Walter Stanley Benson (1891–1915)

10129 Private Walter Stanley Benson
2nd Battalion The Scottish Rifles (The Cameronians)
Killed in Action, 9 May 1915.
Commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.

Note:  Known in the parish as Stanley, it was somewhat confusing to find his army records are filed under the name ‘Frederick Benson”.  In writing about Walter Stanley Benson, he is referred to as Stanley, to avoid confusion with his father and his youngest brother, who were also called Walter.

Stanley was the son of Walter Benson Fisher (1863–1901) and Ellen Stevens (1859–1922), and the grandson of Thomas Benson, a market gardener who moved from Twickenham to Ham in the late 1840s, with his wife, Mary Ann Martin and two children.  In time, Thomas was to build up a successful business as a Potato Dealer, settling with his family at what was then known as Malt House Cottage (now 26 Ham Common).  The youngest of the eight children born to this couple, Frederick James Benson, was born 7 July 1856 and baptised in Ham.

Malt House Cottage, Ham Common

At some point,  either before or following the departure from the family of his wife Mary Ann, Thomas embarked on a relationship with Sarah Fisher, whom he was to describe to the enumerator, in 1861, as a ‘servant’.  The Fishers lived a few houses away in Ham Street, and it would have been a matter of urgency for Thomas to find help in running the household and caring for his young children.

By 1861 Sarah had given birth to three children—Emily (3), Henry and Joseph—whose births were all registered under the surname Fisher.  Emily was born about 18 months after Frederick though not baptised for another five years. Henry had been baptised, privately, in Ham in 1860, but died within days of his baptism, and was buried in the churchyard of St Andrew’s.

Of the ten children in Thomas’s second family, it is only Henry’s birth, which appears not to have been officially registered. Joseph was five when he died in 1866.

When Emily married George Kelly in Ham in 1882, her father’s name was given as ‘Thomas Benson, Potato Dealer’ and her surname as Benson.  It would appear that Thomas was probably the biological father of all three children.  Sarah’s sister, Harriet, had had an illegitimate daughter some years before Sarah became a mother, and that child was given the name Mary Ann Waterhouse Fisher; Waterhouse is thought to be the surname of his biological father.  This may have encouraged Sarah to give her children the middle name of their father.

On 28 June 1863, Sarah took young Emily, as well her infant son, to Twickenham to be baptised. That infant,  baptised as Walter Benson Fisher, was the father of Stanley Benson.  In the course of the next 12 years, six more Benson Fisher children were baptised in Ham, with their births registered under the surname Fisher, and in most cases with Benson as middle name.   In the 1871 census, they are all Fishers, and in 1881, all Bensons.  These ‘Fisher’ children either adopted the surname Benson or simply reversed the two surnames after their parents’ marriage, as did Stanley’s father.

Malt House Cottage 2017

Sarah was promoted to ‘housekeeper’ for the 1871 census and to ‘wife’ in 1881.  However, their marriage did not actually take place until 1885, some 25 years after the start of their relationship and a decade after the death of Thomas’s first wife.


Stanley’s father, Walter, lived at Malt House Cottage until his marriage, in 1890, to Ellen Stevens, the widow of James Francis Buckner.  Walter moved to Ellen’s marital home, 4 Mayleigh Cottages, and became stepfather to her three young daughters.  Instead of becoming a potato dealer like his father, Walter trained as a Compositor, a trade he was to follow until his early death.

Walter and Ellen named their first child, a son, Walter Stanley. Documents reveal that he was known, as a young man, by his middle name of Stanley,  perhaps to avoid there being two Walters under one roof. They went on to name their youngest child, Walter Henry, but in his case, it was the middle name that was redundant.  Born not long before his father’s death, the younger Walter in the family seems to have been known by his first name.

Thomas Benson outlived both his wives, and died in 1900, just a year before the death of his son Walter.  By then, Thomas had moved away from Ham, and Walter and Ellen were listed as the occupants of Malt House Cottage.  Walter’s early death, in 1901, must have been a considerable blow to Ellen, widowed for the second time, with her six children by Walter all under the age of 11.   She seems to have coped financially, since was able to continue to live at Malt House Cottage with all her children, and able to take in a lodger to augment her income.

