The Impact of WW1 on the Lingfield and Dormansland Area in 1914

Research and text contributed by the RH7 History Group

During the period of WW1 radio was in its infancy and newspapers were one of the main means of reporting news and also communicating official information and instructions.  Both the Surrey Mirror and The East Grinstead Observer continued to be published weekly during the war.  The main theatres of the war and national events were covered but from the point view of the impact of the war on the local area the two publications are a rich source of information.  Reports of events in the RH7 area are usually brief, however the ‘snippets’ which were found give an insight into the life ‘on the home front’.


Preparations for War
In the months before August no mention of war was found in the local papers, although contingencies were quietly being put in place.  On 25 July The East Grinstead Observer reported on a Red Cross Field Day held at Imberhorne Farm.  A rest station was prepared ‘near an imaginary battle’ and Territorials in battle kit acted as ‘eounded’, while stretcher bearers administered first-aid and dressed wounds.

The declaration of war on 4 August 1914 initially did not have a great impact on daily life.  The Surrey Mirror edition on the same day carried a cautious report on Britain’s involvement in war.  By the 11 August edition on the same day reported that all doubts were now removed and ‘we know that practically the whole of Europe is in the grip of war…the Fleet is ready and the army mobilising.’

Once war was declared, however, it did not take long for things to step up a gear and for the public to get behind the war effort.  Territorials guarded lines of communication.  Important sections of practically every railway line in the country were guarded, especially lines between Southampton, Aldershot, Chatham and London over which troops might have to be conveyed.

Locally Boy Scouts were posted to guard the viaduct bridge over Cooks Pond, Dormans Park.

Advertisements appeared in the papers for Army pensioners to act as Recruiters and by September the British Red Cross was asking for bandages, instructing people to boil the calico before tearing, leaving no selvedges; the length and width were to be marked with ink and fastened with safety pins.

The Lingfield Emergency Committee was formed.  ‘All the chief residents, farmers, tradesmen and many members of the working class were invited to serve’.  The committee would deal with recruiting, relief, food supply and other urgent matters.  There were appeals for aid for wives and families of soldiers and it was recorded that Lingfield Church gave £25 to the Prince of Wales Fund.  On 25 November the Dormansland school log reported that the children would give an entertainment in aid of the National Relief Fund; this took place in December and raised £13 2s. 11.5d.

Spy Mania
In October 1914, the Surrey Mirror reported that ‘a suspicious foreigner’ was found wandering in a field at Lingfield.  Karl Horvath, aged 18, was unable to give a good account of himself and was remanded; there was no report of what happened to him subsequently.

Alarming stories began to circulate in the local papers.  The Surrey Mirror reported that on Sunday 9 August a troop train near South Godstone was fired at and several windows smashed, although no-one was injured.  From the train four men were seen in a field on the east side of the line.  Three shots were fired at which the men then jumped into a motor car and drove away.  The train was pulled up and Territorials stationed at Redhill, together with police and motor scouts scoured the surrounding country.  ‘Residents in the neighbourhood joined warmly in the chase, one gentleman lending powerful motor car and also guns for six men to go with it.  But it was all in vain and those who man the attack got clean away.’  The next day an attempt was made to fire at Territorials on guard at the L.B. & S.C. Railway loop line at Holmthorpe just outside Redhill .  Sentries fired a round or two and called out the guard.  Two men were seen running away from the embarkment and a search was made but no-one was found.

At about the same time come reports of a troop train being fired upon at Edenbridge.  A rifle bullet was found in the woodwork of a carriage.  The police description of the suspect was circulated as someone ‘tall and dark with a sallow complexion and dark moustache’.  It is not clear what these reports meant but there has been some suggestion that these stories were a deliberate invention with the intention of keeping troops and Territorials on their toes.

Enlisting
Long lists of men who had enlisted were printed.  On 5 September 1914 the East Grinstead Observer reported an appeal from the vicar of East Grinstead for men to join up.  He expressed his hope that the rugby club would join up and cancel games as ‘this was no time for young able-bodied men to be playing or watching games’.  The scoutmaster for the 1st Lingfield and Dormansland troop. Captain Henry Lloyd Martin enlisted; he was later to be killed at the Battle of the Somme.  The scouts from Lingfield and Dormansland competed against the Oxted and Limpsfield scouts in a shooting match.  Several of the scouts taking part went on to enlist: assistant scountmaster Henry Cox became a gunner in the Royal Artillery; Arthur Potter and Albert Friend joined the Royal West Kent Regiment and George Skinner joined the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment.

Patriotism
Patriotic verses written by readers were published each week in the Surrey Mirror; these started off by being very jingoistic:
Still shall she rule the waves
Crushing usurping power…
but within weeks become much more sombre:
O God of our fathers hear our prayer
In this dark hour of strife…

National Loans meetings were held in Lingfield and Blindley Heath.  In Lingfield the meeting was chaired by Mr Gow of Batnor Hall; the Lingfield Band played patriotic airs and three cheers were given for ‘our soldiers in the trenches’.  At the Blindley Heath meeting the cry was ‘every man of military age and medically fit who has not joined the Colours must ask himself the question – why do I not enlist?’

Life goes on as Usual
On Saturday 1 August the annual church parade at Lingfield took place.  Taking part were the Fire Brigade, Friendly Societies with banners and sashes; the Lingfield and Dormansland Boy Scouts; the Copthorne Prize Band, the Dormansland Institute Band and Lingfield Band.  In September the Lingfield Harvest Festival went ahead as usual.  At Christmas Aladdin was playing at the Croydon Hippodrome.  Aladdin, played by Miss Lillie Lassae, encouraged the audience to help her with “Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers” and “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”.

In October, Lingfield Park Racecourse announced that the first autumn meeting would be held as usual.  It was felt that if it was stopped it would mean hardship for those employed.  Also if ‘the interest of owners is allowed to wane there would be serious blow to horse-breeding and the supply of animals to the army would be severely affected.  There should be no false sentiment about the propriety of holding the races’.  It was announced that all serving officers of army and navy were welcome to the course and enclosure free of charge.  Wives and daughters of members away serving in the forces would be allowed to use the member’s badge.

