Hon. Frederick Somerset Gough-Calthorpe

Surrey in the Great War Jenny Mukerji

Hon. Frederick Somerset Gough-Calthorpe (1892-1935)

Cricketer – MCC Captain – Royal Naval Air Serviceman

The Hon. Frederick Somerset Gough-Calthorpe’s ashes are buried in plot 28 (grave 21087) of the Anglican Section in Brookwood Cemetery. He had died at his home, The Home Green, Worplesdon Hill, Woking on 19 November 1935, at the age of 43. His cremation took place at St John’s Crematorium.

Frederick was born on 27 May 1892 in Kensington, the only child of Captain Hon. Somerset Frederick Gough-Calthorpe, 8th Baron Calthorpe (1862-1940) and his wife, Mary Burrows (1867-1940). Frederick was also the nephew of the Admiral of the Fleet, Hon. Sir Somerset Gough-Calthorpe.

In 1901 the family was living in Clayton, Sussex. Educated at Repton and Jesus College, Cambridge, Frederick first became a Cambridge Cricket Blue as a Freshman in 1912. He played against Oxford again in 1913 and again in 1914. Prior to the Great War he played cricket for Sussex.

During the Great War he initially served in the Staffordshire Yeomanry as a Lieutenant and transferred across to the Royal Naval Air Service. On 1 April 1918 the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service combined to form the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Frederick stayed in the RAF until he was demobilised and returned to Cambridge and cricket, playing against Oxford at Lord’s.

After the war Frederick played for Warwickshire (1919-1930) for whom he was captain. His best year was 1925 when he scored 1,404 runs with an average of 34.24 and in that year he played for the Gentlemen against the Players at Lord’s. He was a lively medium-paced bowler and batsman. During the course of his career, which lasted 24 years, he scored 1000 runs in one season on five separate occasions and in 1920 he took 100 wickets. His total number of runs was 12,598 and he took 219 catches.

After marrying Rose Mary Dorothy Vernon-Harcourt (1900-1985) at St Paul’s Church, Knightsbridge on 5 September 1922 and spending their honeymoon in Cornwall, he left to tour Australia and New Zealand with A C Maclaren’s team (1922-3). He also captained the MCC in the West Indies in 1925-6 and 1929-30.

He also enjoyed playing golf, which was probably why he came to live in Woking, to be beside so many golf courses and live in a house named “The Home Green”.

Frederick and his wife, known as Dorothy, had two sons, both of whom are buried in Brookwood Cemetery, in the same plot as their father. Dorothy remarried in 1949 in Westminster. Her husband was Lt Col Guy Alexander Ingram Dury (1895-1976), another cricketer.

Hon Frederick Somerset Gough-Calthorpe’s obituary, with photograph, is in The Times on 20 November 1935.

Vernon Littleboy

Text from Peter Hinde

Vernon Hatherden Littleboy (1895-1917).

Vernon Littleboy was born in Woking on 17 November 1895, the only son of John Walter Hatherden Littleboy and Florence Caroline Jessie Stedman.  He joined the Royal Naval Air Service as a Flight Sub-Lieutenant.  He was accidentally killed while flying on 22 December 1917 and is buried in St Mary’s church, Horsell, Woking.  He is also commemorated on the Woking War Mar Memorial in Jubilee Square and on the Horsell War Memorial, High Street, Horsell, Woking.




Lieutenant John Neale RNVR

Neale medals pic

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Details of the Albert Medal award to John Neale RNVR.

25 August 1916 – Lieutenant John NEALE RNVR, Stokes mortar incident, Esher, Surrey

The London Gazette 25 January 1918 (from Whitehall, January 23, 1918)

‘On the 25th August 1916, Lt. Neale, R.N.V.R., was conducting certain experiments which involved the projection from a Stokes mortar of a tube containing flare powder. An accident occurred, rendering imminent the explosion of the tube before leaving the mortar, which would almost certainly have resulted in the bursting of the mortar with loss of live to bystanders. Lt. Neale, in order to safeguard the lives of the working party, at once attempted to lift the tube from the mortar. It exploded whilst he was doing so, with the result that he was severely injured, but owing to the fact that he had partly withdrawn the tube from the mortar no injury was caused to others.’

