Sergeant Percy Batten

Research and text by Robert Newman

Sgt P Batten MM and Bar, Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment (1st Battalion) Service Number L/9813 Born Reading, Berks 1895 Died of wounds 2nd October 1917 aged 22yrs Laid to rest in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium

Percy Batten was born to Mr and Mrs G Batten, residents of Beech Hill, in 1895. We know little of his family and early life but he was undoubtedly from a working family, perhaps farm labourers, and attended the village school along with his siblings (at least four). He signed up for military service at the Hounslow depot either in the run-up to the war at the age of eighteen or as war broke out in the summer of 1914 at the age of 19.

According to his medal index card, Percy served with the 2nd Battalion Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment (known as the ‘Mutton Lancers’ due to the lamb on their Regimental arms) and landed in France on October 4th 1914. As a regular soldier he was clearly viewed as a reliable and trustworthy young man, as by 1916 when he next appears in military records, he has been promoted through the ranks to Lance Sergeant. During this period he also transferred from the 2nd Battalion to the 1st. This was probably due to the horrific level of casualties suffered within the Regiment early on in the war. By the end of the first week of November 1914 there were only 32 survivors out of a total of 998 men from the 1st Battalion. The 2nd Battalion had suffered 676 casualties.

Percy had done well to survive. But not only did he survive, he displayed outstanding gallantry and the Surrey Times of September 8th 1916 lists him as one of 11 men from The Queen’s to be awarded the Military Medal for gallantry. Although the citation has not been found, we know from the Regimental war diaries that Percy’s award was gained in the Somme during the battle to take and retake High Wood between the 15th and the 21st July 1916, during which the Battalion suffered 362 casualties.

As with most ‘other ranks’ there is little evidence of Percy’s achievements during the War. Commissioned officers were routinely listed by name in the war diaries, if they were injured, killed or led particularly notable actions. Enlisted men and ‘other ranks’ were largely anonymous. However, during the period between July 1916 and September 1917, we know that he was not only promoted to full Sergeant but gained a Bar to his Military Medal for a further act of gallantry. Percy’s war ended on October 2nd 1917 at the age of 22yrs when he died of wounds inflicted on the battlefield.

We can only speculate about the exact circumstances of Percy’s death, but the Regimental war diaries suggest he was probably one of the 387 casualties the Regiment suffered during the battle for Polygon Wood between September 25th and 28th 1917.

Sources:

Regimental war diaries of the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment

Private Jasper (Jack) Huggett

Jasper, known to the family as Jack, was born on the 4 November 1895 at 13 Oakwood Road, Thornton Heath, West Croydon. He first went to Boston Road Infants’ School on 5 June 1899, before joining the boys’ school from 6 April 1903. He left on 26 March 1909 to become a labourer. Jack’s parents were Daniel and Annie Huggett, and he had many siblings (at least 15!). The 1901 census shows his address as 1 Oakwood Road, Croydon, while by 1911 the family had moved to 72 Donald Road, West Croydon.

Jack volunteered for the Army at the age of 19 on the 14 November 1914, enrolling into the 1st Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment. After a short period of training, he arrived in France two months later on the 22 January 1915 and was initially stationed at Le Havre base for a week before entering the trenches in the Cuinchy area. He was present at the battalion’s actions on 10 March (Neuve Chapelle), 9 May (Aubers Ridge) and 28 May (Festubert), before being wounded in action on the first day of the Battle of Loos (25 September 1915). The wound was sufficient for him to be invalided home on the 2 October, from Le Havre to Southampton aboard the Asturius. Jasper had recovered sufficiently to attend a Buckingham Palace garden party on 22 March 1916. Between the 3 July 1917 and January 1919, Jack served with the Labour Corps (Unit 326, HS Works Company) as a carpenter. His service documents also state that he was attached to the 29th Battalion Middlesex Regiment as well as to the Bedfordshire Regiment. Jack Huggett was discharged to the Class Z Reserve on 14 March 1919.

Jack became engaged to Hilda Emmeline Lane (born 2 August 1896) on 21 May 1918 and they married in St John’s Church, Red Lion Square, Holborn, London, on 9 January 1921. Jack and Hilda initially lived at 33 Lime Grove, New Malden, Surrey, for ten years, raising three children, Peggy, Peter and John. The family later moved to 16, Ebbisham Road, Worcester Park, but were forced to move from there to rented accommodation in 1935 when they moved to 4, Carlton Crescent, North Cheam, Surrey, the house that became Jack’s home for the rest of his life. The 1939 register confirms that address and details Jasper as a wood fencer and ‘Carpenter (Heavy Worker)’.

Jasper died at home on 17 February 1957 of chronic bronchitis and cardiac failure at the age of 61 years. He was buried in Cuddington Cemetery, Worcester Park.