Food
There were official warnings against the hoarding of food but it seems that these appeals were generally ignored by the general public.  At the outbreak of war panic buying broke out and shops such as Sainsbury’s issued notices to the effect that its regular customers would be kept supplied.  The requisitioning of delivery horses by the army also affected distribution to Sainsbury’s branches and customers were asked to carry smaller parcels home themselves.

Demon Drink
By September it was recommended that due to the large numbers of troops billeted in East Grinstead the sale of intoxicating liquor was to be restricted.  The sale of alcohol was therefore suspended between 9pm and 9am.  The Government had grave concerns about the amount the public were drinking and was especially worried about the amount of beer munitions workers were drinking.  There followed new national regulations allowing the watering of beer.  This becomes known as ‘Government Ale’.  A line from a popular music hall song of the time went:
…But the worst thing that ever happened in this war
Is Lloyd George’s Beer.

The British Red Cross issued a warning to chauffeurs in charge of convalescent soldiers out for an airing in private motors who had been seen stopping off at public houses and treating the men to a drink.  It was requested that anyone seeing cases of this kind should report it to any Red Cross Convalescent Home in the neighbourhood.

Fuel
During the autumn and winter of 1914 supplies of fuel and light were curtailed, street lamps dimmed and no lines of light were permitted.

Events in Belgium
After the German invasion of Belgium many of the population were displaced.  By December the Surrey Mirror had started a weekly column in French for the benefit of the local influx of Belgian refugees.  Accommodation was offered in many places; locally The Colony (now Young Epilepsy) in St Piers Lane offered places for 36 refugees.

 

For information on the Lingfield and Dormansland covering the rest of the war years click the following links:

1915

1916

1917

1918

 

The Impact of WW1 on the Lingfield and Dormansland Area in 1917

Research and text contributed by the RH7 History Group

During the period of WW1 radio was in its infancy and newspapers were one of the main means of reporting news and also communicating official information and instructions.  Both the Surrey Mirror and The East Grinstead Observer continued to be published weekly during the war.  The main theatres of the war and national events were covered but from the point view of the impact of the war on the local area the two publications are a rich source of information.  Reports of events in the RH7 area are usually brief, however the ‘snippets’ which were found give an insight into the life ‘on the home front’.

 

Food
Food problems were now serious.  The Surrey War Agricultural Committee was set up in January 1917.  Examples of many of the proposals put forward by the committee being put into action were found in the local press.  People were urged not to panic and to cultivate vacant land.

Ploughing up pasture to grow potatoes and wheat meant less pasture for cattle (milk and meat).  ‘We must not deny our children milk’.  It was reported that ‘unless the price of feeding stuffs can be brought down it will be necessary to contemplate a large reduction in the live-stock of the county.  Home-produced fertilizer was produced – sulphate of ammonia mixed with basic slag.  There is a record in the Colony archives of this being ordered from Stanford’s in Lingfield.

Help was given in the purchase of seed potatoes.  In March, Crowhurst Parish Council reported that they had received a letter from the County Agricultural Committee asking what quantity of seed potatoes would be required by parishioners.  A guaranteed price for wheat was introduced.  The County War Agricultural Committee reported that to maintain food supplies more tractors must be used.  However farmers were very conservative and sceptical.  Demonstrators were arranged to show how much quicker ploughing would be if tractors were used and training was provided.  Local farmer Mr Young stated that he heard that ladies could drive tractors.  By March, 16hp Mogul tractors were being important from the USA but the purchase of new or second-hand tractors from this country was advocated to reduce the need for important machines.  However, the Chairman of the Agriculture Committee commented: ‘I understand that the Ford works in USA will be able to turn out tractors at £50…this will revolutionise agriculture…it will knock the English workers off their trade.’

With so many men away, many women started o work on the land.  A separate Women’s War Agriculture Committee was established to ‘get down to each parish’ to organise work for women.  It was decided that the best system was for women working on the land to work in gangs.  There should be a gang leader who would assemble the team and keep the time sheets.  The Home Defence Army was to help during the spring sowing season, also German prisoners, Interned Aliens and Conscientious Objectors.  To add to the difficulties there were reports of swine fever at Newchapel and potato disease at Baldwins Hill ‘which has wrought much havoc’.

Because of the sugar shortage those able to grow their own fruit were allowed sugar in order to preserve their crop.  The local papers printed weekly Hints for Allotment Holders to encourage people to grow their own fruit and vegetables.  Lingfield Drainage Committee received a request from Mr W. Watts to rent a piece of land at the sewage works.  This was agreed at a rent 10/- (50p).  The land had to be used for food production and subletting was not allowed.

The shooting season for pheasants was extended to 1 March.  Rabbits were to be ‘dealt with’ in February, March and April.  Appeals were made to local hunts to keep the numbers of foxes as low as possible.

In response to the massive amount of shipping lost to German U-Boats the Government authorised the organisation of a National Kitchen, where healthy and nourishing food was cooked and served to the masses now that most men had been called up to the Front and women had taken their places in the workforce.  Food shortages became a serious problem and initially food prices were fixed, eg the price of a quarter loaf was fixed at 9d; butchers were limited to 2 1/2d profit per pound.  Finally, the Government introduced food rationing, starting with sugar.  This was in place by the end of November.  The situation was not helped by adverse weather conditions – an abnormal, long and snow-bound winter; a belated and hurried ploughing season followed by a drought in May and then a wet and stormy August.

Patriotism
There were several War Aims Meetings in Surrey villages.  Their purpose was to explain the government war aims.  The Lingfield meeting was held on 26 November in the Victoria Institute.  An example of a resolution passed at these meetings: ‘This meeting heartily approves of the nation’s inflexible determination to continue the struggle until the evil forced which originated the conflict are destroyed and to maintain the ideals of liberty and justice which are the common and sacred cause of the allies.’

Troops
Throughout the year news of many deaths and injuries continue to be reported in the papers – too many to be listed here.  Apart from the dreaded bad news families must have been eager for any information.  The troops were restricted in what they could say and the other censor was very rigorous.  A set of postcards sent home by Stanley Jenner to his mother, and passed down to his daughter, are a good example of such correspondence.  Although there was no real news the letters must have been a comfort that as long as the cards kept coming, families knew that their loved one was still alive.

