Mr E. Jordan

THE WAR: All the six sons of Mr and Mrs E. Jordan of Middle Street, are now in the service of their King and Country. The eldest, Mr Edward Jordan joined up on July 24th, and has been sent to Yorkshire, where he will probably be employed at his trade as a bricklayer.

The second, Pte Frank Jordan is in the A.S.C. in France. The third, Sergt Frederick John Jordan is an old soldier, having previous to the war served for over 12 years (eight in India). Three years ago he rejoined the forces in the Queen’s and has been in Salonica since Christmas 1916.

The fourth Pte Stanley Jordan joined the Queens in August 1914 and is now in India. The fifth, Pte Leonard Jordan, enlisted in the Queens in February 1916. After training proceeded to India, and from thence to Mesopotamia.

The youngest Pte Harvey Jordan joined the Queens in September 1914. His first experience of warfare was in the Dardanelles, where he suffered from trench fever. He was next sent to Egypt and has taken a prominent part in the fighting in Palestine where he was wounded in the side by a bullet. He landed in France five weeks ago and when he wrote home last was at the base.

Mr and Mrs Jordan have three sons-in-law in the army, viz Pte Henry Leonard Hopgood in the Hussars in France; Gunner Harry Lucas, R.G.A., also in France, and Pte E. T. in the Queen’s. The latter was shot through the foot in France a short time ago and after treatment in hospital and detention in convalescent home is now able to visit his relations in Brockham and Purley.

Of two other sons in Law one has been exempted for three months and the other has not yet received his warrant. Of ten nephews one has been killed, two are prisoners of war in Germany, one has been discharged and six are still on active service.

A letter received on Thursday night from Pte Jack Overton, The Queen’s son of Mr and Mrs Overton of Jubilee Cottages, who was taken prisoner on April 13th stated that he is wounded in the leg.

Information from The Surrey Mirror 2 August 1918 Page 3.

The Maxse family, Georges Clemenceau, Effingham and World War I

Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929) was Prime Minister of France 1907-1909 for the first time and then again, critically, from 1917 to 1920 when, during the very dark days for the Allies, being spoken of as a new Joan of Arc, he rallied and led the French and also stiffened the faltering British resolve. He then held a key role alongside David Lloyd George and Woodrow Wilson in the post-war settlement, the Treaty of Versailles, surviving an assassination attempt on 19 February 1919. His famous nickname was ‘The Tiger’. His broad and flamboyantly moustachioed face was widely well-known and instantly recognisable to people of his time across the world.

This article is about the very deep and enduring friendship between Clemenceau and the Maxse family of Effingham before, during and after World War I. The Maxse family believed, with some justification, that this friendship was the real origin of cross-channel discussions which resulted eventually in the Entente Cordiale, an important Anglo-French agreement to co-operate signed in 1904 which ended roughly 1,000 years of greater or lesser hostility between the two nations.


The Maxses in Effingham

It is not fully known how early the connection of the Maxses with this area of Surrey began, but in Surrey History Centre there are conveyances between James Maxse (1792 – 1864) and the Earl of Lovelace in 1840, and in 1850-55. Maxse’s widow Lady Caroline Fitzhardinge Maxse, eldest daughter of Frederick Augustus Berkeley 5thEarl of Berkeley, settled in Effingham in 1869. Lady Caroline had married James, ‘a wealthy landowner, hunting man and yachtsman’ [see footnote i] in 1829. In 1832, their son Henry Berkeley Fitzharding Maxse was born, and a year later another son, Frederick Augustus Maxse (1833-1900). In due course both brothers entered the armed services. Aged about 17, in 1849 Henry joined the army as a Lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards. Shortly afterwards Frederick entered the Royal Navy. Both saw action during the Crimean War (1853-56) and Frederick became an acknowledged war hero. At the end of the war he was the youngest captain in the Navy. A firm Francophile, after retirement from active service he pursued a not-very-successful career in politics as a ‘democratic aristocrat’: an atheist radical who despite his own background hated privilege and social inequality.

James Maxse died in 1864. In 1869, in other words after her sons were grown up, Caroline purchased the lordship and Manor of Effingham East Court from Miles Stringer III. The grand manor house where she took up residence was Effingham Hill House, now St Teresa’s School, on Critten Lane in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The property was ‘a modest place on the high ridge between Dorking and Guildford, nine hundred acres and a Jane Austen sort of house of medium size, but able to contain her family and a few old friends who visited her regularly’. The author George Meredith, a close friend of Frederick since 1859 (and who since 1868 had lived nearby at Box Hill), described its gloriously eminent position with access to miles of beautiful countryside in admiring terms. It had attractions that would have strong appeal for Frederick as a country house within easy reach of London. He was extremely fond of countryside pursuits such as walking, horse-riding and hunting (and of course sailing – throughout his life he regularly sailed his yacht across to France).

Henry Maxse may have visited Effingham Hill House, but he never lived there. He spent many years overseas as a governor of colonial provinces and died in 1883, predeceasing his mother (1886). Frederick on the other hand remained based in London and with his children did visit his mother in Effingham.

Frederick had married Cecilia (née Steel) in 1861. They had two sons and two daughters. In due course all four children were destined for distinguished and influential lives: (Frederick) Ivor Maxse (1862–1958) had a military career and became a leading First World War general; Leopold (Leo) James Maxse (1864–1932) had a prominent career in political journalism with special interest in Britain’s foreign relations and defence; Olive Hermione Maxse (1866-1955) was a friend and model for Sir Edward Burne-Jones; Violet Georgina (1872–1958) married first Lord Edward Cecil and second Alfred, Viscount Milner, and also took a lifelong active interest in international political and military affairs.

Sadly by 1877 Frederick and Cecilia’s marriage had failed and they separated. Frederick was not an absentee parent and took a large part in bringing up the two girls. Violet, who was five when the separation occurred, writes of the many happy times she spent with her father at her grandmother’s house. In later life she shared her father’s delight in outdoor pursuits, and sometimes hunted on horseback with the local pack, the Surrey Union. Violet does not mention whether she was at Effingham Hill on the day of the visit there by HRH Prince Albert Victor of Wales (known to friends and family as ‘Eddy’) in 1885. Eddy was second in line to the throne, being grandson to Queen Victoria and eldest son of Edward, the then Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII) and Princess Alexandra of Denmark [ii]. The Prince of Wales and Frederick were comfortable acquaintances; and so were their sons. In 1883-85 Eddy had spent some time at Trinity College, Cambridge. This coincided with the undergraduate years of Leo, who was at King’s studying history between 1883-86. Leo was said to have been a lively and exciting presence at the university; he was President of the Cambridge Union for a term in 1886. Perhaps it was this connection that drew the young Prince on his day-trip to Effingham, but as Eddy’s education since age 16 had already included five years in the Navy including extensive world voyages, he and the Admiral would have had plenty to talk about at the dinner-table.

When his mother died in 1886, Frederick inherited the Lordship of the Manor of Effingham East Court. He kept his connection with Effingham, but not his mother’s house. This he sold, with much of the land and also the title, to Mr Julius Caesar Czarnikow [iii]. On the land he retained, on the site of the former Hill Lodge he built himself a fine new house, Dunley Hill House (now known as Ranmore Manor [iv]) into which he moved in 1887.


British perceptions of ‘Germany’ and the Mole Valley Gap

Only two years after Caroline’s purchase of Effingham Hill House, that area of Surrey was thrown rather shockingly into the spotlight of national consciousness as, militarily speaking, a focus for great anxiety about the imminent threat from Germany. It is not impossible that the shock of this impending threat, apparently in their own immediate neighbourhood, coloured the Maxse family’s outlook down the years.

Since the arrival of Prince-Elector George of Hanover to take up the British throne in 1714 there had been strong, if not always comfortable, connections between Britons and Germans. At Waterloo (1815) Marshall Blücher’s actions with Prussian forces strengthened the link with that particular state and he was much celebrated in Britain – for example, the Black Horse public house in Effingham was renamed the Prince Blucher, along with many others up and down the land. Later, the marriage of Queen Victoria to Albert created a tie with the state of Saxe-Coburg. The point to be noticed is that at this time, there was a very large territory occupied by German-speaking peoples, but no such sovereign state as ‘Germany’. Instead there were a myriad independent tiny states each ruled by its Prince, Elector, Landgrave, Margrave, Count or the like. In the British consciousness, it was an almost fairytale country of romantic medieval castles, remote enchanted forests, knights and ladies, pretty little antiquated market towns and so on – almost a Disney image.

The image began to change in the 1860s, when under Chancellor Bismarck the state of Prussia began to exercise greater and greater influence over its neighbours, and slowly to create a unified Germany. It also began to try to create a colonial presence overseas. The neighbouring major powers, France and Austria-Hungary, viewed all this with dislike and a great preference for the continuation of the old, disunited Germany. Their royal families had ties and influence over many small German states, and Bismarck realized that to achieve unification, Austria and France would each have to be taught a lesson about strength and power and minding their own business. In 1866, a brief military campaign defeated Austria’s army. In 1870, Prussia fomented a diplomatic argument and then administered a truly massive shock to the French. Prussia launched a sudden and frighteningly rapid armed attack on France itself. Superior planning and training crushed the French armies, who were forced to a humiliating surrender, followed by a siege of Paris’s civilians. In January 1871 from the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles itself the German King Wilhelm I, surrounded by his officers and soldiers, announced the beginning of the Second Reich (Empire) and that from now on he would be Emperor, not King. A so-called Peace Treaty was made later in 1871 which gave Alsace and Lorraine to Prussia, and crystallised the concept of Prussian victory and French defeat. This new and horrible experience for France of defeat on her own territory rankled terribly, could never be forgotten, and as Prussia continued to arm and to expand, France (and Britain) would never relax again.

Concurrently with these international affairs, in 1871 in England George Tomkyns Chesney published a profoundly shocking novella called The Battle of Dorking: Reminiscences of a Volunteer, ‘which started the genre of invasion literature’ [v]. It is a fictional account describing the aftermath of a sudden attack on Britain by German-speakers (the actual nation is never named), in which enemy forces had surged up through the ‘Mole gap’, the River Mole valley between Dorking and Leatherhead which runs north-south through the Downs. Failure to defend the heights of Box Hill and Ranmore [vi] on either side allowed the enemy to pass through. The invaders then succeeded in taking London and in a very short time the British had became a subject nation. The action of the story was set in 1875 (ie at the time of publication, this was the near future), to enhance its power as a timely warning. The point was of course to try to stimulate interest in a review of national defence before it was too late and the same should happen to England as to France. It was a best-seller and it must have had a powerful resonance in Effingham, such a small distance from Dorking.

Strong and growing anti-German / anti-Prussian feeling was regularly expressed by sections of the French and British press in the 1880s, ‘90s, and onwards. From 1893 right on through World War I Frederick’s eldest son Leo was due to play a large part in this.


Frederick Maxse and Clemenceau

In one biography, Clemenceau [vii] is quoted as saying that ‘The best friend of his life was the Englishman Maxse’. This friendship had been firmly founded long before Clemenceau became so internationally famous.

Georges Clemenceau was an immensely colourful, charismatic and energetic individual. He was a writer as well as a public servant, and when he became a leading politician he was one of those people who by the end of their careers had fully earned the honourable description of ‘statesman’. His political position is not easy to describe. He was ‘anti’ the French monarchy and the Second French Empire of Napoleon III, but equally quite ready to excoriate Republican politicians. He was left-wing wishing to improve social justice, but definitely anti-socialist and violently anti-communist. He was radical but also a believer in stability, not anarchy. He was a sort of political activist-cum-national gadfly, always demanding and expecting the highest standards in political life and trying to generate informed, rational, patriotic engagement by the populace.

In his early years he graduated as a doctor whilst writing for and founding various political newspapers. When as a result it got too hot for him in France, he left to practice medicine in New York. In 1869 he married an American, Mary Eliza Plummer (1848-1922) [viii], but then almost immediately in 1870 returned to France for those dreadful days after the sudden defeat of the French on their own territory by the Prussians. In 1871 he tried to negotiate between the left wing ‘Commune’ group which barricaded part of Paris and unsuccessfully tried to defend itself, and the government – a terrible episode in French domestic history. From this time forward, like so many others across Europe, he had an enduring opposition to German power and expansionism, and a grim determination to reclaim Alsace-Lorraine for France from Prussia.

He also began steadily (but not inexorably – there were gaps where he held no seat) to rise up through the levels from municipal politics into government. In the later 1880s along with Émile Zola he began first to suspect and then energetically to challenge pervasive, high-level corruption that had allowed the Jewish Captain Alfred Dreyfus to be tried and falsely imprisoned for a treason he could not possibly have committed: it was a newspaper of which Clemenceau was himself owner and editor which published Zola’s famous J’accuse article in 1898.

