Charles Ernest French

Text and research by Tatsfield History Project

Charles Ernest French may have been G/1224 Lance Corporal French of the 7th Battalion of the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment who died on 27th February 1917.

A Charles French lived in Maesmaur Road aged 16 in 1901, grandson of John Lavercombe. He was described as a handyman (commercial), born in Camberwell. L/Cpl French is said by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to have been the son of Elijah and Mary Ann French, of 11, Bourne Street, Croydon.

He was buried at the Adanac Military Cemetery, Miraumont, France.

The name – C.French – appears on the memorial plaque in St Mary’s Church, Tatsfield.

Hatchlands Park

Text by Mark Harvey, House Steward

Hatchlands Park

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

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

Hal Goodhart-Rendell

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

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

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

Patients at Hatchlands Park in the Great War

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

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

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

Captain Hebeler's Stained Glass Window, East Clandon Church

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Harold Arthur William Gibbons

Information provided by Pat Clack (daughter of Harold Gibbons)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

In the Bleak Midwinter: the Surrey Regiments and the 1914 Christmas Truce

The Christmas Truce enjoyed by the 2nd Battalion of the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment was a far cry from the chocolate, football, booze and carols which some other units shared with the Germans elsewhere on the Western Front. The 2nd Battalion was in the line around La Boutillerie, just north of Fromelles and a few miles south of the Belgian border. On the 18th December two companies of the battalion had supported the 2nd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment in a disastrous attack on the German lines, the Queen’s losing 97 officers and men, either killed, wounded, missing or taken prisoner. The dead and wounded lay scattered in front of the enemy lines overnight.

A first truce occurred at daybreak on 19th December 1914, when the Germans opposite beckoned the 2nd Battalion out to collect its wounded and bury its dead. Several officers, the Medical Officer and around 30 men went out to meet 60 Germans in No Man’s Land. The rival officers talked as the burial parties got to work, the Germans assisting in burying many of the British dead, many of whom lay close to their front line. They did not, however, play entirely fair: two British officers and seven stretcher bearers were enticed into the German trenches and taken prisoner. This truce was captured in photographs by 2nd Lieutenant J B Coates, who, though only aged 17, found himself commanding a company.

Unofficial Armistice, 19th December 1914 2nd Bn The Queen's Royal Regiment (SHC Ref: QRWS/1/16/11 p2 1of2)

Unofficial Armistice, 19th December 1914 2nd Bn The Queen’s Royal Regiment (SHC Ref: QRWS/1/16/11 p2 1of2)

Unofficial Armistice, 19th December 1914 2nd Bn The Queen's Royal Regiment (SHC Ref: QRWS/3/11/3 p17)

Unofficial Armistice, 19th December 1914 2nd Bn The Queen’s Royal Regiment (SHC Ref: QRWS/3/11/3 p17)

Despite this somewhat inauspicious armistice, as many dead still lay unburied, a further truce was agreed on Christmas day at 11am negotiated by the Wiltshire Regiment on the Queen’s right. The 2nd Battalion’s war diary reported that ‘many German officers and men came out of their trenches to midway between the two lines’ and more graves were excavated. However the frozen earth meant progress was very slow and a third armistice was agreed for Boxing Day to begin at 9am. A number of immaculate German Staff officers appeared in fur lined coats ‘of quite a different class to the infantry officers who were of a very low class’. While the men hacked at the hard as iron ground, they chatted with their counterparts, sharing with the British their sanguine views on the war’s progress: ‘All professed themselves as confident as to their being able to end the war in their favour. They had no opinion of the Russians who they considered already beaten. All gave the appearance however of being fed up with the war’. Finally, at 1pm, with the graves all now completed, the British chaplain read the burial service, in the presence of the digging party, some officers of the Queen’s and 8 or 10 German officers. The proprieties observed, both sides returned to their trenches.

By contrast, the 1st Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment was ordered into the line at Christmas by GHQ to take over from a battalion which had been fraternising with the enemy far too eagerly. The offending unit had actually issued an invitation to the Saxons opposite to come into their trench, the Germans being particularly keen to obtain British newspapers to find out what was happening in the world. The East Surreys had regretfully to tell the Germans when they approached that this arrangement had been cancelled, but even so exchanged a few words and a copy of the ‘Times’.

As the experience of the 1st Battalion of the East Surreys testifies, the spontaneous coming together of the two sides during December 1914 was frowned upon by the high commands. In 1915, the British top brass was determined that there should be no reoccurrence of 1914’s fraternisation because of its supposed effect on morale and fighting spirit. The 7th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment rejected an initiative by the Germans opposite on Christmas Day: ‘No fraternising this year, although the Germans tried to make peaceful advances by showing the white flag. Our Artillery consistently pounded their trenches all day and night. A certain amount of retaliation took place but not nearly as much as we put over’. The 8th Battalion were swiftly disabused of any notion that the enemy might again seek a convivial truce: ‘All thoughts of fraternising on Christmas Eve was put an end to by Trench Mortars, Sausages, Rifle grenades and whiz-bangs on the part of the Germans’.

The fragile flowering of peace and goodwill during the first Christmas of the war was never to be repeated.