Contributed by Miriam Bailey (Daisy’s Granddaughter)
Daisy Lavender’s Early Life
My Nan was born on the first day of Spring, 21st March 1893 in Kingston- on- Thames: a daughter to George and Annie Lavender. She was given the pretty and flowery name of Daisy Lavender. George Lavender, Daisy’s father, was born in 1859 and was a hay binder. He was of just one of the many prolific Lavender families who dealt in hay and who originated from Ruislip in Middlesex.
Daisy’s Mum, Annie Lavender nee Dean, was born in Harefield in 1872 and later became a nurse midwife in her local community of New Malden helping to look after mothers a few weeks before their confinement was due and helping to deliver and to nurse many of those babies for a few weeks, after their birth, in her own locality of New Malden: as was the custom to do, for better off ladies, in those days.
Like most young ladies of her social class, when she grew up Daisy went into “service” as a young woman and spent some time working at a large house at 79 Eaton Place, Belgravia before WW1 broke out. Just a few doors along from No 79 Eaton Place and many years later, a TV series called “Upstairs and Downstairs” about the Bellamy family was set and was filmed at a house in this very street which my Nan watched avidly herself on TV in the 1970’s.
She used to say “I worked there”, and indeed she did, as a young woman, until 1916. I daresay that her life there was pretty similar to that of one of the housemaids depicted in the well known TV series.
Also working with Daisy as a servant at 79 Eaton Place was another young woman named Florrie Cracknell, who became friendly with Daisy. Florrie had a brother called Walter Cracknell who began walking-out with Daisy. Wallie would often send post cards to Daisy which he would write to her in back-to-front writing telling her where he was and what he was doing and when he might see her next. Wallie would also be a regular visitor at 2 Rose Cottages, New Malden (Daisy’s family home) on her days off and would send post cards to Daisy’s Mum and to her younger sister, Cissie, who he knew collected such things.
Here is one such post card which Wallie sent to Daisy beginning MDD – My Dear Daisy – at Eaton Place and written to her in back-to-front writing.
Daisy had a sister Violet, known in the family as Ciss or Cissie who was born into the Lavender family on 24th March 1895. Cissie also worked “in service” when she had left school.
Ciss collected post cards. She would ask her family to send her a post card on the occasion of her birthday, which they all did, many with violets on them as Violet was Cissie’s nominal name. These post cards between the two sisters during WW1 have been very useful in knowing what Daisy and Ciss were getting up to in their everyday lives as they would send a post card to one another, saying where they would meet or what they were doing on their day off, which would be delivered to the recipient later that very same day. There are 250 such old post cards dated between 1910 and 1930 which once formed my Great Aunt’s collection of post cards which she collected when she was a young woman. It is very noticeable that the birthday greetings written by family members to Cissie would often say “Many happy returns of the day – May God grant you many more birthdays”. So many young people had been killed in the war to end all wars that this became the sort of message commonly written on a birthday card during WW1 when no-one knew who of their family or of their community would be reported dead or missing next.
The two girls had grown up happily together and were very close to one another. The 1911 census shows Daisy and Violet living with their Mum and Dad in Kingston-on-Thames. In about 1912, the year that the Titanic went down, the sisters and their mother officially moved into 2 Rose Cottages, Grafton Road, New Malden, the long time home of the two girls maternal grandparents, to live with their Granny, Annie Dean, who was getting older, and who had been widowed seven years previously and who was now finding it hard to manage on her own.
A family photo shows Daisy and her sister acting as bridesmaids to their Aunt Alice Dean – their Mum’s sister – on the occasion of her wedding to Harry Linney which took place on 5th August 1911. The photo was taken at 2 Rose Cottages, Grafton Road, New Malden – a cottage which had been the home either of her Lavender or Dean families since before 1880. Cissie was to remain living in this house until the 1970’s when the property was finally and sadly demolished. Their beloved Uncle Albert H Dean (their Mum’s and the bride’s brother) is seen in this photo back row- right- with his hand on the shoulder of his younger niece, Cissie. Daisy is the bridesmaid to the left. Their Granny, Annie Dean, is the older lady on back row- left wearing her best long black Victorian styled dress, which was still fitting for a lady of her advancing years and wearing a straw hat with a big white flower on it for the special family occasion.
