Captain Percy Levick

Captain Percy Levick

Percy was born in West Ham, London, in 1873, the son of Dr George and Martha Levick. His father died in 1881 leaving his family unprovided for. Percy gained a Foundation Scholarship to Epsom College in 1886 and proved to be an all-round performer. Amongst his haul of prizes was the Propert prize in 1892, awarded to the boy who had achieved the highest honours during the year.

Percy was also a prominent athlete and sportsman. He was in the first cricket XI for four years and captain for two. He excelled at Fives, being captain and champion, and played in the first hockey XI. He became a prefect in 1891. He won a scholarship to Jesus College, University of Cambridge, where he graduated in natural science in 1895. He continued to excel at sport and played cricket for Jesus College where he was a useful bowler. He also played hockey for Cambridge University.

Percy proceeded to King’s College Hospital, London, where he won the gold medal, the surgery and pathological anatomy prizes, and was awarded a certificate of distinction for hygiene.

After filling the posts of house surgeon and clinical aural assistant at King’s College Hospital, Percy went into practice at Guildford. He worked with Dr Gabb, and became his partner, for nearly twenty years. He was much beloved by all his patients, young and old, for his genial nature and devotion to their care. He was particularly popular with the poor in the area. He was made honorary Medical Officer (MO) of the Royal Surrey County Hospital in 1902 and became Senior MO in 1908. He was also surgeon to the Fire Brigade.

Percy was a keen motorcyclist and around 1911 had a serious accident in which he sustained head injuries which prevented him from working for several months.

When war came, Percy served initially as medical examiner of recruits at Guildford prior to taking a temporary commission as a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), attached to 4th Divisional Ammunition Column (DAC). He was posted to France on 21 January 1917.

Percy felt that the facilities for caring for the sick and wounded were inadequate and provided a hospital privately to accommodate about ninety men.

Percy was killed on 15 March 1918 whilst working with the ammunition column near Arras. His horse slipped, fell and threw him beneath a motor lorry.

A correspondent wrote of him ‘One cannot help comparing him with men of long ago like St Francis and St Martin. His loss will be felt as keenly in France as at home. He died as he would have wished – working for the alleviation of the sufferings of others’.

Percy is buried at Anzin-St Aubin British Cemetery on the north-western outskirts of Arras. His friends at home collected £570 for a cot in his memory in the children’s ward in Guildford Hospital.

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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’.

“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.

Cranleigh in November 1918

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

At last – the end of the fighting!

How did the people of Cranleigh learn the momentous news of November 11th, without television or even radio? The answer is, in a very low-key manner. The announcement was phoned through to the Post Office and a notice was displayed there. Gradually the news was passed through the village by word of mouth, and flags began to appear in the streets. By midday, the church bell-ringers had been assembled, and the bells began to ring out. The Rector wrote, ‘Though there was no immediate cessation of work here, people walked up and down the village all the afternoon greeting their friends with happy faces.’  In the evening, people gathered at the local churches for impromptu thanksgiving services.

The pupils at Miss Annie Street’s school at ‘Burleigh’ in Knowle Lane, however, did stop work. One pupil described how Miss Street came in and said, ‘You can have the rest of the day off because the war is finished!’ The County Infants and Elementary School also had a half-holiday. Cranleigh School was already closed for two weeks, because of the Spanish flu epidemic. As one small boy remarked, ‘There might have been a half-holiday, had it not been for the flu.’  In reality, of course, he had a fortnight’s holiday at home.

In the evening, people gathered at the local churches for impromptu thanksgiving services.  The Rector described the service at the parish church in these words: ‘Rarely has the church been so full. Pews that ordinarily held four were holding five, and worshippers were sitting on the sanctuary steps, and within the sanctuary itself. Mrs Sumner had found time to deck the altar with white flowers and had most appropriately draped the great Union Jack above and behind the reredos. There was no doubt about the reality of the worship which was offered, and the singing and responsive reading and praying came from hearts tense with emotion. The whole service did not occupy much more than half-an-hour, but it was a half-hour which will never be erased from our memories.’

Meanwhile Joe Cheesman and his prisoner-of-war comrades were having an exciting time in Belgium. Over several days, the Germans forced them to walk long distances ever further east, towards Germany. Then 120 of them were picked out to go as a working party to a town called Turnhout.

‘Well, that took us about 48 hours on the train with only one day’s food, and when we got there we couldn’t get off the train as the German troops had been rioting and taken the law into their own hands, and killed several of their own officers. When we arrived there about 7.30 on Sunday night last [November 10th 1918], the German sergeant in charge of us couldn’t get rations for us, and more than that the rioters would not let him take us back, so they put us in a siding close to the street. The guards had got hold of a barrel of beer and were well away, so we were soon in close conversation with the civilians over the station railings, with the result that a good many were invited and went over the railings into the houses, and had a good feed, the best we have had for months.