John Neale, of Oxshott, Surrey, was commissioned Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and served during the Great War attached to the Munitions Experimental Station, at Claremont Park, Esher, the home of H.R.H. the Dowager Duchess of Albany. As his work was the responsibility of the Ministry of Munitions, the recommendation for the award of his Albert Medal was made to the King by the Minister of Munitions, the Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill, M.P., and Neale was presented with his Albert Medal by H.M. King George V at Buckingham Palace on 6 April 1918. He was subsequently advanced Captain, Royal Marine Engineers.

The Home Office papers dealing with Neale’s award are preserved in the Public Record Office and contain, inter alia, the original recommendation made on behalf of the Minister of Munitions; the submission to the King; the draft citation; a copy of the inscription to be engraved on the reverse of the award; and correspondence leading to the investiture at Buckingham Palace.

stokes mortar

Title: stokes mortar
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A typical WW1 Stokes Mortar

Details of  the THE ALBERT MEDAL (AM)   – (from Web Naval History)

The medal was instituted in 1866 for saving life at sea, named after Queen Victoria’s    husband, there are two Classes, the 1st in gold and 2nd in bronze (ribbon colours and sizes changed through its history). In 1877 – it was also granted for saving life on land.

Publication of John Neale’s temporary commission; from the London Gazette.  7566 – THE LONDON GAZETTE, 3 AUGUST, 1915.

            Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.  Temporary commissions in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve have been issued as follows : —

(extracted from the list of names)


John Neale.


Born  1866 in Addlestone, near Chertsey.

Death  date 1945 (age 79)

He married Mary Timms (1860 – 1938) in 1890 & was listed as a grocer in the census returns & later lived in Hersham, Oxshott then Molesey.

He was a Member of the Oxshott Men’s Club from about 1911 and a Vice President at the time of his award, which was acknowledged in their 1919 AGM minutes, with local directories showing his address as  ‘Vintilla’, in Kellys Directory, which was located in Sheath Lane, Oxshott, on the east side.

He was enlisted with a commission as a Lieutenant in July 1915, then transferred to Ministry of Munitions in August 1915.

He became Commanding Officer of the Experimental Station, Ministry of Munitions, at Claremont House, Esher, Surrey.

On 31st December 1917 he completed his service with the Ministry and was invalided out of the service on 9th January 1918, as a Commander.

A promotion to Captain RNVR, was not approved, which may have been as a result of him leaving the service and 1919 he used the title of Commander, when living in Oxshott, as shown in local directories.

Records show that he received a war pension for his wounds.

Almost 100 years on, his Albert Medal was sold at auction in March 2017, for £6,000.


Private Alfred Burgess

Private Alfred Burgess was listed as serving, in the St Andrew’s, Oxshott, parish magazine, in January 1917. The following year, in June 1918, the parish magazine recorded that he had been missing since March 21st, although ‘Mrs Burgess has great hopes that he may be a prisoner’. In the same month as his father was listed as missing, Alfred and Caroline’s son, Arthur joined up, in the Navy.

In the months that followed Alfred continued to be listed as missing and some time after December 1918 it was recorded that his death had taken place on 23rd March 1918, two days after he was originally reported as missing.


St Andrew’s, Stoke D’Abernon, Parish Magazines, June 1918, July 1918, September 1918, and December 1918, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.



Frederick Brooks

At the outbreak of war Frederick Brooks was already serving in the Royal Navy, having enlisted in June 1913 at the age of 12.

In September 1914 the St Andrew’s parish magazine recorded that:

A letter has been received from Frederick Brooks, in which he states that on Saturday August 22nd he was wounded by the bursting of a shell on the deck of his ship lying off Kiel. He is now in Haslar Hospital bearing his hurt with great cheerfulness and hopes to be about again in a month or two. Our deep sympathy goes out to him and his family and we shall all pray that he may have a speedy recovery.

The following month the magazine offered ‘hearty congratulations’ to Frederick on his rapid recovery, reporting that he was now back on his ship, HMS ‘Queen’.

