WW1 War Service of employees at Brookwood Asylum

The Brookwood Asylum staff service registers record the employment details of the men and women employed at Brookwood Asylum.  Many of the men joined the services during the war.   For some men a note was made in the register that they received half pay and half emoluments while serving. Most of the men returned to their old jobs after the war, and the date they returned is recorded.

The following information was found in three of the registers (SHC ref CC525/48-50).

75 of the men joined the Army between 1914 and 1919.  They joined a wide range of units.

  • James Lowry, a Medical Superintendant, and Walter Batchelor, Assistant Charge Attendant, joined the Royal Army Medical Corps.
  • A number of men joined the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment and the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.
  • Wilfred Hart had joined the Royal Navy in 1913, and returned to work at Brookwood Asylum in 1919.
  • In July 1918 three men left to undertake work of national importance, and all three returned to their old jobs in December 1918 and January 1919.

Click here for a list of all the male Employees at Brookwood Asylum in the registers CC525/48-50.

Men who died

The Brookwood Hospital Asylum Staff memorial plaque is now in the Lightbox at Woking.  The plaque remembers ten men who were killed.  These staff service registers record the death of one more man.

  • Private William Boylett, Middlesex Regiment, died 24 December 1916
  • Lance Corporal Frank Gwynn, Middlesex Regiment, died 15 April 1915
  • Serjeant Robert Good, Rifle Brigade, died 23 July 1919
  • Guardsman Sidney Hambridge, Grenadier Guards, died 24 May 1918 (who is not remembered on the memorial)
  • Corporal John Ives, Northumberland Fusiliers, died 1 October 1916
  • Private Frederick Knott, Northamptonshire Regiment, died 12 November 1918
  • Gunner Ernest Moore, Royal Field Artillery, died 5 August 1917 (who is remembered on the memorial but was not  found in these registers)
  • Sapper Stephen Pannell, Royal Engineers, died 30 November 1917
  • RQMS Charles Pridgeon, Royal Garrison Artillery, died 22 June 1918
  • Private Charles Quick, Northumberland Fusiliers, died 12 November 1914
  • Sapper Leonard Startup, Northumberland Fusiliers, died 3 May 1917

Conscription

Woking Military Service Tribunal Letter Books 1916-1918 (SHC ref 6198/16/1-6) have been transcribed and can be searched on findmypast.co.uk.  Findmypast can be used free of charge at Surrey History Centre and in all Surrey libraries.

The letter books refer to many cases of employees from Brookwood Asylum, both those attending the patients and those involved in the general maintenance of the hospital, for whom exemption from conscription was sought.  Applications were usually made by Dr R F B Bowes, Acting Medical Superintendant, and at one meeting the cases of 14 asylum employees were being heard.  The letter sent to him stated “I herewith enclose notice in respect of 14 men employed at the Asylum.  I have put them all down for 3.30 p.m. so will you please be here by that time” [16 May 1918].

Exemptions were generally conditional on the man continuing with his usual work at the asylum.  Work at the Asylum was considered to be work in category “A”, which meant that applications were being made “On the ground that it is expedient in the national interests that the man should, instead of being employed in military service, be engaged in other work in which he is habitually engaged”.

Employees who were exempted throughout the War:

Alfred Deahl was an electrician living at 1 Oscroft Cottages, High Street, Knaphill.  He was born in 1877 and started working at Brookwood Asylum on 19 October 1903.  On 15 March 1916 he was “granted conditional and temporary exemption” for three months.  “The grounds upon which the exemption is granted is that it is expedient in the national interests that the man should instead of being employed in military service be engaged in the work upon which he is habitually engaged”.  His case was reviewed periodically until 22 May 1918, when he was granted temporary exemption until the 22 November 1918 and was also exempt from liability to join the Volunteer Force.  This was on condition that “he continues to follow his usual occupation of Electrician at a County Asylum”.  His work fell into category “A”.