We were absent about three hours, and when we came back over the railings, we were told that the rioters were getting up steam in an engine and were going to run us up close to the frontier and let us free. The engine came about 2am in the morning, and we went and got out close to the wire. The German sergeant came with us, and, having warned the sentries just close not to fire on us, they let us go.’

They struggled in the dark through woods and marshes and eventually reached the Dutch border town, where they were given a big welcome, including a ‘fine feed’ and a bath. Imagine the delight of his parents in Victoria Road to receive this postcard:

‘I am writing this from Rotterdam. We are in a big building on the wharf, and are being fitted up with new clothes and expect to sail very soon. I can’t say exactly when. Expect to be on the way by the time you get this. Love, Joe’.

John Doran Macdonald

John Doran Macdonald was born in Edinburgh 23 February 1867 the second son of Sir John Hay Athole Macdonald KCB PC who became Lord Kingsburgh in 1888. Lord Kingsburgh was a keen motorist, he was a founding member of the AA (automobile Association) and became President of the Scottish Automobile Association. He had been one of the first officers to introduce the use of traction engines into the army, and was responsible for the first use by the British Army of a motor car (for mail transport).

In 1892 John was married in Kensington to Katherine Alleyne Borthwick of Bebington, The Wirral. Katherine was the sister of the “Irish” writer and publisher Norma Borthwick who was living with John and Elizabeth in Woking at the time of the 1911 Census.

Following their marriage, John and Katherine spent some time in Florida where their first 3 children were born but returned with the 2 surviving children by May 1898 to occupy Hambledon House in Hampshire (severely damaged by a fire in January 2018), where John was described as a Civil Engineer, and had moved to The Whins on Hook Heath, Woking, by 1904, where John was described as an actor when his sixth and last child was baptised at St John the Baptist, St John’s, Woking.

At some point John had established a link with the Vauxhall Motor Company and he opened a service station on Hook Heath, Woking. At the outbreak of war in 1914, John at the age of 47 volunteered for service with the British Red Cross and was one of the men who converted their own vehicles into ambulances and drove to northern France to help with the evacuation of the wounded from the battlefields; this group known as “the flying unit” was based in Lille. On the 19 September 1914, Fabian Ware was sent out to lead and control them as some of their more adventurous exercises were endangering the status of Red Cross volunteers as non-combatants. Apparently, crossing the front line under a Red Cross and trying to liberate POWs was not supposed to be part of their role.

The waiting time at casualty stations and field hospitals, which were basically tent cities surrounded by ever increasing burial fields, had weighed heavily on the volunteers and they had noticed that although graves were marked at the time of burial, the burial party did not always have waterproof writing equipment, so the drivers and their stretcher bearers started re-marking the crosses with indelible ink supplied by the Red Cross and, later, with metal embossed tags.

However, artillery bombardments and other activities meant that many graves were being lost as the front line swung back and forth, so in October 1914 Ware asked his men to start recording the details (name, number, unit, rank and location) of as many of the graves as they could, sending handwritten notebooks and sheets of paper back to the Red Cross offices in Paris. The authorities in France realised the impact that the unit’s activities were having on morale and issued ID papers identifying them as the “Graves Registration Commission” so that they could access battlefield areas more easily.

Captain John Doran MacDonald 1867-1916

Title: Captain John Doran MacDonald 1867-1916
Description: The CWGC Headstone on his grave. Thanks to GeertB for providing the Image by-nc

These activities were brought to the attention of General Haig and in March 1915 he reported to the War Office that the activities of Ware’s men were having a considerable effect on morale (“a symbolic value to the men that it would be difficult to exaggerate”). The enlisted men knew that for the first time in the history of the British Army a permanent record of the location where they fell in war could be kept. The War Office formalised the Graves Registration Commission as part of the Red Cross in May 1915, by which time this small group had moved 12,000 soldiers to casualty stations and hospitals and recorded 4,300 grave sites. Fabian Ware was appointed an Army Major in charge of the Graves Registration Unit in addition to his role in the Commission, which now concentrated on establishing the permanent cemetery sites by negotiating with the local authorities. His deputy became a Captain and four of his original volunteers “Lieutenant Local Officers”, leading the unit’s teams of four vehicles and 5 men.

The London Gazette shows that John Doran Macdonald was formally commissioned as a British Army Lieutenant 9 September 1915  (backdated to 22 February 1915) when the Commission was transferred to be part of the British Army, having marked and recorded a further 27,000 graves. The Gazette then shows him as promoted to Captain 12 November 1915 (backdated to 30 September 1915)

The Graves Registration Unit continued its work and following Fabian Ware’s principle that all the of dead should be treated equally regardless of rank or class, it was instrumental in getting the exhumation and repatriation of fallen British soldiers by the rich banned following the exhumation under fire of W E Gladstone’s grandson. It became the Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries (DGR&E) in February 1916, having registered 50,000 graves and arranged for the creation of over 200 permanent war cemeteries with the local authorities.

