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

 

William Day

Family story contributed by Brian Gudgeon

William Day was born in the winter of 1880, to Alfred Jon Day and Alice Louisa Day (nee Gaunt), in Southwark.  By the 1901 Census, the Day family were living at 10 Rosebery Avenue, Croydon, and the 21 year old William was working as a Bottler in a brewery.

William Day 1902 Attestation Papers. Courtesy of Brian Gudgeon.

His military career began on 13 January 1902, when he enlisted with the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment (QRWS), in Croydon, serving as a regular in the 1st Battalion.  His time with the QRWS took him to South Africa and India, from where he posted Christmas cards to his sister Alice Florence (Flo) Day; a card dated from 1905 shows he was stationed in Sialkot, in the Punjab region (now in Pakistan, after the Partition in 1947).  By 1911, he was working as General Warehouseman Dry Goods, and living with parents at 116 Birchanger Road, South Norwood. The family is not sure why he is entered thus as according to his Military records he was in the army at this time. It may be because he was transferred to Army Reserve on 28 Feb 1910 (or maybe April) and then re-engaged 23 Feb 1911, and then transferred again 23 Feb 1912. He was finally discharged on 12th January 1914 having served 12 years.

Although no records of his First World War service (apart from Medal Card) has been found to date, he would likely have been called up or volunteered, upon outbreak of war. In 1917, he is listed as serving with the Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort’s Own) in a Christmas card to ‘Flo and Ed’ (his sister and her husband Charles Edward Mitchell).
In a 1918 ‘Menu’ to [Signaller] Day W.’ he is shown as serving in the 3rd Battalion, Rifle Brigade.

William Day Death Certificate. Courtesy of Brian Gudgeon.

William survived the war, and died in 1933; he was interred in Mitcham Road Cemetery, Croydon, Plot W4, Grave No. 17716, with his younger brother, Alfred Wilton. William’s death certificate says he was ‘Found dead on 26th March 1933 Holt Wood, Chelsham R.D.’ He was 52. The cause of death was ‘Suicide whilst of unsound mind by lysol poisoning. [Post Mortem] Certificate received from E. Lovell Hewitt Acting Coroner for County of Surrey. Inquest held 30th March 1933.’ His address and occupation were ‘7 Drummond Road Croydon. No occupation. Formerly a Window Cleaner’.

Read the stories of his brothers in the First World War:

Alfred Day: https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/alfred-wilton-day/

Arthur Day: https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/arthur-day/

Fred Day: https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/fred-day/

Herbert Day: https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/herbert-day/

Sydney Day: https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/sydney-frederick-day/

Walter Day: https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/walter-daniel-day/

Captain Billie Percy Nevill – a short history of military service

Wilfred Percy Nevill (often referred to by his family as ‘Billie’) was born on 14 July 1894, one of seven children, in Highbury, North London.

Educated at Dover College (where he was recorded on 1911 census), he started at Jesus College, Cambridge, reading a Classical Tripos, with the original intention of following a teaching career. Wilfred gained a temporary commission on 27 November 1914 following the outbreak of war in August 1914.

Although gazetted into the East Yorkshire Regiment, Wilfred was posted to the 8th (Service) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, which was part of 55 Brigade, 18th Division (a ‘New Army’ Division commanded by General Sir Ivor Maxse).

The 8th East Surreys were posted to France in May 1915 and held part of the line near Albert. Wilfred’s correspondence home described life on or near the front line and included some humour despite the front line conditions.

On 1 July 1916, at the start of the Battle of the Somme, the Battalion took part in the 18th Division’s attack at Montauban. The objective of the Battalion was to secure part of a ridge-line near Mametz.

Wilfred commanded B Company, 8th East Surreys, and is remembered for commencing the attack by encouraging his soldiers to kick footballs before them as they advanced towards the enemy lines. Wilfred was killed during the early phase of this assault.

Compared to fortunes further north on the assault front, 18th Division achieved more of its objectives, although at a high cost, the East Surreys suffering over over 400 casualties.

Shown here are some images of ‘Billie’ and fellow officers in France in 1915 and 1916 (from a photograph album described below). Several of these images include two 8th East Surrey officers who were awarded the Distinguished Service Order for gallantry on 1 July 1916. Captain C. Janion (then a Second Lieutenant) rallied surviving soldiers from the Battalion and led bombing raids down the enemy trenches and organised a further assault against the Battalion’s final objective. Captain E. C. Gimson was the Battalion Medical Officer who spent many hours on the front line dressing the wounds of injured soldiers whilst under constant shellfire.

Wilfred is buried at Carnoy Soldiers’ Cemetery and commemorated at Jesus College, Cambridge, and on St Mary The Virgin War Memorial in Twickenham.

 

Billie Nevill’s Photograph Album

The photograph album was donated to the East Surrey Regiment by Reverend T. S. Nevill, the brother of Wilfred Nevill. The album contains views of trenches at Tambour & the remains of Bercordel (including one of the church bell which apparently was used to warn of gas attacks). The images also show views from Flixecourt, the Somme Valley, Vaux Wood, groups of soldiers (mainly Battalion officers, including ‘Billie’ Nevill), a nurse and occasional civilians, taken 1915-1916. Also an unclear photograph of senior Allied Commanders (Haig, Foch, & Allenby).

 

Sources

  • Surrey History Centre Archives reference ESR/25/NEVI (include a photograph album capturing trench and rear area life prior to the Somme battle).
  • Ancestry Institution records, Long Long Trail and Surrey Infantry Museum records.

Rejoicing and Mourning: Responses in Kingston to news of the Armistice in 1918

Written by Dr Steven Woodbridge

The end of the First World War brought great joy to many people in cities, towns, villages and numerous other communities across the British Isles, but at the same time there was also sadness and some poignant scenes for the thousands who had lost loved ones and close family members in the brutal conflict.

How did the people of Kingston-on-Thames and district respond to the news that an Armistice had been signed on November 11th, 1918, exactly 100 years ago? As we commemorate the end of the ‘Great War’, it is interesting to look back at the coverage of the Armistice offered by the local Surrey Comet newspaper in Kingston-on-Thames, which was the town’s main source of news at the time, and explore the details the paper gave to its readers about the events of that special Monday.

As the nation entered into the early days of the new month of November, 1918, the Surrey Comet had noted how the ‘rhythm’ of the war at the front appeared to be changing, but the paper also seemed to sense the sheer exhaustion now felt by local people at home. In an editorial in the November 2nd edition, entitled ‘A Month’s Victories’, the paper had pointed to the ‘tremendously dramatic events’ that were transpiring in the war zones, events which had left people ‘nearly breathless with interest; and yet, it must be added, that never did a great people who have waged war for upwards of four years, and in their hearts intensely desire peace, appear to be so little moved and exulted by it all’. The paper argued victory was in sight, but there could be no relaxation of effort.

The Surrey Comet’s coverage of Monday, November 11th, 1918 (the day of the Armistice), was published on Wednesday, November 13th, in its mid-week edition, and the sense of relief at the dramatic news about the Armistice was palpable. The mid-week edition included an editorial which proclaimed: ‘The people of our country and Empire can lift up their hearts today, for the most awful war in the world’s history has come to a close…’.

Reflecting on the previous four years, a note of triumphalism could be detected in the Comet’s stance; the paper’s editorial argued that Germany ‘had listened to false prophets who declared her people to be the Blonde Race destined to rule the world; and in pursuit of the world ambitions which thus infected the blood, has met the fate she so justly deserved’. The editorial added: ‘Marching through blood, rapine, lust and murder, she has over-reached herself and now tastes the galling bitterness of humiliation and defeat’. The Comet then praised ‘the dauntless valour and self-sacrifice’ of Naval and Military forces: ‘The Mighty Dead will live ever in the Nation’s memory…’.

On the next page, under the heading ‘Victory At Last!’, the paper then offered the Comet’s readers some fascinating detail on how the news of the Armistice was received in Kingston and the surrounding area. According to the paper, November 11th was ‘a day that dawned with new-found hope for a European peace…’.

Surrey Comet, 13 November 1918

Monday was a ‘a day of national rejoicing’, and within a few minutes of the confirmation of the official news, ‘Kingston and the surrounding neighbourhood presented quite a blaze of bunting. Flags appeared as if by magic’. Flags were put out on all public buildings in the town, and: ‘Cottage and mansion vied with each other in making the best show’, while there was also a ‘tremendous run on all the available stocks of flags at the shops’.

Soon the streets ‘became thronged with people’, who were ‘bent on making holiday’. The bells of All Saint’s Church in Kingston ‘rang out merry peals, and everyone was radiant with smiles. Rich and poor rubbed shoulders with one another in the crowds which surged through the streets…’.

Interestingly, the Comet revealed that a number of operatives from Sopwith’s Aviation factory (which was a large wartime employer in the town), who ‘had downed tools in ebullient glee when the glad tidings were received’, then passed through the streets in a motor-van, with a ‘conspicuous figure’ decorating the van – an effigy of the German Kaiser.

Simultaneously, however, the Surrey Comet’s report of the events of that day also recognised that ‘it was not all rejoicing. There was a ghost at the feast. The mourning attire and the sad, set faces of many women told their own sorrowful stories, and the hearts of all who are near and dear to them went out in deep sympathy to those who have experienced the tragedy of the war in its bitterest form by being robbed of their loved ones’.

During the afternoon of November 11th, the rain set in. In the words of the Comet: ‘It was a nasty drizzle which clung to one’s clothes, but it failed to damp the ardour of the revellers, although it appreciably thinned their ranks’. Indeed, as darkness fell, many people in the town and district apparently went home, ‘preferring the comfort of their homes to the damp streets…’.

Yet, the next day (Tuesday) saw the rejoicing continue. A prominent lead was given by the employees of the Sopwith Aviation Works again, who had been given a holiday until Wednesday.

As the Surrey Comet described it: ‘A long procession was formed of motor-lorries and motor-cars crammed with men and women, with a considerable number on foot bringing up the rear’. Moreover, the ‘foremost lorry’ in the procession carried effigies of ‘the butcher of Berlin’ (the Kaiser) and his eldest son, both adorned with German Iron Crosses. Led by a big drum, with bugles blaring and flags flying from every car, the procession made its way slowly through the streets of Kingston, ‘and was greeted everywhere with vociferous cheering’.

In Kingston Market Place, in the heart of the town, the ‘processionists’ were joined by an Army motor-lorry, ‘crowded with men in Khaki’, and the effigies of the Kaiser and his son were then brunt ‘amidst tumultuous cheering’. Significantly, the Surrey Comet also noted that Kingston Barracks (near Richmond Park), the depot of the East Surrey Regiment which had trained and provided so many local men for military service in France and Belgium, also saw ‘lusty cheering’ and ‘vociferous expression of satisfaction at the cessation of hostilities’.