Clemenceau had a deep and lasting friendship not only with Admiral Maxse but also, independently, with all Maxse’s children, who were taught to be fluent in French and like their father all admired French culture and were at ease in that country. Clemenceau was particularly fond of Violet – Violet Georgina, to give her full name. Violet published an autobiography in 1951 [ix] in which she mentions Clemenceau a great deal – she devotes a whole chapter to him and much of what we know about this is via her reminiscences. For example, explaining about Clemenceau’s friendship with her father, Violet wrote [x]:

‘My father collected wonderful friends, finding them in all sorts of places. The two he loved best were George Meredith and Georges Clemenceau. Clemenceau he acquired in 1872 when he was introduced to him by Louis Blanc’ [xi].

As luck would have it, by the time of this introduction, Maxse had already very visibly and singularly attached himself to a cause dear to Clemenceau’s heart. Violet again:

‘I am always proud to remember that of the three Englishmen who made a public protest in 1871 when Alsace and Lorraine were torn from France, my father was one.’

Thus the introduction was almost guaranteed to succeed, and it did. They were not far apart in age, Maxse some 8 years older than Clemenceau. It turned out that as well as having identical political views, they both loved the company of particular individuals but abhorred ‘society’ and society events. They both loved the countryside and energetic country pursuits (Effingham being ideal for this). They were both estranged from their wives. They both loved cultural events, museums and the like. Some biographies of Clemenceau state that he made an annual visit to stay at Maxse’s London home in Onslow Square, South Kensington.

It was here in July 1891 that at Clemenceau’s request Maxse set up a meeting for this great French Radical with the equally great English Radical Unionist MP, Joseph Chamberlain [xii], so that they could explore the possibilities for joint Anglo-French understandings. ‘It is a family tradition that the seed of the Entente was sown in the Admiral’s house when he gave a dinner to introduce Clemenceau to Chamberlain’ [xiii]. In January 1886, when Maxse’s near-neighbour and acquaintance, the eminent poet and critic Mathew Arnold, who lived at Pains Hill Cottage, Cobham, was planning to visit Paris, Admiral Maxse provided him with a letter of introduction to Clemenceau, although unfortunately in the event they were unable to meet up [xiv].


Clemenceau and Leo Maxse

Clemenceau and Frederick Maxse remained united throughout their lives in their implacable opposition to German colonial expansionism. This communicated itself to the next generation and was strongly supported again, throughout their lives, not only by Violet but also her brothers Ivor and Leopold. In August 1893 Leo acquired and became editor of a right-wing political journal, the National Review, which powerfully and remorselessly publicised the danger of this to Britain. Another persistent theme of the National Review in the years before World War I, helping in fact to make this a national obsession, was the extent to which Germany was building up its armed forces and whether Britain would be able to defend itself should it become necessary. To support Leo, Clemenceau wrote and contributed material for the journal.

Between September 1917 and 1921 Leo was also the editor of a daily evening paper, The Globe. He entered on a trial basis but was so successful he doubled its readership in nine months. He resigned when The Globe was absorbed by the Pall Mall Gazette.


Clemenceau and Violet Maxse

Despite an age difference of 30 years, Clemenceau was also a great and lifelong friend to Violet. She found him stimulating, charming, chivalrous, exciting, attractive with his flashing dark eyes and impressive moustache. Her autobiography explains how this friendship developed naturally as a consequence of her being so much with her father during her childhood, after her parents’ separation. Violet remained on very good terms with both but her father arranged her education and she spent a great deal of her youth in his care, which did not displease her:

‘The years slipped by and presently I was more with him and less with her… With my father I led a much more countrified existence [than with her London-based mother], … a great deal of riding, walking, and a lot of teaching in serious subjects. But my father, like my mother, believed in having me with him in all company. I have sometimes wondered what his men friends must have thought of his perpetual accompaniment by a small girl, and later by a girl in the awkward age. He was quite relentless and always took me.’

It is easy to see how it came about that the Admiral’s two most intimate friends –Meredith and Clemenceau – also became Violet’s own. She remembers having first met Clemenceau when she was nine or ten and he was staying with her and her father at their London house. But the Maxses also spent a great deal of time with Clemenceau in France.


The Maxses in France

As mentioned, Frederick was a great admirer of French culture, spoke French fluently, and was very happy to sail his yacht frequently across to France. Violet accompanied him on many of these expeditions. When Frederick’s mother died he was more free to go where he would but of his four children, 14-year-old Violet was still needing his active input to her care and education. Violet’s older sister Olive was:

‘putting in some very hard work at her music in Paris and showed no desire to stop. This being so my father thought it would be better for us three – myself, my sister and he – to be all together, so in the autumn of 1887 he took a flat on the fifth floor of a house in the Boulevard St Germain and we stayed there for rather over two years, coming home for the summer’.

This period for which they were abroad coincided with the construction of the Admiral’s new house at Dunley Hill.

Violet enrolled for drawing lessons in Paris but on the whole found this experience a poor second to the level of contact she had previously had with great artists practising in London – her mother’s social sphere. On the other hand, the lists of plays, operas, artists, writers, politicians and eminent thinkers Violet saw, met or was introduced to well before she was 18 is astounding: from Whistler and Degas to Monet and Rodin, from Oscar Wilde to Joseph Chamberlain.

She reports that while in Paris

‘I also worked at French and at the violin, but perhaps the major part of my education at this time came from the plays I saw at the Comédie Française… It was an unparalleled education, especially as we generally went to the play with M. Clemenceau, who was a superb and ruthless critic, and, as we saw a great deal of him in other ways, my letters to my mother are also full of him and have something about politics too. … For exercise my father and I rode nearly every fine morning – driving up to the Bois [de Boulogne] and mounting there; we were nearly always with M. Clemenceau and, very often, with Miss Cassatt, the painter. Politics ran very high at this time in Paris … and once or twice we were greeted with cries of “À bas Clemenceau” [Down with Clemenceau] as we cantered up the Avenue du Bois du Boulogne (now Avenue Foch). That was a real “thrill”. … No one ever was such fun as he was. We hung upon his every word, and while we laughed and joked – being with him seemed to make us all witty – we leaned upon his judgment, and, above all, upon his glowing affection and constant kindness’.

Clemenceau was in his late forties during these years Violet was in Paris. As mentioned, his marriage was unsuccessful and in 1891 ended in an acrimonious divorce. In 1893, now aged 21, Violet returned to Paris ‘to work at drawing’ again and stayed for another extended period. Clemenceau invited her to live with him and his unmarried daughter, Thérèse, but ‘Admiral Maxse refused this kind invitation; he thought I should be more independent if I were on my own, and that if I was working hard it would be more restful for me to be by myself’. And perhaps he thought other things too. Either way, ‘M. Clemenceau I saw nearly every evening for a few minutes. His flat was opposite my Pension and I used to run across and see him and his daughter after dinner’. She was very at home in Paris.  A small, pretty, dark-haired woman she was famous throughout her life for her chic Parisian elegance.  Buckets of Gallic charm fill Violet’s reported conversations with him. There is never the faintest suggestion of any impropriety, but there is no doubt about a powerful mutual attraction, though they did not agree on everything. Violet, for instance believed in capital punishment, at least for the anarchists who in the 1890s were terrorizing Paris. Clemenceau wrote to her:

‘I should like to scold you for your “speech” on capital punishment. Even if you were right, you would be wrong. It is not toward that side that one should lean at your age’.

When, back in London, Violet announced her engagement in March 1894, Clemenceau managed a complicated congratulation combining his sadness that it had finally come to this, his vast happiness, his worries that no fiancé could ever be good enough for her, and the fact that his own failure in marriage was not to make her draw back from it [xv]. He gave her a ‘lovely writing-table’ as a wedding present … It was intended for the London house Violet was setting up with her husband, but as a present with a ‘message’ attached, it was right on the mark. When Violet and her new husband gave their first dinner party the guests were her father, Clemenceau and John Morley – ‘The talk was first rate’ – and her very orthodox Conservative husband was much entertained by the radicals’ political disputation between themselves.

We can be confident that Clemenceau would have been at Effingham with Maxse [xvi] on several occasions [xvii]. Curiously, a recorded instance of Clemenceau being at Dunley Hill involves a writing table belonging to Violet. On 3 January 1900 Clemenceau wrote from there to the Danish author Georg Brandes, mentioning that he was convalescing after ‘an influenza crisis’. He was still there on 5 January, as we learn from Violet in My Picture Gallery. At that particular moment she herself was in South Africa where her husband Lord Edward Cecil and her brother Ivor Maxse were on campaign in the grim Boer War [xviii]. Violet reports:

‘Clemenceau wrote regularly [ie to her in South Africa] and his letters were a joy and a comfort. One that brought me a picture of home life was very precious. It was written at Dunley on January 5, 1900. He was in my room, writing on my writing table. He said that they talked of little but the war, that all my family [xix] were well’.

In fact Clemenceau’s underlying health was never good, and this particular episode marked the start of a longer bout of ill health. He recovered enough to go back to France, but in July he sadly returned to London for his friend the Admiral’s funeral. In early 1900 Maxse, then aged 67, had set off for a trip to South Africa to see Violet and Ivor. (He travelled with, and became friends of, the Kiplings, whom Violet already knew.) When he left them to come back to England in May he seemed to be well, but unbeknownst to his children he had caught typhoid, which was to be fatal. He died in London on 25 June.

After his death the contents of Dunley Hill were sold and the house was let. Violet records her immense sorrow at this, for instance the dismissal of some faithful and good-hearted servants. The great house itself was finally sold in 1919 but Leo and his wife Katherine ‘Kitty’ (nee Lushington, whom he married in 1890) seem to have retained a local interest in part of the estate for a little longer: the Electoral Rolls for Effingham of 1918-24 list them at Dunley Hill Cottage.

Had he lived into the new century, the Admiral would doubtless (like Leo) have been vociferous about the growing threat of Germany years before the actual outbreak of conflict. He never saw Clemenceau’s rise to the highest position in the French state and his masterly, even Churchillian, leadership of the French during the War. But Violet did. After the Admiral’s death, her friendship with Clemenceau remained extremely close and endured until his death in 1929. It is hard not to speculate over whether this private example of Anglo-French closeness had any international consequences.

After the break-up of Dunley Hill Violet’s life made a major change. Following his service in South Africa, her husband Edward served as a colonial administrator first in Sudan and then in Egypt. Violet had been with him in South Africa but found she could not continue this overseas life with their two small children, and rather than send these away, she came back to England with them. Edward and Violet spent very little time together after about 1901 and their marriage was effectively suspended, but with no hint of either of them having other relationships.

At first Violet lived a somewhat nomadic existence with her children, staying either in rented houses, with friends, or with her in-laws the Cecils at Hatfield or at other Cecil-owned houses. Clemenceau came to stay with her while she was at the Cecil residence Walmer Castle in Kent in 1901, and here he first made the acquaintance of another guest who was, as it happened, already extremely important to Violet but also to Britain’s empire and, later, in the international sphere during and after World War I.  This was the colonial administrator Sir Alfred Milner, later Viscount Milner (1854-1925). Violet and Alfred had known each other in England for some years. They realized they had strong feelings for each other when both were in South Africa – Milner was British High Commissioner there. They were in love for many years before they finally married in 1921, but so discreetly that this was not publicly suspected. In December 1916 Milner became one of Lloyd George’s 5-person War Cabinet, and from then on was at the centre of policies, delegations and decision making throughout the war and at the peace-making afterwards.

In 1906 in search of a permanent home for her children, Violet bought and beautifully refurbished a semi-ruined seventeenth-century manor house called Great Wigsell, near Hawkhurst on the Sussex-Kent border. (Her friends the Kiplings were only eight miles away at  Bateman’s, Burwash.) Amongst her arrangements she created a main guest bedroom, decorated with French furniture, called the Clemenceau Room where the man himself, a regular visitor, could stay.


Clemenceau, the Maxses and World War I

Violet wrote:

‘The thought of Alsace-Lorraine was always with M. Clemenceau, though he was essentially a man of peace, and would never have provoked a war even to recover a lost province. Still, from time to time, the wound bled. “Ah”, he said to me ten years before the War, “if I could see England and France march together against Germany, I think I should die of pure joy!” ‘

When England did declare war on Germany on 4 August 1914, Clemenceau was delighted and anxious to see the arrival of an army. He wrote to Violet and urged her to tell the Secretary for War that ‘if he sends only three men, with a flag, to the Continent, it will have a good effect’. As we know, England and France did march together to save their civilization from Germanism, and Clemenceau lived not only to see in the British people the Allies he had always hoped for and dreamed of, but himself to guide both armies to victory. When the Germans invaded Belgium Milner too was one of those strongly pressing for an army to be sent to have the thing over with once and for all. From December 1916 to November 1918, as one of the five members of David Lloyd George’s ‘national government’ War Cabinet, his role was to see to crises in the domestic situation and sort them out – continuing his reputation for calm efficiency in the face of great pressure. Violet’s closest friends and immediate family were operating at the top level of this conflict, and the relief when the Armistice was signed was immense.

In their hopes to sort out Germany, little could they all have foreseen, however, how life would change so irreversibly for Violet within days of Britain entering the war. Edward, who had literally just returned from Egypt on leave, was sent straight back there and never made it back to England again, so Violet was on her own throughout the war. Edward died in a Swiss sanatorium in December 1918.