Within ten years Ellen had her children ‘in work’, except for Florence who provided help at home.  Philip had found work as a domestic gardener, Dorothy was a mantle maker and the youngest daughter, Kate, was employed as a ‘nurse girl’.  All were living at home, except for Stanley who had taken a different path.

During the first years of the 20th century, unlike their fathers, the young men of the parish began to seek work outside the parish, and in sectors other than agriculture.  Many joined the Army, usually for a period of seven years, often acquiring skills in trades during their military service.  One former groom in the parish, returned to it after his army stint as a farrier.  A smaller number joined the Navy.  Most of these became reservists, when they left the army or the navy, and were therefore called up early on in the war, to boost the strength of the regular army.

Stanley was one of those who joined the Regular Army, signing up as a private in the 2nd Battalion of The Cameronians.  By the time war was declared, Stanley had been in the Army for at least three years.  While his service records have not survived, he was listed in the Military Enumeration Schedule for Meeanee Barracks, Colchester, on 2 April 1911.  His entry describes him as Walter Benson, a Private in 2/Cameronians, born in Petersham and aged 20. All correct.

Stanley’s card in the Medal Rolls Index shows that he was awarded all four medals and also that his qualifying date was 5 November 1914, probably the date that he disembarked on foreign soil.  Interestingly, he seems to have become known as Frederick, but whether he changed his name to reinvent himself is not clear.  This name change caused some hitches to those researching his military career.

Because of the loss of so many service records, where these are missing, I have resorted to the War Diaries to provide some background to the incident that resulted in loss of life.  In doing this on Stanley’s behalf, I came across the speech Field Marshal Sir John French, had made when he addressed the 2nd Battalion, recognising their valour and sacrifice.   This personal address to the battalion was no doubt intended to build up their spirits for what lay ahead ahead. An extract follows.

I come here as Commander in Chief of the Force to express to you my heartfelt gratitude for the splendid part which you took in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in the middle of last month.  I know what a terrible time you had—I know what awful losses you suffered.  I know the gallantry you displayed on that occasion has never been surpassed by a British soldier.  You came up against the enemy’s wire because the Artillery was unable to get at it. You showed the utmost gallantry and bravery—I deeply regret the terrible losses you suffered on that occasion, 22 officers being killed or wounded.  The Officer Commanding your splendid Battalion, Colonel Bliss, being included amongst the losses…

I do not mean to say it was too much, I want you all to realise that.  I am sure your Officers will always lead you on, it may be to die, but follow the right gallantly. I know how splendidly you will…

So, with the words of the Commander of the British Expeditionary Force, ringing in his ears, Stanley faced his next action against the enemy.

The War Diary for 9 May, the day on which Stanley lost his life, reads as follows:

The artillery bombardment commenced at 5 a.m. & at 5.40 a.m. the infantry assault by the 24th and 25th Infantry B[riga]des commenced on the right and left of the SAILLY—FROMELLE Road respectively.k  The 23rd B[riga]de was in Divisional reserve & had orders to follow the left attack. About 6.30 a.m. an order was received from the Brigadier to advance in support of the 2nd Rifle B[riga]de; this was done in the following order in lines of 1/2 co[mpan]ys on a front of 125 yards, C, D, A & B. During the advance to the fire trenches recently held by the B[attalio]n some Casualties were suffered especially when crossing the open ground immediately in rear of the fire trench where enfilade fire was brought to bear on our advancing lines from our left. Lt Col Vandeleur was wounded shortly before reaching the fire trench & Major Carter-Campbell assumed command of the B[attalio]n.  Here orders were received for the B[attalio]n to occupy the trenches on the left of the Devons; previously to receiving this order some men of the leading companies had crossed our first trench, some of whom succeeded in reaching the first German trench; later orders were received to send 3 machine guns to the B[attalio]n bombers to support the 2/Lincolns, who were occupying part of the German trench; in moving out to and occupying this trench some losses were suffered, among which was L[ieutenan]t Orton in command of the Machine Gun Section, who was killed.  All day the B[attalio]n was under heavy shell fire, but suffered few casualties from that cause.  At dusk the B[attalio]n was withdrawn to its assembly trenches.