A ‘bond of mutual help’: The Comrades of the Great War organisation in Kingston and Surbiton

Written by Dr Steven Woodbridge

Christmas arrived early for some former soldiers in the suburbs of south-west London in late 1918. One hundred years ago, on Christmas Day, 1918, the Surrey Comet newspaper carried a report about the opening of a new clubhouse for discharged servicemen in Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey.

The new clubhouse had been officially opened at 48, London Road, Kingston, a few days earlier, on the evening of Saturday, 21st December, in a formal opening ceremony conducted by Mrs. Cooper Turner, accompanied by her husband, Lieutenant F. Cooper Turner. The latter was President of the Kingston and Surbiton branch of the ‘Comrades of the Great War’ organisation, and the Comet noted that its members now had a place where they could ‘meet and discuss matters of interest and enjoy a little social intercourse’ at centrally located premises.

Although there has been some brief coverage by historians of the ‘Comrades of the Great War’ at national level, very little is available on the evolution of branches of the organisation at local level in towns and cities across the British Isles. A brief exploration of the Kingston and Surbiton branch can partly help to address this gap in our knowledge.

First of all, however, what was the purpose and aims of the ‘Comrades of the Great War’ (CGW) organisation? CGW had been formed in late 1917 at an event held at the Mansion House in London, in order to lobby for, and protect, the rights of ex-servicemen and women who had served in His Majesty’s armed forces and been discharged. It was founded by Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby, who sought a rightwing alternative to the recently formed ‘National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers’ (founded in 1916, and affiliated to the Trade Union movement), and also to the ‘National Federation of Discharged and Demobilized Sailors and Soldiers’ (which had been founded in April, 1917).

The President and leader of CGW was the Conservative MP Colonel Wilfred Ashley (1867-1939) (see photo), who was also secretary of the Anti-Socialist Union (ASU), a group which feared the spread of Socialism and Bolshevism in Britain. Ashley felt CGW could help steer ex-soldiers away from being seduced by the ‘radical’ propaganda of the other rival ex-service organisations.

Colonel Wilfred Ashley (Wikipedia)

He was aware that unemployment was high among veterans, especially those who had been left disabled through war injuries. The National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers, in particular, was calling for better pensions for those who had served. Similarly, the rapidly rising Labour Party was also beginning to campaign on such issues. Many veterans had also expressed disappointment over the seemingly unfulfilled promises made by the wartime Government concerning how many more houses would be built and made available for ex-servicemen and their families. Ashley was worried that ex-servicemen’s groups on the Left would try and exploit such discontent and, indeed, were already ‘politicising’ veterans. He wished to ensure that CGW would be more neutral in such matters.

Ironically, after a number of years of fairly intense competition between CGW and the other two ex-servicemen’s groups, CGW eventually combined with those same organisations, together with the Officers’ Association (which had been formed in 1920), and the four organisations formally became one single veterans movement in May, 1921, entitled the ‘British Legion’, which, of course, still exists today.

The first indications of CGW activity in the Kingston and Surbiton area came in mid-December, 1917, when it was reported that, ‘with the object of inaugurating a local branch of this new organisation’, a meeting had been held at the Gables Theatre in Surbiton (now the site of Hillcroft College, behind Surbiton Station). Mr. G. Pegram presided at the meeting, and a local branch committee was formed. Just a few weeks later, in January, 1918, it was reported in the Surrey Comet that a ‘well attended’ general meeting of the new Kingston and Surbiton branch of the CGW had been held at the Gables Theatre, with Canon F.B. Macnutt, former Senior Chaplain to the British Forces in France, presiding. The honorary secretary, Mr. Herbert Frost, reported, ‘amid applause’, that during the six weeks the branch had been in existence its membership had increased from 22 to 230.

Significantly, at the same meeting, Captain Towse, V.C., of the central organisation of the CGW, spoke to the local members and ’emphasised the fact that the “Comrades” were a strictly non-political body’. According to Towse, the main object of each branch was to unite discharged and demobilised soldiers in ‘a bond of mutual help’ and ‘comradeship’, and ‘to assist the dependents of men and women of all grades of the Services’ who had given their lives for King and Country. Capt. Towse also explained that the organisation ‘must not be confused with Trade Unions’. The ‘Comrades’, he claimed, ‘were out for the sole purpose of helping ex-servicemen, and in so doing they were not working against any other organisation, association or union’.

The following month, the Surrey Comet carried an interesting report about the wider activities and evolution of the CGW across Surrey. According to the newspaper, a meeting had been held in London in early February, 1918, ‘with the object of ventilating the aims and objects of the Comrades of the Great War, and with the view of adopting the scheme for the County of Surrey’. Lord Midleton presided, and ‘a considerable number of important people in the County were present’. Lord Midleton had explained the aims and objects of the CGW organisation, together with Capt. Towse (again representing the CGW national executive), while Colonel Young explained what had been done in Surrey. A resolution put to the meeting was unanimously adopted to appoint a special committee to increase CGW activity in Surrey, and it was noted that: ‘A branch for Kingston and Surbiton was established at the Gables Theatre, Surbiton, a few weeks ago, and there is also a branch at East Molesey’.

A sense of urgency can also be detected in CGW developments at local level in Surrey, including in the Kingston and district area. This was undoubtedly due to the emergence of rivals. In February, 1918, for example, a branch of the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers had been formed for Surbiton and Kingston, and any ‘discharged servicemen desiring to enrol’ were invited to communicate with W.R.G. Tucker, at Orchard Cottage, South Place, Surbiton Hill. Also known as the ‘Silver Badge Men’ (from September, 1916, a silver badge was issued to service personnel who had been honourably discharged due to serious wounds or sickness), the organisation tended to be more outspoken concerning what they saw as the unfair treatment of ex-servicemen, especially those men who had lost limbs.

Tucker became Hon. Secretary of the group, which held its first general meeting in early March at the Surbiton Lecture Hall in Maple Road, Surbiton. Reliable figures on local membership and support are difficult to find, although in November, 1918, it was reported that, at a monthly meeting of the Silver Badge Men held in the Fife Hall, Kingston, ‘about 100 members were present’ to hear addresses by two parliamentary candidates for the Kingston Parliamentary Division, who were subjected to ‘a good deal of good-humoured heckling’. The same account of the meeting stated that the local National Federation branch now had a membership of nearly 400, which was about fifty or so more than the CGW by that stage.

Meanwhile, the CGW had followed its own ‘non-political’ path. In early March, 1918, it was announced that Lieut.-Colonel F. Cooper Turner, J.P., had accepted the position of ‘Commandant’ of the Kingston and Surbiton branch of the CGW, and the branch appears to have made some further progress over the next few months. The ‘social’ side to the branch certainly seemed healthy. Indeed, it appears that the social and cultural activities were viewed as more important than any dabbling in ‘politics’. In May, 1918, the CGW were able to hold their second ‘smoking concert’ at the Gables Theatre, with an ‘excellent programme’ of acts arranged for the occasion by Mr. Herbert Frost, the local branch secretary.

Clearly, however, a more permanent base for the local CGW branch was urgently needed if it was to grow yet more and provide regular support and social ‘comradeship’ for members, particularly given the local emergence of the rival National Federation. In June, 1918, it was reported that there had only been ‘a fair attendance’ at a general meeting of the branch of the CGW held at the Gables Theatre. Lieut.-Colonel F. Cooper Turner, presiding at the meeting, and speaking in his capacity as Commandant, said ‘every effort’ was being made to find suitable premises for club purposes ‘where the comrades could spend a comfortable hour of recreation’. Interestingly, though, branch secretary Frost was still able to report that the branch had over 300 members and was ‘still enrolling’.

But the search for a headquarters and club-room appears to have dragged on for a number of months. It was not until well into the autumn that a property was found. In early November, the Surrey Comet revealed that the CGW were making an appeal for funds to provide a club-room for the branch, as ‘suitable quarters’ had now been obtained in Kingston. The estimated expense of furnishing the premises (at 48, London Road), plus rental and lighting, for a period of three years, was ‘about £600’.

Publicity material for the appeal provides further insights into what the CGW stood for. Again, it was stated that the aims and objects of the organisation were to ‘bring together’ the discharged and demobilised sailors and soldiers of the district ‘in a bond of mutual help’, and to ‘continue that spirit of Comradeship so predominant in the Trenches’, while also safeguarding the interests of all naval and military men and the widows and orphans of these who had fallen.

In the appeal for funds, the CGW branch Hon. Secretary Herbert Frost also called for gifts of furniture, including a Billiard Table: ‘Will any lady or gentleman kindly present one as a memorial to a Fallen Hero? An inscribed plate will be affixed denoting the donor and in whose memory it is given’.

It is also evident that, as a more conservative type of veterans organisation, the CGW could rely on support from Establishment notables. In early December, 1918, in a report on a meeting at Kingston Congregational Hall to celebrate both the first anniversary of the branch and the fact that it would be opening premises shortly, a message from Lady Haig, wishing success to the branch, was read out by the Commandant, F. Cooper Turner. The first Annual Report of the branch, presented by Hon. Secretary Frost, stated that membership was now at 359.

Coverage of the opening of the new CGW premises in Kingston is also worth noting. A tone of optimism was in evidence. The Surrey Comet observed to its readers that the Comrades of the Great War organisation was ‘one of the products of the War which bids fair to play an important part in national affairs in coming days’, and was ‘making great headway’ in many parts of the country. Moreover, the Comet suggested that nothing had been more marked during the War ‘than the spirit of comradeship which has been evoked by the sense of  a common danger and a common patriotism’.

Reflecting on the new post-war peace, the newspaper also argued that: ‘Men of all classes have served side by side in the ranks, and have manifested an equality of self-sacrifice in the interests of their country, and it is of the greatest importance that the feelings of mutual confidence should be maintained and deepened in the time of peace when so many perplexing problems have to be faced’.

Life of Stanley Skelton

Stanley Skelton was born on 18th November 1894 to Charles, a labourer, and Elizabeth Rosa Skelton of Banstead and was baptised at St Andrew’s Church in Kingswood the following April. He lived in Banstead his whole life, becoming a carman for a local coal merchant by 1911 when the family lived at 10 Fir Tree Cottages on Pound Road. On 7th November 1912 he received notice and joined up to the East Surrey Regiment at Kingston-upon-Thames as a reservist.

With the outbreak of war in August 1914 he was mobilised and, after training, posted to the 1st Battalion whom he joined in the field at Ypres on the 6th April 1915. Less than two weeks later, the battalion took part in the ferocious defence of the recently captured Hill 60. After being subjected to a two-and-a-half hour ‘annihilation bombardment’, their position was assaulted by German bombing parties and infantry attacks. Despite the heavy attack, the East Surreys held the line and were relieved the following day.