Ivor, as a serving soldier, went immediately to the front. Now General Sir Ivor Maxse aged 52, a very senior army officer, he was in the field practically from the first day in 1914 as a Division Commander, then a Corps Commander. In June 1918 he was entrusted with training and reorganization, and regarded as very successful. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes him as ‘One of the ablest officers of his generation, a man of originality and drive, and a formidable personality’. He first served under Haig as his commanding officer in 1914 and formed a high opinion of him.

Ivor and Clemenceau met in France on several occasions during the war, for instance on 9 January 1916 when Ivor took him and Generals Mangin, Haig, Robertson and Lord Cavan forward to where they could see the enemy lines. Shelling began, too close for comfort, and Ivor told Clemenceau he should take cover. Clemenceau demurred: ‘But remember, I am a soldier’. Ivor told him that was all the more reason for him to obey, and he did’ [xx]. Witnessing the mutual respect of Maxse and Clemenceau was a great influence on other French and British officers to do likewise. There could be hiccups: in August 1915 Ivor wrote to his wife Mary including some very critical comments about the armaments available to the British army, and suggested showing it to Leo. Leo showed it to Violet for her to see, she forwarded it to Clemenceau, and he published in his French newspaper, L’Homme Libre. It was then picked up by The Times. This caused Ivor considerable embarrassment and he gave Violet a great telling-off, but fortunately there were no worse official rebukes [xxi].

Most tragically however, someone who also entered the fighting within days of the declaration of war was Violet and Edward’s only son George Cecil, then aged 18 and not really fully trained. ‘In many ways George was the unsophisticated model schoolboy, cheerful and sociable, a keen cricketer, fresh and simple, but also serious and keen to do well. His aesthetic responses, however, were more mature than those of an average schoolboy: life at Hatfield and Wigsell had sharpened his eye for beautiful buildings’ [xxii]. From early childhood he was interested in the military. At Winchester School he was part of the Officer Training Corps, a system established in 1907-8 as part of army reforms designed to extend basic military education into the civilian population. It was virtually obligatory at that time for all boys over 15 in school and university. In 1912 he became a cadet at Sandhurst. He joined the prestigious 2ndBattalion Grenadier Guards in January 1914.

As part of the First Army Corps of the British Expeditionary Force to France, George left for France on 12 August. He was killed on 1 September, in a confused running battle through woodland near Villers-Cotterêts. On 8 September a letter informed Violet George was missing believed wounded. Desperate to find out more, she set off to London to find out. As was later to happen to her close friends the Kiplings, the situation remained ambiguous – George could have been wounded, he could be lost, he could have been taken prisoner. It was not absolutely clear that he was dead and she could not believe in this possibility. Distraught, on 19 September she went immediately to France to look for him. Clemenceau for his part had been trying to establish the situation, sending enquiries to every hospital and ambulance depot. He personally arranged for her to have a pass and an escort so she could search the area where George had been fighting but only contradictory and inconclusive information was forthcoming. She went back to England.  Milner and the Kiplings tried to support her during this dreadful time, the latter unaware that their own turn in this nightmare was to come. In the absence of reliable information Violet began to trust in her belief that George must have been taken prisoner. After a month of this the truth was known.  On 19 November arrived the news that his body had been identified. The place in which George had been quickly buried, with others who fell at the same time, had been located.

As stated above, Clemenceau’s great role at the helm of this conflict began in November 1917 when he was elected Prime Minister and refused to let France desert the Allies by making a separate peace with Germany. In 1918 Violet met Clemenceau three times: the first in London when he came on a visit to Lloyd George, and the other two times in Paris when he arranged for her first to travel to visit Edward in the Swiss sanatorium, and in September to visit George’s grave. She arranged for George’s body to be transferred to a nearby cemetery. She visited every year for the rest of her life, until she was too old to travel.


Leo Maxse, Effingham and The Blucher public house

The mention of Haig above brings us to Leo and back to Effingham, specifically to the fate of the village’s ‘Prince Blucher’ hotel and public house, which was reported nationally. Leo’s contribution to the war effort was in the field of stimulating patriotic feeling and keeping anti-German feeling high through the press.

On 27 June 1917, a very famous cartoon called A Good Riddance by artist Leonard Raven Hill was published in Punch, showing King George V vigorously sweeping away a great cloud of dust in amongst which there are crowns and helmets labelled ‘Made in Germany’. The cartoon is subtitled ‘The King has done a popular act in abolishing the German titles held by members of His Majesty’s family.’ This is about the Titles Deprivation Act of 1917 reaching the conclusion of its legislative journey at that time. The purpose of the Act was to remove British titles from persons serving in enemy forces, and also to provide as unembarrassing a vehicle as possible for George V to divest his family of their German connections. By Royal Warrant, on 25 June (in sympathy as it were, with the Parliamentary will, but not in any way compelled by it) George V renounced for himself and other members of the royal family any German titles they held. He adopted the surname ‘Windsor’ instead of Saxe-Coburg Gotha.

That same week in late June 1917 saw newspaper articles [xxiii] reporting the renaming of Effingham’s Prince Blücher pub as The Sir Douglas Haig.

Rather surprisingly, this news was first available to newspaper readers not in Surrey but in both London and Liverpool, on Thursday 21 June. In a snippet under the heading A Sign of The Times, the Daily Express reported that ‘The “Blucher Hotel” at Effingham is, it is understood, conforming to the spirit of the times, and is about to change its name to “Sir Douglas Haig.”” In a column of snippets called Echoes Of The Day: Gossip from Here, There and Everywhere, the Liverpool Echo tried out a gentle joke, reporting in an article headed ‘Peace Delegates to The Haig – Rather’ [xxiv] simply and without hesitation that ‘The “Blucher Hotel”, at Effingham, is about to change its name to the “Sir Douglas Haig””.

To Staffordshire readers of The Burton Daily Mail the next day, Friday 22 June, the Blücher was a ‘well-known hotel’, so it may somehow already have been a more famous establishment than just any village pub. A day later on Saturday 23 June 1917, a tiny little announcement in the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser finally let the locals know about their local. But the news had been picked up and was continuing to spread nationally. It seems to have been functioning something like the light, topical item used to round off the 10 o’clock News. It featured in the Evening Express, Aberdeen edition, for 26 June, in their column Sidelights on The War – Brevities.  And we can round this off with Punch, or The London Charivari for 27 June, which chuckled that

‘A well-known inn at Effingham having changed its name from the Blücher to the Sir Douglas Haig, it is further suggested that the name of the village should be changed to Biffingham.’

Having once entered the national consciousness, this instance of patriotic re-naming stuck and intermittently surfaced again for some time. Two years later, it was in The Yorkshire Post for 14 August 1919, again in a Gossip of the Day column; and another two years later, in The Derby Daily Telegraph for 11 June 1921, in a column called By The Way (and NB the Telegraph acknowledged that it had picked up this article from the Manchester Guardian).

Leo’s connection with this episode was not explicitly revealed until three months after the news first broke, ie in September 1917. The next extract quotes a reader from Shere who wrote in to The Surrey Advertiser and County Times. His letter was published on 8 September 1917 (page 2). He signs himself ‘Viator’, which means ‘wayfarer’ or similar. It is quoted in full, because it presents a wonderful vignette:



Sir.- Yesterday, about 3 pm [xxv], I was footing it with my knapsack on the road between London and Shere when I turned into the Plough Inn, Effingham, for some tea. Outside was a board: “Tea gardens, teas and luncheons.” Inside the following dialogue took place: –

Myself: Can you, please, give me a pot of tea and two pieces of bread and butter?

Landlady: We only serve full teas.

Myself: What is that?

Landlady: Tea, bread, butter, cake, for 1s 3d.

Myself: But I only want bread and butter.

Landlady: It’s not worth serving that. We only serve full teas here.

The landlord then came on the scene, and, being applied to by his wife, corroborated her, saying, that it was too much trouble to serve anything but full teas. So I thanked them, saying, I would not trouble them, but would try elsewhere.

Now, sir, when we ought all to be saving food why should I eat cake I don’t want? Or why should I be made to pay for what I don’t want to waste? What folly, too, of an innkeeper to discourage custom by his disobliging policy.

So I went across to the Prince Blucher, where I was served cheerfully with a pot of good tea and three slices of excellent bread and butter for ninepence.  I was sorry to see the famous old sign with its memories of Waterloo days was changed to the name of a modern English General, and I asked the reason. The good woman who waited on me said everyone was sorry, and thought it silly. Many customers told her that without Blucher we might not have won the battle of Waterloo, which was what I said too. But the fact was Mr. Maxse, the great writer, had written to the brewers and said the sign was a disgrace to them. I said Mr Maxse was a friend of mine, but I did not know he was a great writer, and I for one was sorry the old sign was gone with its historic memories. Now, Sir, could narrowminded folly go further? And what a want of sense of proportion! – Yours, etc,


Shere, Surrey.’

Like ‘Viator’ the Editor of the Surrey Advertiser and County Times was also clearly affected by Blücher’s dismissal. In the same edition, in his editorial column on page 5, he wrote:

‘We may depose him from his place of honour on the sign board of a Surrey village inn, but we cannot blot him out of our national history. Nor can we blot out that picture of Wellington and Blucher meeting by moonlight after Waterloo had been fought and won, and “the Prussian, after the continental fashion, kissing his friend on both cheeks.” ‘

Perhaps there exists among either Friary Holroyd Meux’s archive or Leo’s own papers evidence that the pub was renamed at his instigation, or even, perhaps, to discover whether it was him who suggested ‘The Sir Douglas Haig’ as the replacement. There is probably also much still to be found out about whether Leo’s position and/or contacts within the Press were playing a role in syndicating the news nationally.

At the same time as this episode, on 29 August 1917 the Surrey Advertiser mentioned Leo in a different capacity, ie supporting the war effort at Effingham. The Women’s War Agricultural Committee reported directly to the Board of Agriculture.  The Surrey branch had a well-developed organisation for interviewing young women who appeared interested in working on the land, and if they proved suitable, sending them off for training.  For this they needed opportunities, and several local landowners or farmers provided accommodation for the girls while they were learning. Amongst these, it is reported that Mr Leo Maxse had made available a cottage at Dunley Hill – ‘the training was partly on his farm and in the garden, under the supervision of two trained lady gardeners. Four recruits were trained each month, and there was a working housekeeper in charge.’


The Armistice

The sense of relief for Clemenceau, Milner and Violet when the Armistice was signed can hardly be overstated. All three were able to meet up in London – where Clemenceau was easily recognized and cheered – and also in Paris. After the ‘khaki election’ of December 1918, Milner was appointed Colonial Secretary. For him and Clemenceau a period of yet more gruelling work was to follow, trying to draw up the peace, during which their two nations now often jostled over details [xxvi]. Clemenceau, Woodrow Wilson and Lloyd George were each having to represent so many different views in their search to find a compromise, and the trickiest, of course, was over whether Germany was ‘to blame’ for the war or not, and whether Germany should pay only to repair physical war damage caused to the Allies, or something on top of that as well in the nature of a fine or punishment for being the loser, for instance pensions to wounded soldiers or widows/families, loss of colonies, loss of territory. Britain’s view and France’s were no longer so aligned, and the tension was often excruciating. Clemenceau and Milner were often on ‘opposite’ sides during this, but their rapport based on an underlying common bond was acknowledged by them both and was perhaps of great significance in smoothing the way to this peace. The bond was Violet. In 1916 Clemenceau had told the French President ‘I like him [Milner] a lot. He is an old friend of mine. We admired and loved the same woman. That’s an indissoluble bond’ [xxvii]. On behalf of their nations, both men were signatories to the 1919 Treaty of Versailles.

Leo and Ivor Maxse were of a like mind about the Germans. Experiences and feelings during the War among those trying to win had inevitably to be channelled and uncompromising.  During negotiations about the Armistice, Ivor expressed views which were widely held at the time but may seem shocking today:

‘The Hun is only wishful for peace in order to recover military power and be ready to launch a more successful attack at some opportune moment in the dim future. His heart is by no means altered. That is his nature. Recognise it. It is no use blaming him for his natural temperament, but it is wicked not to recognize what it is. His history during four wars proves it – i.e. 1864, 1866, 1870, 1914 – covering altogether a period of 64 years, two generations! He had but one objective and said so – world power … To prevent it we must crush and humiliate his Army which means his motive … let no sentimental gush be expended on the dirty Hun [xxviii].’

Milner died in 1925, and Clemenceau in 1929. During the post-war years Violet often visited Clemenceau at his simple home at Bel-Ebat on the Brittany coast. She was there just a week before his death. Leo Maxse died in 1932, and now Violet not only moved into the spotlight in her own right, but was to play a very public role in World War II. When Leo died Violet took over the editorship of the National Review, a publication somewhat faltering by that time, and she very successfully revived it. Her absolute determination to get every issue out even during the Blitz became an image of endurance. Ed Murrow, the Director of Talks for the Columbia Broadcasting Service, reporting from London during the Blitz to awaken American awareness of the threat to their freedom, wrote in later years that for him the indomitable spirit of wartime London was represented not by Churchill – but by Violet.