In the course of 9 May, five officers were killed and six wounded, with one officer wounded and missing.  Under ‘Rank & file’, 23 were killed, 94 wounded, 7 were wounded and subsequently missing, with 22 missing.  Stanley has no known grave, so is likely to have been in the 29 who were missing.  I think it likely that he was killed near the fire trenches, where subsequent shelling may have buried his body.

The National Archives, ‘War Diary, 2 Battalion Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)’, WO 95/1715/1, 9 May 1915.

Related Research
The matching of W.S. BENSON to the military records of F. BENSON is described in this post on my professional blog.
The disappearance and bigamous marriage of Thomas’s first wife is outlined in Secrets and Lies—the bigamous marriage of Mary Ann Martin.  This link also takes you to my professional blog.  In this post I also clarify why we can fairly safely attribute all of Sarah’s children to her relationship with Thomas.

Further Reading
The Cameronians, ‘Lieutenant Colonel Crofton Bury Vandeleur’,, accessed 27/1/2018.

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Eileen Rose Allen (1935–2017)

I recently uploaded a post to Petersham Remembers, as a tribute to Eileen Allen, whom I have come to know, respect and admire over the past six years or so. Our initial contact was in connection with my research of the people commemorated on the Petersham War Memorial. 

While Eileen was a native of Petersham, she was also the scion of an old Ham family, the Morffews.  Eileen spent her childhood in Petersham, though she, and her parents, and brother, Frederick, eventually returned to Ham.

However, the post is on my Petersham Remembers blog, because it is on the Petersham War Memorial that her grandfather, Frederick George Morffew is commemorated. 


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Harry Thomas Richard Townsend (1895–1916)

663 Private Harry Thomas Richard Townsend,
6th Battalion, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey).
Died of Wounds in France, 8 July 1916,
Buried at Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.

For the men of 6/The Queen’s, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, was relatively quiet in terms of action, but played out against the background of earth-shattering noise. The battalion had set out at 7a.m. from Bresle bound for Millencourt which they reached two hours later and where they bivouacked until early evening, when they were ordered to the ‘Intermediate Trenches’, north-west of the town of Albert.

What were their thoughts throughout that day, one wonders, for they would certainly have heard the sounds of the attack that resulted in such appalling loss of life for the Allies?

Fifteen minutes after their arrival at those trenches, they were ordered to move “at once” to the Front Line Trenches to relieve the exhausted and depleted men of the 2nd Battalion of The Rifle Brigade.  Just before dawn on the morning of the 2nd July (at 4.25a.m.), the battalion’s adjutant meticulously recorded each company’s position using the various names applied to their particular trenches.

He later recorded that day as “quiet” with only four men wounded. For the men of 6/The Queen’s, the following day was to test them sorely.  Again the adjutant meticulously records the experience of each of the four companies of the 6th  but unfortunately we do not know which company Harry served.  However, the adjutant’s summary of ‘what went wrong’ speaks for those who lost their lives and in its own way serves as a permanent rebuke to those whose omissions contributed to the failure of the attack.  He wrote:—

The attack failed for the following reasons:—

  • The enemy M[achine] G[unner]s whose fire completely swept the ground.
  • The enemy wire was insufficiently cut.
  • The short time to arrange the attack & not knowing the ground or being able to see the enemy trenches from our parapet, consequently loss of direction.
  • The enemy trenches were thick with Germans, so the bombardment cannot have been very successful.
  • During the morning after the attack, the enemy shelled the front line with H[igh] E[xplosive] & shrapnel.

No wonder Plumer was to insist on Haig’s allowing him time to prepare thoroughly for the Battle of Broodseinde in the following year, a battle which is recognised as one of the forgotten successes of Passchendaele.

On the day that Harry was wounded, his battalion lost six out of eighteen officers (killed or missing) and four wounded.  The casualties within the other ranks amounted to 140 killed or missing, and 154 wounded.  Five days later, Harry’s wounds were to prove fatal.  He was just 21.