The Battalion spent the summer months around Ypres before being moved south to the defences around Maricourt on the Somme. Here they remained for the winter, being rotated in and out of the trenches. After nine months at the front, Stanley was granted his first and only leave in January 1916. That spring, the Battalion was moved again, this time to Arras. It was here the Stanley received a gunshot wound to the abdomen on 24th April and was invalided back to England, spending three months at the Northfield Military Hospital in Birmingham. On 3rd October 1916 he was formally discharged as ‘physically unfit’, earning a Silver Star (Silver War Badge) for his wounds.

After his military service, Stanley returned to Banstead where he eventually found work as a gas stoker. He met Alice Daniels, a war widow, and they were married on 3rd August 1918 at Banstead All Saints’ Church. Three months later the war ended, but peace for Stanley was short lived. Shortly after his 24th birthday, he contracted influenza and bronchitis, succumbing to his illness on 9th December 1918. Three days later he was buried at All Saints’ Church in Banstead and given a military headstone as recognition for his service. His only child, a daughter named Kathleen, was born the following year on 2nd August 1919.

Two of Stanley’s brothers, Thomas and Alfred, would also lose their lives in the First World War and are remembered on the Banstead war memorial.

 

Sydney Charles Stark

Family History Story contributed by Cynthia Mills (close family friend)

Sydney Charles Stark was born on 26 November 1894 to Charles John Stark, a wheelwright and carpenter, and Elizabeth Ann Stark (nee Beacon). Both parents were from Devon, ‘Charlie’ from Broadclyst, and ‘Eliza’ from Sidmouth. He was about 14 months younger than his brother Robert (Robbie), and attended Caterham Valley Board School as well. After leaving school, he apprenticed to Knights in Redhill, and he hated it! Unlike his charming brother, serving in a shop, which his parents considered a step up from the manual labour and trades, Syd was more of a “hands-on” man. Before the War he took a job in a piano factory in London. He liked tinkering with motors and helping drive the lorries for deliveries, much to his mother’s chagrin, who had great hopes that her sons would move up in the class system.

When the War came, Charlie Stark never believed there would ever be conscription, so he advised his sons to not join up. Sydney complied until he was conscripted in March 2016. He was still allowed to choose his branch of service so, with his interest in motors, he joined the Army Service Corps (ASC). His father encouraged him to do that as well, citing that he would be well out of the trenches. That he was, but it was also extremely dangerous going back and forth to the front lines with ammunition, supplies and other materials. Many times he was blown out of his vehicle from the shellfire. He said he carried a heavy chain just in case he was attacked.

He served with the 69th Steam Company, Army Service Corps, driving a Peerless wagon. After the War he was sent to Germany where he drove Thornycrofts. He was finally demobilised in about 1920. He had met a young German woman and fell in love, but he knew his parents would not countenance her being his wife, so broke it off before he came home.

When he came home, there was no work to be had, and he said he hated “living off my parents.” Robbie had been their “blue-eyed boy,” literally, as he had blue-grey eyes, while Syd’s were brown, and figuratively, as they pinned all their hopes on his success.  Sadly, his brother had been killed in action in September 1916. Those long nights sitting at the table and feeling his mother’s eyes on him really got to him, wondering if she wished he had been killed instead of his brother. He had a tremendous relationship with his father Charlie that saved him from total depression. So it was very sad when his father was hit with a large board while on the job in 1926, smashing his kidneys and killing him a few days later. Syd was inconsolable, and Charlie never got to see his only grandchild.

Syd eventually became a bus driver with the East Surrey Transport Company, where he worked for over forty years and served as the Union secretary for many years. His conductor, Teddy Ticknor, loved to dance, as did Margery, his deceased brother’s fiancée. Syd was never much of a dancer, unlike his brother, so he asked Teddy to take Margery dancing to make her happy. Not sure if it did make her happy, but Syd would do anything for her, it seemed, no matter what.

Sydney and Margery married on October 30, 1924 at St. Nicholas Church and remained married for 44 years until her death in April 1968. Sydney told his new wife that he loved her enough “for both of them.” While she cared for him, she never stopped loving his brother, even 52 years after he died. He often remarked to his son after her death, “There was always a ghost between us.” In fact, Margery refused to marry Sydney until 1924, when she told him, “I’ll cook and clean and wash and have just one child, but I will never love you. I will only love Robbie for the rest of my life. The engagement ring he gave me will serve as my wedding ring.”  Margery was quite a figure in the village. Her son David described her as “when she snapped her fingers the whole village jumped.” Robbie had been quite musical but not musically educated, so Margery made sure David had music lessons at an early age. He later graduated from the Royal Academy of Music and was a professional musician for most of his life.

Sydney’s good nature was often remarked upon in later life.  People who knew Syd called him the “Bank of England” because he was so reliable and dependable, and that you could set your watch by his punctuality and dependability.  His daughter-in-law said that no matter what she cooked, no matter how bad it was, Syd would always find something good to say about it and make her feel very appreciated.  He spent the last 25 years of his life after his wife died living in Vancouver, BC, Canada, with his son David and his family. He died at the age of 98 years old in March 1993 (I don’t know the exact date) where he is buried

The Maxse family, Georges Clemenceau, Effingham and World War I

Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929) was Prime Minister of France 1907-1909 for the first time and then again, critically, from 1917 to 1920 when, during the very dark days for the Allies, being spoken of as a new Joan of Arc, he rallied and led the French and also stiffened the faltering British resolve. He then held a key role alongside David Lloyd George and Woodrow Wilson in the post-war settlement, the Treaty of Versailles, surviving an assassination attempt on 19 February 1919. His famous nickname was ‘The Tiger’. His broad and flamboyantly moustachioed face was widely well-known and instantly recognisable to people of his time across the world.

This article is about the very deep and enduring friendship between Clemenceau and the Maxse family of Effingham before, during and after World War I. The Maxse family believed, with some justification, that this friendship was the real origin of cross-channel discussions which resulted eventually in the Entente Cordiale, an important Anglo-French agreement to co-operate signed in 1904 which ended roughly 1,000 years of greater or lesser hostility between the two nations.

 

The Maxses in Effingham

It is not fully known how early the connection of the Maxses with this area of Surrey began, but in Surrey History Centre there are conveyances between James Maxse (1792 – 1864) and the Earl of Lovelace in 1840, and in 1850-55. Maxse’s widow Lady Caroline Fitzhardinge Maxse, eldest daughter of Frederick Augustus Berkeley 5thEarl of Berkeley, settled in Effingham in 1869. Lady Caroline had married James, ‘a wealthy landowner, hunting man and yachtsman’ [see footnote i] in 1829. In 1832, their son Henry Berkeley Fitzharding Maxse was born, and a year later another son, Frederick Augustus Maxse (1833-1900). In due course both brothers entered the armed services. Aged about 17, in 1849 Henry joined the army as a Lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards. Shortly afterwards Frederick entered the Royal Navy. Both saw action during the Crimean War (1853-56) and Frederick became an acknowledged war hero. At the end of the war he was the youngest captain in the Navy. A firm Francophile, after retirement from active service he pursued a not-very-successful career in politics as a ‘democratic aristocrat’: an atheist radical who despite his own background hated privilege and social inequality.

James Maxse died in 1864. In 1869, in other words after her sons were grown up, Caroline purchased the lordship and Manor of Effingham East Court from Miles Stringer III. The grand manor house where she took up residence was Effingham Hill House, now St Teresa’s School, on Critten Lane in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The property was ‘a modest place on the high ridge between Dorking and Guildford, nine hundred acres and a Jane Austen sort of house of medium size, but able to contain her family and a few old friends who visited her regularly’. The author George Meredith, a close friend of Frederick since 1859 (and who since 1868 had lived nearby at Box Hill), described its gloriously eminent position with access to miles of beautiful countryside in admiring terms. It had attractions that would have strong appeal for Frederick as a country house within easy reach of London. He was extremely fond of countryside pursuits such as walking, horse-riding and hunting (and of course sailing – throughout his life he regularly sailed his yacht across to France).

Henry Maxse may have visited Effingham Hill House, but he never lived there. He spent many years overseas as a governor of colonial provinces and died in 1883, predeceasing his mother (1886). Frederick on the other hand remained based in London and with his children did visit his mother in Effingham.

Frederick had married Cecilia (née Steel) in 1861. They had two sons and two daughters. In due course all four children were destined for distinguished and influential lives: (Frederick) Ivor Maxse (1862–1958) had a military career and became a leading First World War general; Leopold (Leo) James Maxse (1864–1932) had a prominent career in political journalism with special interest in Britain’s foreign relations and defence; Olive Hermione Maxse (1866-1955) was a friend and model for Sir Edward Burne-Jones; Violet Georgina (1872–1958) married first Lord Edward Cecil and second Alfred, Viscount Milner, and also took a lifelong active interest in international political and military affairs.

Sadly by 1877 Frederick and Cecilia’s marriage had failed and they separated. Frederick was not an absentee parent and took a large part in bringing up the two girls. Violet, who was five when the separation occurred, writes of the many happy times she spent with her father at her grandmother’s house. In later life she shared her father’s delight in outdoor pursuits, and sometimes hunted on horseback with the local pack, the Surrey Union. Violet does not mention whether she was at Effingham Hill on the day of the visit there by HRH Prince Albert Victor of Wales (known to friends and family as ‘Eddy’) in 1885. Eddy was second in line to the throne, being grandson to Queen Victoria and eldest son of Edward, the then Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII) and Princess Alexandra of Denmark [ii]. The Prince of Wales and Frederick were comfortable acquaintances; and so were their sons. In 1883-85 Eddy had spent some time at Trinity College, Cambridge. This coincided with the undergraduate years of Leo, who was at King’s studying history between 1883-86. Leo was said to have been a lively and exciting presence at the university; he was President of the Cambridge Union for a term in 1886. Perhaps it was this connection that drew the young Prince on his day-trip to Effingham, but as Eddy’s education since age 16 had already included five years in the Navy including extensive world voyages, he and the Admiral would have had plenty to talk about at the dinner-table.

When his mother died in 1886, Frederick inherited the Lordship of the Manor of Effingham East Court. He kept his connection with Effingham, but not his mother’s house. This he sold, with much of the land and also the title, to Mr Julius Caesar Czarnikow [iii]. On the land he retained, on the site of the former Hill Lodge he built himself a fine new house, Dunley Hill House (now known as Ranmore Manor [iv]) into which he moved in 1887.

 

British perceptions of ‘Germany’ and the Mole Valley Gap

Only two years after Caroline’s purchase of Effingham Hill House, that area of Surrey was thrown rather shockingly into the spotlight of national consciousness as, militarily speaking, a focus for great anxiety about the imminent threat from Germany. It is not impossible that the shock of this impending threat, apparently in their own immediate neighbourhood, coloured the Maxse family’s outlook down the years.