[i] Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

[ii] Eddy never married and he never became King. He died of influenza aged only 28 in 1892. ‘Tabloid’ historians have frequently raised queries about supposed defects of intellect and character and his fitness to be King.

[iii] A Prussian b. 1838; a very wealthy sugar broker who played the role of lord of the manor to the full and became much loved in the village.  He died in 1909.

[iv] Now much re-developed, it is known as Ranmore Manor.

[v] Another is H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, 1898 – also set in Surrey, near Woking.

[vi] In the 1880s, forts were built on Box Hill and Ranmore. Lord Ashcombe of Denbies funded a local volunteer force to be ready in case.

[vii] Georges Clemenceau: A Political Biography, by D R Watson, pub. Eyre Methuen 1974.

[viii] They had three children.  The marriage ended in 1891.

[ix] All of the quotations from Violet in the above come from My Picture Gallery: 1886-1901 by The Viscountess Milner, pub. John Murray, 1951.

[x] From My Picture Gallery as above.

[xi] Blanc was another French political radical and activist. He had had to escape from France in 1850 and he lived in London in exile until 1870, which could very possibly be where Maxse met him. Maxse himself was following a career of political activism, of a radical and campaigning sort – energetic, but it has to be said, not particularly successful. Interestingly, it seems that in 1886 Maxse tried to make an introduction of his own. He provided a letter of introduction to Clemenceau for his friend Matthew Arnold of Cobham who was visiting France in February 1886. Arnold wrote from Paris to Maxse ‘Clemenceau has not come off: I left your letter with my card, and he called, but I was out; since then I have called twice without finding him at home; I daresay he is very busy’.

[xii] Joseph Chamberlain, and Sidney A. Fane, are listed as ‘Visitors’ at Dunley Hill on the night of the 1891 Census.

[xiii] P32, Mary Maxse 1870-1944, A Record compiled by her family and friends, published by The Rolls House Publishing Co Ltd, 1948.

[xiv] On 20 January 1886 Arnold wrote ‘A thousand thanks for the letter of introduction to Clemenceau. In Paris we shall be at the Hotel St Romain, rue St Roch, and we hope by all means to see your daughter,—and yourself too, if things go well, as I hope they will, at Effingham,—in the course of our three weeks’ stay.’  The ‘things going well’ was a wish for improvement in the health of Maxse’s mother, who as it turned out was in her final illness.  On 8 February Arnold wrote to Maxse from the Hotel St Romain, Paris ‘Clemenceau has not come off: I left your letter with my card, and he called, but I was out; since that I have called twice without finding him at home; I daresay he is very busy’.

[xv] In fact Violet’s marriage was not a great success; she lived largely apart from her husband from c1900 until his death from tuberculosis in 1918. In 1921 she very happily married Sir Alfred Milner, with whom she had been having an extremely discreet affair since 1899. Sadly Milner died in 1925. Much information is provided by Imperial Marriage: an Edwardian War and Peace, by Hugh and Mirabel Cecil, pub. John Murray, 2002.

[xvi] Clemenceau was not the only notable to visit Dunley Hill as recorded by Violet:

‘Miss Margot Tennant [future wife of Mr. Asquith] … came to stay with us at Dunley Hill for a weekend’

‘Mr. Asquith stayed with us once or twice’

‘Mr. Alfred Austin [Poet Laureate after Tennyson]…’

[xvii] Clemenceau destroyed the vast majority of his personal papers in 1928 – he did not want them to fall into the hands of biographers. But Violet presented a collection of 165 of his letters to the Musée Clemenceau in Paris and this would be worth study.

[xviii] Edward was one of those who had to endure the siege of Mafeking (Violet was fortunately not with him at that time).

[xix] Violet’s only son George aged 5 was being looked after at Dunley Hill during her absence.

[xx] John Baynes, Far From A Donkey. The Life of General Sir Ivor Maxse. KCB, CVO, DSO (London: Brassey’s, 1995), p.132.

[xxi] John Baynes, op cit p. 128

[xxii] From Imperial Marriage: an Edwardian War and Peace, as above.

[xxiii] Much of the information about this episode results from research into newspaper archives by Jeremy Palmer.

[xxiv] The heading, Peace Delegates to The Haig – Rather seems odd, but Jeremy persuasively divined that it is intended to be a humorous play on the idea that it would be more appealing to hold a peace conference in The Haig (pub), rather than The Hague! The Hague had already embarked on its reputation as the world centre for international relations: ‘The foundation of The Hague as an “international city of peace and justice” was laid in 1899, when the world’s first Peace Conference took place [there] … followed by a second in 1907. A direct result of [the first of] these meetings was the establishment of the world’s first organisation for the settlement of international disputes: the Permanent Court of Arbitration.’ [Wikipedia].  To house the PCA the ‘Peace Palace’ was specially built and opened in 1913.

[xxv] It might be 5pm – the newsprint is blurred.

[xxvi] The way this herculean task was tackled by Clemenceau, Lloyd George and Woodrow Wilson, and the far-reaching consequences of their decisions, is fully described in Paris 1919: Six months that changed the World, by Margaret Macmillan, 2003, Random House.

 [xxvii] John Baynes, op cit p. 202

[xxviii] John Baynes, op cit p. 216.

Based on research by Sue Morris and Jeremy Palmer

John Lewis Reynolds


(A Personal South African Tragedy)

A family story shared by Elesa Willies

John Lewis Reynolds (Jack to his family and friends) was the grandpa I never knew.  He was born on 1 August, 1892 in the Peddie District of the Eastern Cape, South Africa.  He was the first child and eldest son of parents who had a farm called Longford.  A tall, serious man with fine features, his air of quiet strength and gentle humour had many a girl’s head turn his way.

Towards the end of 1912, he met my grandmother Catherine Helen Stewart (known as Kate) who was a dedicated teacher at Worthing, the farm school nearby.  After a suitable period of courtship the happy couple were married on the 30 December, 1915.  Meanwhile, world changing events had been moving quickly on the political front.  World War One was declared on 4 August 1914 and in spite of the lingering animosity between the English and Afrikaans people due to the recent bitter Anglo-Boer war, the Prime Minister Louis Botha reassured England that South Africa would lend its support by securing British interests in the country against German invasion and by becoming a part of the Allied Forces.

In spite of the progressive turmoil happening around them, the newly wedded couple felt the war was far removed from their idyllic life, which was heightened when Kate fell pregnant in February, 1916.  But as time passed and news reached South Africa of the decimation of the Infantry on the Western Front, the ugly reality intruded into everyone’s lives at home.

Jack became increasingly restless.  He felt guilty that being able-bodied, he should contribute to the war effort by signing up.  His feelings intensified after he found out that in the previous year on 12 May, 1915, his cousin Alkin had signed up with the 1st Rhodesian Regiment and with the South African forces, was fighting the Germans in South West Africa.  A few months later, Alkin headed back north and as part of the British South African Police force (BSAP) had gone to protect the borders of Southern Rhodesia against Von Lettow Borteck’s forces who were trying to invade the country.  Now, in 1916 he’d become even more deeply involved by penetrating the neighbouring country as part of the famous Murray’s Column, a tightly knit combat unit fighting in German East Africa.

Then on 15 July, 1916, South African soldiers made their debut during the Battle of Delville Wood in France.  The heroic men distinguished themselves by fighting ferociously for six weeks, holding their position but at a terrible price.  When the battle ended on the 3 September, the final cost in lost lives was horrific; out of 3,155 soldiers who entered the battle, only 619 remained.

There was a brief respite for Jack’s dilemma with the birth of his and Kate’s baby girl (my mother) on 28 October, 1916.  They named her Mary Clare and for a while the joys of fatherhood took precedence.  But eventually although there was no conscription, Jack did volunteer to join the South African Infantry in January, 1917.  Whether he discussed this with his wife first or told her after the fact remains a mystery.  Regardless, it is known that an intense argument erupted between them, which ended when a distraught Kate exclaimed the unforgivable; that she had made a mistake marrying him and might as well have chosen his cousin for all the difference it made.

On 26 January, 1917, Jack left his young family to go for training in Potchefstroom near Johannesburg in the Transvaal, returning for a short visit on the 8 February.  A photographic portrait reveals a man standing smartly in army uniform next to his seated wife, who is holding on her lap their baby daughter Mary Clare, now 3 ½ months old.

On the 22 February, 1917, he sent her a telegram saying he was ‘on way to the Cape’.  He entrained at Klerksdorp for Cape Town where two days later he boarded the ship ‘Walmer Castle’ and was gone.  His diary reveals his enthusiasm and excitement at embarking on a ‘grand adventure’.  His voyage to England was fairly uneventful apart from a brief stop at Freetown in West Africa.  During World War 1, this port provided a base for operations by the British forces in the Atlantic.  On the 27 March Jack arrived in Plymouth, Devon, and immediately entrained for the Inkerman Barracks in Woking, Surrey where he stayed for three days.

It then appears he had a bit of a holiday sight-seeing.  During seven days in Glasgow, Scotland, a letter dated 3 April from the Ivanhoe hotel, reveals how he was missing his family, particularly his ‘little girlie.’  He then spent two days in London, during which he visited the Lyceum Theatre in the West End to enjoy a popular play called ‘Seven Days Leave’.

Alas, his time of leisure came to an end when he returned to Inkerman Barracks to train for a week in ‘hell’.  It was bitterly cold and he recorded having to break ice off the top of the pail of water in order to wash himself.  Being South African he was not used to such extreme conditions and had also just come from a summer in the Southern Hemisphere.  The inevitable happened as he fell very ill and spent the next five weeks in Aldershot Hospital, suffering from laryngitis, measles and fever.

It was while he was lying there in bed that his thoughts turned to home as he wrote two poems to his mother and Kate.  The sentiments expressed to both women, shows how he was homesick and had regrets about going against their wishes.  But he appealed to them to understand why he had signed up.  He admitted he had found it hard to say goodbye, but felt he was ‘honour bound to answer the call’.  He suggested they pray for solace and that they must look to the future when he would return.

When he was released in mid-May, he had six days sick leave which he spent in London, before returning to the barracks for an ‘easy time of it’ for the next two weeks.

On the 9th June, he had five days ‘embarkation leave’ at Swanage before catching a boat to Southampton where he boarded another ship to cross the English Channel to Le Havre, France.  He then took a steamship, sailing for eight hours up the River Seine to Rouen where he was stationed for two weeks, before entraining to ‘Savoy’ for two days.

Then the serious work really began when he marched 18 km to join his regiment at billets in Simencourt at the beginning of July.  The next two months until the end of August were spent around Neuvelle and Yrtres, alternatively being in the trenches where he ‘saw a good bit of fighting’ and then retreating to ‘rest’ which really meant marching every night to the front line 6 km away to repair and dig trenches from 7 pm to 4 am in working parties.

By now, he was feeling quite demoralised as he wrote in his diary;

“Oh it’s rotten and we get so little food.  We’re nearly always hungry.  A couple of our chaps get knocked over every day.  I wonder when my turn is coming.  I’ve had a hit on the head but it was not enough to send me to Blighty.  A few days before, I fell down the dug-out steps and a little later part of the wall fell on me owing to the concussion caused by a Minnie exploding near us.”

On the 31 July, the day before his 25th birthday he wrote to his ‘darling’ daughter, sending ‘love to mums and self, and lots of kisses and hugs from your loving Daddy.’

At the beginning of September his regiment travelled to a camp called ‘Henham’ near Aschet Petite where they had a ‘fairly easy time of it, doing a few hours drill every day’.  The weather was ‘very wet and cold’, and they were sleeping on damp cots in muddy tents.  He knew they would be ‘going to Belgium to go over the top in a couple of weeks’ time’.

As predicted, on the 12 September at midday, the soldiers marched 8 km to entrain at Bapaume for Godewaervelde arriving there at 3 am.  They then marched another 8 km to their rest camp where they stayed ‘for a day and a night’ before moving on to billets where they ‘slept in a fine barn with plenty of straw’.

On the 16 September at 2 pm, they marched to Poperinghe, 8 miles west of Ypres for three days of preparations, before ‘going into the line where there is fierce fighting’.  The night they arrived, he and ‘two pals’ went into town for supper.  They had ‘fried eggs, a few drinks and finished off with cigars’ before returning home to camp.  His last words in his diary were, ‘Will conclude this after the battle’.

On the 20 September, he fought in the Battle of Menin Road Ridge and was killed in action.  A letter written to Kate on the 29 September, was from one of his pals who was with Jack when he died.  Private F.A. Quin (Frank), service number 10965, wrote, ‘a bullet pierced his heart and he died peacefully’.  He was hit after they had ‘taken the objective’.

Private John Lewis Reynolds, service number 10984 was lost forever in an unknown grave in the stinking, filthy quagmire of the Western Front.  But, miraculously his wallet with letters and photos, his diary and small note book were returned to his grieving widow, and, in March 1918, a year after he had left home, his identification disk was also sent back to South Africa, along with his British War and Victory medals.

Back in Peddie, the homegrown boy along with fifteen other names, is recognised on a cenotaph in the central square. It reads, ‘This Monument is dedicated to the Memory of the Men of the Town District of Peddie who laid down their Lives in the Great War.  Their Name Liveth Forever More’.  ‘John L. Reynolds’ also appears on the Menin Arch as one of the 55,000 missing dead from the Ypres Salient, the last place he marched through on his way to meet his fate, never to return.