Corporal William Ernest Mauvan

This story is the result of an investigation of documents held by Surrey History Centre. The file (SHC ref. CC7/4/4, nos. 1-50) contains correspondence and insurance claims on behalf of Surrey County Council Education Department employees who had been killed in action during the Great War. The cases date from 1915 to 1918.

Name:                                       William Ernest Mauvan

Occupation:                             Epsom Church of England School

Birth Place:                              Withington, Herefordshire

Residence:                                Y.M.C.A., Ashbourne House, Waterloo Road, Epsom

Date of Death:                         Killed in Action 9th August 1915

Age:                                           30 years (30th December 1884)

Location:                                  Suvla Bay, Gallipoli

Rank:                                         Corporal

Regiment:                                 2/4th Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment

Regimental Number:             T/3356

William was the son of William and Louise Mauvan, both school teachers at Withington School near Hereford. They lived at 7, Elm Road, Hereford. William had four siblings, and at the time of his death Alice (aged 34) was a teacher in Birmingham, Agnes (29) a typist in London, and brothers Charles (31) and Alec (27) were soldiers.

William’s brother Alec and Charles both served in the war, in the Army Service Corps and the Royal Army Medical Corps respectively. Both survived.

William was educated at the Hereford Cathedral School, before, on the 13th of November 1899, becoming a goods clerk for the Great Western Railway Company, based at Cheltenham station. He was 14 years old. He subsequently moved to Hereford station in October 1900. William resigned from the company on 5th July 1902.

The 1911 census records him as boarding at 12 Sandfield Terrace, Guildford, Surrey, and working as an assistant school teacher with the ‘municipal borough council’. He was working at the Epsom Church of England School, and had been teaching at the local Sunday school.

On enlistment he was living at the Y.M.C.A., Ashbourne House, Waterloo Road, Epsom.

William enlisted into the 2/4th Queen’s, formed in August 1914 and a Territorial Force (T.F.) battalion, which like the rest of the T.F., was established for ‘Home Service’ only.  Territorial soldiers, including William, had to volunteer for overseas service.

William’s army number, T/3356, suggests he may have been Territorial Force soldier before the war. The Epsom Advertiser in September 1915 lends this theory some support by affirming that he had been a member of the 5th East Surrey Regiment, which was a pre-war Territorial battalion.

On 17th July 1915 William and the 2/4th Queen’s embarked on HMT Ulysses at Devenport, heading to Malta to join up with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. They then sailed to Egypt where they spent just over a week before taking part in the landings at ‘C’ Beach, Suvla Bay in Gallipoli on 9th of August.

It was back on 25th April 1915, that British and French troops as well as divisions of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) had launched an amphibious invasion to seize the Gallipoli peninsula from the Ottoman Empire, a German ally. The campaign had, by mid-October, turned into a war of attrition with the Allies bogged down, suffering heavy casualties.

To try and break the deadlock, the allies planned an assault on Suvla Bay to secure it as a base for future offensive operations on the peninsula. It was thought that the Turkish troops defending the bay ‘were not formidable’.  Suvla Bay was shaped like an inverted ‘C’ and was a natural harbour for ships bringing in reinforcements and supplies.

The landings began on 6th August, with William’s battalion going ashore on the 8th at ‘C’ beach, to the south-west of the bay, i.e. at the bottom of the inverted ‘C’. Early on the 9th they were ordered to move forward to support 33 Infantry Brigade which was struggling in an attack on enemy forces in the area of Chocolate Hill (Hill 53), a high point inland overlooking the bay. The battalion moved off at 6.40 a.m. and immediately started taking casualties from enemy artillery.

They made their way to Chocolate Hill and were almost immediately ordered to attack Hill 70, 600 yards to their front and which became known as ‘Scimitar Hill’ because of its curved summit. Between 7.30 a.m. and noon the battalion launched at least two attacks on the hill, all the time taking casualties.  At one point they were also fired upon by the British guns from behind them. By midday, the battalion had suffered 258 casualties; it had gone into action with 700 men. By then, given an absence of orders, the survivors returned to a captured Turkish trench and dug in. They were relieved on the 14th of August. It was during the attacks on the 9th that William died.

The landings failed, a stalemate set in, and for the next two months the battalion remained in and around Suvla Bay, digging trenches and carrying out garrison duty. They were withdrawn on 13th December; only 24 officers and 224 other ranks remained.

The Surrey Mirror on Friday 10 September 1915 (‘The Queen’s in Action’), published a depressingly long list of 2/4th Battalion men who died in the same attack as William.