Since the arrival of Prince-Elector George of Hanover to take up the British throne in 1714 there had been strong, if not always comfortable, connections between Britons and Germans. At Waterloo (1815) Marshall Blücher’s actions with Prussian forces strengthened the link with that particular state and he was much celebrated in Britain – for example, the Black Horse public house in Effingham was renamed the Prince Blucher, along with many others up and down the land. Later, the marriage of Queen Victoria to Albert created a tie with the state of Saxe-Coburg. The point to be noticed is that at this time, there was a very large territory occupied by German-speaking peoples, but no such sovereign state as ‘Germany’. Instead there were a myriad independent tiny states each ruled by its Prince, Elector, Landgrave, Margrave, Count or the like. In the British consciousness, it was an almost fairytale country of romantic medieval castles, remote enchanted forests, knights and ladies, pretty little antiquated market towns and so on – almost a Disney image.

The image began to change in the 1860s, when under Chancellor Bismarck the state of Prussia began to exercise greater and greater influence over its neighbours, and slowly to create a unified Germany. It also began to try to create a colonial presence overseas. The neighbouring major powers, France and Austria-Hungary, viewed all this with dislike and a great preference for the continuation of the old, disunited Germany. Their royal families had ties and influence over many small German states, and Bismarck realized that to achieve unification, Austria and France would each have to be taught a lesson about strength and power and minding their own business. In 1866, a brief military campaign defeated Austria’s army. In 1870, Prussia fomented a diplomatic argument and then administered a truly massive shock to the French. Prussia launched a sudden and frighteningly rapid armed attack on France itself. Superior planning and training crushed the French armies, who were forced to a humiliating surrender, followed by a siege of Paris’s civilians. In January 1871 from the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles itself the German King Wilhelm I, surrounded by his officers and soldiers, announced the beginning of the Second Reich (Empire) and that from now on he would be Emperor, not King. A so-called Peace Treaty was made later in 1871 which gave Alsace and Lorraine to Prussia, and crystallised the concept of Prussian victory and French defeat. This new and horrible experience for France of defeat on her own territory rankled terribly, could never be forgotten, and as Prussia continued to arm and to expand, France (and Britain) would never relax again.

Concurrently with these international affairs, in 1871 in England George Tomkyns Chesney published a profoundly shocking novella called The Battle of Dorking: Reminiscences of a Volunteer, ‘which started the genre of invasion literature’ [v]. It is a fictional account describing the aftermath of a sudden attack on Britain by German-speakers (the actual nation is never named), in which enemy forces had surged up through the ‘Mole gap’, the River Mole valley between Dorking and Leatherhead which runs north-south through the Downs. Failure to defend the heights of Box Hill and Ranmore [vi] on either side allowed the enemy to pass through. The invaders then succeeded in taking London and in a very short time the British had became a subject nation. The action of the story was set in 1875 (ie at the time of publication, this was the near future), to enhance its power as a timely warning. The point was of course to try to stimulate interest in a review of national defence before it was too late and the same should happen to England as to France. It was a best-seller and it must have had a powerful resonance in Effingham, such a small distance from Dorking.

Strong and growing anti-German / anti-Prussian feeling was regularly expressed by sections of the French and British press in the 1880s, ‘90s, and onwards. From 1893 right on through World War I Frederick’s eldest son Leo was due to play a large part in this.

 

Frederick Maxse and Clemenceau

In one biography, Clemenceau [vii] is quoted as saying that ‘The best friend of his life was the Englishman Maxse’. This friendship had been firmly founded long before Clemenceau became so internationally famous.

Georges Clemenceau was an immensely colourful, charismatic and energetic individual. He was a writer as well as a public servant, and when he became a leading politician he was one of those people who by the end of their careers had fully earned the honourable description of ‘statesman’. His political position is not easy to describe. He was ‘anti’ the French monarchy and the Second French Empire of Napoleon III, but equally quite ready to excoriate Republican politicians. He was left-wing wishing to improve social justice, but definitely anti-socialist and violently anti-communist. He was radical but also a believer in stability, not anarchy. He was a sort of political activist-cum-national gadfly, always demanding and expecting the highest standards in political life and trying to generate informed, rational, patriotic engagement by the populace.

In his early years he graduated as a doctor whilst writing for and founding various political newspapers. When as a result it got too hot for him in France, he left to practice medicine in New York. In 1869 he married an American, Mary Eliza Plummer (1848-1922) [viii], but then almost immediately in 1870 returned to France for those dreadful days after the sudden defeat of the French on their own territory by the Prussians. In 1871 he tried to negotiate between the left wing ‘Commune’ group which barricaded part of Paris and unsuccessfully tried to defend itself, and the government – a terrible episode in French domestic history. From this time forward, like so many others across Europe, he had an enduring opposition to German power and expansionism, and a grim determination to reclaim Alsace-Lorraine for France from Prussia.

He also began steadily (but not inexorably – there were gaps where he held no seat) to rise up through the levels from municipal politics into government. In the later 1880s along with Émile Zola he began first to suspect and then energetically to challenge pervasive, high-level corruption that had allowed the Jewish Captain Alfred Dreyfus to be tried and falsely imprisoned for a treason he could not possibly have committed: it was a newspaper of which Clemenceau was himself owner and editor which published Zola’s famous J’accuse article in 1898.

Clemenceau had a deep and lasting friendship not only with Admiral Maxse but also, independently, with all Maxse’s children, who were taught to be fluent in French and like their father all admired French culture and were at ease in that country. Clemenceau was particularly fond of Violet – Violet Georgina, to give her full name. Violet published an autobiography in 1951 [ix] in which she mentions Clemenceau a great deal – she devotes a whole chapter to him and much of what we know about this is via her reminiscences. For example, explaining about Clemenceau’s friendship with her father, Violet wrote [x]:

‘My father collected wonderful friends, finding them in all sorts of places. The two he loved best were George Meredith and Georges Clemenceau. Clemenceau he acquired in 1872 when he was introduced to him by Louis Blanc’ [xi].

As luck would have it, by the time of this introduction, Maxse had already very visibly and singularly attached himself to a cause dear to Clemenceau’s heart. Violet again:

‘I am always proud to remember that of the three Englishmen who made a public protest in 1871 when Alsace and Lorraine were torn from France, my father was one.’

Thus the introduction was almost guaranteed to succeed, and it did. They were not far apart in age, Maxse some 8 years older than Clemenceau. It turned out that as well as having identical political views, they both loved the company of particular individuals but abhorred ‘society’ and society events. They both loved the countryside and energetic country pursuits (Effingham being ideal for this). They were both estranged from their wives. They both loved cultural events, museums and the like. Some biographies of Clemenceau state that he made an annual visit to stay at Maxse’s London home in Onslow Square, South Kensington.

It was here in July 1891 that at Clemenceau’s request Maxse set up a meeting for this great French Radical with the equally great English Radical Unionist MP, Joseph Chamberlain [xii], so that they could explore the possibilities for joint Anglo-French understandings. ‘It is a family tradition that the seed of the Entente was sown in the Admiral’s house when he gave a dinner to introduce Clemenceau to Chamberlain’ [xiii]. In January 1886, when Maxse’s near-neighbour and acquaintance, the eminent poet and critic Mathew Arnold, who lived at Pains Hill Cottage, Cobham, was planning to visit Paris, Admiral Maxse provided him with a letter of introduction to Clemenceau, although unfortunately in the event they were unable to meet up [xiv].

 

Clemenceau and Leo Maxse

Clemenceau and Frederick Maxse remained united throughout their lives in their implacable opposition to German colonial expansionism. This communicated itself to the next generation and was strongly supported again, throughout their lives, not only by Violet but also her brothers Ivor and Leopold. In August 1893 Leo acquired and became editor of a right-wing political journal, the National Review, which powerfully and remorselessly publicised the danger of this to Britain. Another persistent theme of the National Review in the years before World War I, helping in fact to make this a national obsession, was the extent to which Germany was building up its armed forces and whether Britain would be able to defend itself should it become necessary. To support Leo, Clemenceau wrote and contributed material for the journal.

Between September 1917 and 1921 Leo was also the editor of a daily evening paper, The Globe. He entered on a trial basis but was so successful he doubled its readership in nine months. He resigned when The Globe was absorbed by the Pall Mall Gazette.

 

Clemenceau and Violet Maxse

Despite an age difference of 30 years, Clemenceau was also a great and lifelong friend to Violet. She found him stimulating, charming, chivalrous, exciting, attractive with his flashing dark eyes and impressive moustache. Her autobiography explains how this friendship developed naturally as a consequence of her being so much with her father during her childhood, after her parents’ separation. Violet remained on very good terms with both but her father arranged her education and she spent a great deal of her youth in his care, which did not displease her:

‘The years slipped by and presently I was more with him and less with her… With my father I led a much more countrified existence [than with her London-based mother], … a great deal of riding, walking, and a lot of teaching in serious subjects. But my father, like my mother, believed in having me with him in all company. I have sometimes wondered what his men friends must have thought of his perpetual accompaniment by a small girl, and later by a girl in the awkward age. He was quite relentless and always took me.’

It is easy to see how it came about that the Admiral’s two most intimate friends –Meredith and Clemenceau – also became Violet’s own. She remembers having first met Clemenceau when she was nine or ten and he was staying with her and her father at their London house. But the Maxses also spent a great deal of time with Clemenceau in France.

 

The Maxses in France

As mentioned, Frederick was a great admirer of French culture, spoke French fluently, and was very happy to sail his yacht frequently across to France. Violet accompanied him on many of these expeditions. When Frederick’s mother died he was more free to go where he would but of his four children, 14-year-old Violet was still needing his active input to her care and education. Violet’s older sister Olive was:

‘putting in some very hard work at her music in Paris and showed no desire to stop. This being so my father thought it would be better for us three – myself, my sister and he – to be all together, so in the autumn of 1887 he took a flat on the fifth floor of a house in the Boulevard St Germain and we stayed there for rather over two years, coming home for the summer’.

This period for which they were abroad coincided with the construction of the Admiral’s new house at Dunley Hill.

Violet enrolled for drawing lessons in Paris but on the whole found this experience a poor second to the level of contact she had previously had with great artists practising in London – her mother’s social sphere. On the other hand, the lists of plays, operas, artists, writers, politicians and eminent thinkers Violet saw, met or was introduced to well before she was 18 is astounding: from Whistler and Degas to Monet and Rodin, from Oscar Wilde to Joseph Chamberlain.

She reports that while in Paris

‘I also worked at French and at the violin, but perhaps the major part of my education at this time came from the plays I saw at the Comédie Française… It was an unparalleled education, especially as we generally went to the play with M. Clemenceau, who was a superb and ruthless critic, and, as we saw a great deal of him in other ways, my letters to my mother are also full of him and have something about politics too. … For exercise my father and I rode nearly every fine morning – driving up to the Bois [de Boulogne] and mounting there; we were nearly always with M. Clemenceau and, very often, with Miss Cassatt, the painter. Politics ran very high at this time in Paris … and once or twice we were greeted with cries of “À bas Clemenceau” [Down with Clemenceau] as we cantered up the Avenue du Bois du Boulogne (now Avenue Foch). That was a real “thrill”. … No one ever was such fun as he was. We hung upon his every word, and while we laughed and joked – being with him seemed to make us all witty – we leaned upon his judgment, and, above all, upon his glowing affection and constant kindness’.