Having read the diaries of nurses such as Kate Luard, I can well appreciate the awfulness of a lingering death from wounds. The images in the BBC drama, The Crimson Field (2014) struck me forcibly at the time—the spotless aprons of the nurses, the unstained decks…the quiet wards—were all in stark contrast to what those who had nursed through that war described in their diaries.

Harry Thomas Richard Townsend (‘young Harry’) was the eldest of the four children of Harry Townsend (1867–1911) and his wife, Jessie Guile (c.1873–1961), both natives of Ham, who had married there, in St Andrew’s Church, in 1894.  Their son was named Harry for his father, Thomas for his paternal grandfather, and Richard possibly for his maternal grandfather and/or his paternal great-grandfather.

Harry’s grandparents, Thomas Townsend (c.1832–1909) and his wife Martha Sivyer (1829–1891), both moved from kent to Ham during the 1850s. Thomas had been born in Bromley where his father, Richard, was for many years the Parish Beadle. At the start of that decade Thomas was still living in his family home, with his occupation described as ‘formerly Footman’.

Martha was also a native of Kent, having been born in the village of Goudhurst where her father was a shoemaker. In 1851 she was working as a house servant for Henry Keene, ‘Clerk without cure of souls’, in Tonbridge, but by 1861 she was employed in Ham as a housemaid in the household of Maria Dawkins, a widow who lived off what she described as ‘various private resources’.

Thomas Townsend was Mrs Dawkins’ footman, so he was living and working under the same roof as the housemaid who was to become his wife. Whether this was a workplace romance, or whether their paths had already crossed elsewhere, is not known. Be that as it may, within two years of that census, their marriage was registered in Kingston,.  (A search of the entries in the Marriage Register for St Andrew’s Church reveals they were not married in that church.)

The eldest child of this marriage, Thomas Richard, was born in Ham the following year and his baptismal record confirms that his father was still working as a ‘servant’.  Their second son, Harry, was born in 1867, and his baptismal record records that his father, Thomas, was trading as a grocer, an occupation which was to support the Townsend family relatively comfortably for the remaining years of his life.

A change of career
Interested by the alteration in Thomas’s circumstances, I looked for the burial record of Maria Dawkins his employer, and discovered that she was Maria Margaret Colyear-Dawkins, who died in 1865 and who is buried in St Peter’s Churchyard in Petersham.  Further research into Maria Dawkins revealed that Thomas and Martha’s employer was baptised in Richmond as Maria Margaret Forbes, and that she was the daughter of General (Gordon) Forbes.  This made her the aunt of Isabella Forbes, whose daughter, Ada Tollemache, became Lady Sudeley.  (This particular Lord and Lady Sudeley lived at Ormeley Lodge, and were a driving force behind the Parish War Memorial, on which their son, Felix Hanbury-Tracy, is commemorated twice.)

I think it’s possible that Maria’s will included a bequest to her footman, which gave him the means to embark on another career, as a local tradesman.

With Thomas trading successfully as a grocer, the death of their elder son, Thomas Richard, in 1870, shortly before his sixth birthday, meant that it was their second son, young Harry, who was destined to follow Thomas into the grocery business.

In August 1894, young Harry married Jessie the daughter of Richard George Guile (1842–1902), a carpenter, and Mary Ann Russell (1836–1912).  Harry and Jessie were to have three sons and a daughter, the eldest of whom was Harry Thomas Richard. Named after his father, grandfathers and his uncle, this child became the soldier commemorated on the Ham War Memorial simply as H.TOWNSEND.

It was common to find a widowed grandparent living with the family. Jessie’s maternal grandfather, Richard Russell, had lived with the Guiles in the New Road house, and for most of Jessie’s married life, her widowed father-in-law, Thomas Townsend, shared the house with the young Townsends.

Three generations of Townsends lived at Park View, on the Petersham Road. It was at Park View that Thomas died in 1909, followed by his son, Harry senior, in 1911 (aged only 43). The census taken earlier that year recorded that Harry senior was not in work and was living off his ‘own means’.  He gave his occupation as ‘grocer’s assistant’ and ‘out of work’, perhaps because of illness.