On 3 March the local paper reported on a military round up at the Racecourse: ‘On Saturday last the Military made a raid on the Lingfield racecourse at the conclusion of the day’s racing.’  Likely looking men were held up and requested to produce papers proving their exemption from military service.  A cinematograph operator who attempted to get a picture of the event had to be protected by the police and narrowly escaped a rough handling by some members of the crowd.  Five men were eventually taken.

Labour Shortage
A letter to the Surrey Mirror asking ‘what about the children of women who work?  Will the older children miss school to look after their younger brothers and sisters?  I call upon all women up to 60 for this work of national importance,  It is time to consider the citizens of the future.’

There were many reports of women taking over their husband’s work.  For example, in July the licence of the Royal Oak, Dormansland, was transferred from Albert Leigh (who was serving with the Colours) to his wife, Beatrice Annie Leigh.

Daily Life
In the midst of so much bad news the Observer reported on two weddings which took place in Ligfield church, on 27 October.  Frances Nita Fuller married Ernest William Frost.  He was a Canadian soldier and was on leave.  Nora Sybil Wallers married Percy William White, ‘one of our brave fellows who was wounded at Gallipoli and has now been discharged.’

Miss Norah Burton, chauffeur of Red Cottage, Station Road, Dormansland, was summoned for not drawing her bedroom blinds at night.  She wrote that she got into bed, leaving a candle burning by her bedside.  She was fined £1.

A Drama in Dormansland
‘On August Bank Holiday, Mr Winston Churchill, Minister of Munitions, and his wife left their residence, Lullenden, in their motor, proceeding to London.  On reaching The Crossway, the residence of Mr Davey Walker, another motorist approached from the blind turning and struck Mr Churchill’s car full broadside with such violent force that the vehicle was thrown on its side.  Mr and Mrs Churchill were badly shaken but as soon as they could obtain another car they resumed their journey.

For information on the Lingfield and Dormansland covering the rest of the war years click the following links:

1914

1915

1916

1918

Conscription and Exemption in Lingfield and Dormansland

Research and text courtesy of the RH7 History Group

With the continuing, and rising, demand for men to join the Army, conscription was introduced in 1916, initially for single men and later for married men. Men who were due to be called up for military service were able to appeal against their conscription: they or their employers could appeal to a local Military Service tribunal in their town or district. These appeals could be made on the grounds of work of national importance, business or domestic hardship, medical unfitness or conscientious objection. A very large number of men appealed: by the end of June 1916, 748,587 men had appealed to tribunals.

A socialist Conscientious Objector: an early Lingfield case was reported on 20 May 1916 under this heading.
” An application was made by Lionel Bertram Temple (26), an insurance agent who lives in Old Town Lingfield. He based his objection on religious and moral grounds, and also stated he suffered in health.”

Replying to questions he said he cold not assist in either combatant or non-combatant services. He belonged to the World Order of Socialists. He took the pledge of the “World Fraternity” when he joined three years ago. A member of the Tribunal: “The German Socialists don’t adhere to the pledge”. The Tribunal refused exemption, ordering the applicant for non-combatant service.

An interesting case, to modern eyes, was reported on 18 November. Mr W.A. Fisher, the postmaster, appealed for his clerk, A.J. terry. The local Tribunal asked whether a woman could take on the work. The postmaster said that Christmas time being near the pressures of work made it essential he should have a trained man. The exemption was granted until 31 December. We do not know whether the key word was ‘trained’ or ‘man’ – anyway the Tribunal accepted the case.

The impact of the loss of men of working age began to be reflected in the nature of the applications made to Tribunal:
William Miram, butcher, High Street, Lingfield, applied for Albert Boorer (37) slaughterman. He stated there was no other slaughterman in the neighbourhood. Exemption was granted until 11 August. In many cases the Tribunal simply put off the date at which the individual would have to join the forces. Albert Boorer eventually joined the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment and went to France in 1917. Albert returned to Lingfield after the war and managed his own butcher’s shop in the High Street.

Another Boorer, William Edward (aged 32) applied in May 1916 for exemption on the grounds he was the only one who could look after his business. He was granted exemption until the end of June but eventually joined the Royal Flying Corps. The business evidently survived as after the war William and his brother Fred were partners in an ironmongers business on the site of the present Lingfield Garage.

Albert Stanford, building contractor, applied as he had two contracts to finish. His son aged 18 had join the Forces. He usually employed 15, 16 or 20 men but now had only six.

On 20 May 1916 there was a report of an application for exemption from Mrs Avice Skinner, High Street, Dormansland on behalf of Frank Skinner (37) and Gordon Mayo (30) shoeing and general smiths. It was stated that they were now turning out 100 [horse]shoes a week under an Army contract as well as doing repair work for farmers. They had four men but now only one other besides Mayo and Skinner. Exemption was granted.

Against this background of mass conscription and exemptions, there was public concern about those who, rightly or wrongly, were perceived as evading war service. The following report of a military round up at the Racecourse on 3 March 1917 reflects this.

‘On Saturday last the military made a raid on the Lingfield racecourse at the conclusion of the day’s racing. Likely looking men were held up and requested to produce papers proving their exemption from military service. A cinematograph operator who attempted to get a picture of the event had to be protected by the police and narrowly escaped a rough handling by some members of the crowd. Five men were eventually taken to Oxted police station.’

 

Sources:

East Grinstead Observer archives

Memorial to Guildford’s 9th Congregational Scout Troop.

The 9th Guildford Congregational Scout Troop was formed in 1909 and met in the Centenary Hall in Chapel Street (what was more recently the Loch Fyne Restaurant).  The troop was linked with the Congregational Church which was sited on the corner of North Street and Leapale Road, Guildford.

During the war, along with other troops in the area, members of the 9th Congregational Troop were active in the community. For example, the Surrey Times and County Express reported on 18th September 1915 on a memorial service for three soldiers  which was attended by scouts including those from the 9th Congregational Troop. They state that ‘boy scouts, by reason of the excellence of their training, have proved their worth in the Great War’.

On 25th November 1916, the paper reported on a church parade of 9th Congregational Scouts held just before their scoutmaster left to take up work with the Red Cross in France. ‘Mr H V Jeffery….. was presented with a silver wristwatch on behalf of the scouts’. Harold Vivian Jeffery’s VAD card shows that he lived in 137 High Street, Guildford and  was 33 when he was engaged by the Red Cross as an ambulance driver at Boulogne. He earned 35 shillings at that time but, by the time his service ended in January 1919, his pay had risen to 41 shillings.