John Reynold’s Medals.  Image courtesy of Elesa


In a final poignant mention, his cousin Alkin survived the war.  In 1917 he earned distinction by being awarded several medals and strangely enough, received a Mention in Despatches five days after Jack died.

Bob Whittington and the Whittington family of Effingham

BOB WHITTINGTON and the Whittington family

Sgt Bob Whittington MM [Military Medal] is one of Effingham’s Fallen: he died in action aged 21 on 26 August 1916. Bob was one of four brothers all of whom served. This was a high number from one family and so far as we know only superseded in Effingham by the five Wells brothers, to whom they were related.

The Whittingtons were an army family well before World War I. All four brothers had grown up and were stationed or working away from Effingham by the time war broke out, but all four were claimed for Effingham in the Roll of Honour created to hang in St Lawrence Church. The following article describes what we currently know not only of the brothers but also their mother and some of the sisters, and the complex impacts of the war upon them.

The 1911 Census records that Ellen Whittington had had 13 children, 12 of whom were still alive at that date. These twelve siblings had dates of birth ranging from 1874 to 1899 so at the outbreak of war they were very spread in age, from 40 to 15.  Just about all possible consequences of the war overseas and on the home front, from death in action and wounding, to war-time marriages and disrupted relationships, to the desire to find a new world afterwards, were to be experienced by this family.

Bob was born in Effingham in 1895. He was registered at birth as ‘Bob’. At the time of his birth and for many years his mother Ellen ran the laundry based in part of Old Westmoor in Orestan Lane.

Ellen Whittington – widowed mother

Ellen Maria, née Brush, was mother to thirteen children, twelve of whom survived childhood. She was born in 1855 in Fownhope, Herefordshire. She started off in service as a kitchen-maid at Tanhurst, a big house in Wotton. In 1873 giving her age as 21 (she was 18) she married Charles Whittington (1845-1898) in Croydon. Charles’s occupation is described on successive census returns as (1861) a groom, (1871) a grocer, (1881) a carpenter’s labourer and (1891) a laundryman.

By 1873 Charles’s family had been associated with Effingham for several decades. In the 1841 Census Mary Whittington, Charles’ grandmother aged 68, plus her son John Whittington (who would later be Charles’ father) aged 24, a Labourer, and Joseph Whittington age 2 were recorded at a property in Church St, Effingham. Neither Mary nor John had been born in Surrey – John was born at Kirdford near Petworth, Sussex – but Joseph was. Also with them was Mary Mindinghall aged 28, a married sister or sister-in-law of John, and her 4 year old daughter Mary. In December 1841, John married Mary Lucas of Great Bookham. Charles, their second child, was born in Effingham in 1845. With his parents, siblings and then children he was to appear on every Effingham census from 1851 to 1891.

We can work out where the Whittington family group was living in 1841. John ‘Wittington’ was recorded in Effingham’s 1843 Tithe Award occupying a cottage and garden of 13 poles, the plot being owned by Robert Fish. It was plot number 256 on the Tithe Award map. This sits on the corner of Chapel Hill and Church Street, where Old Stantonsis today, although the cottage was not in the same position as the current house.

By the 1861 Census the family had moved and was occupying ‘Westmoor House’, Orestan Lane, where Charles’s mother Mary is listed as a Laundress. The Whittingtons were to remain associated with this property for many years. The Victoria County History Vol. 3 (published 1911) preserves the association of the family with this house: ‘Opposite the Plough Inn is an old house called Widdington; it has a large projecting brick porch of about 1600 to 1620’. It is also known in variously as ‘Old Westmoor’ and ‘Old Westmoor Cottage’.

When they married in 1873, Charles and Ellen initially set up home away from Effingham. Their first four children – three daughters and then a son, John – were born in Leatherhead or Croydon. But in August 1879 Charles’s mother, the Laundress at Westmoor House, died aged 55 (she was buried at St Lawrence Church). Possibly connected with this, Charles and Ellen moved to Effingham. Their son John was born in Croydon on 6 December 1878 but he was baptised some three months later in Effingham, on 23 February 1879. All their subsequent children were born and baptised in Effingham, so it is likely John’s dates fix the period Charles brought his family back to the village.  The 1881 Census confirms they are established here and living with widowed father John. By 1891 Charles is ‘Laundryman’ and Ellen is ‘Laundress’ at ‘Old Westmoor Cottage’ on Orestan Lane.

Old Westmoor on Orestan Lane, Effingham,  in 1907-8, a photo from the Ross family album

Title: Old Westmoor on Orestan Lane, Effingham, in 1907-8, a photo from the Ross family album
Description: Courtesy of Effingham Local History Group by-nc

Charles was 10 years older than Ellen. He died in 1898 when Ellen was about 43. At this time their 12 children were between the ages of 24 and 3, and at least 7 were still at home.  After Charles’s death Ellen continued working as a laundress and, all told, it would seem this was her business for probably nearly 40 years. In the 1901 Census, Ellen’s eldest daughter Elizabeth, by then aged 27, with her husband William Dench and their 10 month old son Edward (who was also to become an Effingham war hero), was living alongside Ellen at Old Westmoor Cottage. In the 1911 Census Ellen has only her youngest child, Marguerite, still at home (in school), one servant, and one laundry maid, although Elizabeth and family were still living ‘next door’.

As mentioned above, as far as we know Ellen and Charles had had four sons. Three of them chose the army as their profession long before the war, and as early as September 1914 three of them were in arms (but not yet all overseas). By September 1916, at least three had served overseas.


The War and Ellen’s sons

Below is what we currently know of the Whittington sons’ war stories, followed by what we know of the daughters’.

Ellen’s sons and their ages on 4 August 1914:

John – 35

William – 29

Dick – 21

Bob – 19


John Whittington – family man, back into service

By 1914 the eldest son, John, had already long finished his first period in the army.

In the 1891 Census John was living with his parents and siblings in Effingham, aged 12. On 16 August 1897 aged ‘18 yrs 8 months’, giving his address as Croydon and his job as ‘Postman’, he signed up as a Private in the Coldstream Guards, Regimental Number 1016, on the ‘Short Service’ contract, ie service for 3 years, then 4 years on the Colours and 8 years on the Reserve.

In the event he stayed slightly longer than this – 4 years and 226 days. Just under a year of this in 1900-01 was in South Africa during the Boer conflict: he served in Cape Colony, Orange Free State and Transvaal, and was wounded. He gained the Queen’s South Africa Medal 1900-1901. He was discharged as medically unfit on 29 March 1902, still in the rank of Private but with a Good Conduct badge. He gave the address he was returning to as his ‘father’s house in Effingham’ (- although his father had died in 1898; but of course Ellen was still there).

On 31 December 1904 John married Ada Emily née Chitty (b. 1 May 1880) at Brockham Green, Surrey. In 1911 aged 32 he was living with Ada and 4-year-old Mabel Emily at 149 Murchison Road, Low Leyton, Essex, employed as a Metropolitan Police Constable. In 1913 another daughter, Violet, was born.

When war broke out, John would have ceased to be on the Reserve by a matter of months, but despite being a family man his role as ex-Army and now Police may have created expectation, and he signed up again. So far little definite is known of his WWI military service. A newspaper report at the time of his brother Bob’s death in 1916 reported that John was at that time serving as a ‘Corporal in the Coldstream Guards’ but this seems currently untraceable in surviving documents. Effingham resident Effie Jane Ross, who tried to record all ‘Effingham’ men in service, created a photograph album including a calligraphic hand-drawn Roll of Honour, and in the latter she gives his branch of the armed services as ‘Mil. Prov. Staff’, ie Military Provost Staff Corps, ‘the Army’s specialists in custody and detention, providing advice inspection and surety within custodial establishments’. Whether this is reliable, and if so whether it was overseas or in the UK, is not currently known.

On 11 November 1928, aged 49, John retired from the London Metropolitan Police after 26 years’ service. In 1939, described as a Museum Warden, he was living at 116 Wadham Gardens Ealing, with Ada (‘unpaid domestic’), Violet (‘Shop assistant’) and his mother Ellen (‘incapacitated’).


William Whittington – professional soldier

William was born in Effingham on 3 January 1885 and baptised on 5 April 1885.  He was 29 in August 1914.  The 1901 Census finds William aged 16 as a Private in the 3rdBattalion Worcestershire Regiment, stationed at Blenheim Barracks in Farnborough. In 1911, age 26, he was still a Private, stationed at the Grand Shaft Barracks, Western Heights, Dover, where his role is listed as ‘musician’.  (His younger brother Bob, age 16, was by then also in the army and at the same barracks, and so was another Private called Henry Morse, age 23, who will feature later). In the 1916 newspaper article reporting Bob’s death, William was said to be a ‘Sergeant in the 5th Worcesters’.

Subsequent details of William’s service and his life after the war are patchy. He is listed among the survivors on the Roll of Honour in St Lawrence Church and in Effie Ross’s Roll of Honour. However he was not amongst the returning ex-servicemen listed to have received one of the commemorative walking sticks given by the Parish Council, which presumably implied that he was not associated with Effingham after the war, and this is more than likely the case.

In the last quarter of 1913 aged 28 William married Laura Maud Reeves née Gould (b. 11 September 1882 in Peckham), in the Registration district of Wallingford, Berkshire. Laura had previously married a Robert Reeves in 1900, but it seems that two children had died and this marriage had failed because by the 1911 Census Laura, aged 28, was living with her parents William and Mary Ann Gould in Wallsend, Northumberland. Robert Reeves, a bricklayer, enlisted in 1915 at the stated age of 38 and it is noted in his army papers that he was unaware of the whereabouts of his wife. He was sent on active service in 1916, was gassed and was discharged wounded with eye problems in 1917.

After the war, Electoral Rolls for 1920, 21, ‘22 and ‘23 record William and ‘Maud’ living together at Chelsham Common, Warlingham, Surrey. In 1924, ’25 and ‘26 William is now resident within the Mental Hospital at Chelsham Common. This was Croydon Mental Hospital (the first to be called this, rather than ‘asylum’, opened in 1903, ‘a pioneering centre for psychosurgery’). Laura is resident at the Queen Mary Hospital for Children in Carshalton. William and Laura are next recorded residing together in 1927, when they are at 10, Green Lane in Harrow, and they reside together from then on. In the 1939 Register, William Whittington aged 54 and Laura M Whittington aged 57 were living at The Gables, Prospect Place in Eton, Buckinghamshire, where William is a Beer Retailer and Laura is doing unpaid domestic duties. It seems they later found their way back north. A William Whittington with the same date of birth died in Newcastle on Tyne aged 89 in 1974, and a Laura Maud Whittington died in the Registration District of Tyneside in 1979, aged 97.


Dick Whittington – war wounded

Dick was 21 in August 1914. He was born at Effingham on 15 July 1893 and baptised there (as ‘Dick’) on 20 August. Aged 17 in the 1911 Census (named as ‘Richard’), it looks as if he was the only son not to have chosen the army as a career: he was a domestic groom boarding in the household of coachman John Dunn in Chelsea. In 1914 at the time of his marriage, he described himself as a chauffeur. Such skills would have made him an obvious candidate for prompt enlistment alongside, possibly, pressure not to be the only brother not in service. A newspaper article of 26 September 1914 reported that Dick was based at Erith serving with the 5thEast Surreys. Following Bob’s death, an article about the family in September 1916 records that, by that time, Dick had already been invalided out. Currently we have no further information about his war service.  He is not listed among survivors who were presented with a commemorative walking stick by the Parish Council at (or rather just after) the Peace Day celebration in 1919, but his name is on the Roll of Honour in St Lawrence Church.

It is possible that his personal life may have been a casualty of the war. On 30 July 1914, the eve of the conflict, at St Lawrence Church Effingham, Dick married Rose Phyllis Holland from Isle of Wight Cottages, Bookham. Less than two months later he was on the way to France. A son, Phillip C. Whittington, was born on 7 January 1916. Phillip was admitted to St Lawrence School on 25 April 1921 and re-admitted on 3 September 1923. We know little more about Phillip. In 1939 he was a cowman, unmarried, in Ulverston, and he died in Penrith aged 90 in February 2006. In 1939 his mother Phyllis Whittington was living in a shared property at 30 Victoria Avenue in Surbiton, on ‘private means’. She died in March 1969.

After being invalided out, Dick returned at some stage to living with his mother Ellen for several years. According to the Electoral Rolls, he was living with her during 1922-23 at Westmoor House, and in 1924-30 at Victory Cottages. In 1931-33 he was at ‘Dormers’ on Church Street, but no longer with Ellen. By 1939 he had moved to Chapel-en-le-Frith in Derbyshire and was in business as a poultry-farmer. With Isobel, née Bradley, a son, Dick Whittington, was born in 1937 and another, David Whittington, in 1940.


Bob Whittington – war hero; the only brother killed in action

Bob was the eleventh child of the twelve, and the youngest son. He was the highest achiever militarily-speaking, and the only one of the four brothers to die on the field of battle. He was 19 at the outbreak of war.