With the loss of her husband in 1909, and the death of her mother the following year, Jessie was left without close family support to bring up her four children, whose ages ranged from 7 to 16.  She was herself not yet forty.

Young Harry was, however, already bringing home wages from his work as a gas fitter’s mate, while his younger brother, Frederick, was working as a telegraph messenger.  The adoption of trades other than those followed by their parents was typical of Harry’s generation, in both Ham and Petersham.

Young Harry was awarded the 1915 Star, as well as the British and Victory medals.  This indicates that he enlisted fairly early in the war, certainly well before conscription was introduced.  Having volunteered and then undergone training, he arrived in France on 1 June 1915, thirteen months before his death.  Harry was unmarried, so his mother was his sole legatee.

Frederick Alfred Sivyer, Jessie’s second son, died in 1923, at the early age of 26.  Harry’s mother lived on until 1961, and was survived by her youngest children, Marcel Guile Townsend (1900–1980) and Jessie Louise Townsend (1904–2004).

Born into a generation in which so many young men lost their lives, young Jessie was fated to be her mother’s companion. In time, they left Ham behind them, and were living in Dawson Road in Kingston at the outbreak of the Second World War.  Harry’s sister, Jessie, who had not reached her teens when her brother was killed, lived until her hundredth year.

Marcel, Harry’s younger brother, married Ivy Malin in 1933 and their daughter, Nora Margaret was born the following year.  The 1939 Register shows that, soon after the outbreak of the Second World War, Marcel, a fishmonger’s assistant, was living in Mitcham with his in-laws.  Realising that his wife and their children had probably been evacuated, I searched for them in the 1939 Register, which revealed that they were in Middleton on Sea, near the beach of that name, to the east of Bognor Regis.   At that time Marcel and Ivy’s youngest child,  Fay, was just four months’ old.

It is the boy born between those two sisters, who is a reminder that Harry was not forgotten.  Marcel and Ivy’s son was given the name of his uncle, and called Harry.

Marcel and Ivy had another daughter, Beryl, born some years after the war.  Fay, her husband James, and their children emigrated to the USA in 1977, settling in New Hampshire, where Fay died in 2015.   Harry, his wife and their children, as well as Beryl, remained in London.

We are hoping to make contact with Harry’s surviving relatives so that they know that Ham has not forgotten Harry either.


The National Archives, WO 95/1863/1, War Diary of 6th Battalion, The Queen’s, (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, 3 July 1916.

‘General Gordon Forbes’., accessed 23/8/2017.

The History of Parliament, James Dawkins later Colyear-Dawkins,, accessed 23/8/2017.

Wikipedia, ‘General Gordon Forbes’,, accessed 23/8/2017.


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Herbert Thomas Reynolds (1889–1917)

260132 Private Herbert Thomas Reynolds,
1st/6th Warwickshire Regiment.
Killed in Action in Flanders. 4 October 1917,
Commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

The Sign of the Royal Oak pub

With the Battle of Passchendaele so much in the news, and with the recent restoration of the Royal Oak to the residents of Ham, it seems the right time to upload my post on Herbert Thomas Reynolds, husband of Louisa Reynolds, who was the Royal Oak’s landlady at the time of Herbert’s death. Few of the other houses associated with Ham’s War Dead can have received as many visitors over the past century as  has the village pub, the Royal Oak.

Herbert Thomas Reynolds was born in Walworth in 1889, the only child of the marriage of Thomas Harry Reynolds (1859–1897) a solicitor’s clerk, and Henrietta Frances Clarke (1864–1943).  His father died not long after Herbert’s eighth birthday in 1897 but the family of two was soon expanded as a result of his mother’s relationship with Walter John Reeve (1862–1904), a Master Bricklayer, and the subsequent births of a half-brother, Walter John Reeve (1899–1984) and a half-sister, May Reeve (1900–1992).  Herbert’s mother, Henrietta, was to marry Daniel John Soul (1849–1922) in 1909.

The Royal Oak
© Richmond Local Studies Library and Archive

Herbert married Louisa Cook in 1912 in West Ham, and she is the L. Reynolds recorded as the publican at the Royal Oak from 1916, until her replacement by George Portsmouth in about 1919.