In June 1918 it was reported that he ‘is in a submarine, which took part in the Ostend affair. He has just been home for five days special leave, after it’.

Exactly a year later, in June 1919, the last recorded news of Frederick stated he was still with the Colours and was taking a submarine to Australia.


St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, September 1914, October 1914, June 1918, June 1919, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

Frank Vincent Wise

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 1915-1918.

Case 11: Frank Vincent Wise

F.V. Wise was a signalman on the HMS Invincible, and one of the 1,026 officers and men killed in action when the ship sunk during the Battle of Jutland. The ship was engaged with the German cruiser Derflinger, which is said to have taken many hits, before being hit. The explosion caused the ship to break in half and quickly sink, with only 6 men managing to survive the attack and subsequent wreckage. One of those survivors, Commander Hubert E. Dannreuther, wrote to the mother of Wise following the attack, describing him as a ‘fine fellow and much respected and liked’. He informed her that the battle was successful in strengthening the naval position against the Germans – more so than what was being printed in the papers – and that therefore the many ‘sudden and painless’ deaths were not in vain.

Katherine Wise, Frank’s mother, was approximately 60 years old at the time of her son’s death. She was a widow and had no other children, or relatives that lived near to her. It is apparent that she was receiving a sum of money from her late husband’s employer, but that this was not a fixed or permanent amount, and beyond this she had no means. The insurance money from her son was given in weekly amounts.

Stoke D’Abernon – 1916

St Mary’s Church, Stoke D’Abernon and St Andrew’s Church, Oxshott

After a rainy Christmas, the January 1916 magazine saw the publication of ‘The Bishop’s Letter for the New Year’. The Bishop (of Winchester) called upon readers to pray that ‘God make England more worthy of victory!’.  One way it might be considered that a nation would be worthy of victory, he asserted, was to leave ‘nothing to chance, …[to use] every atom of skill, and labour… [pile] up its munitions… [economize] its money, and [make] its armies as numerous and strong as possible’. However, for the Bishop, the answer went much deeper, and, in order for ‘God to give it victory and peace’, a nation must be humble, owning its faults and reverencing God’s chastisements for them, it must fight only for right, committing its cause to God, and must ‘[lay] aside strife and bitterness of all kinds’.

Throughout the year, news of the Mothers’ Union, Sunday School, the National Mission, the Church Spire and Heating Fund, the Boy Scouts, issues of church seating, and the recording of births, deaths, and marriages continued, unabated. As the nation settled into war the magazines offered a vision of the ways in which, for those at home,  the everyday business of the parish and the church continued, but it was a vision that was increasingly frequently interspersed with the triumphs and, more often, tragedies of those away from home, engaged in the conflict.

A ‘Toy Service’ had been held on December 12th and, in ‘a remarkable response’ to the invitation to send toys and clothes to the orphaned children of Sailors and Soldiers, 87 toys and 47 articles of clothing had been presented, which Mrs Bowen-Buscarlet had undertaken to forward to the Church Army. All the offerings had been displayed at the Manor House, prior to being sent off, and it was recorded that ‘many came to see them’.

With reference to the Missionaries interned in German East Africa, the magazine reported that the Bishop of Zanzibar had cabled to confirm that parcels could be sent, ‘At sender’s risk. Address, c/o Naval. Letters forbidden.’ He also advised that he had sent clothing and that all were alive. This was of particular importance as the Rector’s sister, Gertrude Blackburne, was one of the interned.

Lastly the magazine provided a detailed account of the Memorial Service that had been held for Archibald James Rowan-Hamilton, at the Old Priory Church of Saint Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield, the previous month.

In Oxshott it was reported that the War Workroom was to re-open after the Christmas break, at Heatherwold, Queen’s Drove. ‘The Workroom [had] now been affiliated to the War Hospital Supply Depot, Cavendish Square, and [was] officially recognised by the War Office. Badges [were] shortly [to] be issued to regular members’. The workroom had been open for 4 ½ months and in that time had sent 296 garments, including pyjamas, bed jackets, and operation gowns, to the Central Depot. They had also sent ‘1,060 many-tailed surgical bandages of all sorts’ which, it was recorded, took an average of about two hours’ work each. The Marchioness Ripon, in her capacity as President of the Compassionate Fund of the King George Hospital, had written to express their thanks.

