The Traill Family’s War Service

Traill family grave, Windlesham Additional Burial Ground

Title: Traill family grave, Windlesham Additional Burial Ground
Description: The grave, in Windlesham Additional Ground(Plot D Grave 14) records the deaths of Cecil and Mary Traill and two of their five children - Charles and Ethel. Image copyright of Moira Nairn by-nc

At the start of the Great War, the Traill family were living in Cooralee, London Road, Sunningdale, then part of Windlesham Urban District. Quite why they had settled in the area is unclear but may well have been associated with their father, Cecil Grahame Traill’s employment as a surgeon. The family appear to have been very involved in the life of the area, with regular reports in the local papers of events they attended such as the ‘Misses Traill’ singing at concerts or hosting stalls at fetes. Dr and Mrs Traill were reported as present at the opening of Windlesham Military Hospital in 1915. (Anon.,Surrey Advertiser)

Cecil was born in New South Wales, Australia although his family originated from the UK. He returned to study medicine at Edinburgh University, from where his father, Rowland, had qualified some years earlier.

Cecil’s wife, Mary McGhie Anderson was born in Jedburgh and it appears as if Cecil and Mary settled there for some time as their eldest daughter was born in Jedburgh. By 1891, however, Cecil was a general practitioner in the Malden area where their remaining four children were born.

Ethel Constance Traill was the eldest child of Charles and Mary Traill and was born during their time in Jedburgh, in 1887.  She served as a full-time nurse in local military hospitals (Windlesham Moor, Birch Hall and Windlesham Court) from November 1914 until January 1919. Ethel never married and the 1939 register shows her living with her father in Fallowfield, School Road, Bagshot.  Newspaper records show that she remained active in the community, presiding at the Bagshot W.I. and participating in a Red Cross Committee in 1939. She died in a Nursing Home in Horsell on 3rd August 1956 and is buried with her father, mother and eldest brother in Windlesham Cemetery. She left her estate to the children of her sisters.

Born on Christmas Day 1888, Charles  Harold Traill was the eldest son . A boarder in Caterham, Surrey from an early age, he  was then  educated at Bradfield College, Berkshire between 1902 and 1906. Subsequently, he studied engineering at Kings College, London before undertaking a pupillage with H Michael Whiteley in Westminster. Records show that he travelled to Port Said in Egypt in 1911 on the RMS Moldavia to obtain practical engineering experience with the Public Works Department in Cairo, where he worked on the main drainage and sewerage. He received a commission in the Royal Field Artillery in October 1914 and was subsequently promoted to Captain. Awarded the Military Cross, the citation published in the London Gazette on 27th July 1916 (when he was a 2nd Lieutenant) reads:

‘For conspicuous gallantry. He skilfully cut the enemy’s wire by his fire preparatory to a raid and, during the raid, kept two of his guns in action under shell fire after the third gun had been buried. He himself went from gun to gun with the utmost coolness and set a fine example to all under him. He had previously been brought to notice for gallant work’

The recognition was reported in the Surrey Advertiser on 9th September 1916.

Captain C H Traill M.C.

Title: Captain C H Traill M.C.
Description: Taken from the Surrey Advertiser 9 September 1916 P3 by-nc

Charles suffered  a period of ill-health in late 1916 and,  despite being declared unfit,  letters in the National Archive show him writing to the authorities requesting a return to army duties as  he ‘feels quite fit again’. During recovery from a serious operation (probably associated with his gall bladder), he repeatedly asked to return to active service but was finally declared permanently unfit for military service in December 1918. He died in 1920, aged 31, and is buried in Windlesham Additional Burial Ground in the same plot as his parents and eldest sister.

The middle daughter, Mary Anderson Traill (known as ‘Mollie’), born in 1891, does not appear to have served in the local hospitals with her sisters.  In 1917, Mollie married Eric Bertram Rowcroft, who had attended the same prep school as her brother, Charles – the 1901 Census shows both of them boarding at the home of a Church of England clergyman and schoolmaster in Caterham. The wedding announcement appeared in the Social and Personal column of the Surrey Advertiser, making clear that it would only take place ‘leave permitting’.