Bob was born on 8 March 1895 and baptised at St Lawrence Church on 7 April. Effingham’s school logbook records for the week beginning 10 March 1909 ‘Bob Whittington has left this week’, ie as soon as he was 14, the school leaving age. He enlisted long before the war, reportedly at the age of 15. He followed his older brother William (ten years his senior) not only into the 3rdBattalion Worcestershire Regiment, but also into the musical tradition – perhaps a drummer or a bugler. In the 1911 Census, both brothers are at the same Grand Shaft Western Heights Barracks in Dover.

This connection formed by the two brothers with the Worcestershires seems to have been strong and to have involved others in the family. In July 1915 Bob came home on leave, and during this, on 24 July 1915, his sister Jennie married Henry Charles Morse, a ‘musician’, the same specialism as William and Bob.

Bob Whittington and his mother Ellen on 15 July 1915, a photo taken in Effingham by Miss Effie Ross

Title: Bob Whittington and his mother Ellen on 15 July 1915, a photo taken in Effingham by Miss Effie Ross
Description: Courtesy of Effingham Local History Group by-nc

On the citation for his 1917 Star, it is stated that Bob, a Lance-Corporal, arrived in France on 20 August 1914. He served as a stretcher-bearer in this same battalion, with Service Number 12133. Very soon he displayed merit: on 19 October 1914, the Supplement to The London Gazette included him in its list of those “Mentioned in Despatches” as No. 12133 Lance-Corporal R. Whittington’, and the Surrey Advertiser later reported that the Despatch concerned was Sir John French’s report written 17 September 1914 (second Despatch). This covered the retreat from Le Cateau to the far side of the Seine, and the dramatic turnabout and epic Battle of the Marne.

 In 1915, Bob was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, as reported in Captain H.F. Stacke’s book The Worcestershire Regiment in the Great War:

‘Attack on Spanbroek Mill, Lindenhoek, Belgium

12 March 1915

The defence was maintained until dusk. Lieutenant C. G. Martin (Royal Engineers officer who volunteered to lead a small bombing party against a section of the enemy trenches which was holding up the advance. Before he started he was wounded, but, taking no notice, he carried on with the attack which was completely successful. He and his small party held the trench against all counter-attacks for two and a half hours until a general withdrawal was ordered) showed great bravery (Lieut. Martin, R.E., was awarded the V.C.), and Sergeants Ince and Drinkall were conspicuous for ability and determination, grimly holding an improvised sandbag block under a continuous fire of bombs (Sergeants lnce and Drinkall were awarded the D.C.M.). Outside the trench efforts were made to rescue the wounded. Two of the Battalion stretcher-bearers, Corporal B. Whittington and Pte. W. Suffolk crawled forward across the open under heavy fire and brought back stricken men from the German wire entanglements (Corpl. Whittington and Pte. Suffolk were awarded the D.C.M.).’

A summary of Bob’s DCM award was also published on 3 June 1915 in a Supplement to The London Gazette:

‘For gallant conduct and devotion to duty at Spanbroek Molen on 12 March, 1915, when he crawled through a gateway which was under very heavy machine gun fire, and bandaged the wounded who were lying only 30 yards from the enemy’s trenches.’

On 26 August 1916, Bob was killed in action on the Somme.  His commanding officer wrote to Ellen expressing his admiration for her son’s character and actions.  The Rev. G.M. Evans, Chaplain to the Forces, also wrote to her:

‘I feel your son’s loss as a personal one.  He was a splendid character and a most upright, consistent Christian… Unfortunately we had to leave him where he fell, as it was impossible to get his body down.  But the better testimonial to him will be the influence of his life, which will live on in the memory of his comrades and of all who knew him.  He lived a noble life, and he died a noble death.’

[Reported in the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser, Epsom District Times and County Post, 28 October 1916].

Under the sombre heading ‘Dead Heroes’ Medals – presented to relatives at Stoughton Barracks’ on 14 April 1917, the Surrey Advertiser reported – almost nine months after Bob’s death and almost two years after he was awarded the DCM – that Ellen attended the Barracks where Colonel H. H. Smythe ‘presented medals to the relatives of three non-commissioned officers who have given their lives in the service of their country. Mrs Whittington of Westmore House, Effingham, was present to receive the Distinguished Conduct Medal awarded to her son, Sergt. Whittington, 3rd Worcestershire Regt.’ Two other soldiers’ medals were also being presented. ‘Col. Smythe, in addressing the parade, said they were assembled to present medals to the parents of those who had gallantly sacrificed their lives in the service of their country. He was sure all joined him in offering the deepest sympathy to the relatives in their irreparable loss, but at the same time would extend their heartiest congratulations to them on the honour bestowed on their sons. He regretted he had no record of the individual services rendered by the deceased men, but he was sure they must have shown great gallantry and devotion to duty to have been singled out for such an honour. Col. Smythe then presented the medals, saying a few kindly words to each recipient as he did so’.  It is not known when the family received Bob’s Military Medal.

Bob is commemorated on the Thiepval Monument, for soldiers with no known grave.


The War and Ellen’s daughters

Ellen’s daughters and their ages in August 1914:

Elizabeth – 40

Kate – 38

Fanny – 37

Nellie – 31

Mary – 27

Jennie – 24

Sally – 23

Marguerite  – 15

As with the sons, we do not yet have the full WWI story for all of them and their husbands. Below is information we have been able to track reliably so far.


Elizabeth (Dench) – mother of Edward Dench, war hero

Elizabeth Whittington (b. 1874) was Ellen’s first child. She married William Dench (b. 1873) in 1899. Elizabeth and William had grown up virtually alongside each other since childhood. William’s parents were Thomas and Sarah Dench, and in the 1881 census this branch of the Dench family is recorded as next household but one to the Whittingtons in Effingham.

Elizabeth and William’s son Edward Dench was born in Effingham on 20 May 1900. As mentioned above, in the 1901 Census Elizabeth and William both aged 27 with Edward aged 10 months were living at Old Westmoor Cottage alongside Ellen. In the 1911 Census Elizabeth and family were still near Ellen and at the same address.

Edward would have been only 14 when the war broke out.  We do not know exactly when he joined the armed services but he would have become eligible for conscription when he turned 18 in May 1918, and he was in combat by August that year. He served in the Grenadier Guards, 3rd Battalion. The Surrey Advertiser and County Times for 7 September 1918 reported that ‘Mr. and Mrs. W. Dench. Laundry Cottage [confusingly, this is not in the Old Westmoor ‘laundry’ area, but at High Barn – they had moved], have received news that their son, Pte. E Dench, Grenadier Guards, is in hospital in France suffering from gunshot wound [sic] in the right arm, received on August 23rd.’

Edward was awarded the Military Medal just after the war, in January 1919. This meant Ellen had both a son and a grandson highly honoured. On Peace Day Edward would have been just 19 but, although so young, with this honour he was chosen to lead Effingham’s Peace Procession ahead of many other returned ex-servicemen who were older or who had served longer (Robert Wells, the other surviving holder of the MM, was probably still away from the village on active service).

In 1921 Elizabeth and William were selected for one of the new Victory Cottages (No. 8; Ellen was also nearby, at No. 12).  Also in 1921 Edward married Clara E. E. Seaton and they had at least 4 surviving children. He died in Buckinghamshire in late 1978.

Elizabeth and William Dench at their home in Victory Cottages, on or around their 50th wedding anniversary in 1949

Title: Elizabeth and William Dench at their home in Victory Cottages, on or around their 50th wedding anniversary in 1949
Description: Courtesy of Effingham Local History Group by-nc

In WW2, Elizabeth saw another son, the fifth child of her six, go to war. Charles Thomas Dench (b. 1908), younger brother of Edward, was killed in action in North Africa while serving in the Royal Artillery. He is listed amongst the names of the fallen on the WW2 memorial board in St Lawrence Church.


Kate (Dench)

Kate was born 6 September 1875. Like her older sister Elizabeth, she married one of the Denchs from the immediate neighbourhood whom she had grown up alongside since childhood. Arthur Dench, born 17 May 1875 in Effingham, was the same age as Kate. They married in 1905 in Eastbourne, Sussex. In the 1911 Census they were living in Eastbourne with their children ‘Edie’ (Edith K), ‘Florrie’ and Arthur. Arthur snr was a General Labourer. In August 1914 he would have been 39. It is not known that he enlisted, which is not surprising given his age. In 1939 they were living at Hop House Cottages, Battle Road, Battle. Arthur died in 1945 in Battle, Sussex and Kate died there in September 1972 aged 97.


Fanny (Penfold)  – Reservist husband re-enlists

Fanny was born on 28 January 1877 and baptised at St Peter’s Church Croydon on 11 March. In 1914 she was married and living at 2 Church Cottages, Effingham, with her daughters Cissie, Annie and Lily. She took in laundry, even though it was a tiny cottage.  Her husband Edward Penfold, aged 40, was a carpenter born in Ockley. Having previously served in the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, in 1914 he was in the Reserve and was called up. He re-enlisted on 24 September. He passed his first medical but was then discharged within a couple of months as unfit (“chronic rheumatism”). Fanny died in 1941, and Edward in 1949.


Nellie (Botting)

‘Nellie’ is usually a diminutive of ‘Ellen’, her mother’s name. Nellie was born in Effingham on 25 November 1882. In the 1901 Census, when Nellie was 18, living with the family there was a servant (laundrymaid) called Celia Botting born in Nuthurst, Sussex, aged 24. Nellie was ‘in service’ when she married John Botting at St Lawrence Church Effingham on 10 June 1905. In 1911 she was living with John, a gardener aged 30 (b. 1881 Nuthurst) and three sons under the age of 4 at The Lodge, Bourne Hill, Horsham. Nellie died in 1925 aged only 43 and is buried in the graveyard of St Mary the Virgin, Horsell, Woking, with John, who died in 1962.

John would have been 33 at the start of the war and so was quite likely to have been in the services at some point, but his records have not been identified so far.


Mary (Wright)

Mary was born on 2 April 1887 and baptised on 7 August. On 13 November 1909 she married George Alfred Wright, a plumber, said to be resident in Effingham, having been born on 30 July 1885 in Brixton or Clapham and baptised at Streatham Hill on 4 October (in the 1901 Census his mother Hester Alice was a laundress ‘Employer’ there). Mary’s marriage was witnessed by her younger sister, Jennie, and by William Dench, husband of her eldest sister Elizabeth. They left the village and in 1911 were living 17 Sulina Road, Brixton Hill, with a 3 month old daughter, Ethel Mary; George aged 25 is now an Electrician’s Labourer. By 1939, however, George is living at 20 Carew Street, Lambeth, married to Catherine Wright (née Delay, b. 2 August 1899), and they have a young son Jack Wright, b. 29 March 1935. So far, nothing further can be found out about what happened to Mary, or George’s war service, or his re-marriage.


Jennie (Morse) – wartime bride

Jennie (or Jenny) was born 27 June 1889.

Rev. Bayly conducted eight marriages at St Lawrence Church during the War, and two* of these were for Whittington daughters, Jennie and Sally.  They were witnessed by siblings because their father was dead.

(*or three, if you include Dick’s marriage five days before the declaration of war).

As mentioned above, in July 1915 Bob came home on leave and on 24th, also as mentioned above, Jennie aged 25 married Henry Charles Morse, ‘Musician’. Jennie’s eldest brother John, her younger sister Sally and ‘D’ [Dick] Whittington were witnesses to the marriage. Henry’s father is described as ‘Unknown. Deceased’, and Henry is residing in the Parish at the time of the marriage.

Also as already mentioned above, in 1911 Private Henry Morse aged 23, Musician, was at the Dover Barracks in the 3rdBattalion the Worcestershire Regiment. He had had a tough childhood. He had been born in Faringdon, Berkshire, in the 4thquarter of 1888. In the 1891 Census, age 2, he was living with his grandparents, Charles and Elizabeth Morse, and his unmarried mother Lucy aged 19 in the parish of Little Coxwell, Faringdon. What fate befell Henry’s carers is not currently clear, but by 1901 aged 12 he was an inmate of the workhouse in Faringdon. A career in the army was a very typical sequel to a childhood in the workhouse.

In a newspaper article of September 1914 patriotically reporting that 5% of the available Effingham population has already joined up, among the names listed is an ‘Edward’ Morse in the same regiment as William and Bob, the 3rd Worcestershires: he ‘has been included because he makes his home in the village when on leave’ (presumably the allusion to his lack of a settled family home), although by that date he had already ‘been invalided from Mons on account of rheumatism’. This is presumed to be an error by the newspaper reporter, the Edward in fact being Henry. An ‘H. Morse’ is listed both on Effingham’s Roll of Honour in St Lawrence Church, and also in Effie Ross’s photograph album Roll of Honour where he is assigned to the ‘Worcestershire Regt’. But amongst Effie’s photographs there is no-one with the surname Morse.