In February 2016, owing to the war, the Rector of St Mary’s, and his wife, found themselves unable to organise the usual Choir Supper. In addition, Mr C Clifford, who had been acting as deputy honorary Parish Clerk, for ‘a longer time than most of us realised it would be when the war began’, had been asked to be relieved of part of his duties.

Congratulations were extended to Major Gore, who had been promoted to Colonel.

March 1916 saw the happy news that, on February 14th, whilst home on leave, Mr Harry W Champion had married Miss Emily E Simmonds at St Andrew’s and, after a short honeymoon, had returned within the week to his military duties in France.

In April 1916, almost one and a half sides of the St Andrew’s magazine were given over to the sudden and premature death, as the result of a ‘miserable accident’, of Richard John Wightwick at the age of 16 years and 11 months, offering a stark reminder that the cruelties of life were not confined to warfare.

In Oxshott, a lecture was to be given by Mr R S Morrish on the Trentino, where the Italians were currently fighting the Austrians, and all proceeds were to be given to the Young Men’s Christian Association, ‘which [was] doing such splendid work on all the fronts and at home on behalf of our soldiers’.

‘War Work for Women’ was to resume at the church Hall on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, from 10am to 1pm and, on Friday, from 2pm to 4.30pm, and Mrs Burgoyne made an appeal for ‘eggs for the wounded’.

The magazine also included an account sent by Archibald George Ritchie, who was serving in the Fleet, of his experiences at the evacuations of Anzac Cove and Cape Helles.

Meanwhile, at home, the parish of St Mary’s was busy with arrangements for the forthcoming Missionary Tableaux and the choir’s rendering of Stainer’s “Crucifixion”. The choir, it was asserted, would have been incapable of undertaking such a work a few years ago but, with training and tuition by Mr Waters’, they had risen to the occasion.

In May 1916 it was reported that Monday in Easter Week had been observed as a ‘Flag Day’ for the Lord Roberts’ Memorial Fund, and £11 13s. had been collected in St Mary’s parish. ‘Flag Days’ were days set aside for charity collection, and were particularly popular among the working classes during the First World War as, in exchange for a small donation, they could demonstrate their patriotism by wearing the small flag that they received in return.

In Oxshott it was recorded that the children of the congregation had brought 330 eggs to the Easter Day service, which were to be sent, by Mrs Burgoyne, to the National Egg Collection for the Wounded.  Miss Dash called for cigarettes or tobacco, or financial contributions to purchase the same, which were to be sent to the front, to relatives of parishioners.

Lastly, the magazine recorded the death of Albert Harris.

With the topic of ‘Educational Developments after the War, with special reference to the Duty of Public Service’, The Surrey Educational Conference held in  June 1916 demonstrated how, even in the depths of the conflict, plans were being made for eventual peacetime. The Committee also recorded that they were unable to offer cheap railway vouchers to delegates, as, ‘owing to the exigencies of the military requirements the Railway Companies… [had] been compelled to order the suspension of reduced far facilities’.

In Oxshott, as well as calls for workers for the Work Room to meet the ‘very great’ demand from the war hospitals, war work was also offered for a woman or girl, in the form of around three hours daily milking for which training was to be provided.

In July 1916, a letter was received thanking the parishioners of St Mary’s for a donated parcel of hospital supplies, which were to be forwarded to one of the poorest hospitals in France.  In Oxshott, it was reported that there had been a marked increase in the number of helpers at the Work Room, which was open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday mornings, and all days on Friday. It was also noted that the war hospitals’ need for surgical bandages was becoming greater by the day.

Lastly, the death of Frederick Cotterell was recorded.

In August 1916 it was reported that the Stoke D’Abernon branch of the Mothers’ Union had decided that its members in the Diocese of Winchester were to undertake ‘to observe each Friday as a special Day of Intercession for our Church and Country, our Families, our Parishes, our Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen, and all near and dear to us’. If unable to attend the regular Friday intercession service at St Mary’s, members were asked ‘to try to kneel at home for a few minutes in heartfelt prayer’. This undertaking was to be in preparation for the ‘National Mission of Repentance and Hope’.