Clemenceau was in his late forties during these years Violet was in Paris. As mentioned, his marriage was unsuccessful and in 1891 ended in an acrimonious divorce. In 1893, now aged 21, Violet returned to Paris ‘to work at drawing’ again and stayed for another extended period. Clemenceau invited her to live with him and his unmarried daughter, Thérèse, but ‘Admiral Maxse refused this kind invitation; he thought I should be more independent if I were on my own, and that if I was working hard it would be more restful for me to be by myself’. And perhaps he thought other things too. Either way, ‘M. Clemenceau I saw nearly every evening for a few minutes. His flat was opposite my Pension and I used to run across and see him and his daughter after dinner’. She was very at home in Paris.  A small, pretty, dark-haired woman she was famous throughout her life for her chic Parisian elegance.  Buckets of Gallic charm fill Violet’s reported conversations with him. There is never the faintest suggestion of any impropriety, but there is no doubt about a powerful mutual attraction, though they did not agree on everything. Violet, for instance believed in capital punishment, at least for the anarchists who in the 1890s were terrorizing Paris. Clemenceau wrote to her:

‘I should like to scold you for your “speech” on capital punishment. Even if you were right, you would be wrong. It is not toward that side that one should lean at your age’.

When, back in London, Violet announced her engagement in March 1894, Clemenceau managed a complicated congratulation combining his sadness that it had finally come to this, his vast happiness, his worries that no fiancé could ever be good enough for her, and the fact that his own failure in marriage was not to make her draw back from it [xv]. He gave her a ‘lovely writing-table’ as a wedding present … It was intended for the London house Violet was setting up with her husband, but as a present with a ‘message’ attached, it was right on the mark. When Violet and her new husband gave their first dinner party the guests were her father, Clemenceau and John Morley – ‘The talk was first rate’ – and her very orthodox Conservative husband was much entertained by the radicals’ political disputation between themselves.

We can be confident that Clemenceau would have been at Effingham with Maxse [xvi] on several occasions [xvii]. Curiously, a recorded instance of Clemenceau being at Dunley Hill involves a writing table belonging to Violet. On 3 January 1900 Clemenceau wrote from there to the Danish author Georg Brandes, mentioning that he was convalescing after ‘an influenza crisis’. He was still there on 5 January, as we learn from Violet in My Picture Gallery. At that particular moment she herself was in South Africa where her husband Lord Edward Cecil and her brother Ivor Maxse were on campaign in the grim Boer War [xviii]. Violet reports:

‘Clemenceau wrote regularly [ie to her in South Africa] and his letters were a joy and a comfort. One that brought me a picture of home life was very precious. It was written at Dunley on January 5, 1900. He was in my room, writing on my writing table. He said that they talked of little but the war, that all my family [xix] were well’.

In fact Clemenceau’s underlying health was never good, and this particular episode marked the start of a longer bout of ill health. He recovered enough to go back to France, but in July he sadly returned to London for his friend the Admiral’s funeral. In early 1900 Maxse, then aged 67, had set off for a trip to South Africa to see Violet and Ivor. (He travelled with, and became friends of, the Kiplings, whom Violet already knew.) When he left them to come back to England in May he seemed to be well, but unbeknownst to his children he had caught typhoid, which was to be fatal. He died in London on 25 June.

After his death the contents of Dunley Hill were sold and the house was let. Violet records her immense sorrow at this, for instance the dismissal of some faithful and good-hearted servants. The great house itself was finally sold in 1919 but Leo and his wife Katherine ‘Kitty’ (nee Lushington, whom he married in 1890) seem to have retained a local interest in part of the estate for a little longer: the Electoral Rolls for Effingham of 1918-24 list them at Dunley Hill Cottage.

Had he lived into the new century, the Admiral would doubtless (like Leo) have been vociferous about the growing threat of Germany years before the actual outbreak of conflict. He never saw Clemenceau’s rise to the highest position in the French state and his masterly, even Churchillian, leadership of the French during the War. But Violet did. After the Admiral’s death, her friendship with Clemenceau remained extremely close and endured until his death in 1929. It is hard not to speculate over whether this private example of Anglo-French closeness had any international consequences.

After the break-up of Dunley Hill Violet’s life made a major change. Following his service in South Africa, her husband Edward served as a colonial administrator first in Sudan and then in Egypt. Violet had been with him in South Africa but found she could not continue this overseas life with their two small children, and rather than send these away, she came back to England with them. Edward and Violet spent very little time together after about 1901 and their marriage was effectively suspended, but with no hint of either of them having other relationships.

At first Violet lived a somewhat nomadic existence with her children, staying either in rented houses, with friends, or with her in-laws the Cecils at Hatfield or at other Cecil-owned houses. Clemenceau came to stay with her while she was at the Cecil residence Walmer Castle in Kent in 1901, and here he first made the acquaintance of another guest who was, as it happened, already extremely important to Violet but also to Britain’s empire and, later, in the international sphere during and after World War I.  This was the colonial administrator Sir Alfred Milner, later Viscount Milner (1854-1925). Violet and Alfred had known each other in England for some years. They realized they had strong feelings for each other when both were in South Africa – Milner was British High Commissioner there. They were in love for many years before they finally married in 1921, but so discreetly that this was not publicly suspected. In December 1916 Milner became one of Lloyd George’s 5-person War Cabinet, and from then on was at the centre of policies, delegations and decision making throughout the war and at the peace-making afterwards.

In 1906 in search of a permanent home for her children, Violet bought and beautifully refurbished a semi-ruined seventeenth-century manor house called Great Wigsell, near Hawkhurst on the Sussex-Kent border. (Her friends the Kiplings were only eight miles away at  Bateman’s, Burwash.) Amongst her arrangements she created a main guest bedroom, decorated with French furniture, called the Clemenceau Room where the man himself, a regular visitor, could stay.

 

Clemenceau, the Maxses and World War I

Violet wrote:

‘The thought of Alsace-Lorraine was always with M. Clemenceau, though he was essentially a man of peace, and would never have provoked a war even to recover a lost province. Still, from time to time, the wound bled. “Ah”, he said to me ten years before the War, “if I could see England and France march together against Germany, I think I should die of pure joy!” ‘

When England did declare war on Germany on 4 August 1914, Clemenceau was delighted and anxious to see the arrival of an army. He wrote to Violet and urged her to tell the Secretary for War that ‘if he sends only three men, with a flag, to the Continent, it will have a good effect’. As we know, England and France did march together to save their civilization from Germanism, and Clemenceau lived not only to see in the British people the Allies he had always hoped for and dreamed of, but himself to guide both armies to victory. When the Germans invaded Belgium Milner too was one of those strongly pressing for an army to be sent to have the thing over with once and for all. From December 1916 to November 1918, as one of the five members of David Lloyd George’s ‘national government’ War Cabinet, his role was to see to crises in the domestic situation and sort them out – continuing his reputation for calm efficiency in the face of great pressure. Violet’s closest friends and immediate family were operating at the top level of this conflict, and the relief when the Armistice was signed was immense.

In their hopes to sort out Germany, little could they all have foreseen, however, how life would change so irreversibly for Violet within days of Britain entering the war. Edward, who had literally just returned from Egypt on leave, was sent straight back there and never made it back to England again, so Violet was on her own throughout the war. Edward died in a Swiss sanatorium in December 1918.

Ivor, as a serving soldier, went immediately to the front. Now General Sir Ivor Maxse aged 52, a very senior army officer, he was in the field practically from the first day in 1914 as a Division Commander, then a Corps Commander. In June 1918 he was entrusted with training and reorganization, and regarded as very successful. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes him as ‘One of the ablest officers of his generation, a man of originality and drive, and a formidable personality’. He first served under Haig as his commanding officer in 1914 and formed a high opinion of him.

Ivor and Clemenceau met in France on several occasions during the war, for instance on 9 January 1916 when Ivor took him and Generals Mangin, Haig, Robertson and Lord Cavan forward to where they could see the enemy lines. Shelling began, too close for comfort, and Ivor told Clemenceau he should take cover. Clemenceau demurred: ‘But remember, I am a soldier’. Ivor told him that was all the more reason for him to obey, and he did’ [xx]. Witnessing the mutual respect of Maxse and Clemenceau was a great influence on other French and British officers to do likewise. There could be hiccups: in August 1915 Ivor wrote to his wife Mary including some very critical comments about the armaments available to the British army, and suggested showing it to Leo. Leo showed it to Violet for her to see, she forwarded it to Clemenceau, and he published in his French newspaper, L’Homme Libre. It was then picked up by The Times. This caused Ivor considerable embarrassment and he gave Violet a great telling-off, but fortunately there were no worse official rebukes [xxi].

Most tragically however, someone who also entered the fighting within days of the declaration of war was Violet and Edward’s only son George Cecil, then aged 18 and not really fully trained. ‘In many ways George was the unsophisticated model schoolboy, cheerful and sociable, a keen cricketer, fresh and simple, but also serious and keen to do well. His aesthetic responses, however, were more mature than those of an average schoolboy: life at Hatfield and Wigsell had sharpened his eye for beautiful buildings’ [xxii]. From early childhood he was interested in the military. At Winchester School he was part of the Officer Training Corps, a system established in 1907-8 as part of army reforms designed to extend basic military education into the civilian population. It was virtually obligatory at that time for all boys over 15 in school and university. In 1912 he became a cadet at Sandhurst. He joined the prestigious 2ndBattalion Grenadier Guards in January 1914.

As part of the First Army Corps of the British Expeditionary Force to France, George left for France on 12 August. He was killed on 1 September, in a confused running battle through woodland near Villers-Cotterêts. On 8 September a letter informed Violet George was missing believed wounded. Desperate to find out more, she set off to London to find out. As was later to happen to her close friends the Kiplings, the situation remained ambiguous – George could have been wounded, he could be lost, he could have been taken prisoner. It was not absolutely clear that he was dead and she could not believe in this possibility. Distraught, on 19 September she went immediately to France to look for him. Clemenceau for his part had been trying to establish the situation, sending enquiries to every hospital and ambulance depot. He personally arranged for her to have a pass and an escort so she could search the area where George had been fighting but only contradictory and inconclusive information was forthcoming. She went back to England.  Milner and the Kiplings tried to support her during this dreadful time, the latter unaware that their own turn in this nightmare was to come. In the absence of reliable information Violet began to trust in her belief that George must have been taken prisoner. After a month of this the truth was known.  On 19 November arrived the news that his body had been identified. The place in which George had been quickly buried, with others who fell at the same time, had been located.

