2nd Lieutenant Lionel King-Stephens – Died of Wounds 20th December 1916

Barclays Bank

Title: Barclays Bank
Description: Barclays Bank, Banstead, c1966. Lionel worked in this branch and lived in the house next door. Courtesy of the Banstead History Research Group. by-nc

Lionel Eustace King-Stephens was born at home in Nidney Cottage, Kingston Lane, Teddington, Middlesex, on 8th June 1879. He was the youngest son of Robilliard and Annette King-Stephens. Lionel was their third child and he had two older brothers, Herbert and Arthur, and a younger sister, Helen. His father, Robilliard, was Welsh and Lionel was baptised at Llandyfrydog, in Anglesey, on 24th August 1879.

The family moved to a bigger house, “Salehurst” (number 28), Hampton Road, Teddington, a 10-roomed mansion, when Lionel was a toddler. The family had two live-in servants and the children were brought up by Octavie, a Swiss governess, one of whose duties was to improve the children’s already passable German. Lionel probably attended a prep school before he went up to St Paul’s School, on the banks of the Thames at Barnes, in 1894, aged 14.

Robilliard was a solicitor with the family firm, Messrs Stephens & Stephens, who had offices at 29 Essex Street (just off The Strand) and at 33 Edith Road, West Kensington. His three sons all became clerks. Upon leaving St Paul’s, Lionel joined the London & Provincial Bank, starting as a clerk in their Teddington branch in April 1896, aged 16. He would have to have been guaranteed up to an agreed sum, perhaps £500, by his father or some other person of good standing in the event of Lionel stealing from the Bank. As an apprentice, his starting annual salary would have been about £30 but by 1902, it had increased to £80 and rose at a steady £10 per year almost every year (tax free until it hit £160).

Lionel stayed at the Teddington branch for 16 years before he transferred to their Banstead branch in June 1912 and was promoted to resident clerk. The Bank had opened a temporary branch in a wooden hut (where The Woolpack’s car park is now) in 1905 and then built a permanent branch on the corner of Avenue Road, where Barclays Bank stands today (Barclays took over the London & Provincial in 1918), which Lionel joined as one of its first two members of staff. Beside the bank was a house in which Lionel lived. A manager, probably based in Sutton, oversaw the Sutton, Ewell, Carshalton and Banstead branches and probably visited the branch once a week but most of the day-to-day running of the branch would have been left to Lionel, the senior of the two clerks employed at Banstead.

Lionel, his older brothers and younger sister were all sporty and Lionel was a keen cricketer, hockey player, golfer and a “first class” tennis player. He played for Banstead Cricket Club, the Private Banks Cricket Club and at Fulwell Golf Club. He represented Teddington Hockey Club, later becoming club secretary, playing left wing or inside left. He had a prolific goal-scoring record in his early playing years and also created many goals for his teammates. He went on to represent Middlesex, London and the South of England at hockey and played in the first ever hockey match at Lord’s cricket ground (Middlesex v United Hospitals in November 1904). He also played football for Middlesex (probably) and the South of England. Lionel enjoyed some success in the tennis tournaments that he and his sister, Helen, competed in each year during their summer holidays in Devon and Cornwall and was rarely knocked out in the early rounds. Helen was a fine tennis player and considered to be good enough to play at Wimbledon, eldest brother Herbert was an England international hockey player and Arthur played rugby for Lennox, Rosslyn Park and Middlesex and was a member of the Barbarians team which beat Stade Francais in Paris in December 1898.

When war broke out, Lionel was the first Banstead man to volunteer as a special constable, and served with the Specials for just over a year. He resigned from both the Met and the Bank to enlist as a private in The Artists’ Rifles in September 1915. He passed out of their Officers Training Corps in January 1916 and was commissioned in the 8th Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regiment (Sherwood Foresters) as a second-lieutenant. He joined his battalion in France in mid-July 1916 and soon became a “great favourite” and established a reputation as a “gallant” officer.

The Sherwood Foresters were with Third Army, just to the north of the Somme battlefield. They had taken part in the opening day of the battle, on 1st July, but were destined to avoid the rest of the fighting. Their sector was peaceful by the standards of the Western Front, their days in the line were uneventful and casualties were low (62 fatalities for the whole of 1916, a remarkably small number in comparison to the losses just a few miles to the south).

November and early December were spent in training for open warfare, perhaps in expectation of a breakthrough on the Somme that never came. By mid-October the fighting had bogged down in a sea of mud and the Battle of the Ancre in November, which was ending just as Lionel’s battalion began a slow return journey towards the front line, marked the last phase in the Battle of the Somme.

The Sherwood Foresters returned to the line near Foncquevillers in early December. The German trench mortars and artillery were busier than usual and on 16th December, Lionel led a wiring party out at night to repair the wire in front of the trenches. Fog allowed them to work on as it got light. As the fog began to clear, Lionel got his men back into the trenches and was just climbing back over the parapet when a shot rang out. Hit in the abdomen, he was evacuated to 43rd Casualty Clearing Station at Warlincourt. Four days later, on 20th December 1916, Lionel died. He was 37 years old.

Lionel was buried in Warlincourt Halte British Cemetery, at Saulty, on Christmas Eve 1916.

He is commemorated on the Banstead War Memorial (as “King-Stevens”), on the Garton Memorial in All Saints’ churchyard, on the wooden panels in the Lady Chapel, All Saints’, on the Banstead Cricket Club Roll of Honour board, on the London & Provincial Bank World War I Memorial at Barclays PLC Headquarters in Churchill Place, London, on the Teddington War Memorial, the Hampton Hill War Memorial in St James’ churchyard, the War Memorial Boards at St Paul’s School, on the Fulwell Golf Club War Memorial and on the Private Banks’ Cricket and Athletic Club Memorial, Catford.

The most unusual of his many memorials is a framed drawing of a war memorial (which did not have a real-world counterpart until a war memorial was commissioned by Barclays Bank relatively recently), which hung on the walls of all branches of the London, Provincial & South Western Bank.

He is also commemorated in the Artists’ Rifles Regimental Roll of Honour and War Record, in the All Saints’ Book of Men Who Served Overseas, in Hampton Hill Parish Magazine’s Roll of Honour, in the London & Provincial Bank Book of Remembrance and in an obituary in the Pauline Magazine.

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