Researched and written by Jocelyn Barker
I have recently found three interesting articles in Surrey newspapers of 1915-1917 referring to members of the Gingell family and their activities in the First World War. The 1911 Census shows that William Gingell was then a 44-year-old farmer on St. George’s Hill (other sources name Home Farm; later known as Blue Barn Farm), living with his wife Ellen, seven sons, two daughters and a servant. The sons include William Henry aged 21, Philip John, 20, Ernest Edward, 18 (the “Nestie” referred to below), Oscar Norman, 17, and Alan Bruce, 14. The family come from Buckhurst Hill, Essex, at some time between the births of their two youngest sons in March 1902 and March 1905. The eldest son, William Henry Gingell, married Christine F. Rundall in Chertsey in June 1916.
In late 1915 or early 1916 William Gingell moved to Crockford Bridge Farm, Addlestone (1). Before the introduction of conscription in March 1916, the five eldest sons had all volunteered for military service:
Surrey Advertiser, 6th March, 1915
SCHOOL CHUMS MEET AT THE FRONT.
A SUMPTUOUS TEA.
An interesting meeting of five old St. James’ schoolboys at the front is described in a letter just received from one of them, Oscar Gingell, Blue Barn Farm, St. George’s Hill. The other chums referred to are Nestie Gingell, the writer’s brother, Reginald Puttock, son of Mr. and Mrs. C.E. Puttock, Lanstephan, Springfield Meadows, Vivian Crapp and Sidney Crump – all contemporary scholars of Mr. E.W. Brown, and prominent in school sports and prize lists of their day. The brothers Gingell are in the Surrey Yeomanry, and the others are members of the 1st Battalion of “The Rangers” (12th County of London Territorials).
In the course of his letter, Oscar Gingell says: “Yesterday I received a rather pleasant surprise. Who should I see but Reg. Puttock and another young fellow (who worked in Turner’s office) up in our loft, talking to Nestie. They had just returned from the trenches: they came out at 4 a.m. They came out here before us – in fact, they sailed on Christmas Eve – and have had several spells in the trenches. They have been commended, and have done jolly well. The Major Hoare that Reg. was orderly to has been killed. If they can get off, they are coming over to see us again to-morrow, and will bring Vivian Crapp with them, and Sid Crump. As they had had no tea, they stopped and had tea with us; and we, having received some salmon as a present from British Columbia, were able to give them tea (with milk in), bread, salmon and jam. One of the fellows had a parcel from home, so we all had a bit of cake. We always share our parcels.”
Surrey Advertiser, Sat. 1st July 1916
Henry Dance (34), Sanway Cottages, Byfleet, stockman to Mr. William Gingell, dairy farmer, Crockford Bridge, Addlestone, was granted conditional exemption while remaining as such. – Mr. Gingell told the tribunal that he himself had five sons in the uniform, and producing their photographs, handed them to the members. – Mr. Wells: You are not a conscientious objector! – Mr. Gingell: Not half a one (laughter). – Mr. Crosby: Your boys do you great credit.
Mr. Gingell, like other farmers, would have found it increasingly difficult to find labourers as more and more men were called up. Probably his wife and two teenage daughters, Evelyn and Joyce, had been helping on the farm, which may have encouraged his decision to take a leading role in a scheme more familiar to us from the Second World War:
Surrey Mirror, Fri. 23rd Feb. 1917
WOMEN AND AGRICULTURE.
The Agricultural Education Committee reported that arrangements had been made for the training of women on Mr. Gingell’s farm at Addlestone. Inquiries were being made as to other suitable farms for training. The committee had also considered a suggestion from the Women’s Agricultural Committee that special arrangements should be made for training women in milking, and had agreed to the payment to selected farmers of 2s. 6d. per week for a short course of instruction, subject to the submission of a satisfactory scheme. A circular had been received from the Board of Agriculture, stating that, in view of the imperative demands for maintaining and increasing the supply of farm labour, the Treasury had sanctioned the provision of further facilities for the training of women to take the place of men withdrawn from the land. The Board now offered grants to cover two-thirds of the actual cost of any approved scheme for the training of women by means of residential courses at institutions or selected farms, the only restrictions attached to the grant in the case of private farms being that farmers should not be subsidised out of public funds for training workers for their own use, and that in case of farmers providing residential accommodation the total payments for training and maintenance should not exceed 12s. per week per student for a maximum of four weeks. The Board suggested that the selection of suitable women should be left to the Women’s Agricultural Committee. The payments made by the committee for the training and maintenance of women on farms exceeded the limit fixed by the Board of Agriculture, and the committee had represented to the Board that, having regard to the present cost of living in the county, they should accept the regulations of the committee for the purpose of the special grant.
The “Runnymede Remembered” archive on Chertsey Museum’s website, compiled by Jim Knight and Emma Warren, tells us something of the brothers’ war record. A “Surrey Herald” report of 1st February, 1918, gives us a snapshot of their lives. (2) Sergt. William H. Gingell, formerly of the Surrey Yeomanry, was by now of the Queen’s and at present with the British Expeditionary Force in Italy. A later report shows that he arrived home in August 1918. Sergt. Philip J. Gingell, Royal Flying Corps, received the Mons ribbon for landing in France in the first week of August, 1914. He was with the British Expeditionary Force until Nov. 1917, then transferred to a home establishment for a rest. Before transferring to the R.F.C. he was a first-class scout in the Surrey Yeomanry (Guildford Troop) for 4½ years. Sergt. Ernest E. Gingell, Surrey Yeomanry, received the bronze medal of the Crown of Italy in March 1917 “for bravery, cool and skilful leading of a small party of men in a rearguard action fought in the Balkans.” Oscar N. Gingell, a Farrier Sergeant in the 16th Cavalry Corps (Salonica), late Surrey Yeomanry, went to France in January 1915 and after some months was drafted to Salonica. He was mentioned in the Salonica despatch of 28th Nov. 1917, for gallant conduct and distinguished service. Alan B. Gingell, a despatch rider in the R.F.C., was serving in Egypt. The report also mentions the two youngest boys, of whom Charles Alexander, then aged 16, was at Woking Secondary School and a Sergt. Major in the Cadet Corps. The youngest, George Raymond, only 10 years of age, “does yeoman service on the farm”.
Unusually, all five men survived the War and the 1920 Electoral Register shows Philip, Ernest, Oscar and Alan living with their parents at Crockford Bridge Farm. William Henry and Frances Christina Gingell were by this time at Sayes Court Farm, later moving to Coombelands Farm by 1930. William Henry was a local Councillor for many years, including a term as Chairman of the Council. He eventually resigned from Chertsey Urban District Council in 1942.
(1) Electoral Registers, 1915 and 1916
(2) The full report is reproduced on the website at: chertseymuseum.org/ww1_archive