Wartime Life for the Lavender and Dean Families
In 1916, when WW1 was raging, Daisy decided that she wanted to do something herself for the war effort. So many of the young men that had once been friends with Daisy and Cissie as they grew up in New Malden and who had later come calling to tea now that both Daisy and Cissie were fast becoming beautiful and eligible young ladies, now joined-up, and went off to war to fight for King and Country. Many who the girls had known had already been killed, the painful notices of their deaths were constantly being printed daily in the local papers. The girls would cut out the young soldier’s sad obituary from the local newspapers to stick in albums noting with depressing and repetitive heartfelt regret that they had all died so soon after bidding the girls and their home town of New Malden farewell; whilst fighting with the Colours. So, it was in August 1916, that Daisy sent her sister a post card announcing that she may be surprised to know that Daisy was leaving Eaton Place.
The post card has Lord Kitchener on the front of it, who had recently been drowned at sea. Daisy became a VAD at The Malden Red Cross Hospital and returned to live at her family home at 2 Rose Cottages. By this time, her Uncle Albert H Dean who had been a regular in the Army from 1900 and was a reservist at the outbreak of war had been recalled in 1914 and was now in France serving as an ambulance driver. Daisy’s other Uncles – William and Solomon Dean – Albert’s younger brothers – were doing the same. All three brothers were grooms and were good with horses and, as many ambulances in WW1 were horse-drawn, that is where and how they had chosen to serve.
Shown is a WW1 photo of a typical 4 man ambulance crew of WW1. It looks as though some enterprising French person has set-up a photographic studio in their front room to take photos that the lads could send home. The soldiers have mud on their boots, are wearing puttees and spurs along with their red-cross armbands denoting that they were ambulance crew. The horses were probably waiting outside. Daisy’s Uncle William is the young man back row left. They all look tired.
Shown also in another WW1 photograph is a picture of Daisy’s Uncle Albert in uniform with his wife Mabel (nee Caesar) and his two small sons – Daisy’s cousins. This is the very photo which her Uncle Albert carried with him all through WW1 in his uniform breast pocket. Before going to war, Daisy’s Uncle Albert had asked his own cousin to “Look after Mabel and the boys” should anything happen to him. Albert H Dean died of bronchopneumonia at 10th Military Hospital, Rouen on 27th November 1918 – just days after war had ended. His cousin did indeed look after Mabel and his two boys. He married Mabel in 1919 and brought the boys up, as his own. Mabel and her new husband later had two daughters who they chose to also name Daisy and Violet.
A few years back, I had the privilege of meeting Albert H Dean’s younger son who was Arthur Dean, my Nan’s (Daisy’s) cousin, who is the little and younger boy in photo number 10, at his flat in Surbiton. Arthur had been just 5 years old when his father had died in November 1918 – right at the end of war. Arthur never, ever forgot his father and commemorated his Dad’s life at Armistice Day services at his local church for the remainder of his own life time. I had written to the vicar at Christ Church, New Malden to mention that I was coming to New Malden to do some Family History research and could I make an appointment to look at the church records. I mentioned that I was interested in the local family names of both Lavender and Dean. Unbeknown to me, Arthur Dean had been at an Armistice Day service just days previously and had chatted to the vicar saying that he was commemorating his father’s life at the service that day and that he was connected to the Dean and Lavender families. The vicar placed me in touch with Arthur – we met at Arthur’s flat soon afterwards when Arthur was himself then aged 92. Arthur had total recall about how they had heard that his father was ill in hospital in France in 1918 and that, days later, his Dad had died. It was a very poignant meeting and I shall never forget meeting this 92 year old man and of hearing his first-hand recollections. I was able to give Arthur a little bible which had once been his Dad’s when his dad was a boy and to show him photos of his father’s grave at St Severs Cemetery at Rouen. He cried. Sadly Arthur, Daisy’s cousin, himself passed away in January 2010.