On the 17th of September 1915, The Epsom Advertiser printed the following:

CORPL. W. E. MAUVAN, who has been reported missing at the Dardanelles, belonged to the 5th East Surrey Regiment and lived at the Y.M.C.A., Ashbourne House, Waterloo-road Epsom. Before enlisting Corpl. Mauvan was a teacher at the Hook-road Council Schools, Epsom and shorthand master at the Technical Institute evening continuation classes. He was very popular with his colleagues, and much liked by all with whom he came in contact.

Captain W.F. Newbevon, Officer Commanding Administrative Centre, 4th Queen’s, in Croydon, replied (undated) to a letter from William’s father:

‘I am sorry that I am not in a position to give you any information myself about him.

I have made inquiries from another Corporal who was in the same Platoon as your son was, but beyond the fact that he informs me that he was not wounded up to the time, he last saw him, he says that he has not seen him since the date he was reported missing, namely, 9th august 1915.

It is not probable that he is a prisoner in the hands of the Turks, but as far as I am aware no official lists of their prisoners have yet come to hand.’

After his death, William’s family pursued an insurance claim with Surrey County Council, who had taken out an insurance policy on behalf of William.  As part of the process, the Council carried out an investigation into the circumstances of the family. In a letter to Surrey County Council, his father describes himself as a retired school teacher on a pension of £55 a year ‘after 35 years of service’.

A referee from the local Naval & Military War Pensions committee describes the father as ‘very lame and can hardly get about’, and that the couple need help. The family was eventually awarded £86.10 shillings and 7 pence.

William’s body was never recovered, and he is commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli (Turkey). He is also remembered on the following memorials:

William is also remembered on the St Martin of Tours Church, Epsom, Roll of Honour, which has the inscription:

WILFRED E. MAUVAN, took part in the operations at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, was reported missing and was presumed killed on 8th August 1915. He was an Assistant Master at the Church of England Boys School and taught in the Church Sunday School.

William is entitled to the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Sources

Surrey History Centre File CC7/4/4, file 19

Colonel H.C. Wylly, History of The Queen’s Royal (West Surrey) Regiment in The Great War (1925)

Regimental War Diary – 2/4th Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment

Surrey Mirror – Friday 03 September 1915, The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, a picture of William as part of 6th Platoon.

Further details of William can be found at: http://www.epsomandewellhistoryexplorer.org.uk/WarMemorialsSurnamesM.html#MauvanWE

England Census

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – https://www.cwgc.org/

Ancestry website – https://www.ancestry.co.uk/

 

Private Arthur Barnfield

This story is the result of an investigation of documents held by Surrey History Centre. The file (SHC ref. CC7/4/4, nos. 1-50) contains correspondence and insurance claims on behalf of Surrey County Council Education Department employees who had been killed in action during the Great War. The cases date from 1915 to 1918.

Name: Arthur Ewart Barnfield

Occupation: Assistant Teacher, Council School

Birth Place: Newport, Monmouthshire

Residence: Southfields, Surrey

Date of Death: Killed-in-Action 13th April 1918

Age: 29 years (Born 30th November 1888)

Location: Meteren, France

Rank: Private

Regiment: 1st Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment

Regimental Number: T/206126

Arthur was the son of Thomas, a stone mason, and Susan of Newport in Monmouthshire, Wales. The 1911 census states that Thomas and Susan had three children, of whom only two survived. Arthur’s brother, Trevor John, was a builder’s clerk, and would fight in the Monmouthshire Regiment from February 1915. He survived the war.

Arthur was educated at Newport Intermediate School, and in 1907, he passed (‘Second Division’) the University of London matriculation test. No record can be found of Arthur attending nor qualifying from the University.

In the 1911 census he was boarding at 264, Sandycombe, Kew Gardens, listing his profession as an elementary school master. On 28th July 1914, Arthur married Rose Lydia Weaver in St Luke’s Church, Richmond. By now, he was living in Greenford Road, Sutton, and working as an elementary school teacher with Surrey Education Committee. It has not been possible to trace the school at which he taught.

On 1st December 1916 he was conscripted into the 4th Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment. At the time he was living at 132 Balvernie Grove, Southfields. He was aged 27 years and 7 months. The 4th Battalion was a reserve unit that provided replacements for front-line battalions. It not known when Arthur joined the 1st Battalion, a regular army unit, nor when he went to the front.

The 1st Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment had been in France and Belgium since the very start of the war. They had fought in almost every major engagement on the western front – from Mons, Aisne, Loos, Second Ypres, the Somme, Arras and Passchendaele.

In January 1918 the battalion moved to Longuenesse in France, and in February came under the orders of the 100th Infantry Brigade, part of the 33rd Division. They trained and paraded for much of January and February, before moving back to the front near Poperinge in Belgium. They remained in the Ypres sector for the next month.

On the 21st of March, the Germans launched the first of what to be a series of massive offensives in the west. The first fell on the old Somme battlefields, and the battalion was warned of a move south as reinforcements. On 31st March they began their move down to the Arras sector, and it was there when the Germans began a new offensive on 9th April.