Another article on 25th November 1916 reported that 6000 troops were expected to be billeted in Guildford. This caused much excitement in the town because lighting restrictions, in place because of the fear of zeppelin attacks, were to be lifted. The paper tells of an advance party of 600 troops being served refreshments at Guildford station then ’marched to North Street where they were escorted to their billets by boys of 1st and 9th Scouts.’

It is thought that 83 former members of the troop together with 9 officers and scout leaders served in the forces. Of these, 11 were to die during the conflict. They were all between the ages of 18 and 22.

Clayton, W.V.

9th Congregational Scout Memorial, Guildford - 'Be prepared'

Title: 9th Congregational Scout Memorial, Guildford - 'Be prepared'
Description: Shows part of the memorial only - with scout motto. Photo taken by Moira Nairn by-nc

Facer, W.G.

Fisher, R

Greenway, A.J

Greenway, A.N.*

Jewesbury,M

Manning, R.C.

Prevett, G

Prior, W.E.

Richards, T

More information on each individual is recorded elsewhere on the site. They are listed on a memorial, now located in Holy Trinity Church Guildford.

The original memorial was dedicated in October  1919 by General Ellis and was sited in Centenary Hall.  The grey alabaster shield has, at the top, the Scout Fleur de Lis and the motto ‘BE PREPARED’.   Poignantly, at the bottom, is the scout trail sign for ‘Gone Home’.

9th Congregational Scout Memorial, Guildford - 'Gone Home'

Title: 9th Congregational Scout Memorial, Guildford - 'Gone Home'
Description: Shows part of the memorial sited now in Holy Trinity Church Guildford. Photo: Moira Nairn by-nc

Now badly pitted but with the names still legible, the memorial was re-dedicated on October 12 1991 after Alderman Bernard Parke  had found the memorial stored and campaigned for its preservation.  Dr Kenneth Stevenson agreed that it be placed in its present position in Holy Trinity Church. The dedication service was attended by several former scouts.

* Although shown on the memorial as ‘A.N.’, it should read ‘A.H’. The Greenaways both named were brothers.

My thanks to Bernard Parke for bringing the story of the scouts and their memorial to our attention and to Sarah Best for carrying out the biographical research.

Bibliography

Surrey Times and County Express, 3rd Edition, 18th September 1918, P6, Col C.

Surrey Times and County Express, 3rd Edition, 18th November 1916, P5, Col D.

Surrey Times and County Express, 25th November 1916, P5, Col B.

David Rose, The Guildford Dragon, 27th November 2011

David Rose and Bernard Parke, Guildford Remember When, Breedon Books 2007.

British Red Cross, First World War Volunteers https://vad.redcross.org.uk/

Images

Imperial War Museum War Memorials Register  – https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/23305   (Copyright Mike Dawson (WMR-23305))

Other images: Moira Nairn

 

Epsom Grandstand War Hospital

Research and text by Nigel Fryatt

History of the Grandstand Hospital

At the meeting of the Grand Stand Association in Ely Place in London on 2nd December 1913, the committee passed a motion to accept the tender submitted by Messrs Copley Brothers of Epsom (Gibraltar House, High Street) to undertake the erection of the new Luncheon Annex at the back of Epsom Racecourse Grandstand, for the cost of £13,943. It was the lowest bid that the committee received[1]. The committee was chaired by H. M. Dorling. The contract was signed the following day. The Annex was completed in April 1914, to cater for the spring race meeting and the Derby in the first week of June 1914. On completion of the building, the Times Newspaper reported on 16th April that:

The building is about 180 feet long by 32 deep, and is fireproof throughout, with concrete reinforced floors on the armoured tubular flooring system. Water is obtained from a well below the building 360 feet deep, and there is an underground fire tank holding 36,000 gallons. There is electric lighting and hot-water heating throughout.[2]

The building runs parallel to the back of the Grand Stand and is connected via a bridge. It is designed by Charles Williams in a Renaissance style, in brick and cement. It is a four story construction which included public and private luncheon rooms, along with rooms for stewards, ambulance and doctors.

Appealing to the people of Epsom

As war was declared in August of 1914, the doctors of Epsom and Ewell convened a special meeting at the Public Hall in Epsom on Monday 10th August, to discuss a proposal for a hospital on the Downs for the returning wounded soldiers. There was a huge gathering and the hall was full, with hundreds of people unable to gain admission standing outside the venue. The meeting was chaired by Mr A. W. Aston, J.P[3]. He put the proposal to the meeting that the newly built Grand Stand Luncheon Annex should be converted into a hospital to cater for the returning wounded soldiers. Dr E. C. Daniel explained to the crowd that the idea originated with Dr Thornley, who had attended a meeting in London, which culminated in the formation of the Surrey Emergency Committee. Its purpose was to ensure that the efforts throughout the country did not overlap. Having set this up, the doctors looked around Epsom for a suitable premises to house the hospital. They approached Mr N. M. Dorling, chair of The Grand Stand Association, who readily offered the use of the (Epsom) Grand Stand for six months, which they gratefully accepted.

The problem now was equipping the building, and the purpose of the meeting at the Public Hall in Epsom was to raise funds for this. The Annex already housed 80 beds.  Dr Bailey Peacock had offered to reside there as Medical Officer. They also had an offer of a Matron to attend the hospital, who could possibly have been Miss Blainey, currently residing as Matron of the Epsom Nursing Home. In addition they would require six or seven nurses and several voluntary helpers. Other doctors offered to provide lectures and training. The adoption of the scheme outlined by Dr Daniel was then proposed by the Rev. E.W. Northey and seconded by Mr. E. B. Jay.[4] The motion was carried.

The War Office accepted the proposal that the Grandstand Annex be converted into a temporary military hospital. The patients will be transferred from the battlefield to a London hospital (affiliated to the Royal Herbert Hospital in Woolwich) then to Epsom, stated the Epsom Advertiser on 18th September. It opened as a hospital on 21st September 1914 and received its first patients on 12th October 1914.

The hospital Annex was divided up into wards: Derby on the first floor, Oak and City on second floor, and Metropolitan on the third floor. There was also an Isolation Ward and a Day Room for treatment. The ground floor consisted of kitchens and storerooms. The nursing staff were housed in other racecourse buildings. With 65 beds in total[5], The Grand Stand Hospital had been designated as Class A Hospital, meaning it only accepted bedridden patients.