As stated above, Clemenceau’s great role at the helm of this conflict began in November 1917 when he was elected Prime Minister and refused to let France desert the Allies by making a separate peace with Germany. In 1918 Violet met Clemenceau three times: the first in London when he came on a visit to Lloyd George, and the other two times in Paris when he arranged for her first to travel to visit Edward in the Swiss sanatorium, and in September to visit George’s grave. She arranged for George’s body to be transferred to a nearby cemetery. She visited every year for the rest of her life, until she was too old to travel.

 

Leo Maxse, Effingham and The Blucher public house

The mention of Haig above brings us to Leo and back to Effingham, specifically to the fate of the village’s ‘Prince Blucher’ hotel and public house, which was reported nationally. Leo’s contribution to the war effort was in the field of stimulating patriotic feeling and keeping anti-German feeling high through the press.

On 27 June 1917, a very famous cartoon called A Good Riddance by artist Leonard Raven Hill was published in Punch, showing King George V vigorously sweeping away a great cloud of dust in amongst which there are crowns and helmets labelled ‘Made in Germany’. The cartoon is subtitled ‘The King has done a popular act in abolishing the German titles held by members of His Majesty’s family.’ This is about the Titles Deprivation Act of 1917 reaching the conclusion of its legislative journey at that time. The purpose of the Act was to remove British titles from persons serving in enemy forces, and also to provide as unembarrassing a vehicle as possible for George V to divest his family of their German connections. By Royal Warrant, on 25 June (in sympathy as it were, with the Parliamentary will, but not in any way compelled by it) George V renounced for himself and other members of the royal family any German titles they held. He adopted the surname ‘Windsor’ instead of Saxe-Coburg Gotha.

That same week in late June 1917 saw newspaper articles [xxiii] reporting the renaming of Effingham’s Prince Blücher pub as The Sir Douglas Haig.

Rather surprisingly, this news was first available to newspaper readers not in Surrey but in both London and Liverpool, on Thursday 21 June. In a snippet under the heading A Sign of The Times, the Daily Express reported that ‘The “Blucher Hotel” at Effingham is, it is understood, conforming to the spirit of the times, and is about to change its name to “Sir Douglas Haig.”” In a column of snippets called Echoes Of The Day: Gossip from Here, There and Everywhere, the Liverpool Echo tried out a gentle joke, reporting in an article headed ‘Peace Delegates to The Haig – Rather’ [xxiv] simply and without hesitation that ‘The “Blucher Hotel”, at Effingham, is about to change its name to the “Sir Douglas Haig””.

To Staffordshire readers of The Burton Daily Mail the next day, Friday 22 June, the Blücher was a ‘well-known hotel’, so it may somehow already have been a more famous establishment than just any village pub. A day later on Saturday 23 June 1917, a tiny little announcement in the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser finally let the locals know about their local. But the news had been picked up and was continuing to spread nationally. It seems to have been functioning something like the light, topical item used to round off the 10 o’clock News. It featured in the Evening Express, Aberdeen edition, for 26 June, in their column Sidelights on The War – Brevities.  And we can round this off with Punch, or The London Charivari for 27 June, which chuckled that

‘A well-known inn at Effingham having changed its name from the Blücher to the Sir Douglas Haig, it is further suggested that the name of the village should be changed to Biffingham.’

Having once entered the national consciousness, this instance of patriotic re-naming stuck and intermittently surfaced again for some time. Two years later, it was in The Yorkshire Post for 14 August 1919, again in a Gossip of the Day column; and another two years later, in The Derby Daily Telegraph for 11 June 1921, in a column called By The Way (and NB the Telegraph acknowledged that it had picked up this article from the Manchester Guardian).

Leo’s connection with this episode was not explicitly revealed until three months after the news first broke, ie in September 1917. The next extract quotes a reader from Shere who wrote in to The Surrey Advertiser and County Times. His letter was published on 8 September 1917 (page 2). He signs himself ‘Viator’, which means ‘wayfarer’ or similar. It is quoted in full, because it presents a wonderful vignette:

‘FOOD WASTE AND FOLLY IN SURREY.

TO THE EDITOR

Sir.- Yesterday, about 3 pm [xxv], I was footing it with my knapsack on the road between London and Shere when I turned into the Plough Inn, Effingham, for some tea. Outside was a board: “Tea gardens, teas and luncheons.” Inside the following dialogue took place: –

Myself: Can you, please, give me a pot of tea and two pieces of bread and butter?

Landlady: We only serve full teas.

Myself: What is that?

Landlady: Tea, bread, butter, cake, for 1s 3d.

Myself: But I only want bread and butter.

Landlady: It’s not worth serving that. We only serve full teas here.

The landlord then came on the scene, and, being applied to by his wife, corroborated her, saying, that it was too much trouble to serve anything but full teas. So I thanked them, saying, I would not trouble them, but would try elsewhere.

Now, sir, when we ought all to be saving food why should I eat cake I don’t want? Or why should I be made to pay for what I don’t want to waste? What folly, too, of an innkeeper to discourage custom by his disobliging policy.

So I went across to the Prince Blucher, where I was served cheerfully with a pot of good tea and three slices of excellent bread and butter for ninepence.  I was sorry to see the famous old sign with its memories of Waterloo days was changed to the name of a modern English General, and I asked the reason. The good woman who waited on me said everyone was sorry, and thought it silly. Many customers told her that without Blucher we might not have won the battle of Waterloo, which was what I said too. But the fact was Mr. Maxse, the great writer, had written to the brewers and said the sign was a disgrace to them. I said Mr Maxse was a friend of mine, but I did not know he was a great writer, and I for one was sorry the old sign was gone with its historic memories. Now, Sir, could narrowminded folly go further? And what a want of sense of proportion! – Yours, etc,

VIATOR

Shere, Surrey.’

Like ‘Viator’ the Editor of the Surrey Advertiser and County Times was also clearly affected by Blücher’s dismissal. In the same edition, in his editorial column on page 5, he wrote:

‘We may depose him from his place of honour on the sign board of a Surrey village inn, but we cannot blot him out of our national history. Nor can we blot out that picture of Wellington and Blucher meeting by moonlight after Waterloo had been fought and won, and “the Prussian, after the continental fashion, kissing his friend on both cheeks.” ‘

Perhaps there exists among either Friary Holroyd Meux’s archive or Leo’s own papers evidence that the pub was renamed at his instigation, or even, perhaps, to discover whether it was him who suggested ‘The Sir Douglas Haig’ as the replacement. There is probably also much still to be found out about whether Leo’s position and/or contacts within the Press were playing a role in syndicating the news nationally.

At the same time as this episode, on 29 August 1917 the Surrey Advertiser mentioned Leo in a different capacity, ie supporting the war effort at Effingham. The Women’s War Agricultural Committee reported directly to the Board of Agriculture.  The Surrey branch had a well-developed organisation for interviewing young women who appeared interested in working on the land, and if they proved suitable, sending them off for training.  For this they needed opportunities, and several local landowners or farmers provided accommodation for the girls while they were learning. Amongst these, it is reported that Mr Leo Maxse had made available a cottage at Dunley Hill – ‘the training was partly on his farm and in the garden, under the supervision of two trained lady gardeners. Four recruits were trained each month, and there was a working housekeeper in charge.’

 

The Armistice

The sense of relief for Clemenceau, Milner and Violet when the Armistice was signed can hardly be overstated. All three were able to meet up in London – where Clemenceau was easily recognized and cheered – and also in Paris. After the ‘khaki election’ of December 1918, Milner was appointed Colonial Secretary. For him and Clemenceau a period of yet more gruelling work was to follow, trying to draw up the peace, during which their two nations now often jostled over details [xxvi]. Clemenceau, Woodrow Wilson and Lloyd George were each having to represent so many different views in their search to find a compromise, and the trickiest, of course, was over whether Germany was ‘to blame’ for the war or not, and whether Germany should pay only to repair physical war damage caused to the Allies, or something on top of that as well in the nature of a fine or punishment for being the loser, for instance pensions to wounded soldiers or widows/families, loss of colonies, loss of territory. Britain’s view and France’s were no longer so aligned, and the tension was often excruciating. Clemenceau and Milner were often on ‘opposite’ sides during this, but their rapport based on an underlying common bond was acknowledged by them both and was perhaps of great significance in smoothing the way to this peace. The bond was Violet. In 1916 Clemenceau had told the French President ‘I like him [Milner] a lot. He is an old friend of mine. We admired and loved the same woman. That’s an indissoluble bond’ [xxvii]. On behalf of their nations, both men were signatories to the 1919 Treaty of Versailles.

Leo and Ivor Maxse were of a like mind about the Germans. Experiences and feelings during the War among those trying to win had inevitably to be channelled and uncompromising.  During negotiations about the Armistice, Ivor expressed views which were widely held at the time but may seem shocking today:

‘The Hun is only wishful for peace in order to recover military power and be ready to launch a more successful attack at some opportune moment in the dim future. His heart is by no means altered. That is his nature. Recognise it. It is no use blaming him for his natural temperament, but it is wicked not to recognize what it is. His history during four wars proves it – i.e. 1864, 1866, 1870, 1914 – covering altogether a period of 64 years, two generations! He had but one objective and said so – world power … To prevent it we must crush and humiliate his Army which means his motive … let no sentimental gush be expended on the dirty Hun [xxviii].’

Milner died in 1925, and Clemenceau in 1929. During the post-war years Violet often visited Clemenceau at his simple home at Bel-Ebat on the Brittany coast. She was there just a week before his death. Leo Maxse died in 1932, and now Violet not only moved into the spotlight in her own right, but was to play a very public role in World War II. When Leo died Violet took over the editorship of the National Review, a publication somewhat faltering by that time, and she very successfully revived it. Her absolute determination to get every issue out even during the Blitz became an image of endurance. Ed Murrow, the Director of Talks for the Columbia Broadcasting Service, reporting from London during the Blitz to awaken American awareness of the threat to their freedom, wrote in later years that for him the indomitable spirit of wartime London was represented not by Churchill – but by Violet.

Notes

[i] Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

[ii] Eddy never married and he never became King. He died of influenza aged only 28 in 1892. ‘Tabloid’ historians have frequently raised queries about supposed defects of intellect and character and his fitness to be King.

[iii] A Prussian b. 1838; a very wealthy sugar broker who played the role of lord of the manor to the full and became much loved in the village.  He died in 1909.

[iv] Now much re-developed, it is known as Ranmore Manor.

[v] Another is H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, 1898 – also set in Surrey, near Woking.

[vi] In the 1880s, forts were built on Box Hill and Ranmore. Lord Ashcombe of Denbies funded a local volunteer force to be ready in case.

[vii] Georges Clemenceau: A Political Biography, by D R Watson, pub. Eyre Methuen 1974.

[viii] They had three children.  The marriage ended in 1891.