On the morning of the 11th, the battalion moved up to an area south-west of Meteren. The village had been under artillery fire since the previous evening. On the 12th, at 1 p.m., the battalion was ordered to take up a defensive position. When they moved forward they found their positions occupied by enemy machine gunners, and when finally they got into position they discovered they were relatively isolated – with only a couple of other battalions alongside, covering a front of over 2,100 metres.

At 5.32 p.m. the war diary describes how the ‘enemy attacked in waves several times, but was stopped without difficulty, and suffered many casualties’. A history of the battalion records the words of ‘one who was there’:

‘The whole line vomited out a blaze of fire; ahead of us Germans reeled and fell, the grey horse reared up on its hind legs and horse and rider fell in a heap. The whole column broke and fled helter-skelter, but still the hail of bullets ceaselessly sped from Lewis gun and rifle, and bigger and bigger grew the heaps of corpses in front.’

However, the battalion was slowly pushed back. The 13th of April saw further attacks under the cover of heavy artillery and mortar fire. The 1st Battalion was slowly pushed back under the pressure of these attacks. However, towards evening reinforcements had begun to arrive, and other units moved into the area in support. That evening passed comparatively peacefully.

It was during these heavy attacks around Belle Croix Farm, to the south of Meteren village, that Arthur lost his life.

The 1st Battalion continued to defend against heavy attacks on the 14th and was finally relieved on the 15th. The Battalion had 4 officers and 36 other ranks killed or died of wounds, 8 officers and 161 other ranks were wounded, and 1 officer and 160 men were missing.

Arthur’s body was never recovered, and he is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium, and on the Richmond War memorial.

He is entitled to the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Sources

War Diary – 1st Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment
The Cardiff Times, 3rd August 1907 – ‘University of London Matriculation: Local Successes’
Surrey Recruitment Registers 1908-1933
Colonel H.C. Wylly, History of The Queen’s Royal (West Surrey) Regiment in The Great War, (1925)
Commonwealth War Graves Commission – https://www.cwgc.org/
Ancestry website – https://www.ancestry.co.uk/

Herbert Henry Bowerman of Worplesdon

Herbert Henry Bowerman was was born in Chalgrove, Oxfordshire, on 9 April 1881. In 1891 he and his siblings were living with his mother, Ann, and stepfather George Morley, an agricultural labourer.  By 1901, the family had moved to St John’s, Woking where George was now a railway platelayer and Herbert a nursery labourer (and now merely described as George’s son, although the reality seems to have been more complicated).

Herbert (‘Bert’), now married to Louise and living in Worplesdon, enlisted in Guildford and joined the 2nd Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment as a Private (no. G/37600).  Three letters to his mother (‘Mumsy’) and sister, Laura, from the trenches, one dated 5 May 1917, allow us a glimpse of the last few weeks of his life.  His health was often poor which meant he struggled with training, and his bad chest was exacerbated by the cold and wet conditions in the spring of 1917: ‘I feel awfully weak some days but they say it is no use going to the doctor unless you are nearly dead.  Life at the front was ‘something awfull (sic) mud up to one’s neck and no place to sleep in, only what you see the gipsy put up under the hedges a piece of canvas over a pole hanging down both sides’.  The initially successful Battle of Arras having ground to a halt, Bert could see no end to the ‘awfull affair …. unless something unforeseen happen or it be God’s will that it should stop’.  He describes his comrades as ‘fed up with this life but determined to see it through’.

In his letter to his sister he bemoans the scarcity of writing paper which prevents him writing often, the shortage of money (‘we never know when we are going to get our pay’) and again his terrible surroundings: ‘every village is blow to the level of the ground not a building standing anywhere … the life here is horrible am writing this wet through & no chance of drying my things and to make matters worse they have taken our blanket and coats away leaving us with only a waterproof sheet to lie on, and this under a piece of canvass stretched across a pole like you see Gipsys with, I might say they are not fit for a dog to lie in yet there are 6 & 7 human beings huddled in these places’.

Bert’s letter to his sister (7361/2)

Poignantly in one of the letters to his mother, aware of unfinished business, he makes a move to repair what seems to have been a complicated relationship with his stepfather, George, by asking to be remembered ‘to the Dad’. He goes on ‘I suppose you will be surprised to see this word but I know in my heart he has deserved this title always but I suppose it was pride that kept me from calling him this’.

Sadly he had no opportunity to pursue this tentative reconciliation in person. In a letter of 17 May, 2nd Lieutenant GA Streeter of D Company wrote to Bert’s wife Louise that her husband had been killed in action on 12 May 1917.  He was part of a carrying party following a successful attack on the village of Bullecourt, south east of Arras, by British and Australian troops (163 of the 499 men of the battalion were casualties in the attack).  Streeter reported that a shell had exploded nearby and that there had been no chance to recover any of Bert’s effects because the ground was swept by continuous heavy shellfire: ‘the only consolation is that he is far better off now, as I know he led a good life’.