It is at the Royal Oak that news would have reached Louisa that her husband was missing, and a year later, the notification delivered that he was presumed “killed in action”. Because Herbert’s widow stayed on in the village after the war, living at 9 Craig Road, I like to think that this suggests Louisa had grown attached to the people of Ham and continued to feel the support of the Oak’s ‘regulars’ in her loss.

Herbert’s service records  are among those lost in 1940 but other lists and his unit’s war diary enable us to fill in some of the gaps.  We know that, after enlisting, Herbert served first in the Essex Regiment, before being transferred to a Territorial Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.  His being awarded the Victory and British Medals but not either of the Star Medals, suggests that he enlisted after conscription commenced in January 1916.

Herbert was killed in action during the Battle of Broodseinde which took place on 4 October 1917. For the British and their Allies, it was the most ‘successful’ battle of those that made up the long drawn out Battle of Passchendaele. The War Diary for his battalion, the 1/6 Royal Warwickshire Regiment, gives us some information about the action which led to his death.

At 5.30 p.m. on the evening of 3 October 1917, their Commanding Officer and 2 I/C (i.e. the second In Command) having gone out a full two days’ earlier to reconnoître the positions from which to attack, the battalion moved up to the Line to relieve the 4th Battalion of the O & B.L.I. [the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry].  Precisely twelve hours later, the attack began.  The war diary concludes, “The attack was extremely successful, all objectives being taken except Burns House and Vacher Farm. Estimated prisoners captured 350, M[achine]G[un]s 10, Anti-Tank Guns 2.”

At the end of the attack, the battalion’s adjutant recorded the loss of officers and other ranks. Taken together these were 33 killed, 33 missing and 158 wounded.  Some of the latter would not have survived their injuries. We know, because he has no known grave, that Herbert must have been one of the 33 listed as missing and eventually presumed dead. He is commemorated therefore on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing in the Tyne Cot Cemetery, in Zonnebeke, Belgium.

His widow is recorded as his sole legatee on the Register of Soldiers’ Effects, which also records the modest payment to Louisa of £5/4/3 in 1918, an amount which had the purchasing power equivalent to £316 in 2017.

After writing this blog post, I showed it to my in-house historian, whereupon he drew my attention to the current issue of the BBC History Magazine, which has an article on the ‘Forgotten Triumphs of Passchendale’.  In it, Nick Lloyd highlights the success of the Second Army under General Sir Herbert Plumer during the Battle of Broodseinde.  Plumer, a ‘cautious, careful general’, advocated an approach of ‘bite and hold‘, which was, in effect, making a limited advance (1500 m.) into enemy lines supported by ‘overwhelming firepower’, and then stopping and consolidating the position, as opposed to driving as deep into enemy lines as possible.

This was not Haig’s preferred approach, but he did agree to Plumer’s request for additional guns to supply that overwhelming firepower, and to be allowed three weeks in which to prepare ahead of the attack.  (Lloyd, p.23) There are signs of that careful planning and preparation in the entries in the regimental War Diary.

For full details of Dr Lloyd’s article, see Further Reading, below.) Dr Lloyd also quotes the Australian historian, Charles Bean, who described Broodseinde as dealing the enemy “an overwhelming blow…never fully recognised except by the commanders and forces that took part”.

In the weeks to come, as the battles that made up the Battle of Passchendaele, are commemorated,  you may hear much of the Allied losses. Perhaps you will think also of the Battle of Broodseinde on 4 October 1917, and remember the Royal Oak’s Herbert, who lost his life there on that day.

The National Archives, WQ 95/2755/2, War Diary of 1/6 Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 4 October 1917.

Further Reading
Lloyd, N., BBC History Magazine, ‘The Forgotten Triumphs of Passchendale’, August 2017, p.20–27.

Western Front Associaton, ‘Drip or Daddy Plumer in the Great War’,, accessed 17/9/2017.
[Unabbreviated URL:]

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The Upton Brothers: Percy William (1882–1915) and Thomas Anthony (1886–1918)

G/4874 Private Percy William Upton,
2/Battalion, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment),
Killed in Action, date of death presumed as 25 September 1915, in Flanders,
Commemorated on the Loos Memorial.