John Doran Macdonald

Title: John Doran Macdonald
Description: Remembered on the Woking Town Great War Memorial by-nc

On the 18 March 1916, John was erecting and recording crosses on graves along the Ypres-Menin road when he was injured by shellfire; he died of his wounds and is buried in the Extension to the Bailleul Communal Cemetery.

Woking Family Tree Project entry

The DGRE continued its work until 1917 when in order to encompass all the theatres of war a Royal Charter created the Imperial War Graves Commission, an internationally-funded organisation attempting to provide a service without political interference, which in turn became the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 1960.

Peace Celebrations

SHC Ref: 6520/64

‘Dear Sir or Madam,                                   Cranleigh July 12, 1919

Peace Celebrations, July 19, 1919

At a Public Meeting held at the Village Hall, Cranleigh, on Thursday evening last, Sir G.F. Bonham, Bart, in the chair, it was decided to arrange:

  1. A tea for all children under 15 years of age to be held in Knowle Park
  2. A Luncheon to be given to all ex-Service men
  3. A Program of Sports and Entertainments
  4. A Display of Flares and Fireworks

Full details will be published later

A Committee was elected to raise funds. Mr Furbank is Hon. Treasurer, and will be pleased to receive any contribution, large or small, at Lloyd’s bank, Cranleigh, or these may be given to any member of the Committee.

It is felt that you would wish to contribute on this occasion, and as the time is limited the Committee will appreciate your prompt action

I am, Yours obediently


Hon Secretary

P.S. Below are the names of members of the Finance Committee who will receive money or promises of help

Rev P. Cunningham                                                 Mr W.P. Furbank

Dr A.A. Napper                                                         Mr H.J. Hayman

Col H.A. Tapp                                                           Mr H. Kelf

Mr Malcolm Bourne                                                  Mr Arthur Parsons

Mr T. Atkin Wood’


Remembrance Poster

This poster was within a collection given to Surrey History Centre from Hester Godfrey.

Remembrance Day This Year November 10th – F.M. Earl Haig’s appeal for Ex-service men of all ranks

Wear a Flanders Poppy

SHC Ref: 6520-61


The Witley War Memorials

The Witley War Memorials

The Great War had only just ended when the Reverend Newill, vicar of All Saints’, Witley, proposed that a list of all the Witley men who had died be published in the January 1919 All Saints’ magazine and called for a public meeting to be held in Witley School to discuss a memorial inside the church and one outside.

At a meeting on 23 May 1919 several designs for a tablet of remembrance to be placed inside All Saints’ were shown and it was proposed that a fundraising effort be started.  In August 1919 the All Saints’ magazine reported that a design for a memorial tablet in the church submitted by Mary Newill (the vicar’s sister) had been accepted.  The design was inspired by a doorway in the 10th century cathedral of Saint Tryphon in Cattaro, Dalmatia.  Mary had spent some time studying in Florence at the turn of the 20th Century and it is likely that whilst in Italy she travelled to Dalmatia.  Saint Tryphon was consecrated on 19 June 1116 and is one of the oldest examples of Romanesque architecture along the Adriatic coast.  The idea of a large cross or other memorial in the churchyard was not approved, and it was later decided there would be an outside war memorial but this would be a separate project.

The memorial tablet, in Ancaster stone, was cut and engraved by Mr A Mitchell of Witley, who had recently returned from active service. The central piece is a statue by Stanley Nicholson Babb, also known as Norman Babb, of a winged angel over a wounded soldier with the names of the dead listed on either side in date of death order.  Babb had also studied in Italy and maybe he and Mary knew each other before the memorial was designed.  Babb sculpted several notable memorials including to Robert Falcon Scott in St Paul’s Cathedral, a Boer War memorial in Grahamstown, South Africa, Great War memorials at Tunbridge Wells, Bridlington and Coutts Bank, London as well as the figures of Thomas Gainsborough and George Romney on the facade of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The memorial tablet in All Saints Church, Witley, was dedicated by the Bishop of Guildford at a service at 7:30 pm on 30 June 1920.  The main part of the church was reserved for near relatives of the dead and those who returned.

In August 1921, a public meeting was held in Witley School to present ideas for the village war memorial, including the funding, to be sited on Petworth Road, near the White Hart, where it is today.

In February 1923, the war memorial committee headed by Robert Holmes (owner of the White Hart, a churchwarden and father of Percy Holmes who was killed in September, 1918) reported work was well in hand and would be completed by Easter. The memorial was designed and executed by Mr A Mitchell and is very similar to the cross of sacrifice found in many cemeteries in France.  The cost was estimated at £260/0/0 of which £100/0/0 had been raised and further donations were called for.