Sources

Letters and other documents relating to Herbert H Bowerman, deposited in Surrey History Centre by his great-neice, Mrs M A Dods (SHC ref 7361)

War diary of 2nd Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment

Lance Corporal Herbert William Carpenter

Researched and written by Anne Wright

L/Cpl H W Carpenter
7th Battalion, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment
G/64014
Killed in action, 29.9.1918
Age, 33

Herbert William Carpenter, the son of a wheelwright and grandson of a blacksmith was born in Reigate in 1885. His parents Albert and Mary Ann (nee Gates) were both born in Headley in Hampshire, he in 1848 and she a year earlier. Herbert was the fifth of their six children. The family lived in Yorke Road, Reigate throughout Herbert’s childhood. He was a pupil at Reigate Grammar School. By 1911 they had moved to 69, Oxford Avenue, Merton and he still lived with them having followed in the footsteps of his two older brothers and become a school teacher. Sometime between 1911 and 1914 he moved to Weybridge where he lived at 2 Minorca Road and became an assistant master at St. James’ School (Baker Street). On 1 January 1914, at St. James’ Church he married Mary Ellen Mitchell a teaching colleague and fellow resident of Minorca Road (no. 8). Like her father, Harry Colin, and her siblings Mary was a native of Weybridge. Herbert became a teacher at and then head of Abinger Council School, Dorking; they lived in the School House at Abinger Common. He was also a scoutmaster and during the winter months organised successful evening classes for former pupils. Their only child, a son, Herbert Colin was born in 1915.

Herbert enlisted in Dorking; he joined the 7th Battalion, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment. They were under the 55th Brigade in the 18th (Eastern) Division. Their embarkation began on 24 July 1915 and they spent the remainder of the war on the Western Front. This included the Battle of the Somme, 1916 and the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), 1917. By mid- February 1918 the Battalion was at Frieres Camp near St. Quentin. They went into the front line on the 25th and had an ‘exceedingly quiet’ time in the Vendhuile Sector. The 7th Battalion was still in this sector when the Germans’ Spring Offensive began on 21 March. The enemy broke through on both flanks and they were forced to withdraw to defensive points. By the beginning of June they were in the line immediately to the west of Albert. There was a period of relief for Herbert and his comrades in the second half of July when they spent ‘a very pleasant and comfortable’ break at the village of Pissy where they were able to relax, enjoy sporting competitions and there were even visits to the seaside for some.

This brief interlude was followed by continued efforts to push the Germans back beyond their last line of defence on the Western Front, the Hindenburg Line which ran from the area around Arras to beyond St. Quentin. On 1 September the battalion was near Albert, they spent much of September in and out of the front line. They sustained heavy casualties on the 18th when they went into the line at Ronssoy; 7 killed, 61 wounded and 18 gassed. During the next few days they come under heavy machine gun fire and shelling. Herbert survived all of this; he was one of ‘A’ Company to be mentioned in the War Diary for ‘good work in the line during recent operations (18-24 September)’.

On 29 September the battalion was in a concentration area just east of Guyencourt; at 10.45am they set off down the Macquincourt Valley to take up a position in order to carry out the mopping up of Vendhuile (19 km north of St. Quentin). An hour later they were ordered to halt and hold their position because of German resistance ahead. At 7.10pm they passed to the 54th Brigade as a counter-attacking battalion, it was 9pm before they were able to move to take up their new positions; at some point in this period Herbert’s ‘A’ Company was on ration carrying duties. They were unable to reach their destination because of rain, mist and darkness and at midnight had to pause to rest in a trench. The battalion finally reached their new positions at 4am on 30 September. Herbert was killed during this chaotic day. Intermittent shelling and machine-gun fire was reported to have continued throughout the 29th. He was hit whilst leading his section under very heavy shell fire; he was observed to be encouraging and helping others until he was killed by a bursting shell. Ironically, the Allies breached the Hindenburg Line on this day and by 5 October had complete control of these defences. Sadly, Herbert was killed just when the end of the war came into sight. Captain Springfield wrote to his widow that ‘He was truly loved by us all, and his going has left a huge gap.’

He was buried in Unicorn Cemetery (II.A.10) 3 km south-west of Vendhuile. In his will, dated 10 May 1918, he left everything to his wife with his fondest love and gratitude and ‘…knowing she will bring my boy up to a fine English manhood.’ That boy graduated from Christ’s College, Cambridge University in 1937. He joined the same regiment as his father had done in the First World War, but in the 5th not the 7th Battalion to see service in the Second World War. Subsequently, he became a pilot in the RAF (45323) serving with 239 Squadron. Herbert Colin Carpenter was killed in action on 30 May 1942. He is buried in St. James’ Churchyard, Abinger.