By autumn 1919 Jennie and Henry were settled together in Leas Road, Guildford; Henry seems to have been living alone through 1918. In 1927 they were together at 4b Queen’s Square Battersea, Nine Elms Ward (Electoral Roll); in 1938 they were in Mitcham. In the 1939 Register they were living at 69 Kensington Gardens Square in London, where Henry is listed as a musician and ‘Jenny’ is doing unpaid domestic duties. Jennie died aged 68 in 1957, but it is not known when Henry died.


Sally (Chitty) – young war bride of recalled Reservist

Sally was born on 18 March 1891. On 30 July 1914 her younger brother Dick had married Rose Phyllis (née Holland) before departing for war. Sally was a witness, and so was a ‘Percy W. Chitty’. Two years later, on 24 June 1916, Sally, aged 25, married ‘soldier’ Percy William Chitty, aged 32, in St Lawrence Church Effingham. In his Army Record, he is described as ‘Reservist without leave’, in this context presumably meaning that he did not need to have formal Army consent to marry. Sally’s address is given as 102a Penwith Road, Earlsfield (after the war this is given as 104a). Since 1904 Percy had effectively already been a member of the family: his elder sister (by four years) was Ada Emily, who in that year had married John Whittington.

Percy had been born at Brockham Green, Betchworth on 8 November 1884. His Army service record, although very damaged by burning, records that he had enlisted on 21 September 1905 with the Army Ordnance Corps at Woolwich, aged 20 years 10 months, having previously attempted to enlist but having been rejected on health grounds. Having served his three years, in 1908 he transferred to the Reserve. It is recorded that his conduct was ‘Good’, and ‘He has been employed as a Storeman, and has carried out his duties in a very satisfactory manner’. In the 1911 Census he was a Grocer’s assistant in Brockham Green.

Percy was recalled on 5 August 1914 and was in France by 30 September. In August 1915 he was appointed an Acting Sergeant, and in September, Acting Sub-Conductor (‘Conductor is a role associated with the management of Army stores and is a very responsible post).  In May 1917 he was appointed Temporary Acting Warrant Officer with the rank of Sub-Conductor for the duration. He had a week’s leave in the UK over Christmas 1917, but apart from that, and the visit to marry Sally, and a period in Grove Hospital, Tooting, from 30 October to 6 December 1918 with influenza, he seems to have been overseas throughout the whole war. He was examined and found to be fit in Cologne on 20 June 1919, returned to the UK on 23 June 1919, and his service terminated on 23 July 1919.

After his return Percy notified the Army Record Office that his address for the future would be at Brockham Green. On 12 May 1923 a daughter was born, Kathleen M. Chitty. In 1924 Percy applied to the Metropolitan Police for a licence to act as a ‘conductor of stage carriages’ and they sought a reference from the Army as to his suitability and conduct. Percy died in the Croydon Registration District in the last quarter of 1951.

Sally died aged 85.  Her death was also registered in the Croydon Registration District in the first quarter of 1976.


Marguerite (Margaret, Maggie) Edith (Chuter) – married a demobbed soldier and emigrated after the war

She was born 6 August 1898 and baptised on 18 September in Effingham. In the 1901 and 1911 Censuses and in the Civil Registration Birth Index her name is given as ‘Marguerite’.

Marguerite did not know her father – he was buried on 16 April 1898, a few months before she was born. Bob was her nearest sibling in age, just over 3 years older. He left home in 1909 or ‘10 to join the army when Marguerite would have been about 10 or 11. In 1911, aged 13, she is the only child – a ‘Scholar’ – still at home with Ellen and two servants.

Alongside her eldest brother John, ‘Maggie’ stood as a witness at the marriage of her elder sister Sally with Percy Chitty on 24 June 1916 when she would have been almost 18, and one can observe that she performed this duty in preference to her mother.

In early September 1917 Margaret, then aged 19, appears to have undergone some sort of crisis.  According to reports in The Surrey Advertiser, she was working in service in Esher.  Having been at home in Effingham she set off back to her work, apparently to collect luggage, but did not arrive there and was not seen again for a week.  She was described in the newspaper as ‘about 5ft. 6in. in height, of stout build, with pale complexion, brown hair and eyes.  When she left home she was dressed in a grey skirt and jacket, with a white blouse, and brown Tam o’Shanter cap.’ She subsequently sent a letter home saying how sorry she was for all the trouble she had caused (no-one was aware of any),and that she was intending to ‘do away with herself’.  Shortly afterwards, with the greatest good fortune, her brother-in-law Henry Morse who was living in Guildford, acting on a hunch, found her at Guildford Station.  Apparently she returned home and all was well.

In the last quarter of 1919, Marguerite married Horace Charles Chuter (b. 24 May 1893) in Dorking. Horace’s birth was registered (as ‘Horace Charlie’) in the Kingston Registration district. He was born in Kingston, his father Albert Charles Swann Chuter, and in 1901 the family were living at Surbiton.  By 1911 when the family was at 117 Munster Road Teddington, Horace was no longer in England. He went to Canada in May 1910, when he would have been 17. He is next recorded on 20 June 1913, aged 20, sailing on the Ansonia crossing from Canada, where he had been living in Peterborough and working as a farm labourer, into the USA at Port Huron, Michigan, where he arrived on 24 June 1913. He later returned to Canada from the UK, sailing on the Ansonia of the Cunard Line out of Southampton for Quebec on 29 May 1913. On 10 December 1914 he sailed from St Johns, to enlist in the army. This cost him £13 13s 10d, an expense which was refunded to him at the end of the war.

He enlisted as ‘Charles Chuter’ on the ‘Short Service’ Attestation (for the duration of the war) at Woolwich on 12 January 1915, aged 20 years 11 months, declaring his profession to be ‘Horseman’, and was posted to the RAVC (Royal Auxiliary Veterinary Corps), service number 3267, as a Horsekeeper. From 19 January 1915 he was with the British Expeditionary Force, then from 28 August 1915 to 18 February 1916 in Egypt (‘Med Ex Force’), from 19 February to 12 October 1918 in Mesopotamia, then in the UK until he was de-mobbed on 5 March 1919. He returned to living at his parents’ house in Teddington. In November of that year, he was trying to get work and requested an ‘Army Character’ – a reference – but this was refused him as being only available to soldiers serving before the outbreak of war. Perhaps this difficulty contributed eventually to the decision to return to Canada.

In 1920, Marguerite, aged 22, and Horace 27, and baby Jean Helen, aged 3 months, sailed from Liverpool for Quebec, heading ultimately for Toronto, Ontario, on the Minnedosa of the Canadian Pacific Ocean Services line, where they arrived on 27 June 1920. The ship’s Passenger List records that they intended to settle permanently in Canada. Horace had first been there in 1911, and may at some point and the papers include him with ‘Returned Canadians’, although he had not taken out Canadian citizenship before 1920. They had £25 in their possession, and their fare had been paid by the Overseas Settlement programme.

They settled in Canada in the Toronto area; Horace informed the army authorities that his address was c/o Norman Hutchinson, Mallorytown, RR4, Ontario, Canada, and here in due course his 1914-15 Star medal was sent. By the 1921 Canada Census they were living in Escott, in the Leeds district of Ontario. They had further children: Winifred Mary in 1925 (d. 28 June 2008), and Robert Whittington 7 April 1930  (d. 22 September 1990) named, perhaps, as a tribute to Maurguerite’s brother Bob. Horace and Marguerite are listed on Electors’ lists for 1945 and 1 May 1957, living at 74 Buell Street in the town of Brockville, where Horace is described as, respectively, a wireworker and an engineer. Horace (only) made a further trip back to the UK returning on the Saxonia heading for Montreal in July 1959. In the ship’s list he gave his address while in the UK as c/o Mrs J Lansdell, 128 Minster Road (should probably be ‘Munster’ Road) in Teddington.  It is not currently known what year either Horace or Marguerite died.


Ellen – after the war

In 1921, the new Victory Cottages on Guildford Road were being completed. There was no stated arrangement that relatives of ex-servicemen had priority, but as the widowed mother of a decorated fallen soldier, Ellen was allocated one of these and had moved into No. 12 by 1924. It must have been very different from Old Westmoor.  For a while her son Dick lived there with her, but in the early 1930s (judging by the Electoral Rolls for Effingham), Ellen moved away from Surrey. In 1939 she was living with John’s family in Ealing. She died aged 85 in Greenford, Middlesex, in 1941 and was brought back to Effingham for burial at St Lawrence on 9 April of that year.



The newspaper reports of 1914 and 1916 referred to in this article are:

The Surrey Advertiser, 26 September 1914

The Surrey Advertiser, 9 September 1916

The Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser, 28 September 1916


Research by Susan Morris, Chris Hogger, Jeremy Palmer and members of Effingham Local History Group

ARCHIBALD and CHARLES PATTEN: Effingham brothers-­in-­arms

Archibald Patten

Title: Archibald Patten
Description: Courtesy of Effingham Local History Group by-nc





Charles Patten

Title: Charles Patten
Description: Courtesy of Effingham Local History Group by-nc

Contributed by the Effingham Local History Group

The brothers Archibald and Charles Patten were the elder sons of Frederick and Elizabeth Patten, originally from Somerset.

Archibald was born in 1895 in Muchelney, Somerset, followed three years later by his brother Charles, born in Langford, Sussex. In 1901 the family were residing in Highland Farm Cottages, Leatherhead and by the 1911 census had moved to High Barn, Effingham. Frederick had been variously employed as a farm labourer and carter while by 1911, Archibald was working as a gardener.

Archibald joined the 7th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, enlisting in Kingston. His medal record says that he served in France from June 1 1915 and was “presumed dead” on October 13th. Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Adelbert Talbot, who was a near neighbour of the Pattens, recorded in a letter to his daughter Muriel on 4th November: “Poor Mrs Patten close by has had her eldest son killed – shot through the head on September 13th, I am told, and the younger son Charles has been seriously wounded in the foot. There is no end to the misery caused by this war”.


Title: a patten-medal
Description: by-nc

We believe Archibald was killed in action during an attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt. The Surrey Advertiser reported his death on Saturday 11th December 1915, and also provided an update on his brother Charles’ condition:


Title: Patten
Description: by-nc


Charles served as a Private in the Grenadier Guards. His service record has not survived but his medal card indicates that he entered France on August 15 1915. The admissions register of St Lawrence School notes that Charles was “wounded – leg off 1915”. This is corroborated by the above report in the Surrey Advertiser which tells us that Charles was gassed after going to the Front in August 1915. After recovering and returning to action, he was shot in the heel which subsequently led to his leg being amputated below the knee.

Charles survived the war. On April 25 1925 he married Eva Scarff at St Lawrence, Effingham, describing himself in the register as a gardener and his father Frederick as a foreman. Eva, born on October 1 1892, was the sister of William James Scarff, another of our known Effingham war dead.

Author: Jeremy Palmer

“Too glorious for words”: Archie Forbes and the Armistice

Archibald Herbert d’Esterre Forbes (‘Archie’) was born on 29 January 1899. His family lived at France Hill House in Camberley.  Archie attended Uppingham School where he was a member of the Officer Training Corps.  In the summer of 1917 he joined the 13th Officer Cadet Battalion in Newmarket before being gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the East Surrey Regiment, joining the 3rd Reserve Battalion in Dover.  In March he was posted overseas and sent to the 6th Battalion, the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment.

He served through the remainder of the war, sometimes as captain, and was also in demand as a Lewis Gun instructor. He was wounded on 30 June 1918 on the first day of the attack on Bouzincourt which saw 3 officers killed and 9 wounded and 28 other ranks killed, 8 missing and 190 wounded.  In a letter to his mother of 5 July he described his men as having ‘played up like bricks, and followed me magnificently, and helped me at every turn’ and mourned the loss of som many ‘fine fellows … and such decent comrades’ whom he viewed as his ‘good pals.  He was awarded the Military Cross on 4 August.

1st page of letter from Archie Forbes to his mother, 6 March 1919, listing battles in which he had fought (SHC ref QRWS/30/FORB/2).

In his letter of 6 March 1919, with the end of censorship, he was able to list all the actions the battalion had fought in during August and September 1918 as the momentum of the allied advance became unstoppable. Some, he told his mother, ‘were quite cushy – with light casualties- & merely a case of strolling along under a terrific barrage’ but he underlined the names of the most ‘fearful’ battles, including Epehy, Noyelles, the Queant Drocourt line, Brielle and the breaching of the Hindenburg line.  He recalled, with admiration, the day-long resistance of a single German machine gun post in Epehy despite being surrounded: ‘It was one of the best and bravest pieces of work I’ve ever seen the Bosche do, and if ever any Huns ever deserved the Iron Cross, they did!’  He also described the terrific German bombardment after the battalion captured Molasses Farm: ‘after we had taken it & dug in just in front & behind the Farm – the Bosche simply banged & bumped & crumped & shelled it all day & night for some time afterwards’.  His batman Otter followed Archie faithfully across the shell-blasted ground: ‘I used to laugh as we were the most priceless sight imaginable – what with my long legs striding over the ground, & little Otter toddling along with his tiny legs after me – picking up numerous articles that I dropped in my hurry – tin hat, etc!! At times I tried to look dignified, but Otter used to hurry me along – saying “Come along, sir” – “Run sir!”  – or “Keep Low sir, your head is sticking up a long way, sir!” etc, etc’.