The ‘National Mission’ was launched by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and was ‘an attempt to repent for our sins as a nation… not because we believe that we are guilty of provoking this war, but because we, together with other nations that profess to be Christian, have failed to learn how to live together as a Christian family’. It was hoped that a collective national effort would project a ‘much needed message of hope’. In his ‘Letter’, the Bishop of Winchester stated that:

We have come to a great crisis in the War. We think we see light on the horizon. We hope that even Germany’s colossal resources and determination may begin to give way under the pressure of the Nations whom she has allied against her. Things are brighter. Glorious, too, is the fresh proof of the Nation’s manhood given in the almost superhuman courage, and in the extraordinary pateience, brightness, and good humour of those who suffer in this unexampled fighting. They do their part, indeed: God grant that we may as faithfully do ours.

He then outlined the Mission’s purpose, which was to ‘make nations and ourselves more worthy of the gift of victory, more fit to use peace if it is granted to us’, as well as the spiritual, thoughtful and practical duties of those involved. In the St Andrew’s portion of the magazine it was noted that the Bishop had also written a letter to the children of the congregation and parents were asked ‘to explain… the two leading questions to put to them’, which were ‘what has been wrong with our dear English life?’ and ‘how may it be better?’.

In Stoke D’Abernon a ‘War Savings Association’ had been set up with the objective of enabling its members ‘to obtain 15s.6d. War Savings certifications by regular contributions on more favourable terms than would be possible for individual subscribers’.

The Oxshott parish magazine published a letter from the Honourable Arthur Stanley and Lord Ranfurly, of the British Red Cross Society, appealing for more nurses. The letter stated that:

A real and urgent necessity has arisen for more Nurses, V.A.D. [Voluntary Aid Detachment] Nursing members (women), and V.A.D. General Service members, in Military and Auxiliary Hospitals at home. The demands made upon us by the Military Authorities are very heavy and cannot be met out of the existing supply. There must still be many women who are not giving the whole of their time and service to the war, and who have not ties which prevent them doing so. We earnestly call upon these women to come forward and help us in this emergency and thus enable us to answer the call of the sick and wounded men.

Finally, the magazine records the deaths of Arthur M Rimer and  Stephen Bourne.

September 1916, in Stoke D’Abernon, saw the details of an ‘Act of Courage’ citation for Philip Marshall, and news of his subsequent promotion to Corporal, and, in Oxshott, an up-to-date list men serving from the parish (133 men, of which 2 were reported missing), a recognition of distinguished bravery on the part of Corporal O. Hussey, and an updated ‘Roll of Honour’, listing the 11 men who had laid down their lives to date, including Ernest Godfrey.

The magazine also outlined the operation of the War Savings Certificates Scheme, and the role within that scheme, and method of operation, of Oxshott’s recently set-up, local association.

Both St Mary’s and St Andrew’s published their arrangements for special services for the ‘National Mission’, which were to take place from October 12th to October 16th.

The British Red Cross Society’s ‘Our Day’, in October 1916, saw the sum of £100 raised in Oxshott, and the Oxshott Branch of the Penny Bandage Collection also collected the sum of £20 2s. 7d..

It was also recorded that, ‘in recognition of their patriotic services in agricultural labour’, Mrs R Coombs and Mrs Gray, both of Godfrey Cottages, and Mrs A Gray of Little Heath, had received the Government green armlet.

Brassard, Women's National Land Service Corps

Title: Brassard, Women's National Land Service Corps
Description: Imperial War Museum, CataloguINS 7802 by-nc

The armlet was almost certainly presented to recognise their work for the Women’s National Land Service Corps (WNLSC), which had been formed early in 1916 ‘to deal with the emergency war-work on the land’.  By the end of the year, demand for agricultural workers was so great that, in early 1917, the Corps became an agent of the newly formed Women’s Land Army. In all, the WNLSC sent out 9,022 workers, and ‘in 1918 the flax harvest was saved by 3,835 holiday workers from the Corps’.