[ix] All of the quotations from Violet in the above come from My Picture Gallery: 1886-1901 by The Viscountess Milner, pub. John Murray, 1951.

[x] From My Picture Gallery as above.

[xi] Blanc was another French political radical and activist. He had had to escape from France in 1850 and he lived in London in exile until 1870, which could very possibly be where Maxse met him. Maxse himself was following a career of political activism, of a radical and campaigning sort – energetic, but it has to be said, not particularly successful. Interestingly, it seems that in 1886 Maxse tried to make an introduction of his own. He provided a letter of introduction to Clemenceau for his friend Matthew Arnold of Cobham who was visiting France in February 1886. Arnold wrote from Paris to Maxse ‘Clemenceau has not come off: I left your letter with my card, and he called, but I was out; since then I have called twice without finding him at home; I daresay he is very busy’.

[xii] Joseph Chamberlain, and Sidney A. Fane, are listed as ‘Visitors’ at Dunley Hill on the night of the 1891 Census.

[xiii] P32, Mary Maxse 1870-1944, A Record compiled by her family and friends, published by The Rolls House Publishing Co Ltd, 1948.

[xiv] On 20 January 1886 Arnold wrote ‘A thousand thanks for the letter of introduction to Clemenceau. In Paris we shall be at the Hotel St Romain, rue St Roch, and we hope by all means to see your daughter,—and yourself too, if things go well, as I hope they will, at Effingham,—in the course of our three weeks’ stay.’  The ‘things going well’ was a wish for improvement in the health of Maxse’s mother, who as it turned out was in her final illness.  On 8 February Arnold wrote to Maxse from the Hotel St Romain, Paris ‘Clemenceau has not come off: I left your letter with my card, and he called, but I was out; since that I have called twice without finding him at home; I daresay he is very busy’.

[xv] In fact Violet’s marriage was not a great success; she lived largely apart from her husband from c1900 until his death from tuberculosis in 1918. In 1921 she very happily married Sir Alfred Milner, with whom she had been having an extremely discreet affair since 1899. Sadly Milner died in 1925. Much information is provided by Imperial Marriage: an Edwardian War and Peace, by Hugh and Mirabel Cecil, pub. John Murray, 2002.

[xvi] Clemenceau was not the only notable to visit Dunley Hill as recorded by Violet:

‘Miss Margot Tennant [future wife of Mr. Asquith] … came to stay with us at Dunley Hill for a weekend’

‘Mr. Asquith stayed with us once or twice’

‘Mr. Alfred Austin [Poet Laureate after Tennyson]…’

[xvii] Clemenceau destroyed the vast majority of his personal papers in 1928 – he did not want them to fall into the hands of biographers. But Violet presented a collection of 165 of his letters to the Musée Clemenceau in Paris and this would be worth study.

[xviii] Edward was one of those who had to endure the siege of Mafeking (Violet was fortunately not with him at that time).

[xix] Violet’s only son George aged 5 was being looked after at Dunley Hill during her absence.

[xx] John Baynes, Far From A Donkey. The Life of General Sir Ivor Maxse. KCB, CVO, DSO (London: Brassey’s, 1995), p.132.

[xxi] John Baynes, op cit p. 128

[xxii] From Imperial Marriage: an Edwardian War and Peace, as above.

[xxiii] Much of the information about this episode results from research into newspaper archives by Jeremy Palmer.

[xxiv] The heading, Peace Delegates to The Haig – Rather seems odd, but Jeremy persuasively divined that it is intended to be a humorous play on the idea that it would be more appealing to hold a peace conference in The Haig (pub), rather than The Hague! The Hague had already embarked on its reputation as the world centre for international relations: ‘The foundation of The Hague as an “international city of peace and justice” was laid in 1899, when the world’s first Peace Conference took place [there] … followed by a second in 1907. A direct result of [the first of] these meetings was the establishment of the world’s first organisation for the settlement of international disputes: the Permanent Court of Arbitration.’ [Wikipedia].  To house the PCA the ‘Peace Palace’ was specially built and opened in 1913.

[xxv] It might be 5pm – the newsprint is blurred.

[xxvi] The way this herculean task was tackled by Clemenceau, Lloyd George and Woodrow Wilson, and the far-reaching consequences of their decisions, is fully described in Paris 1919: Six months that changed the World, by Margaret Macmillan, 2003, Random House.

 [xxvii] John Baynes, op cit p. 202

[xxviii] John Baynes, op cit p. 216.

Based on research by Sue Morris and Jeremy Palmer

Effingham’s War Shrine

*  This memorial is no. 3175 on the Imperial War Museum’s UK War Memorials Register. This direct link is here.

*  There are usefully detailed photographs of it on this, the Surrey in the Great War site (click here to view them).

*  Effingham Local History Group holds a document detailing restorations of this memorial in 1980 and 2001.

There are instances where the detail on the plaques does not fully correspond with what can now be known from official military records, unavailable in 1918 to those who made the shrine. Variations if any are listed at this site:

https://www.effinghamparishcouncil.gov.uk/local-history/research-projects/3-effingham-in-wartime/effingham-ww1-memorial/

where very detailed genealogies are given for each of The Fallen.

 

This article describes, first, the establishment of the shrine in St Lawrence Churchyard, then gives an account of the commissioning and very careful replacement of a missing name-plaque.

Establishment of the shrine

Effingham Local History Group spent some considerable time researching the original installation of the Shrine, as the war memorial is locally known. We knew it must have been ready in time for the Peace Day Celebrations in July 1919, since a procession had visited it on that day. We combed digital newspaper archives and enquired of the Guildford Diocesan Archives for any Faculty concerning the installation of the memorial in the churchyard, all to no avail. In hindsight we were misled by the inscription on the granite pedestal, which reads ‘To the glory of God and in memory of those from this parish who gave their lives in the Great European War 1914-1919’. Our mistake was to think the shrine must have been erected after November 1918, and only to look for sources dated later than that.

Eventually we realised that communities had started establishing public memorials long before they could possibly have known when the war would end. These civic acts were seen as a gesture of active ongoing appreciation by the people at home of those who had to fight, and recognition of the sacrifice of their bereaved families. They were not just a commemorative event looking back from a safe distance after the war (although of course many were also erected after the war rather than during it). Birmingham established its civic memorial as early as 1916. More locally, Clandon erected theirs in June 1917. Once we had worked that out and had begun to look at sources earlier than 1919, the information soon turned up – both as newspaper reports, and as a detailed hand-written entry in the St Lawrence Church Parish Register. The relevant date was May 1918.

Effingham’s shrine was commissioned from John Daymond & Son, Architectural Sculptors based in Edward Street, Vauxhall Bridge Road, London. This was a family business of stonemasons and sculptors active from around 1841 to 1935. They designed war memorials for other parishes in 1918. Probably the only inscription at that time was the timeless and moving one on the wooden canopy, which reads “Greater love than this hath no man”. The inscription carved into the white granite pedestal mentioned above must have come later.

Little is known about which residents planned the war shrine and how it was paid for. However, on 19 February 1921 Effingham Parish Council set out a Minute recording how the project to present returning ex-servicemen with a silver-mounted walking stick, and a plaque to the families of the Fallen, had been carried out. At the end of the Minute is this note concerning a small sum of money left over when all the walking-stick expenses had been settled:

By order of the Committee a meeting of the Parishioners was called to consider the best way to dispose of the balance.

It was agreed that it should be used for the upkeep of the War Shrine.

Mr Mooney duly handed over to Miss Ross, Secry of War Shrine Committee, the balance of £12 15s for that purpose.

The ceremony of Dedication of Effingham’s shrine took place after Evensong on Thursday 9 May 1918. Very fittingly this was Ascension Day, a day when traditionally schools were shut so that pupils could attend the service, but choosing to hold it in the evening would allow all working people to attend.

The following is a transcription from an entry in the PCC Parish Register, which the newspaper report in the Surrey Advertiser parallels very closely:

‘Dedication of a War Shrine in Effingham Churchyard. May 9 1918

On Ascension Day May 9th after Evensong an interesting ceremony took place consisting of a Dedication Service of a War Shrine erected in the Churchyard in memory of those who had given their lives in the European War on behalf of their King and Country.  The Rev Canon Hunter Rural Dean conducted the Service who also gave an impressive address. There were present the Rev E.J. Bayly Vicar, the Rev H.D. Gepp late Vicar of Addersbury Oxon, the Choir led by Sec Lieut J. Stewart Adams Army Service Corps and late Head Master of Effingham Schools, and a large number of Parishioners.  The Memorial took the form of a Crucifix beautiful in its simplicity – a simplicity symbolic of the supreme sacrifice offered by the gallant Heroes in the Cause of King Country and Religion. The figure of the Crucified Saviour was indicative of the real cause for which these men laid down their lives. It was the cause of Christianity versus German Kultur. It was a holy and pious thought that has inspired these War Memorials all over the Country; and it was well fitting to record the names of those men in this manner, though their names and gallant deeds would never be forgotten.

The singing of Hymn 27 A &M [Ancient and Modern] “Abide with me” brought the proceedings to a close.’

It is presumed this account was entered in the Register by Rev. Bayly, Vicar of Effingham. The Rev. Canon Hunter was the Vicar of Christ Church Epsom Common from 1881 to 1911 and subsequently the unpaid Rural Dean until his death in 1925.

The newspaper report (Surrey Advertiser, 18 May 1918) adds to the above ‘L-Cpl Arthur Wells, 2ndQueens, whose name appears on the shrine, gained the Military Medal in April 1917, for splendid work in charge of a gun team’.

Within its archive Effingham Local History Group holds a copy of a photograph which may possibly show the villagers gathered in front of the shrine that evening. The photograph is in an album owned by a descendant of Ralph Edgar Street, who with his wife Helen was present for the occasion and are visible amongst those shown. Unfortunately it is undated and uncaptioned so we cannot be sure.  Parishioners are standing in a group facing towards the shrine whilst the boy nearest to the camera appears poised ready to lay flowers being held ready by a woman on the far right.

The name plaques

In May 1918 there would have been 13 names to honour. This was done by fixing a small bronze plaque, one for each name, on the wooden cross. Making the perhaps risky assumption that the groups of plaques are still in their original locations and were not substantially re-sited during later restoration processes, the date the shrine was erected might have been deducible by thoughtful observation of these 13. The plaques were arranged and placed in a way logical to those in May 1918. It is chronological by the date of death.

The plaques are fixed in columns on the sides of the cross. As you face the shrine, on the rear (east-facing) side, from the period 1914 to July 1915 four plaques – for Bullen, Scarff, Maskell, Barnett – were fixed. They descend by date, the earliest at the top of the column and no spare space below them.

The main, front (west-facing) side is fully covered by nine plaques covering the period from October 1915 to January 1918. They are Patten, Smith, Roberts, Whittington, Bessell, Kemp, Wells (A), Marchant and Taylor. They are also in a column which descends, with the earliest at the top and the latest at the bottom – no space below them. This represents all deaths of village residents known at the time the cross was erected.