Mabel Dean received letters after her husband, Albert H Dean, had died at 10Th Military hospital, Rouen on 27th November 1918. Albert H Dean had been attached to the 2/2nd West Riding Regiment latterly with the Field Ambulance: helping to save the lives of his comrades all through WW1 only to die himself days after war had ended. Daisy and her sister Ciss had also lost their beloved Uncle Albert. By a strange quirk of fate it could well have been that Daisy’s Uncle Albert may have even had a hand in rescuing or transporting a certain soldier from Gainsborough, Lincolnshire who found himself serving with the 2/5th West Riding Regiment in 1917.
This is the tragic final page from the army service record of Albert H Dean that tells the circumstances of Daisy’s uncle’s untimely death in November 1918 – some months after Daisy began making planes in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.
Daisy’s Time as a Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment Nurse and Meeting Ernest Rainsforth
This is the background into 23-year old Daisy’s young life during 1916: along with an insight into her family network which tells of some of the serving soldiers of her own family who she was concerned about during the middle years of WW1 which is when Daisy decided to give up her job in Eaton Place to do something for the war effort herself. What prompted her to make that decision? Had it been in her mind ever since she had heard the shocking news that Nurse Edith Cavell had been executed by the enemy in October 1915, which had so horrified Daisy and her mother along with all of the British public? Had Daisy heard about her distant relation from a village nearby, a half cousin of hers from Harefield, in Middlesex named Robert Edward Ryder, one of her contemporaries, who had won the VC at Theipval in September 1916 which had so inspired her? There was so much publicity at the time about the brave young soldier of The Middlesex Regiment being awarded the VC for his conspicuous bravery at Theipval that I feel sure that Daisy would have been well aware of the details: just as her Granny would have told her of her family connection with the feted young soldier from the village of Harefield, where generations of Daisy’s ancestors, including her mother, and her maternal Granny and Grandfather, had also been born and bred before coming to New Malden. Or was it just that Daisy was the kind of young woman who did not let the grass grow under her feet and who wanted to do something for the war effort simply because so many of the men in her life, who were dear to her, were now risking their own lives battling constant danger at war in France?
Several years later in 1919 after Daisy had married her wounded soldier from Lincolnshire, Daisy sent a post card to her Mum – a picture of nurse Edith Cavell’s grave at Norwich where Daisy was visiting with her husband Ernest, and on which Daisy writes and tells her mother that she has placed daisies there.
If Daisy had still been alive today she would have been able to have visited the Imperial War Museum and to have seen her distant relative’s host of war medals including his VC or she could have gone back to the village of Harefield to see the Blue Plaque on the house where Robert Edward Ryder had been born in 1895 just two years after Daisy herself had been born a few miles up the road in 1893.
We shall never know what were Daisy’s personal motivations to make changes in her life but what is certain is that by late 1916 or early 1917, Daisy can be found working at Malden Red Cross Hospital as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (V.A.D.) nurse, helping to look after the many injured soldiers who were now coming back from France.
Kingston, Surbiton and District Red Cross Hospital in New Malden was a convalescent home for wounded soldiers. It had previously been Norbiton Common Farm having been requisitioned by the War Office for use as an auxiliary military hospital. It opened in 1915 and remained open until the first week of June 1919.
The hospital was run by a Matron, an Assistant Matron, 5 sisters, 4 staff nurses and 50 members of the local Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD). 20 of these VAD were nurses and the others provided general service. In 1915 the buildings at Norbiton Common Farm, a branch institution of the Kingston Union workhouse, were requisitioned by the War Office for use as an auxiliary military hospital to King George Hospital in Stamford Street, London.