In November 1916 the St Mary’s magazine records the success of the ‘National Mission’ but cautions against complacency, asserting that ‘our one great danger is to rest content with an new start and not to persevere unto the end’. The services at St Andrew’s were also well attended and a thank you letter from the Bishop’s Messenger, H P Thompson, was published.

Demonstrating the wide diversity of work that contributed to the war effort, the Oxshott branch of the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen hosted  a lecture by a North Sea Trawler Skipper, Tom Nicks, who described  the life of a seaman, as well as relating the experiences of those men giving aid to the Navy on the mine sweepers.  The lecture attracted a ‘very large and enthusiastic audience’, realising the ‘handsome sum of £6 0s. 2d..

Finally, it was reported that the Rector had received a telegram from Zanzibar stating that all interned Missionaries in German East Africa, some thirty or so, including the Rector’s own sister Miss G E Blackburne, had been released. The Rector had also subsequently received a cable directly from his sister, confirming this pleasing news.

As well as arrangements for Christmas, December 1916, the last month of the second full year of conflict, saw an appeal, once again, for children and adults to bring a toy to the St Mary’s Toy Service for later distribution ‘amongst the children of our Sailors and Soldiers, especially those who have become fatherless since the war began’. The message of the ‘National Mission’ was once again re-enforced, calling for parishioners to help ‘carry the Message to the Nation’.

In the St Andrew’s magazine congratulations were offered to Brigadier-General John Clarke, who had been received by the King at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday November 22nd and invested as a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George, and William Coombs, who had received the Military Medal for gallantry. On a sadder note, parishioners learnt of the death of Leland Finch, who was killed in action.

An appeal was made to the parishioners of Oxshott, by the Matron of the Red House Auxiliary Hospital in Leatherhead,  for gifts of Christmas Fare, foodstuffs and tobacco, for the wounded soldiers under her care.

Finally, ‘in accordance with what was done on the First Sunday of this year and in 1915’, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York asked that, on the last Sunday of the year, December 31st, ‘special prayer should be offered in all our Churches in connection with the war, and… thankful recognition should be made for the devotion which has been shown by the manhood and womanhood of our country’. To that end, a special Memorial Service for those who had fallen was to be held at St Andrew’s, at 6.30pm on the last day of the year.


St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, and St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, January to December 1916, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

Voluntary Action History Society, ‘The Origins of Flag Days’, accessed 9 January 2017,  http://www.vahs.org.uk/vahs/papers/vahs3.pdf.

The Lambeth Palace Library Blog, ‘The National Mission of Repentance and Hope 1916’, accessed 9 January 2017, https://lambethpalacelibrary.wordpress.com/2016/05/13/the-national-mission-of-repentance-and-hope-1916/.

The National Archive, ‘The Women’s Land Army in eight documents’, accessed 9 January 2017, http://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/womens-land-army-8-documents/.

The Women’s Land Army, ‘First World War Women’s Land Army’, accessed 9 January 2017, http://www.womenslandarmy.co.uk/first-world-war-womens-land-army/.

Imperial War Museums, ‘brassard, British, Women’s National Land Service Corps’, accessed 10 January 2017, http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30077017.

Dad’s WW1

The subject of this piece was born in Uckfield, East Sussex, and later lived in Wandsworth, London. His son, the author, lives in Epsom, Surrey.

Called the Great War, I would just like to know what was great about it. Having been thrown out of his home in Uckfield Sussex (by his Mum’s second husband) aged sixteen dad had no natural skills so decided to join the Royal Navy which only two years later was to prove a very poor decision, going to war with Germany on the high seas as a basic seaman. This was a service that offered very little to a young man perhaps except to see “The World” which was not a glowing future with a German navy trying to sink your ship/s. Oh of course there were the sea biscuits riddled with weevils to look forward to and the odd tot of rum. But as the saying goes “you know what sailors are” a girl in every port, plenty of drinking and no doubts fights. Dad was up and down the ratings constantly between ordinary seaman then the next rung up followed quickly back to basic seaman likely through drink and perhaps women.

