census living at 3 Drummond Street, Cambridge, and 10 years later in the 1911 census he is listed as living in Burnley, Lancashire. Before the First World War, he was a Police Officer and on 10th October 1914 he enlisted with the East Lancashire Regiment as a Second lieutenant.

The 3rd March 1916 edition of London Gazette reports how he got the Victoria Cross;

“For most conspicuous bravery. He was in the act of throwing a grenade when it slipped from his hand and fell to the bottom of the trench, close to several of our officers and men. He immediately shouted out a warning, and himself jumped clear and into safety, but seeing that the officers and men were unable to get into cover, and knowing well that the grenade was due to explode, he returned without any hesitation and flung himself down on it. He was instantly killed by the explosion. His magnificent act of self-sacrifice undoubtedly saved many lives.”

He died aged 24 on 22nd December 1915, and is buried at Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery in Turkey. His Victoria Cross is displayed at Towneley Hall in Burnley, Lancashire.