Turn the clocks back six years in Daisy Lavender’s changing life and roll the dice, which, during WW1 frequently determined whether you lived or died and return with me to 1911: far away from New Malden to a small town in rural Lincolnshire called Gainsborough where there was a man called Ernest Rainsforth: single and aged 29 who was still living at home with his parents in that census year whilst earning his living in a local factory called Marshalls. Most of the men-folk who were living in Gainsborough at that time were similarly employed. All of Ernest’s 7 brothers and sisters, including his twin brother, George, had found partners and were married and had begun having children of their own by the year 1911. Ernest was keen on football and was said to be a handy player. He and his twin brother would walk miles to play a weekend competitive game of football. The local people called him “Twinny” Rainsforth along with his brother too. Ernest’s parents were from Knottingley in Yorkshire and were proud to be Yorkshire folks. John Rainsforth, Ernest’s father, had been in the merchant navy until about 1880 when he had moved his growing family from Knottingley to Gainsborough knowing that there was plenty of work in Gainsborough. It may well have been that John Rainsforth may have sailed up the River Trent through Gainsborough many a time and that he had selected this thriving little town to make his home and to prosper when he brought his wife, Christiana, and his four children to Gainsborough around the year 1880 after retiring from the sea. Ernest and his twin were born in Gainsborough on 30th April 1881 followed by two more siblings during the next few years. Ernest grew up in Gainsborough amongst his large family.
1911 census for Gainsborough showing Ernest and his Mum and Dad.
A few more years went by after 1911 but still Ernest had not found a suitable wife for himself. Perhaps he was not looking? Was he waiting and biding his time for a particular kind of a girl? He liked a drink or two and he still enjoyed his football. Maybe he had resolved to stay a bachelor? Or maybe the local girls did not appeal to Ernest at all? When war came in 1914, Ernest was still single and was aged 33. His younger brother, William, who had a wife and several children by then, had joined the Machine Gun Corps with the Lincolnshire Regiment and had already survived a fierce battle for the Hohenzollern Redoubt on 13th October 1915 when over 50 men from Gainsborough and the surrounding villages had been killed having been machine-gunned down within the space of just one hour near Loos in France. It had been a blood bath for the 46th Division. The town of Gainsborough was reeling in the aftermath of losing so many fathers, brothers, husbands and sons. News was very slow in reaching the townspeople with details about who had been killed, or was missing or wounded.
Following this terrible blow for his home town of Gainsborough and the narrow escape with his life of his younger brother, William, in battle, Ernest, just a few weeks later, enlisted with 2nd/5th Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment), a Territorial force, on 10th December 1915 and began his period of training as back-up for the main armies. He was now aged almost 35.
On 11th January 1917, it became time for Ernest and the Duke of Wellingtons to cross over to France. Ernest’s war had finally begun. He had embarked from Southampton on a very different chapter of his life altogether where luck, faith, fate and fortitude would all play their part.
The 62nd Division (2nd West Riding Regiment) had concentrated in the area between Conche and Authie by 18th January 1917. On 13th February the four second line Dukes battalions, which together formed the 186th (2/2nd, West Riding Regiment) moved to a more active part of Beaumont-Hamel. The sector was subjected to enemy artillery, machine guns and snipers both by day and by night. The conditions that the men lived under were horrendous. Although the second line Territorials had by now served together for over two years they were now on active service: lessons from now on could only be learned the hard way. No less than 35 Officers and 300 soldiers of Ernest’s unit were killed, injured or missing during the advance to the Hindenberg Line between 1st and 31st March 1917. Private Ernest Rainsforth was one of those 300 ‘other ranks’ who were categorised as either killed, missing or wounded during the month of March that year when he received a “Blighty wound” having his bicep on his left arm blown off and receiving a shrapnel wound to his left knee. He had been fighting and on active service in France for just 58 days.
At the outbreak of WW1 the War Office commandeered the newly built 5-storey warehouse for the H. M. Stationery Office in Stamford Street and Cornwall Road for use as a Red Cross military hospital, which was reputedly the largest hospital in the United Kingdom. It opened at the end of May, 1915. The first convoys of wounded men were brought by boat train to Waterloo station. Tunnels built as an integral part of the warehouse connected the building to the station so as to facilitate the movement of supplies and these enabled the men to be conveyed to the hospital out of sight to the public. It would have been bad for public moral to have seen so many disfigured and maimed young men arriving in large numbers by boat train every day. Between the years of 1915–1919 the King George hospital treated 71000 injured soldiers. Ernest, who arrived there badly wounded on 11th March 1917, was merely one of them.