In constant and adored memory of Lt. Herbert Colin Carpenter…..killed in action, May 30 1942, aged 26 years, the precious only child of Herbert W. Carpenter (7th Bn., Queen’s Royal Regiment, killed in France, September 1918) and Mary Carpenter of Abinger Common.

“And the sun went down”
(A newspaper In Memoriam, 30 May1946)

Sources:

British Soldiers’ Wills, 1850-1966, https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk
England, Andrews Newspaper Index Cards, 1790-1976, www.ancestry.co.uk
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, www.ancestry.co.uk
Memorial to the Masters and Old Boys of St James’ School, Weybridge, Who Fell in the Great War of 1914-1918, St James’ Church
Surrey, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1937, www.ancestry.co.uk
Turner-Powell Family Tree, www.ancestry.co.uk
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, www.ancestry.co.uk

Private Francis William Foster

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Pte F W Foster
1st Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
G/13800
Killed, 9.10.1918
Age, 36

All three Foster brothers served in the Great War. Two did not survive: both were killed in the final months of the conflict. Francis William was the eldest of Francis (Frank) and Martha Elizabeth’s children. He was born in Oatlands Park on 23 July 1882 and baptised three months later at St. James’ Church, Weybridge on 18 October. His first home was in Vale Road, Walton-on-Thames before the family moved to 4, Yew Tree Cottages, New Road in Weybridge where they were living in 1901. By this stage Francis had started his working career as a domestic gardener. He had the same occupation when he married Elizabeth Collyer on 14 January 1911 at St. Michael & All Angels Church in Pirbright. At the time of their marriage both were residents of Pirbright but soon established their home at 2 Heath Road in Weybridge.

Francis enlisted in Weybridge; he did not serve against Germany during 1914-15 as he did not receive the 1914-15 Star campaign medal. He joined the 1st Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). They, as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), landed at Le Havre on 13 August 1914 and remained on the Western Front throughout the war. By the time Francis joined them they were part of the 100th Brigade in the 33rd Division and from 2 February 1918 were part of the 19th Brigade in the same division. They were involved in the British Army’s first engagement with the Germans at the Battle of Mons, 23-24 August 1914 and the retreat which followed. Amongst other battles, they fought at the Marne in September 1914, the Somme in 1916, plus the Arras Offensive and the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) in 1917.

Francis would have experienced desperate fighting at the Battles of the Lys in April 1918, the second phase of the German Spring Offensive. His final engagement came near the end of the Battles of the Hindenburg Line, 12 September – 12 October when the Germans were at last being pushed back. During the first two weeks of September Francis and his comrades were training and carrying out normal routines at Ivergny (near Lens). They then had two short stints in the front line the second of which, on 21 September, cost them 39 killed, 134 wounded and 89 missing. Just over a week later they were in the line again and suffered a gas attack. After a brief respite Francis went into the line once more on 3 October. His last battle was the 2nd Battle of Cambrai launched on 8 October. By 6.30pm the battalion had moved to La Pannerie North and bivouacked in the open. At 9.45pm they received the order to be ready to move forward at short notice. At 1.45am on 9 October they advanced. They marched through Aubencheul-aux-Bois and Villers Outreaux but the road was then found to be mined and the transport could go no further; the Lewis guns were unloaded and the advance continued through Malincourt. Casualties were sustained: amongst the other ranks 3 were killed, 16 wounded and 25 taken prisoner.

Francis was one of the fatalities. The battalion’s ‘Report on Operations, 9 October’ records that that two men were killed at 5.20am when ‘….a few of our shells fell on A Company’s ‘jumping off’ position.’ Francis may have been one of them. However, he may have fallen victim to enemy machine gun fire. The British and Canadian forces liberated Cambrai on the day Francis died. The Germans were forced back to a new line on the R. Selle near Le Cateau. Ironically, the British were moving back to the battlefields of 1914. One month of fighting remained.

Francis is buried in Hautmont Communal Cemetery (IV.B.40) 5 km SW of Maubeuge. Immediately above him on the Weybridge Memorial is his brother, Ernest James. His wife, Elizabeth, was a widow for almost ten years before remarrying to Henry Phillips at St. Paul’s Church, Woking on 16 June 1927. The youngest brother, Nelson John, served in the East Surrey Regiment (L/12381) and survived the war. He returned to the family home in New Road where he lived until at least 1931.