Witley War Memorial, Petworth Road, Witley

Title: Witley War Memorial, Petworth Road, Witley
Description: Image courtesy of Stephen Mills by-nc

On Whit Sunday afternoon, 1923, the memorial was unveiled by Field Marshal Sir William Robertson. The service and prayers were led by Reverend Newill who dedicated the memorial; four boys from King Edward’s School played the last post and reveille.

In July 1923, it was reported by Robert Holmes that the final total cost of the memorial was £301/9/0, all funded by public subscription.

The names of the Second World War dead were added around 1948 but not without controversy as some parishioners felt the money would be better spent on helping the needy. Once again, Mr A Mitchell did the carving.

The Bishop of Winchester looks to the future

The Right Reverend Edward Talbot (1844-1934), Bishop of Winchester, sent a letter from his seat at Farnham Castle to all the churches of his diocese in January 1919, reflecting on the armistice and the challenges ahead:  ‘God has brought us through the war, and given us a fresh lease of power – for what?’  The Bishop had himself experienced the tragedy of the war: his younger son Gilbert Talbot (1891-1915), a lieutenant in the 7th Battalion, The Rifle Brigade, had been killed in the Ypres Salient on 30 Jul 1915; Gilbert’s brother Neville, an army chaplain, had retrieved the body.  Talbot House, the famous rest house for soldiers in Poperinghe, west of Ypres, nicknamed Toc-H, was named after Gilbert.  A letter from Gilbert, written to Susan Lushington from Bordon Camp in March 1915, is held by Surrey History Centre (SHC ref 7854/4/32/3/1a-b).

In the letter, the Bishop gives thanks again for the end of hostilities and hopes that now a ‘just and lasting peace’ can be achieved.  He warns against any temptation to self-righteousness even though it is proper to look ‘sternly and severely at the awful fault and crimes of Germany’ and warns Britain not to fall into Germany’s sins of ‘national self-worship, and the worship of force, of gold and of the machine’.  He believes that the final peace settlement should not aim at any expansion of Britain’s empire but should seek to ‘draw all nations into a League of Peace, to act as trustee and defender of the weaker races, to conduct ourselves so that slowly but surely hatreds may die down, and slowly but surely the ideals which are good for all the nations may come to be pursued by all’.

At home it should be the aim of all to create a fairer society but this should be done with ‘general goodwill, disinteredness, and unselfishness’, so it does not degenerate into a struggle between rich and poor.  He recognises that ‘those who have sometimes a wrong and unchristian monopoly of the great word ‘respectable’ will have to reconcile themselves (let me put myself among them) to great losses and disagreeable changes, and to welcome a state of society in which they count for less’ but urges people to heed the lesson of the Russian Revolution ‘that revolution can be as ruthless as autocracy or Junkerism’ and urges Labour not to ‘organise hatred against all who are not in its ranks’.

Above all, he asks his flock to pray that ‘the nations all, and our own, may feel their way forward’ and that God will ‘give life’s bread and portion more and more truly and fairly to all’.

A copy of the letter is included in the volume of Witley parish magazines at Surrey History Centre (SHC ref WIT16/37).

Steam Engine Number 333: Remembrance

Text and research by Mike Lattimer

The steam engine number 333, named Remembrance, was built at the London Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR) works at Brighton in 1922. It bore a bronze plaque that read:


As its name implies, the LBSCR operated an extensive network of lines radiating south from the London termini of Victoria and London Bridge to Brighton, its hub on the south coast of England. Much of the network was in the London suburbs and eastern Surrey, with most of the remainder in Sussex.

Remembrance was the last of seven “L” Class tank engines, which first appeared in April 1914. Designed by Lawson Billinton (1882-1954), they were very stable, fast and powerful engines tasked to handle the heavy passenger trains between London and Brighton. After the lines to Brighton and Eastbourne were electrified, these tank engines were rebuilt in 1934, with tenders added, as Class “N-15X” to work out of Waterloo towards Southampton. The rebuilt Remembrance was renumbered 2333 and retained its memorial plaque.

At the end of 1932, steam locomotives were withdrawn from regular service between London and Brighton. Remembrance was the engine which pulled the last steam ‘Southern Belle’ from Victoria on 31 December that year, departing at 3.05pm.

Remembrance was withdrawn from service at Brighton on 4 April 1956. Its plaque is now held at the National Railway Museum, York.

Sources (all accessed November 2016) &

 ‘Tolling the Belles of Change with the Dawning of a new Year: the Last Steam Hauled “Southern Belle”‘, Locomotive Journal (Brighton Branch), June 1932, at