L/7327 Lance Serjeant Thomas Anthony Upton,
7/Battalion, The Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment),
Killed in Action, 26 June 1918, in France.
Buried at Montigny Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme.

The parents of the Upton brothers were William Upton, and his wife Jane Littlechild. William Upton was, like his parents before him, a native of Sussex, and although Jane was also born there, her father had moved there from his birthplace, Dartford. William and Jane were married in Brighton in 1881, and it was that there that the first three of their sons were born.  They had four sons in all: Percy William, Ernest George, and Thomas Anthony were followed, after a longish gap, by William Henry, who was born in the Halling district, in Kent, in 1896.

William Henry, is likely to have been named, not after his father, but after his maternal grandfather, William Henry Fairhall Littlechild.  Jane’s father was a Coach Painter at the Terminus in Brighton and Jane was the fifth of the six children of William Littlechild’s first marriage to Rachel Avey. Her mother died in 1865, not long after Jane’s seventh birthday, and four years later, her father married Mary Ann Brown, by whom he had several more children.  Before her marriage to William Upton, Jane had been working locally as a live-in domestic servant.

By 1891 William and Jane Upton had moved, with their sons, to Cutridge Hill in Luddesdown, Kent There, William was employed as a groom, with the three boys attending a local school.  The 1901 census has the family near Orpington, where William was working as a farm foreman. All four sons were to start off their working lives in agriculture. Percy was recorded in that census as a “horseman on a farm” with both Ernest and Thomas employed as agricultural labourers.

2 Evelyn Terrace—where the Uptons lived

2 Evelyn Terrace—where the Uptons lived

At some point in the next five years, William and Jane made their second, but final move, from Kent to Ham, together with, as far as we can tell, only the two youngest sons, Thomas and William, .  There is no record of their eldest sons, Percy and Ernest, having lived in Ham: it is likely that Percy remained in Kent, where he was married in Orpington, in 1907, to Ellen Patterson. Ernest may have moved from Orpington at the same time, and we know that he found work in Fulham, where he was living in 1911, so he would have been able to maintain close contact with his parents and younger brothers.

Percy William Upton married Ellen Patterson in Orpington on Christmas Day 1907, the 25th of December being one of the few days in the year that a farm labourer might be allowed to take time off. Percy and his wife were recorded in 1911 in the hamlet of Well Hill, which is near Chelsfield, and on the outskirts of Orpington.   He continued to work with horses, as a waggoner, living at Well Hill until his enlistment in “The Queen’s” (the Royal West Surrey Regiment) on 22 February 1915. It is important to record that Percy enlisted as a volunteer—it was to be another year before conscription was introduced.  At the time his younger brothers, Thomas & William were serving in the Regular Army, which had suffered terrible losses in the early months of the war, and this may have been what triggered Percy’s decision to enlist. He was the last of the Upton boys to sign up, just weeks after Ernest..

Initially Percy received his military training in the 3rd Battalion of The Queen’s, before being posted to the 2nd Battalion on 29 June 1915.   Less than three months later, on 25 September 1915, he was reported missing in action in the Battle of Loos.

Only two scorched fragments of Percy’s service records survive.  His medal index card does not indicate to which company of the 7th Battalion he was attached so we cannot reconstruct his movements on the day he lost his life.

We can, however, get an indication of the events surrounding his death from the War Diary of his battalion.  We know, for example, that on the eve of battle, the battalion consisted of 29 officers, and 991 men of other ranks, with a further 4 in hospital, and that the soldiers’ greatcoats were collected from the men at 10 p.m. that evening, that they moved forward to the trenches at 11.15, and were all in position at LANCASTER LINES by 3.a.m.

Following forty minutes’ of bombardment of the enemy’s position, the battalion moved forward at 6.30 a.m.  C Company, alone of all the companies, was fairly successful in crossing over the enemy’s first and second lines of trenches “without much opposition.”  The other three companies, however, met with “considerable” opposition from the German first line, and, “while outflanking and bombing” the trenches, suffered many casualties, but managed, by 11 a.m., to establish themselves in some German trenches towards CITE ST ELIE.  The diary notes that the battalion had sustained “many casualties” including several officers.