Sources:

British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1937, www.ancestry.co.uk
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long, Long Trail – Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), www.longlongtrail.co.uk/

Private William Bullimore

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Pte W Bullimore
1st Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
G/15016
Killed in action, 23.4.1917
Age, 21

William Bullimore was born in France and died in France. His birth occurred in Boulogne in 1896 and he was the youngest of four children. William’s parents, Thomas William and Charlotte (nee Hall) were both natives of Norfolk, having been born in Dilham and Reepham, respectively. They married at Windsor in December 1888. Thomas Bullimore was a gardener; William’s brother, Thomas, was also born in France so their father may have been in domestic service there. By 1901 the family had returned to Britain and were living at The Gardens, Canons Park, Little Stanmore, near Harrow. In 1911, William, his parents and one of his sisters were residing at 9, Calvert Cottages, Glencoe Road in Weybridge. Thomas still earned his living as a gardener. Before enlistment William was employed at West Hall in Byfleet the home of the Stoop family.

William enlisted in Guildford. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). His battalion was initially part of the 3rd Brigade in the 1st Division. They landed at Le Havre on 13 August 1914. The 1st Battalion saw action in the first Battle of Ypres (18 October-11 November 1914) in which they were so badly damaged that they had to be formed into one Company on 9 November with just 170 NCOs and men. Much of 1915 was spent in the vicinity of Bethune with more fighting experience in the Battle of Loos in September of that year. On 15 December, by now back to battalion strength, they began service in the 100th Brigade of the 33rd Division which was to last until February 1918. They saw action on the Somme near Bazentin in July 1916 and by 28 February 1917 were in the front line near Albert. Much of March was spent in training. On 22 April William’s battalion received orders to take part on an attack on the Hindenburg Line immediately south of the River Sensee.

Between 14 March and 5 April the Germans on the Somme had retreated to their fortified defences on the Hindenburg Line. The attacking troops moved forward at 4.45 am on 23 April. Their objective was to take and hold 400 yards of the first and second German trenches on the Hindenburg Line. The first line was protected by at least two rows of barbed wire with more thick wire in front of the second trench. The first German line was taken just after 5 am but the wire in front of the second line was still intact so the advancing soldiers took cover in shell holes as the enemy could still shoot from their parapet. As the morning progressed shortage of bombs and ammunition became a problem and at 1.20pm there was heavy bombing from five German positions. Shortly afterwards the Germans attacked. A retreat was ordered from the right flank during which many casualties were sustained. 2/Lt H V Lacey was the only officer of the 1st Battalion to return from the German lines unwounded. William was among over 300 other ranks reported missing. Over 100 of his comrades were wounded and 26 killed. His death was not officially confirmed until September 1917.

Pte William Bullimore has no known grave. He is commemorated with almost 35,000 others on the Arras Memorial (Bay 2) in Faubourg-d’Amiens Cemetery in the western part of Arras. His parents continued to live in Weybridge for many years after the war at 2, Oxford Villas in New Road.

Sources:

The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long, Long Trail – 1st Division & 33rd Division, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1962, www.ancestry.co.uk
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, www.ancestry.co.uk

Lieutenant Francis William Ashton Buckell

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Lt F W A Buckell
3/4th Battalion,
the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment),
att. 8th Battalion

Killed in action, 21.3.1918
Age, 42

At 42 years of age, Francis William Ashton Buckell is one of the three oldest men commemorated on the Weybridge Memorial as a fatality of the First World War. Before his military service he had been an architect who, certainly from 1911 onwards, lived at Seaton House in Church Street, Weybridge. He shared this home with his brother, Clyde Westmore Ashton Buckell, a dentist. Only two years separated the brothers and they had been pupils together at Haileybury College in Hertfordshire.

They were both born in Chichester, Sussex to Dr Leonard Buckell (1820-1899) a General Practitioner, and his wife Mary Augusta, nee Ashton, formerly Duke (1838-1911). Their marriage, which was a second marriage for both, took place on 31 October 1872, in Chichester. Francis, the second of their three children was born on 20 May 1875 and baptised at All Saints’ Church, in the town on 24 June 1875. Besides his two full siblings Francis also had half-siblings from his parents’ previous marriages. In 1881, still in Chichester, he was part of a large household which included his parents, six siblings and six domestic staff. By 1906 Francis had become an architect and in that year travelled to Canada and in 1907 to the USA.

The 3/4th Queen’s Battalion (Royal West Surrey Regiment) was formed at Windsor in June 1915. They did not go to France until August 1917, as part of the 62nd Brigade in the 21st Division. Francis had only re-joined his battalion on 4 August having been wounded on 21 June 1917. They were in trenches south-east of Polygon Wood (near Ypres) on 3 October and involved in heavy fighting the next day when 52 were killed. He was still on the Roll of Officers on 31 October. On the first day of 1918 they were at Heudecourt, 13 km north-east of Peronne. In February the battalion was disbanded; the number of battalions in an infantry brigade was reduced from four to three and undermanned battalions were broken up. Seven officers and 145 other ranks of the 3/4th Battalion transferred to the 8th Battalion between 5-16 February. However, Francis was not one of those named officers but his Commonwealth War Graves Commission record acknowledges that he was attached to the 8th Battalion. His Campaign Medals Card records that he was reported missing on 21 March 1918 and he must have later been presumed to have died on that date; his body was not recovered.