Walter Osborne Arnold was a master baker living at Limecroft in Knaphill.  He was born in 1879 and started work at Brookwood Asylum on 21 July 1898.  His case was heard regularly between March 1916 and July 1918.  He was granted conditional and temporary exemption if he continued to follow his usual occupation of Baker and Cook at the County Asylum, and in July 1918 his exemption was to last until 3 January 1919.

David Herbert Evans was a storekeeper living in Acer Cottage, Chobham Road, Knaphill.  He was born in 1870 and started work at Brookwood Asylum as a painter’s labourer on 11 May 1891.  His case was heard on Wednesday 24 July 1918 at 3.30 pm and he was given an exemption until 24 January 1919 “from liability to join the Volunteer Force if he served as a Special Constable if accepted”.

Employees who were exempted until the need for men became more urgent:

Frederick Elsworth Sowden was a dispenser who lived in Highclere House, and later in Lavender Cottage in Knaphill.  He was married with two children and worked at Brookwood Asylum from 16 July 1914.  In March 1916 he was given a temporary exemption for six months on condition that he continued to follow the occupation of Dispenser to an Asylum, as it was “expedient in the national interests that the man should instead of being employed in military service, be engaged in other work in which he is habitually engaged”.  In September 1916 he was again given a conditional exemption.  However, the letter following his attendance on Wednesday 14 March 1917 at 3.30 pm requested that the recruiting authorities not call the man up before [5?] April 1917.  Frederick Sowden joined the Royal Army Medical Corps on 14 Apr 1917.  He returned to work at Brookwood Asylum on 20 Feb 1919.

Edmund Joseph James Farrow was an attendant who was promoted to Cricket Ground Attendant.  He lived at 6 Whitburn Cottages, Connaught Road, Brookwood.  He was born in 1876 and was married with two children, and he had worked at Brookwood Asylum since 6 March 1897.  His case came up from July 1916 and he was given conditional temporary exemptions until June 1918.  However, when his case was heard on Wednesday 22 May 1918 at 3.30 pm, there was a “Review of Certificate of Exemption upon the application of the National Service Representative upon the ground of urgent demand for men in the Army”.  He was given exemption until 22 July 1918, and the staff register records that he joined the Army 20 Aug 1918.  Edmund Farrow returned to his job at Brookwood Asylum on 1 March 1919.  Edmund probably served as Sapper 331599 Royal Engineers Inland Water Transport.

Ernest Chapman was an attendant who lived at 2 Glencoe Cottages, Queen’s Road, Knaphill.  He started work at Brookwood Asylum on 25 December 1915.  His case was heard on 5 June 1918, and the staff register records that he joined the Army on 26 June 1918.  He returned to work at Brookwood Asylum on 27 Feb 1919.

Frederick William Knott was a night attendant living at Rockwood in Knaphill.  He was born in 1880 and started work at Brookwood Asylum on 10 January 1900.  His case was heard regularly between March 1916 and May 1918.  He was granted temporary conditional exemptions on condition that “he continue to be employed in an Asylum as an Attendant on Lunatics.”  On 22 May 1918 at 3.30 pm the now “urgent demand for men for the Army” resulted in a different decision.  He was given a conditional and temporary exemption until 22 July, 1918, and was exempted from liability to join the Volunteer Force.  The following conditions were applied “(a) That he continues to follow his usual occupation of Night Attendant at a County Asylum. (b) The exemption is to terminate forthwith on the provision of a substitute considered, in case of dispute, by the Local Advisory Committee to be satisfactory.”

It had already been a tragic year for the family.  Frederick’s young son Frederick William George Knott died aged just 1¾ and was buried on 7 February 1918; and his father Frederick George Knott was buried on 2 April 1918.  Both were buried at St John’s Church, Woking.

Knott himself, serving as Private Frederick Knott, 59794 3rd Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, died on 12 November 1918.  On 15 November he too was buried at St John’s Church Woking.  He is remembered on the Brookwood Hospital Asylum Staff memorial plaque and on the memorial at Holy Trinity, Knaphill.

Frederick’s brother Maurice Montague William Knott, East Surrey Regiment, had died on 1 January 1916.  Both brothers are remembered on the memorials at Christ Church, Woking, Woking Town Square and Maybury School.

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