The Epsom Advertiser stated in its 19th October 1914 edition: Few buildings probably lend themselves better for adaptation as a hospital than the grand stand, and from a medical point of view, the rooms – the wards as they are now described – leave little to be desired. They have been admirably furnished, and everything is clean and tidy[6].

Heroes of Mons

At 4pm on 21st October 1914, five hours after King George V had reviewed the troops on the Downs, a large vehicle bearing a red cross on either side drew up to the Grandstand. It contained 4 patients who were shepherded to the wards by the Volunteer Aid Detachment (VAD). A second ambulance drew up with a further six wounded soldiers. All the troops had leg and thigh injuries. Most of the men had received their wounds fighting at the battle of Mons.

The ten soldiers who first arrived in the ambulances were: Private A. Read, aged 28 of 1st [Battalion] Royal Scots [(The Royal Regiment)}; Driver F Densham, aged 23, Royal Field Artillery; Private R. Richardson, aged 20, 1st [Battalion, the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)]; Corporal H. Brown, aged 30, 1st [Battalion,] Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry; Private G Harris, aged 28, 1st [Battalion, Royal] Lincolnshire [Regiment]; Private E Buckley, aged 36, 1st [Battalion, the] Middlesex [Regiment]; Private F Mulry, aged 19, 1st [Battalion, Royal Hampshire Regiment]; Private G Russell, aged 26, 1st [Battalion, the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)]; ; Private W Simpson, aged 24, 1st [Battalion,] Coldstream Guards; Lance Corporal F Galliford, aged 29, 2nd [Battalion, Leinster Regiment].

It is interesting to note that Private R Richardson and Private G Russell are both credited to the 1st Royal East Kent Regiment in the Patients Admission Register (SCH3434/20/4) but this conflicts with the information published in the Epsom Advertiser of 16th October 1914 which states that these two privates were in 1st Royal West Kent regiment which fought at Mons. Was this a genuine mistake by the newspapers or some deliberate misinformation? The answer may never be known.

The newspaper went on to state that the hospital had been efficiently staffed, and Dr Bailey Peacock, a well-known Epsom resident, had been appointed Resident Medical Officer, and had all the qualifications for this responsible post; while the Matron was Miss Blainey of the Epsom Nursing home. There was also a staff of four fully trained sisters and four male orderlies, a London surgeon (Mr Edward Owen), assistant surgeon (Mr Andrew Macalister), fully qualified chemist (Mr Frost), honorary bacteriologist (Dr B Ridge) and medical visiting staff comprising Doctors Alexander, Braidwood, Coltart, Daniel, Ferguson, Ormerod, Ruyner, Reichardt, Fawnley and Williamson (Medical Officer of Health for Epsom district). The hospital was equipped with an X-Ray apparatus of which Mr J Ede had charge. There were also a number of voluntary nurses ready to give their services if called upon: while Mr A. Vardon was acting secretary to the Resident Medical Officer. The secretaries of the fund connected with the hospital were Mr Collyer Jones and Mr A.E Williams.[7]

The Hospital register though, is a chilling reminder of war. On page one, it recalls the deaths on 16th October 1914 of William Andrewartha, followed by Thomas Simms on 17th October; both men were privates in the Manchester Regiment. On page two it records the death of Edmond Buchanan of North Irish Horse on 23rd October 1914. No further deaths are reported in the register which must be a credit to the hospital staff.

Nursing staff outside Grandstand Hospital. Copyright Bourne Hall.

The Epsom Advertiser reports on 6th November 1914 that good progress was being made by the wounded soldiers and that several of the patients were now convalescent, some being able to walk out onto the Downs. Practically all the men were now out of danger. On the 20th November 1914, the Advertiser, reported that several of the soldiers had now been discharged and that there were currently 55 patients at the hospital, six of which were sent to Mrs Coleman’s Convalescence Home at Burgh Heath. Recitals and shows were arranged at the hospital. In November, Miss Gilander’s Concert Party from Purley performed, and the Tattenham Corner Fusiliers (2nd Battalion of the City of London Royal Fusiliers) visited the Grandstand War Hospital and entertained the wounded soldiers, those contributing to an enjoyable programme arranged by Colour Sergeant Whitehead. Gavin (clarinet solos), Colour Sergeant. Whitehead (comedian), Corporal Besley (songs). Lance-Corporal Tombs (songs), Private Party (mimic), Private Fox (songs), Privates Clapp and Goacher in a turn entitled “The Brothers Nuisance.” The stage manager was Sergeant Rose, and Colour Sergeant Anderson occupied the chair[8]. Mr George Furniss and Miss Vera Stredwick also gave a recital. These entertainments were much enjoyed and greatly appreciated by the soldiers, and were a good morale booster.

In late November, boots – especially size 6, 7 and 8 – were requested from the hospital. Other appeals were made for new-laid eggs. The people of Epsom and surrounding districts had been generous in supplying the boots along with additional clothing for the men. Other less appropriate gifts were received, such as pheasants from the King and game from Lord Rosebery. Queen Mary offered the hospital tobacco and cigarettes for Christmas. As the festivities approached the hospital committee asked for evergreens, flags, and British and Belgian ribbon for the Yule tide decorations.

On Christmas Day 1914, the Belgian soldiers sent a letter to the Matrons, Sisters and Nurses, Gentlemen Directors, Secretary and Doctors of the Epsom and Ewell War Hospital, in which they expressed their gratitude and thanks for their care:

Epsom Downs, December 25, 1914
 
Ladies, Gentlemen,
 
We undersigned Belgian soldiers in treatment at the Epsom & Ewell War Hospital take the respectful liberty to express to you our profound appreciation of the tender and devoted care that you have given us.

While our poor Fatherland is the scene of the most terrible tragedy that the world has ever contemplated and that we have been separated in the most brutal way from all those who are dear to us, we have found a new home where the cordiality that you show us relieves the pain that we feel in thinking about our country, which now suffers in the claws of the invader.
 
We shall as soldiers pay the debt of gratitude to which we have submitted. As soon as we are cured thanks to your care, we shall resume our arms to liberate our country, and assure the safety of the admirable Kingdom which grants us hospitality. The fact that we were fighting side by side with the heroes of the Britannic Empire will increase our strength a hundredfold.
 