Names added after May 1918

In 1929 an extremely detailed transcription of monumental inscriptions in the St Lawrence Church burial ground was made, authorship currently unknown. By that time, a further four names had been added on the right hand (south-facing) side, to make a total of 17. We don’t know at what date these further four were added. Much depends on how you think someone would transcribe a vertical column of names, but if the author copied downwards from the top of the columns at the time s/he saw it, the text suggests that the plaques on this side started with the earliest fixed at the bottom, and as later ones were added they filled up the available space, above. This would have been an aesthetically balanced way to match the first side while also allowing for the addition of an unknown number of future plaques.

As we look at it today, the four names on this side are not as in the transcription. They are descending chronologically, the earliest at the top, no room below for more names. It is possible the sequence changed when the plaques were removed so that the timber could undergo repair. This interpretation of what happened is by no means conclusive, and there are two further anomalies about the plaques on the third side.

In 2010, when Effingham Local History Group first began investigating the memorial, the third side preserved the plaques for only three men, not the four listed in 1929. These were Ottaway and Vigars, who died in September and October 1918 respectively, and Noel Bayly. Bayly had died much earlier, in November 1917, so his plaque is (and had always been) ‘out of sequence’. Following strict chronological order it would have been just below the middle on the main front face, but currently it sits at the top of the column on the third side. Noel was the nephew of the Vicar, Rev. Bayly. As far as we know he had no other connection with the village. The order in the 1929 transcription suggests it was always amongst the ones for 1918.

The second anomaly is that at some point between the 1929 transcription and 2010, a plaque for Reginald Wells who died on 23 September 1918, earlier than Ottaway, vanished from the third side. The 1929 transcription appears to suggest this was originally the lowest plaque – ie in the correct chronological position as the earliest to be added there. We do not know when or why it subsequently disappeared but there could be many reasons.

Replacement of Reginald Wells’ name plaque

In late 2012 the Group decided, with the agreement of the Church, to commission Ms Lucy Quinnell of the ‘Fire & Iron’ Gallery, Leatherhead, with the task of producing a replacement plaque for Reginald, matching the original as closely as possible. Reginald’s new plaque was duly mounted on the memorial in the autumn of 2013.

However you interpret the sequence for placing the plaques, it could not go back in any location following strict chronological order. There were also considerations of safety and of the timber. After discussion it was fixed to the first side, and satisfied an urgent feeling among ELHG members that no name should be forgotten.

Research by Susan Morris, Jeremy Palmer and other members of Effingham Local History Group.

 

“Too glorious for words”: Archie Forbes and the Armistice

Archibald Herbert d’Esterre Forbes (‘Archie’) was born on 29 January 1899. His family lived at France Hill House in Camberley.  Archie attended Uppingham School where he was a member of the Officer Training Corps.  In the summer of 1917 he joined the 13th Officer Cadet Battalion in Newmarket before being gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the East Surrey Regiment, joining the 3rd Reserve Battalion in Dover.  In March he was posted overseas and sent to the 6th Battalion, the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment.

He served through the remainder of the war, sometimes as captain, and was also in demand as a Lewis Gun instructor. He was wounded on 30 June 1918 on the first day of the attack on Bouzincourt which saw 3 officers killed and 9 wounded and 28 other ranks killed, 8 missing and 190 wounded.  In a letter to his mother of 5 July he described his men as having ‘played up like bricks, and followed me magnificently, and helped me at every turn’ and mourned the loss of som many ‘fine fellows … and such decent comrades’ whom he viewed as his ‘good pals.  He was awarded the Military Cross on 4 August.

1st page of letter from Archie Forbes to his mother, 6 March 1919, listing battles in which he had fought (SHC ref QRWS/30/FORB/2).

In his letter of 6 March 1919, with the end of censorship, he was able to list all the actions the battalion had fought in during August and September 1918 as the momentum of the allied advance became unstoppable. Some, he told his mother, ‘were quite cushy – with light casualties- & merely a case of strolling along under a terrific barrage’ but he underlined the names of the most ‘fearful’ battles, including Epehy, Noyelles, the Queant Drocourt line, Brielle and the breaching of the Hindenburg line.  He recalled, with admiration, the day-long resistance of a single German machine gun post in Epehy despite being surrounded: ‘It was one of the best and bravest pieces of work I’ve ever seen the Bosche do, and if ever any Huns ever deserved the Iron Cross, they did!’  He also described the terrific German bombardment after the battalion captured Molasses Farm: ‘after we had taken it & dug in just in front & behind the Farm – the Bosche simply banged & bumped & crumped & shelled it all day & night for some time afterwards’.  His batman Otter followed Archie faithfully across the shell-blasted ground: ‘I used to laugh as we were the most priceless sight imaginable – what with my long legs striding over the ground, & little Otter toddling along with his tiny legs after me – picking up numerous articles that I dropped in my hurry – tin hat, etc!! At times I tried to look dignified, but Otter used to hurry me along – saying “Come along, sir” – “Run sir!”  – or “Keep Low sir, your head is sticking up a long way, sir!” etc, etc’.

Rumegies village and war memorial

The unit war diary states that news of the signing of the Armistice was received at 0800 hours on 11 November while the battalion was behind the lines at the French village of Rumegies, north of Cambrai and just south of the Belgian border. All work for the day was cancelled and in a wonderful letter to his mother Archie looked back on the events of the day.  His exuberant joy contrasts with the gloom of Franklin Lushington: unlike Lushington, Archie was in a position to share the relief and joy of the local French people and of course, despite all he had endured and the responsibility heaped on him in 1918, he was still just a teenager.  His letter is worth quoting extensively.

Dearest Mother,

At last the end of the war has come, and Germany is done and beaten to the very last card! But, by Jove, she’s fought it out well, and stuck out deceiving us up to the very last minute – for not one of us really knew till this morning what a frightful pitch of starvation and despair the Germans had reached.

            It is useless to try and express my feelings of joy and relief now that it is all over – and I don’t suppose you could express yours – it’s all too glorious for words. No doubt England is upside down with delight, and rejoicing from top to bottom, the same that we are doing out here. The men are absolutely off their heads with glee, and it’s topping to think of the happy meetings and rejoicings that will take place when we all get back to England. But on the other hand it’s terrible to think of the many sad homes and sorrowful hearts where this long looked for return will not be, and to them, I fear, peace will only bring their losses back more vividly. We heard this grand news this morning, and all hostilities ceased at 11 a.m. and I am thankful to say we are not in the line, but in another village which has been the scene of endless shouting and waving of flags, etc, throughout the day. The French people – on whom we are billeted – have simply fallen over us with joy all day since we told them that the guerre had finied!! The women and girls and children are practically falling on our necks and feet with gratitude – and I was all but kissed by the old lady and girls in my billet! and seem to have spent half the day shaking hands with dear old men of about 90 who are tottering about the streets shaking all over with delight. Of course you must remember these people have only recently been released by us from the Bosche – and I can’t say whether all the French people are so full of gratitude as this towards the British soldiers. We’ve spent the day marching about the streets with bands playing and everybody waving flags and shouting, singing, and cheering – and numerous rockets and coloured lights have been sent up all day, to say nothing of squibbs and fireworks!

1st page of Archie Forbes’s letter to his mother on armistice day (SHC ref QRWS/30/FORB/2)

            The general himself is quite mad, and sent up an S.O.S. Rocket this morning from the midst of a huge crowd of Tommies in the market square. The S.O.S Rocket – I must explain – is the signal for an intense artillery barrage to be put down on the Bosche when he comes over the top at us, and is immediately answered by all our Guns. (i.e. if the war is on!) But this morning the only reply it got was a terrific outburst of laughter and applause – and the joke appealed to the men like anything. The remainder of the day – (when I haven’t been marching about or waving flags or cheering) – I seem to have spent in standing to attention and listening to “God Save the King” and the Marseillaise and Belgian National Anthem about 100 times over at different times & places!

            It has really been an historic day in this place, and one which I shall never forget as long as I live. And the beauty of the whole thing to me is that it is genuine whole-hearted rejoicing – and no drunkenness at all or even lively spirits through drink – as there isn’t a drop of drink in the place, and we can’t get whiskey for the officers’ messes at present.

            Tomorrow there is a large voluntary Thanksgiving Service – and I haven’t the smallest doubt that every single man in the battalion will turn up, as every one of us thinks and says the same thing – that we have so much to be thankful for that we can never express it in words. And really – when I come to look back on my 6 or 7 months out here, there is such a lot to be thankful for – and all the awful narrow escapes I’ve had time and again, that it makes me go cold all over to think of it! For although I’ve only been out for 6 or 7 months, yet these 6 months have seen some of the worst battles & fighting of the war – and fellows who have done as many “over the top” stints and been through as many battles as I have during these 6 months and come through without a scratch have got more to thank God for than they can hope to do in a lifetime.

I somehow can’t yet realize that I am safe and sound with a whole skin, as an infantry subaltern’s life out here is nothing but one of huge risk – seeing that he plays about with barrages half the time – or else under Machine Gun fire.

2nd Lieutenant Archie Forbes (on left) (SHC ref QRWS/30/FORB/2)

Now that it’s all over, I don’t mind telling you that time and again I’ve wondered how much longer I should last out, and how much longer my luck would hold. And time and again, I’ve gone over the top with my Platoon or Company – usually well in front of them – and yet when I looked round I’d see them being knocked over all round me especially that memorable occasion when I went over with a Platoon of 35 and afterwards found myself with 7. It makes one think a bit, I can assure you, and I’ve wondered and wondered why some fellows like myself have been so lucky, and I’m sure your prayers have done it, and other poor fellows haven’t been so fortunate because they haven’t got Mothers who pray for them so earnestly as you have done for me all along, I know.  [……….]

I can hear the old lady of my billet coming up the stairs to my room – I believe she wants to kiss me this time!! – No, it was alright, not the old lady after all – but her young daughter who has brought me a cup of coffee. I thanked her frightfully as she’s quite pretty! – and I said numerous merci “beaucoups” and “biens” and “bons” and “tra bongs”, etc! which seemed to please her greatly. I talk quite a lot to them, as they love hearing the war news – especially this morning’s news of peace! But I find it pretty difficult as they can’t speak a word of English in these parts – but very amusing and great fun at times.

On demobilisation, 3 March 1919, Archie was given a fine reference: ‘He is a strict disciplinarian and a very fine leader, especially in action and he knows how to handle men’. After the war, he became a Latin teacher at Lambrook preparatory school Winkfield, Berkshire.  He married Flora Keyes and they had two daughters, Isla & Rona.  In the autumn of 1939, he achieved his long-held hope of becoming headmaster of Lambrook.  He died of cancer on 31 October 1956.

Images and transcripts reproduced by permission of the grandchildren of Archie Forbes.