Rumegies village and war memorial

The unit war diary states that news of the signing of the Armistice was received at 0800 hours on 11 November while the battalion was behind the lines at the French village of Rumegies, north of Cambrai and just south of the Belgian border. All work for the day was cancelled and in a wonderful letter to his mother Archie looked back on the events of the day.  His exuberant joy contrasts with the gloom of Franklin Lushington: unlike Lushington, Archie was in a position to share the relief and joy of the local French people and of course, despite all he had endured and the responsibility heaped on him in 1918, he was still just a teenager.  His letter is worth quoting extensively.

Dearest Mother,

At last the end of the war has come, and Germany is done and beaten to the very last card! But, by Jove, she’s fought it out well, and stuck out deceiving us up to the very last minute – for not one of us really knew till this morning what a frightful pitch of starvation and despair the Germans had reached.

            It is useless to try and express my feelings of joy and relief now that it is all over – and I don’t suppose you could express yours – it’s all too glorious for words. No doubt England is upside down with delight, and rejoicing from top to bottom, the same that we are doing out here. The men are absolutely off their heads with glee, and it’s topping to think of the happy meetings and rejoicings that will take place when we all get back to England. But on the other hand it’s terrible to think of the many sad homes and sorrowful hearts where this long looked for return will not be, and to them, I fear, peace will only bring their losses back more vividly. We heard this grand news this morning, and all hostilities ceased at 11 a.m. and I am thankful to say we are not in the line, but in another village which has been the scene of endless shouting and waving of flags, etc, throughout the day. The French people – on whom we are billeted – have simply fallen over us with joy all day since we told them that the guerre had finied!! The women and girls and children are practically falling on our necks and feet with gratitude – and I was all but kissed by the old lady and girls in my billet! and seem to have spent half the day shaking hands with dear old men of about 90 who are tottering about the streets shaking all over with delight. Of course you must remember these people have only recently been released by us from the Bosche – and I can’t say whether all the French people are so full of gratitude as this towards the British soldiers. We’ve spent the day marching about the streets with bands playing and everybody waving flags and shouting, singing, and cheering – and numerous rockets and coloured lights have been sent up all day, to say nothing of squibbs and fireworks!

1st page of Archie Forbes’s letter to his mother on armistice day (SHC ref QRWS/30/FORB/2)

            The general himself is quite mad, and sent up an S.O.S. Rocket this morning from the midst of a huge crowd of Tommies in the market square. The S.O.S Rocket – I must explain – is the signal for an intense artillery barrage to be put down on the Bosche when he comes over the top at us, and is immediately answered by all our Guns. (i.e. if the war is on!) But this morning the only reply it got was a terrific outburst of laughter and applause – and the joke appealed to the men like anything. The remainder of the day – (when I haven’t been marching about or waving flags or cheering) – I seem to have spent in standing to attention and listening to “God Save the King” and the Marseillaise and Belgian National Anthem about 100 times over at different times & places!

            It has really been an historic day in this place, and one which I shall never forget as long as I live. And the beauty of the whole thing to me is that it is genuine whole-hearted rejoicing – and no drunkenness at all or even lively spirits through drink – as there isn’t a drop of drink in the place, and we can’t get whiskey for the officers’ messes at present.

            Tomorrow there is a large voluntary Thanksgiving Service – and I haven’t the smallest doubt that every single man in the battalion will turn up, as every one of us thinks and says the same thing – that we have so much to be thankful for that we can never express it in words. And really – when I come to look back on my 6 or 7 months out here, there is such a lot to be thankful for – and all the awful narrow escapes I’ve had time and again, that it makes me go cold all over to think of it! For although I’ve only been out for 6 or 7 months, yet these 6 months have seen some of the worst battles & fighting of the war – and fellows who have done as many “over the top” stints and been through as many battles as I have during these 6 months and come through without a scratch have got more to thank God for than they can hope to do in a lifetime.

I somehow can’t yet realize that I am safe and sound with a whole skin, as an infantry subaltern’s life out here is nothing but one of huge risk – seeing that he plays about with barrages half the time – or else under Machine Gun fire.

2nd Lieutenant Archie Forbes (on left) (SHC ref QRWS/30/FORB/2)

Now that it’s all over, I don’t mind telling you that time and again I’ve wondered how much longer I should last out, and how much longer my luck would hold. And time and again, I’ve gone over the top with my Platoon or Company – usually well in front of them – and yet when I looked round I’d see them being knocked over all round me especially that memorable occasion when I went over with a Platoon of 35 and afterwards found myself with 7. It makes one think a bit, I can assure you, and I’ve wondered and wondered why some fellows like myself have been so lucky, and I’m sure your prayers have done it, and other poor fellows haven’t been so fortunate because they haven’t got Mothers who pray for them so earnestly as you have done for me all along, I know.  [……….]

I can hear the old lady of my billet coming up the stairs to my room – I believe she wants to kiss me this time!! – No, it was alright, not the old lady after all – but her young daughter who has brought me a cup of coffee. I thanked her frightfully as she’s quite pretty! – and I said numerous merci “beaucoups” and “biens” and “bons” and “tra bongs”, etc! which seemed to please her greatly. I talk quite a lot to them, as they love hearing the war news – especially this morning’s news of peace! But I find it pretty difficult as they can’t speak a word of English in these parts – but very amusing and great fun at times.

On demobilisation, 3 March 1919, Archie was given a fine reference: ‘He is a strict disciplinarian and a very fine leader, especially in action and he knows how to handle men’. After the war, he became a Latin teacher at Lambrook preparatory school Winkfield, Berkshire.  He married Flora Keyes and they had two daughters, Isla & Rona.  In the autumn of 1939, he achieved his long-held hope of becoming headmaster of Lambrook.  He died of cancer on 31 October 1956.

Images and transcripts reproduced by permission of the grandchildren of Archie Forbes.

Rifleman Wilfred Geeson

Letters courtesy of Melvyn Roffe, descendant of Rifleman Geeson

The following letters relate to the death in action of Rifleman Wilfred Edwin Geeson, #552245, of 2nd/16th Battalion, London Regiment, who died on Saturday 8 December 1917, aged 24.  He is buried in plot U106 of Jerusalem War Cemetery, Israel.

For more information, read the story about Surrey fireman who died in the war:

“Dec.  10th 1917

Dear Sir

May I write to say how very deeply the officers, NCO and men of your son’s company sympathise with you in his loss. It was in the action of the 8th Dec which resulted in the taking of Jerusalem that he was killed. He was, as you doubtless know, one of the Company’s stretcher bearers and it was in hurrying to the help of a wounded man that he lost his own life. His was as brave an action as I have seen during the war, for he didn’t hesitate a moment to see whether other shells would follow the one which had already caused the casualty with the result that he was himself hit a minute later.

We buried him the same morning on a hillside about two and a half miles west of Jerusalem and overlooking the little village of Karim. His personal kit has been collected and will be sent to you through the usual channel.

He was not only a good and cheerful soldier, but he showed an unselfishness and devotion to duty which greatly increases our sense of loss.

Yours very sincerely,

CH Flower (Cpt)

OC C Company 2nd/16th Battalion London Regiment”


“PO West Molesley


March 10th 1918

My Dear Edith

Thank you for your kind sympathy in our great loss. Oh, the awful blow the mothers of England are called upon to bear is terrible. I try to be brave but it’s very hard. He was my all in everything, nothing came amiss to the Dear sweet Lad, everybody loved him. I try to think God knows best. How hard it is for those that’s left. He spared him further suffering in this wicked and evil war and they had gone through some fighting and hardships. Fancy, I had not seen him for 19 months. How I prayed and hoped for his home coming. I thought you would like one of his Captain’s letters. I also had a beautiful letter from a chum that came home but he happened to be in hospital at the time. Another chum was killed [at the] same time and his mother wrote to me that they were both buried in [the] same grave. They were born a stone’s throw from one another in Ashford. The other was 26 years old…..

[Elizabeth Geeson]”


“Dear Edith

Excuse the long delay in answering your letter but our time is so much taken up by the shop that we get very little leisure, indeed very little time to dwell upon our great loss, but a loss like ours is not for a day it is for a life time, a blank that can never be filled. It was our hope to see our lad return to take over from us the responsibilities which we had hoped to lay down, but war upsets all our calculations and although we sow, we know not who will reap. In the full beauty of manhood he like thousands of others has been swept away. I hope that you are all well. You are now safer than you were owing to the failure of the Zeppelins – we hear the guns and bombs in the distance every London raid. Thank God it is in the distance.

Your loving Uncle

E J Geeson”

Private Albert Edward Tickner

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Pte A E Tickner
12th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment
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.


British Army WW1 Service Records, 1914-1920,
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,
Tickner & Hyttenrauch Family Tree,

Geoffrey Cather VC

Text and research by Limpsfield Chart Golf Club

Geoffrey St George Shillington Cather was born in October 1890, the elder son of Robert and Margaret Cather.  Robert was a partner in Jospeh Tetley and Co, tea merchants in Fenchurch Street, London.  The family moved to Limpsfield sometime in the 1890s, and lived in Red Roofs, Bluehouse Lane.  He went to Hazelwood School in 1900 and then to Rugby School, which he left in 1908.  He was a member of the Limpsfield Chart Golf Club.

Geoffrey Cater followed his father and joined Tetley’s in London in 1908 as a tea buyer’s assistant.  He worked for them for a time in the USA and Canada before returning to England in 1914.  While in London, Cather had served in the Territorials.  When war broke out, he enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers but then chose to go back to his Ulster roots, so he was commissioned in May 1915 in the 9th Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

On 1 July 1916, the opening day of the Somme battle, Cather’s battalion was part of the 36th Ulster Division’s assault on Thiepval Ridge.  The first wave left the trenches at zero hour but came under intense machine gun fire, which also decimated the following waves.  By nightfall nine officers and 235 men had been killed or wounded.

Cather, the battalion adjutant, did not take part in the initial assault but could hear the cries of the wounded out in no man’s land and near the German wire.  As evening fell he filled some water bottles and crawled out to help them, dragging or carrying many of the wounded to where the stretcher bearers could pick them up.  There was heavy German artillery and machine gun fire throughout the four hours in which he was carrying out this work.  The next morning he went out again in full view of the enemy trenches to help more of the wounded in no man’s land until he was killed by machine gun fire.  His Victoria Cross was gazetted in September 1916, the citation stressing ‘his conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice’.  Cather’s body disappeared in the carnage on Thiepval Ridge, but he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.

John Windham-Wright, son of a notable Witley resident.

Some earlier sources state John was born John Wright and changed his name on marriage to John Windham-Wright but we now know he was born Whittaker Wright in the United States, the son of James Whittaker and Annie Edith Wright. The family, including John’s sisters Edith and Gladys, returned to the United Kingdom in 1889 and James bought Lea Park (now Witley Park) in 1890 and spent a fortune remodelling it. James was popular in Witley, providing much employment, but was convicted of fraud in 1904.  James committed suicide after the judgement and is buried in All Saints churchyard with Annie who died in 1931.


John was educated at Eton and Oxford. He joined The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) Volunteers when he was 22 years old  in 1906 as a second lieutenant.  In 1911 he was living with Annie, Edith and Gladys at Parsonage Farm, Witley.  John married Violet Agnes Smijth-Windham, daughter of John Charles (a retired colonel) and Frances Helen Smijth-Windham on 15 August 1912 in Wrecclesham, Surrey.  The banns and marriage certificate give his name as John Windham-Wright, occupation gentleman, residence Witley, father John Whittaker Wright, deceased.  John had an uncle named John who invented the electric trolley pole and brought electric light to Toronto but he died in 1922.  In October 1912 John and Violet went to British Columbia, Canada on the Cunard liner S. S. Carmania (19,500 tons) so perhaps his change of name was meant for a new life as a farmer in Canada.


John and Violet returned to England in 1914 and John re-joined the Queens (Royal West Surrey Regiment) as a captain. He became medically unfit so was posted to the Fifth Reserve Battalion at Guildford and promoted to major in 1915.  John did much for the welfare of the men under his command; he led an appeal in December 1915 raising a considerable amount for their Christmas welfare.  John and Violet’s son, Patrick Joseph Stewart Windham-Wright was born in 1916.  By November 1917, John had recovered and was posted to the Sixth Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) and served in the Somme area and in Belgium.  At the end of 1918, John was attached to the Eleventh Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), part of the occupying army in Germany based at Cologne, as a temporary lieutenant colonel.  In February 1919, the family received a telegram advising John was desperately ill with pneumonia and a few days later he died on 14 February.  In the meantime, The London Gazette of 13 February 1919 John announced as being awarded the Order of the British Empire.  Violet is listed at Winkford Lodge on the 1921 voter’s roll but then moved to Swanthorpe, East Liss and thereafter to several addresses in Sussex, Surrey and Berkshire.  Patrick married Weiti Urban in 1945 in The Netherlands.  Violet’s final home was in St. Leonards but she died on 14th February 1959 in The Netherlands, possibly whilst visiting Patrick’s in-laws.