Family story contributed by Mary Vint
As I child, I knew nothing of my grandparents’ early life. I remember bringing out Granddad’s red sash to play with and his pointing out the piccolo when listening to military music. He had a waxed moustache and although a cook instructor left the cooking to Grandma, except at Christmas, when there was up to eleven of us seated around the dining table.
But you could certainly say the army, and more particularly the East Surrey’s, were in my Granddad’s (Henry Victor Joseph West’s) blood. His granddad, Thomas Edward, and father, Edmund, were both in the regiment as were two of his brothers and a brother -in-law.
He attended the Duke of York Military School in Chelsea, possibly because by then his father was dead and enlisted at the age of 14 and 9 months in January 1903. His service record shows that by 1912 he was a sergeant Master Cook and by 1919 an cook instructor. He was made a Colour Sergeant in October 1922.
Early in his career his battalion was stationed in Jersey where he met a local girl, Jane, whom he married in 1908.
Grandma and Granddad never spoke of the early years of their marriage but it must have been hard for the young couple. They were married in October 1908 and the 1911 census notes that Jane is living at home and has had a child who has died. In 1914 the regiment left the Channel Islands and went to Dublin (then still part of the UK). Harry (as he was known) was sent with the British Expeditionary Forces to France and Jane kept a post card from him claiming to be well and having had a ‘pleasant journey’. That treasured post card was followed by many silent anxious months when Jane heard nothing from Harry, leading her to she contact his commanding officer. I think it says a lot for the family feeling of the regiment that this young woman felt able to personally contact Corporal J W Clark but also that he replied personally to reassure her.
Unfortunately, Cpl Clark didn’t realise that Harry had been wounded in the chest in October 1914 He was eventually repatriated in December. He was probably fortunate to be such an early casualty because, as the saying goes, his war was now over.
He continued his career as cook , moving to the Hampshire Regiment and eventually retiring in 1927.
Charles Frederick Arthur West, an older brother of Harry, was also in the East Surrey’s and also married a Jersey girl. He was stationed in India until, in 1917, he was recalled to instruct soldiers in the field in France. Second Lieutenant CFA West was killed in action in France, leaving his wife Florence with three young children to bring up on her own.
A third brother Walter, was also stationed in India and married there.
Their sister, Louisa, married a colour sergeant in the East Surrey’s whose surname was Madge or Murdge. More research is needed on this member of the family.
I have many fond memories of my grandparents and it is only recently I’ve had a glimpse of what their lives were like. As a young bride, Grandma saw her husband and brothers go off to war and then twenty years later her two sons were joining up.
I am grateful for Grandma’s sense of history. I have recently discovered a treasure trove of newspaper cuttings and souvenir booklets. Sadly, a great many of these are lists of the wounded and dead of Jersey but there is also a memorial booklet of the Regiment leaving Jersey together with the Irish Fusiliers and of the Duke of York School’s Centenary.