Dad’s first ship he served on was sunk by the Germans but slight luck was with him being picked up from his lifeboat by another British ship only for that ship to be also sank by those blasted Germans.

He spent many hours in the water only to be rescued by the Russian navy and taken to the USSR spending a very long period in a Russian hospital which does not bear thinking about with the state of the economy in the USSR at the time.

Somehow he survived (of sorts) to get out of the country ending up of all places in Malta where he continued to try and recover from the effects of hours in the cold sea. He met and married a Maltese woman having four children. It was not until 1919 he was formally discharged from the navy as medically unfit, receiving a paltry naval pension which was to be his only regular income up to his death in 1960. The marriage was not to last so he headed back to the UK where he met our Mother having another four children by her.

I was the youngest by one hour (being twinned with my sister) she was born twenty to midnight on 23/02/44 with me coming along at twenty to 1 am on 24/02/44.

I first became aware of Dad’s gradual health decline when I was about five and continued observing that over the next ten years up to his death with all that entailed which was at best mostly grim. As I said what was glorious about the Great War.




Lost in the H.M.S. Opal Accident, Cletts of Crura, Orkney, 12 January 1918


DENYER.—ln loving memory of Jack, eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Denyer, Goldsworth Road, St. John’s, late of H.M.S. Opal, T.B.D., who went down with his comrades January 12th, 1918.
To live in the hearts of those we love is not to die.

Source: Woking News & Mail, Friday, 16 January 1920, page 3 (and subsequent years).

William Frith Horner

Text and research by Brian Roote

William Frith Horner was born in West Ham in 1895 to Leonard Horner and Annie Blew. His father was a builder with his own business. They moved to Wayside, Warlingham. William signed for the Navy and went to Dartmouth College.  He was appointed Acting Sub Lieutenant and then full rank announced in The London Gazette of 16 March 1915. He then transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service and began training on airships and eventually qualified as a Flight Commander.

The Royal Naval Air Service was formed on 1 July 1914 from the Royal Flying Corps and only 198 men of all ranks were taken on. They trained on airships at RAF Cranwell.

On qualifying William was posted to Caldale Airfield at Kirkwall. Orkney which was an airship station built 1915/1916. T he main aircraft stationed there were varieties of airships some of which were annotated as SSP short for Submarine Scout Pusher and only 6 were ever built, one of which, SSP4 would take William to his death. The SSP carried 2-3 crew, had wireless telegraphy and a Lewis Gun. Its two tanks carried enough fuel for about 8 hours. It had a Rolls Royce engine with a 6 bladed propeller. SSP 4 was delivered to Caldale on 12 June 1917.

At 17.00 hours on 21 December 1917 SSP 4 left Caldale with William as pilot, Ernest Anthony, engineer and Rowland Behn, wireless operator. Its mission was an anti submarine patrol. The weather got worse as the flight went on and with snow and heavy wind William decided to return to base. All lights at Caldale were turned on to help SSP 4 home.

At 18.10 base received a message requesting information on wind strength and direction. 18.20 message requesting a destroyer be sent to position 72K and show a searchlight.

These and following messages are all in the Caldale logs. Later, at 21.10 a communication between SSP4 and HMS Campania asked for a destroyer at full speed. A final message from SSP 4 was received ‘send destroyer to Sanday, may not be able to get back’ Nothing more was heard from SSP 4 and all lights at Caldale were turned off.

Next morning the wreck was found at Taffs, on the south shore of Westray but no trace of the crew. All confidential papers, charts, a boot, leather jacket and a glove were found on boards. SSP 4 was salvaged and a subsequent Court of Inquiry found that the contact switch was still on, the throttle set at full forward and the propeller badly damaged. The evidence led to the conclusion that the aircraft had hit the water with the engine running. The crew were never found.

The London Gazette of April 30 1918, some 6 months after the accident carried the award of Distinguished Service Cross to Flt Cdr William Frith Horner, R N. His engineer Ernest Anthony was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal which is the equivalent of the Distinguished Service Cross for other ranks. Rather unusually Rowland Behn got nothing.

They are all remembered on the Chatham War Memorial and William is on Warlingham War Memorial and in the memorial in Warlingham Church.