As army form W 3229 advised, “as soldiers are frequently moved to outlaying hospitals, relatives should not visit till they have made sure that this soldier has not been moved”.
And so it was that sometime during 1917 the 36 year old wounded Private 241733/5164 of the 2nd/5th West Riding Regiment from Gainsborough, Lincolnshire came to meet the 24 year old ex- housemaid who was now serving as a VAD in her home town of New Malden in south London. Ernest was sent to the Malden Red Cross hospital to recuperate from his war wounds where he met the girl of his dreams.
On 28th November 1917, 8 months after being wounded, Ernest was discharged from the army being no longer physically fit for war service and was given a certificate which said that he was honest, sober and a good worker throughout his military career.
It was a quick courtship. Ernest proposed and wanted to take Daisy back to his home town of Gainsborough to show her off and to introduce Daisy to his parents along with the rest of his large family. Ernest’s parents must have made Daisy welcome because she agreed to leave her own life and her dear family behind in New Malden and to move “up North” to Gainsborough with Ernest. Ernest returned home to Gainsborough and to his family and friends with a beautiful young “cockney” woman on his wounded arm, as his fiancée, with his discharge papers in his pocket, a walking stick and a silver badge on his lapel which denoted that he had done his “bit” for King and Country. He also received a small gratuity. He had lived to tell the tale unlike so many thousands upon thousands of others. Except – Ernest never spoke much of what he had seen or endured during those 58 days in France. But – despite all of the pain and turmoil which he had lived through that had been life-changing for Ernest and which would affect him for evermore- he had got his girl.
There was plenty of different war work for Daisy to do in Gainsborough in munitions factories. She did not stick fast. Daisy got a job. In the space of just two years she had swapped her housemaid’s uniform for a nurse’s uniform and had now swapped that for an overall. She began planning her wedding and finding her way around her new locality which was to be her home town for the rest of her life time.
Daisy and Ernest married at St John’s Church, Gainsborough on 16th March 1918. Ernest’s brother William was one of the witnesses. Daisy found a few moments on her wedding day to send a post card to her “Ma” at 2 Rose Cottages back home in New Malden which is shown here.
The photo was taken on her 25th birthday and shows Daisy and other ladies making Bristol fighters for the war effort at Marshalls factory in Gainsborough on that date.
Days after Daisy had married Ernest and had become his wife on 21st March 1918 (her 25th birthday) Daisy posed for this photograph beside the Bristol fighter D2707 – one of 150 manufactured – which she had helped to make at Marshall’s of Gainsborough with her fellow workers. This photograph of Daisy helping to make Bristol fighters has always taken pride of place in our family. My Nan always told us that she made the wings. 9 months after this photograph was taken, Daisy received the devastating news that her Uncle Albert H Dean was dead. Her remaining Uncles survived WW1.
The Girl who made Bristol Fighters had herself flown the nest, earned her own wings throughout WW1, had become a married woman and had come in to land and was to eventually roost with her wounded soldier, just as her in-laws had once done before her, in her adoptive town of Gainsborough in Lincolnshire.
Post War Life
Daisy and Ernest had three daughters. They gave each of them the middle name of Lavender which had been Daisy’s maiden name. Daisy had no brothers to carry on her family name as her own brother had died as a baby at the age of just two months in January 1898 from measles and bronchopneumonia.
Violet Lavender Rainsforth b. 1923 – d. 1928
A terrible tragedy struck Daisy and Ernest in December 1928 when their precious little 5 year old daughter was hit by a bus outside their home in Ashcroft Road, Gainsborough when a group of children, including little Violet Lavender, were carol singing from door to door in Ashcroft Road. The bus driver carried Violet into her home, the Doctor was sent for but tragically Violet was pronounced dead. The grief of Violet’s parents Daisy and Ernest on that cold December night, just before Christmas, is unimaginable. Neither Daisy nor her husband Ernest ever really got over the accident nor of the death of their “darling pet” as they described their daughter when placing a thank you in the local newspaper to friends and neighbours for their floral tributes which the people of Gainsborough had sent.