The 21st was the first day of the German Spring Offensive and if Francis was with the 8th Battalion he would have been involved in the heroic defence of the village of Le Veguier (east of Peronne). It was a day of thick mist, heavy enemy bombardment, heavy fighting and much confusion. The Germans started a bombardment at 4.40 am which continued for 8 hours, their infantry moved forward at 10.30 am and the front companies of the 8th were cut off from their comrades as the Germans worked around both flanks and cut the wire under cover of the fog. Those holding the village were then subjected to heavy frontal and flank attacks but they kept the enemy back with Lewis gun and rifle fire. The Germans renewed their bombardment in the evening and it lasted all night. The 8th Battalion held on for the whole day and were only ordered to retreat on 22 March when their situation became impossible. Seventy of their number was lost on that day; just 12 have known graves.

Francis is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial (Panels 14 & 15) in the village of that name, 6 km north-east of Albert. Over 14,000 other casualties of the Spring Offensive share this Memorial. Sadly, Francis’ brother Clyde survived him by only three months; he died in Weybridge on 21 June. Their full sister Mary Noel Ashton Scott maintained the family link with Weybridge until her death there in 1958.

Sources:

Adele Buckell’s Tree, www.ancestry.co.uk
England, Select Births and Christenings, 1588-1975, www.ancestry.co.uk
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1962, www.ancestry.co.uk
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, www.ancestry.co.uk

Cranleigh in July 1918

Research and text by Joy Horn (as published in the Cranleigh Magazine)

At the Guildford Borough Bench, a bar attendant and the manageress of the Lion Hotel in Guildford were both fined £5 on two counts of buying a round of drinks for other people. This was known as ‘treating’, and was forbidden during the war under DORA, the Defence of the Realm Act. In court, it was said that ‘treating was going on wholesale, in spite of the law’.

Postcard of the Onslow Arms, post-marked 1908,

Title: Postcard of the Onslow Arms, post-marked 1908,
Description: By kind permission of Roy Pobgee by-nc

On 14 July, French National Day, the 1st Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) [Regiment] had a photo taken in front of a grand building. They look very smart and well disciplined. This was the regiment in which many Cranleigh men served. After their brave exertions and considerable losses in the Battle of the Lys, they were having some rest this month in the area of Brandhoek, a few miles west of Ypres. Perhaps a reader knows where this photo was taken.

Joe Cheesman, the Cranleigh man who had become a prisoner-of-war in April, had been moved by his German captors from his work as a mechanic in a motor workshop. His letters home describe how, with other prisoners, he had been put into ‘a big, empty factory’, from which working parties went out every day. After a week, 140 of them were moved to another camp not far away. The food was not so good there but at least the camp was registered with the Red Cross, so that they had received some soap at last! Joe was not allowed to disclose his whereabouts in any of his letters, but after the war he told his family that he had not been taken to Germany, despite his address of ‘Limburg an der Lahn’, but was all the time behind the lines in Belgium. Back at home, though, his mother was told by the Central POW Committee that ‘the address “Limburg a/Lahn” is not sufficient for letters and parcels’, so Joe had not yet heard anything from his family.

The Hambledon Tribunal was still meeting every two weeks, trying to be fair in granting exemption from military service, while still securing as many men as possible for the armed services. Sir Charles Chadwyck-Healey of Wyphurst – now St Joseph’s school – applied to the Tribunal on July 10th on behalf of his coachman, G.T. Card, aged 49, declaring that he ‘could not be any use in the Army’. ‘If the worst comes to the worst,’ he said, ‘I shall have to put him on the land.’ (This would have ensured he was exempt.) ‘I have been having German prisoners, but I have not been able to get much work out of them’ (laughter). It is worth noting that Sir Charles was using a coach in 1918: perhaps it was because the use of cars was severely restricted.

The mood of local people may be seen in their popular songs. A song annual on sale this month by The Piano House in Guildford (price one shilling) included these titles: ‘There’s a ship that’s bound for Blighty’, ‘When the bells of peace are ringing’, ‘I never knew how much I loved you till you said “Goodbye”’, ‘I don’t want to go back’ and ‘Ten days’ leave’.

The Surrey Advertiser announced that ‘Nut shells and fruit kernels are urgently needed for the making of charcoal for anti-gas respirators, and all are urged to save and collect them.’ They were to be sent in bags to Captain Rickett, Gas Works, Southend-on-Sea.