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 This was a high number from one family and so far as we know only superseded in Effingham by the five Wells brothers, to whom they were related.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.
Title: Old Westmoor on Orestan Lane, Effingham, in 1907-8, a photo from the Ross family album
Description: Courtesy of Effingham Local History Group
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.
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
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.
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
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 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 on Church Street, Effingham, with her daughters Cissie, Annie and Lily. 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’ 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 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