Gladys Lavender Rainsforth b. 1929 – d. 2000
In October of 1929 Daisy gave birth to a second daughter Gladys Lavender Rainsforth. Less than a year had gone by since Violet’s death. Having Gladys so soon after their tragedy must have eased their pain but Daisy and Ernest never ever forgot their first born child and spent many years mourning her tragic loss for the remainder of their respective lives.
Doreen Lavender Rainsforth b. 1931 d. 2004.
My Mum Doreen Lavender Rainsforth was born at 49 Ashcroft Road Gainsborough on 27th September 1931 – a little sister for Gladys. Ernest was aged 50 years when his third and youngest child was born. Daisy was aged 38 years when Mum was born making them quite old as parents.
Doreen and Gladys were close and would go down to New Malden every summer with their Mum, Daisy, to spend time with their Aunty Ciss and their Grandmother, Annie Lavender. Daisy and Ciss and her husband Jim took the girls to the seaside, the zoo and went visiting Daisy’s relatives whilst Ernest stayed home in Gainsborough at work earning the money. Ernest would join his family for a week towards the end of the school holidays. Gladys and Doreen remained close as sisters for the remainder of their respective lives. Both are buried almost next to one another at Gainsborough General Cemetery close to one another, as they always remained in life.
Daisy’s sister, Cissie, married Jim Jay in 1929. She worked as a forewoman with Southern Rail at Clapham Junction all of her life but had no children of her own. She remained living at the family home at 2 Rose Cottages for the next 60 years after Daisy herself had left home. Cissie kept all of the family memorabilia, which you see here, safe in old biscuits tins in the small cottage which had been her family home for so long. Daisy took her daughters Gladys and Doreen there to stay every summer and no doubt Daisy and Cissie, on such occasions, would get the biscuit tins out and would reminisce about all of their treasured family memories of the young men who they had both known but who did not come back from war. They would always talk together – into old age – whenever they met-up of the far off days of their youth when war raged, when Daisy met Ernest and of their family, many of whom had now gone. Cissie visited Gainsborough to stay with Daisy and Ernest, with her husband, several times every year. There would be much excitement in our family when Aunty Ciss and Uncle Jim arrived as they would take us all to the seaside on the steam trains with our buckets and spades at the ready. Daisy and Cissie’s beloved Granny, Annie Dean nee Trumper, died at 2 Rose Cottages in 1925. Daisy and Cissie’s Mum, Annie Lavender, also died at 2 Rose Cottages in 1955.
Daisy and Ernest also had 10 grandchildren: all of whom remember Daisy and Ernest with great fondness and with memories of the fun that we had with them when we were all growing-up. They were always there for us. We are all grateful for the input that they both had in our formative years. They both just got on with whatever they had to do in life and made very little of what they had both had to do in their youth when their Country was at war.
Daisy never lost her southern accent and never stopped saying “ Gawd lav a dack” when anything did not go quite right. I can picture her up a ladder, making those Bristol fighters and can hear her uttering that immortal expression of hers in the factory at Marshalls, whilst laughing her head off.
Ernest died in 1975 – aged 94 years.
His twin brother George Herbert lived until the age of 47 years dying in 1928 just a few weeks before Daisy and Ernest’s first child, Violet Lavender Rainsforth had been tragically killed in a road traffic accident outside their home on Ashcroft Road, Gainsborough in December 1928. Little Violet was buried next to her Uncle George at Gainsborough Cemetery in the same aisle as her Grandparents John and Christania Rainsforth who had died within two days of one another in February 1924 and who were buried together.
Daisy died in 1982 – aged 88 years. Her sister, Cissie, had died the previous year in New Malden.
They are not forgotten.