Announcement of Mollie Traill's forthcoming marriage to Eric Rowcroft

Title: Announcement of Mollie Traill's forthcoming marriage to Eric Rowcroft
Description: Taken from Surrey Advertiser 12 September 1917 P12 by-nc

A career soldier who by 1918 was working in the War Office, Eric was awarded CBE and KBE for his work in the Second World War, which included involvement in the planning of Operation Overlord.  Mollie and Eric had two children, Kenneth George C  Rowcroft, born in 1919, and Rowena M Rowcroft, born in 1924.

Cecil Helena Traill, the youngest daughter of Charles and Mary Traill, was born in 1893.  Cecil served as a nurse in Windlesham Moor Hospital from November 1914 until January 1919. After the war, in 1921,Cecil  Helena married Percy H Bentley, a telegraph code publisher. They lived on Grove End, Bagshot and had one child, Alison M Bentley who was born in 1925. Like Ethel, she appears to have continued in community service, also being part of the Red Cross Committee in 1939. Cecil Helena died in 1979.

The youngest of Cecil and Mary’s five children, Kenneth Robert Traill, was killed, aged 23, at the Battle of the Somme.  His death was reported in the Surrey Advertiser on July 8th 1916. Interestingly, it was also reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on January 1st 1917, an indication of the status of the Traill family in Australia.

Announcement of Kenneth Traill's death on the first day of the Somme

Title: Announcement of Kenneth Traill's death on the first day of the Somme
Description: Taken from Surrey Advertiser July 8 1916, P5 by-nc

Kenneth Traill's death reported in Australia

Title: Kenneth Traill's death reported in Australia
Description: As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald 1 January 1917 P6 by-nc

The Windlesham Roll of Honour states

‘Kenneth Traill was born on 9th January 1893. He was educated at Sunningdale School (Smith &Crabtree), Bradfield College and Guys Hospital London. He was a medical student at Guys Hospital when war broke out. He joined the Inns of Court Officers Training Corps in August 1914 and received his commission in the 6th Royal Berkshire Regiment in September 1914. The regiment did most of its training at Colchester and Salisbury Plain. They were sent to France in July 1915. He was slightly wounded in the arm in February 1916 and returned to his regiment in March 1916. From July 1915 to July 1916 the 6th Royal Berkshire were engaged in trench warfare near Albert but did not take part in any big engagement until the first battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916. Lt Traill was killed on the morning of 1st July 1916 whilst taking a German trench. The battalion went over the top 900 strong that morning and there were only 120 left in the evening.’

Kenneth is buried in Carnoy  Military Cemetery at the Somme.

An old boy of Bradfield College, Kenneth Traill's death is recorded on the memorial there.

Title: An old boy of Bradfield College, Kenneth Traill's death is recorded on the memorial there.
Description: Image copyright Bradfield College, Bradfield, RG7 6AU) by-nc

Whilst Kenneth’s name appears on  Sunningdale  School Window, Bradfield College Memorial , Guy’s Hospital Memorial, Windlesham St John’s Cross War Memorial and Holy Trinity Parishioners’ Cross, Sunningdale, Charles’s service is recorded only on King’s College War Memorial and  Holy Trinity Parishioners’ Cross, Sunningdale.


Anon, 1915. Social and Personal, Surrey Advertiser  , 19 June 1915

Anon, 1916, ‘ War Casualties. Losses  in the Big Battle’. Surrey Advertiser , 8 July 1916, P 5

Anon, 1916, London Gazette , 27 July 1916

Anon, 1916, Surrey Advertiser , 9 September 1916, P3

Anon, 1917, ‘Personal’. Sydney Morning Herald, 1 January 1917, P6

Anon, 1917, Social and Personal, Surrey Advertiser  , 12 September 1917, P12

Hutton, A.J., date unknown, Windlesham Roll of Honour

The Bradfield Society Office, 2017, Bradfield College Memorial , Bradfield   ,RG7 6AU

Nairn, Moira, February 2017, Traill family grave, Windlesham Cemetery


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