We wish you all a Happy Christmas and hope that next year brings the realization of your dearest wishes and nothing less: the victory of the Allies. [9].

By mid-January the flow of wounded soldiers had increased to between 50 and 60 patients. Some of the Belgian soldiers had returned to the front line to fight again. The Downs at this time were covered in a foot of snow. In February the hospital expanded its role and started treating a number of soldiers from the Tattenham Corner Camp in the absence of a medical officer at the camp.

In January 1915 speculation was starting to grow about the longevity of the hospital. The Epsom Advertiser reported on 12th February 1916, that it is now an open secret in the town that there is some doubt as to the continuance of this valuable institution and not unnaturally one is anxious to know what is going to happen, especially those inhabitants who subscribe regularly towards its maintenance[10]. The paper goes on to say: Such being the state of affairs one is forced to inquire what has become of the patriotic spirit which prompted the Grand Stand Association six months ago to make the generous offer of the new building on the Downs for use as a War Hospital so that the scheme of the Epsom & Ewell doctors, who were promptly supported by the local public, could be carried into effect.

Other tensions were bubbling away in the background regarding the availability of the Grandstand during the spring race meeting. The lease for The Grandstand Hospital was due to end on 6th March 1915. In parliament, Mr Davidson Dalziel[11], Member of Parliament for Lambeth Brixton, enquired “whether certain buildings forming part of the outbuildings of the Epsom grand stand, and belonging to the Grand Stand Association, have for some months been used as a hospital for wounded soldiers; whether the officials of the Grand Stand Association have now given notice that, owing to the commencement of the spring racing season, the hospital must be closed and the numerous wounded patients removed elsewhere; and whether, in view of the convenient and healthy situation of this hospital, the Government intend to take any steps to secure a continued tenancy?”

Mr Harold Tennant [12], MP for Berwickshire replied: “The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. The arrangements were made by the Epsom War Hospital Committee, and I understand that the agreement entered into provided that the building should be vacated before the spring meeting. It is the case that the hospital is well situated, and it has done very good work. I am informed that the patients there can now be moved without danger to their health.”

Mr Davidson Dalziel replied: “Is the right honourable Gentleman aware that at the present time there are in that hospital forty-two wounded soldiers, some of them dangerously wounded, and that they would be removed from there to accommodate the spring meeting only with considerable risk?”

Mr Harold Tennant replied: “I am obliged to the honourable Gentleman for the information. I may say at once that it is not in accordance with the information which has reached me, but I will have investigations made.”

A flurry of letters followed to the Editor of the Times on the subject. Lord Portland felt that it should remain a hospital. Captain Greer, Senior Steward of the Jockey Club, writing in the Times on 26th February 1915, commented that: Lord Villiers, therefore, on behalf of the Stewards, interviewed Mr. Dorling (Chairman of The Grandstand Association) on Tuesday last previous to the meeting between the Grand Stand Association and the Hospital Committee and, having reminded him of the above facts, explained that the Stewards were most strongly of the opinion that, in any arrangement that were made at the meeting, the comfort and well-being of the wounded soldiers should be the first and only consideration. He received from Mr Dorling an assurance that he fully shared these views and that it was with the full intention of giving effect to them that he was about to meet the Hospital Committee[13].

H. M. Dorling followed up with a letter to the Editor of the Times, “It had become necessary to have a proper agreement drawn up between the association and the hospital committee, and it was mutually agreed that the committee should on March 25 vacate one floor of the building and another (the basement) on April 10, resuming possession on April 24 of the entire building … Meanwhile I beg to say that if it should be found that any discomfort or inconvenience to wounded soldiers should result from the agreement being carried out we certainly should not allow it to occur[14].” The Jockey Club suspended the Spring Meeting and the Derby.

In parallel with the arguments in the Times, the Grandstand Hospital’s Day Room was converted into a ward allowing up to 88 patients to be treated at one time. Alongside this, a decision was taken in February 1915 that Horton Asylum would become a war hospital, and during March and April of that year over 2,000 patients were transferred to the hospital.

In May 1915 Colonel Simpson, assistant director of the medical supplies for the district, visited the Grandstand Hospital and was very happy with what he saw.  All beds are occupied (88) and it is expected that the hospital will remain full for some time as the War Office regard it as a most healthy spot, reported The Epsom Advertiser.

In July 1915 the hospital was starting to receive patients from the Dardanelles[15] campaign. ANZAC[16] (Mediterranean Forces as the Patients Register states) troops started to arrive. This was increased by a further 15 ANZAC troops in the following month.

The presence of Horton Hospital accommodating over 2,500 patients spelt the end for the Epsom Grandstand Hospital. The Grandstand committee were concerned about funding and staff levels with the opening of the new facilities down the road. Horton continued as a military hospital until October 1919, when it was converted back to an asylum. Between April 1915 and October 1919, over 40,000 troops had passed through the hospital.

The Epsom Advertiser announced on 28th January 1916 that the Grandstand Hospital was to close. It went on to say: “after doing splendid service for the past 15 months, is to be closed at the end of February, owing to the fact that the medical staff are short-handed, two of them on foreign services, and the remainder being employed in other war work”. The Times Newspaper reported on 10th January that a sum of £250 had been voted to the Red Cross Society of the Grandstand hospital. The hospital closed on 29th February 1916; during its time, 672 patients had passed through its doors. Of these 599 were British, 36 were ANZAC, of which 17 were New Zealand troops and 19 Australian soldiers, 30 were Belgians, 6 Canadians, and 1 was French.

Coding for soldiers in the Epsom Grandstand Hospital Admission Book(SHC 6292/22/13)

The building was converted back to a luncheon annex, and was finally demolished in 2007 to make way for the current Duchess of Cornwall Stand.

[1] SHC Document 3434/9/6 Grand Stand Association Minutes Book 1907-1919. pg314
[2] The Times 16th April 1914:p11
[3] Mr A.W. Aston JP. Local dignitary in Epsom, also worked with Horton Hospital & President of Surrey Agricultural Society.
[4] Epsom Advertiser  18th August 1914:p8
[5] Epsom Advertiser 16th October 1914: p8
[6] Epsom Advertiser 19th October 1914:p8
[7] Epsom Advertiser 16th October 1914:pg8
[8] Epsom Advertiser 20th November 1914 pg 8
[9] Translation of document Z/358 SHC
[10] Epsom Advertiser 12th February 1916 p 8
[11] Davidson Alexander Dalziel, 1st Barron Dalzeil of Wooler (1852-1928) was a Conservative MP between 1910 and 1927. He was also a British Newspaper owner. He is buried in Highgate Cemetery.
[12] Harold John Tennant PC (Privy Council) (1865-1935) Scottish Liberal politician.
[13] The Times Fri 26th Feb 1915 pg5 Issue 40788
[14] The Times Fri 5th March 1915 Page 10 Issue 40794
[15] Dardanelles was a disastrous campaign against the Ottoman Empire in the Dardanelles straights
[16] ANZAC –Australia and New Zealand Army Corps

John Lewis Reynolds

JOHN LEWIS REYNOLDS (JACK)

(A Personal South African Tragedy)

A family story shared by Elesa Willies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Reynold’s Medals.  Image courtesy of Elesa

 

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

Ernest Albert Grey, 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers

Ernest Albert Grey, maternal grandfather of Peter & Brian Hurn who supplied information to the Oral History Project of Surrey History Centre, was born in Croydon on 6th July 1888 and was baptised on 2nd September that year. He joined the army in 1906 when he went with a mate up to Trafalgar Square and as the recruiting officer said his name sounded Scottish and he should join a Scottish regiment, he joined the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers, enlisting on 25 October 1906 and served as a Private, service number 9214. The Battalion was overseas prior to WWI, in Gibraltar, and it returned to the UK in September 1914. They were to be deployed to France immediately but the men were unhappy as they were not going to be able to see their families first. This was then allowed and they then deployed, landing at Zeebrugge on  6th October 1914.

The Battalion was involved in the First Battle of Ypres and Ernest was wounded in that locality, being shot in the upper right arm, just weeks after landing in Belgium. He was invalided back to hospital in Hamilton, Scotland, before being transferred to hospital in Croydon, Surrey, which led to him being discharged from the army as unfit for further war service, on 27th June 1915. For his service he was awarded the Mons Star.

Ernest met his future wife Beatrice Maud Cate at Croydon Hospital, where she was the head cook.They were married on 25th June 1917 at St Michael’s & All Angel’s Church, Croydon, at which point Ernest listed  his profession as a Postman. During the First World War one of his sisters, Winifred, worked in munitions at what was known as the  “Ack and Tab” (Accumulatory and Tabulation Company) in Mitchum Rd, Croydon. After the war at home, Ernest would grow vegetables and keep chickens and in the 1920’s he canvassed for the first Labour Councillor in Croydon, accompanied by his daughter. He also had a job with Croydon Council as a Disinfector, driving a van to houses where people were suffering with infections such as diphtheria, scarlet fever & tuberculosis, his job being to collect their linen and clothes for  disinfecting. Ernest loved football & cricket. He followed Crystal Palace football team & Surrey County Cricket Club, regularly visiting their grounds Selhurst Park & The Oval. He played cricket despite his injured arm and had previously played cricket when he was in the army, being the only private in a team of officers.

Ernest continued living in Croydon for the rest of his life and passed away there in 1973 at the age of 84.

The stories of other members of the Hurn family: George John Cate, Albert Henry Cate, Reginald Lewis Isaac & John (Jack) Isaac, may be found on this website.

Images courtesy of Peter Hurn.

James Miles Langstaff

Story provided by Robert Taylor, War Memorial Education and Conservation Services 

In amongst my mother’s papers and photos I found a Great War Church Memorial unveiling service pamphlet for the Bloor Street Presbyterian Church Toronto. It was kept as my Mom’s mother (my Maternal Grandmother; Margaret Francis Kirkpatrick). At the age of 15 or 16 she had a crush on a lawyer turned soldier, Major James Miles Langstaff of the 75th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

James Miles Langstaff (1883-1917), of Richmond Hill, graduated from Osgoode Hall in 1912.  He was a partner with the firm Lowell, Reid, Wood & Wright when the war broke out. The Law Society of Upper Canada encouraged lawyers and law students to enlist for service. Recruits were offered a remittance of fees and allowing students to advance one year or be called to the Bar without examination.  The number of willing lawyer recruits was surprisingly high: 30% of the profession (around 500).  Shortly afterward signing up, Langstaff joined the 75th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. There he rose rapidly to major, and was recommended for the military cross.

At some point during this time, Langstaff was based at the Bramshott Camp, on the Hampshire/Surrey border.  He sent postcards back to Margaret Kirkpatrick from the Surrey town of Shottermill, showing that he and his fellow Canadian soldiers enjoyed exploring the Surrey countryside.

Postcard from James Langstaff to Margaret Kirkpatrick, from Shottermill Courtesy of Robert Taylor

Courtesy of Robert Taylor

Postcard from James Langstaff to Margaret Kirkpatrick, from Shottermill

Courtesy of Robert Taylor

Postcard from James Langstaff to Margaret Kirkpatrick, from Shottermill

He was eventually killed 1 March 1917 at Vimy Ridge, at the age of 33. and is buried at the CWGC – Villers Station Cemetry, Villers-Au-Bois (grave Marker ref VII D.2). As Major Langstaff was from a prominent family in Toronto, there was a Memorial Book written about him. Two copies are held by the family of Margaret Kirkpatrick and her father Frank H. Kirkpatrick. He was a Professor of Public Speaking at the Toronto School of Expression and included a Personal Tribute in the Memorial Book (pg.30). He had taught Miles Langstaff and knew the family.

 

Source: http://www.oba.org/JUST/Archives_List/2015/Fall_2015/Nov11-Langstaff
Memorial Book https://archive.org/details/majorjmlangstaff00languoft/page/n0

Acting Corporal Edward Dwyer, East Surrey Regiment – a Victoria Cross hero

Edward Dwyer’s Victoria Cross (VC) citation reads:-

‘No 1052 Private Edward Dwyer, 1st Battalion, The East Surrey Regiment.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty at ‘Hill 60’ on the 20th April 1915. When his trench was heavily attacked by German grenade throwers he climbed onto the parapet, and, although subject to a hail of bombs at close quarters succeeded in dispersing the enemy by the effective use of his hand grenades.

Private Dwyer displayed great gallantry earlier on this day in leaving his trench under heavy shell fire to bandage his wounded comrade.’

London Gazette, 1915.

Edward Dwyer was born in Fulham, London, on 25 November 1895. His mother was Sally Dwyer of 30 Lintaine Road, Fulham. He worked for a short period of time as a grocer’s assistant before joining the Army Special Reserve in 1912 and then the regular army with the East Surrey Regiment. He was described as ‘Honest, sober, hardworking’ when joining the Army.

Edward Dwyer’s pre-First World War service was in Ireland with his battalion. Copies of his service records held by Surrey History Centre (ESR/25/DWYE) provide a glimpse into garrison life, including records of several minor infringements by Dwyer of military discipline – in 1913, for example, Edward received five days’ ‘C B’ (‘confined to barracks’) for attempting to sell a pair of boots!

On the outbreak of war in August 1914, Private Edward Dwyer’s battalion (1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment) formed part of the British Expeditionary Force. The 1st Battalion East Surreys was part of 14 Infantry Brigade, 5th Division (commanded by Brigadier S.P. Rolt), 2nd Corps. The Brigade formed part of the right flank at the Battle of Le Cateau where companies of the 1st East Surreys fought to delay the outflanking movement of the German 4th Corps, 1st Army. The 2nd Corps stood and fought a delaying action ‘rather than turn our backs on the enemy in daylight’ (the words of General Smith-Dorrien, Corps Commander) and this enabled the British Expeditionary Force to continue to retreat  and reorganise after the battles of Mons and Le Cateau.

As described in the citation above, it was during the Second Battle of Ypres that Edward Dwyer was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at Hill 60 on 20 April 1915. He was a Battalion Signaller at the time.

In May 1915, Dwyer was granted leave and returned to England, where he received his VC from the King (he was also awarded the Russian Cross of St George). His leave was extended for recruiting purposes and there is a unique audio recording on the Regal record label of him describing his experiences during the retreat from Mons and life at the front. It includes a recording of Dwyer singing marching songs – apparently used to assist with recruiting, although his description of the ardours of the retreat may not have provided encouragement to potential recruits!

It was also during this period that Edward married a nurse, Maude Barrett-Freeman, from Balham.

The records relating to Dwyer held by Surrey History Centre include a letter dated 30 May 1915 written by Edward to Lieutenant H.F. Stoneham, one of his early Platoon Commanders, who was convalescing following injury, describing to and updating this officer on life and events with the Battalion.

Edward eventually returned to the front and service with his Battalion, having been promoted to Acting Corporal on 27 July 1916.

He was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme at Guillemont on 3 September 1916. Edward is buried at Flatiron Cemetery at Mametz.

Surrey History Centre holds papers relating to Dwyer (reference ESR/25/DWYE/). These include photocopies (undated) of service papers from The National Archives, a letter from Dwyer to Lieutenant H.F. Stoneham, following the receipt of his Victoria Cross, describing his service and the fate of officers of the battalion, and a photograph of Dwyer.

The audio recording of Dwyer is held by the Imperial War Museum and forms track 40 of La Grande Guerre 1914-1918: Volume 2 (https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80030019)

 

Private Thomas James Burgess

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Pte T J Burgess
1st Battalion, Wellington Infantry, NZEF
28072
Killed in action, 24.8.1918
Age, 23

Thomas James Burgess was born in Australia, lived in New Zealand, married in England and died in France. His parents were Mr & Mrs William Burgess of Opotiki, North Island, New Zealand. Opotiki sits on a harbour inlet close to the Pacific Ocean. Their son was born on 27 June 1895. When Thomas joined the army in 1916 he was a labourer and he was registered for compulsory military training but had been unable to attend the sessions because he lived too far out in the country. He stood five feet ten and a half inches tall, had a fair complexion, grey eyes and light brown hair. His first unit in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) was the 18th Reinforcements, Wellington Infantry Battalion, B Company. They embarked from Wellington, on board the Willochra on 16 October 1916. The ship called at the Cape of Good Hope before reaching Devonport on 28 December 1916.

Thomas spent a short time in hospital in Walton-on-Thames in 1917 and on 13 December of that year at St. James’ Church, Weybridge he married Alice Mildred Scragg. Alice was born in Weybridge in 1897 and seems to have lived there all her life. Her parents were William (a house painter) and Louisa; the family home was at 5, Crown Terrace, Monument Green.

New Zealand forces fought at the Battle of Messines and the third Battle of Ypres (‘Passchendaele’) in 1917 and the first battles of the Somme in 1918. Thomas, by now, with the 1st Battalion, Wellington Infantry Regiment was caught up in the Hundred Days Offensive (8 August – 11 November 1918) a series of Allied offensives which brought the War to its long-awaited end. Thomas’ last days were spent fighting in the Battle of Albert (21-23 August) and its immediate aftermath. This battle marked a new phase in the British advance to include General Byng’s 3rd Army in the IV Corps of which the New Zealand Division was a part. The initial aim was to secure the Arras – Albert railway line. At 4.55am on 21 August the attack began in dense fog when five infantry divisions advanced on a 7 mile front. The IV Corps faced relatively stiff opposition but still took their first objective quite quickly. Byng paused the attack on the 22nd, a hot summer’s day, to allow his forces to regroup, which they did but they also beat off several German counter-attacks. On the 23rd the 3rd and 4th British Armies attacked over a battlefield 33 miles wide with the 3rd Army creeping ever closer to Baupaume until they finally took it on 29 August. Thomas did not live to see the fruition of their efforts as he was killed in action on 24 August.

His final resting place is in Adanac Military Cemetery (III.C.15) in Miraumont, which is 14.5 km north-north-east of Albert. He is also commemorated in his homeland on the NZ Cenotaph in Auckland. Alice Burgess remained a widow for six years until she married Eward Amos Hyde on 14 September 1924 at the same location as her first wedding.

Sources:

The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long, Long Trail – New Zealand Division, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
Cunningham W H, Treadwell C A L, Hanna J S, The Wellington Regiment (NZEF) 1914-1918, http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz
NZDF Personnel Files, www.archives.govt.nz
New Zealand WW1 Soldiers, www.findmypast.co.uk
Online Cenotaph Record, www.aucklandmuseum.com
Surrey, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1937, www.ancestry.co.uk