It appears that part of the battalion’s diary for 25 September, and any entries on 26 September, and part of the entry for 27 September are missing. An Appendix within the war diary, contains a typed extract of a report written by Captain Philpot of C Company.  This provides additional information about the action on 25 September but is too lengthy to be included here. As a General was hit during this action, and was presumably missing, Captain Philpot may have been required to compile a full report on what he had observed.  It would be interesting to know what else the original report revealed.

The Roll Call figures for the 7th Battalion, recorded on 27 September, note 19 officers and 750 men of ‘other ranks’.  Three days’ later, three men who had also been presumed missing, managed to make their way back to the battalion. Percy was not amongst them.

On 4 November 1916, Percy was eventually presumed to have been killed in action on the date of his being reported missing.   Percy’s widow, Ellen, became the wife of William Burt in 1918.

The 1911 census reveals that Thomas Anthony Upton was living with this parents at 2 Evelyn Terrace, and working as a ‘cowman’. Early in 1913, he married Hilda Elizabeth Strange, whom he had probably met in Kingston.  Hilda had been born in Manchester, but her family had moved to Hampton Wick, and Hilda had found work in Norbiton.  While Thomas’s service record has not survived, his marriage to Hilda in Sevenoaks could suggest that, by the time of his marriage, he had already enlisted in “The Queen’s Own” (Royal West Kent Regiment).  Their only child, Ernest Thomas, was born in Sevenoaks on 6 April 1914.

When war was declared on 4 August that year, Thomas was serving as a private in his regiment’s 1st Battalion, which was then stationed in Dublin.  It was amongst the first to be mobilised for France, and just eleven days later, on 15 August, his battalion dis-embarked at Le Havre. By dint of this, Thomas qualified for the 1914 Star medal as well as the full suite awarded to those who enlisted after 1914.  The regimental honours roll records his subsequent service in the 11th Battalion, before his posting to the 7th Battalion. I have not been able to establish the dates on which he was posted to the 11th and 7th Battalions, but both the 1st and 11th saw service in Italy between November 1917 and March or April 1918, so it is possible that Thomas also served in Italy.

There are some clues, however, as to when he may have been transferred to the 7th Battalion. The history of the regiment notes that, in April 1918, “the hastily replenished 7th Battalion was going back into the fighting line south of the Somme” (p.387). This replenishment is likely to have been the transfer of soldiers from other battalions of The Queen’s Own, following the Kaiserschlacht of March 1918, also known as the 1918 Spring Offensive, when the British Army suffered grievous losses.   The 7th Battalion had been involved in heavy fighting in April 1918, but over the next three months, had suffered relatively few casualties, which had provided an opportunity to bring together the newly drafted men and the Old Timers into a “homogenous unit ready for hard fighting”.  According to Atkinson, the battalion had had tours “in and out of the Line” without either “striking incidents or heavy casualties” right through to early August.

By the time of his death, Thomas had been appointed Lance-Serjeant and is recorded as such on the few Army records for him which survived.   A Lance-Serjeant is not a rank, but those appointed to this position, would have attained the rank of corporal.  Thomas would have worn a sergeant’s stripes, carried out the typical duties of a sergeant, and had a sergeant’s responsibilities but would have been paid as a corporal; this appointment, however, was often a step towards promotion.

The battalion’s war diary is of little help in establishing what action might have occurred on 26 June 1918 to cause his death.  The pages from about mid-May right through June and beyond are missing.  There is however a typed day by day list for June, but that is not helpful either.  It tells us that the 7th Battalion was in the LINE on 25 June, when working parties under the supervision of the Royal Engineers had been making improvements to the JAKES Trench.  The following day, the day on which Thomas died, they had been continuing with work on the JAKES Trench and had then relieved the 8th Battalion on the Front Line.  In connection with 26 June, there is a note of an Appendix (APP 115) but all the Appendices between APP 93 (15 May) and APP 123 (6 August) turn out to be missing from the diary.

Since Thomas’s death, on 26 June 1918, was classified as ‘killed in action,’ it must have involved some contact with the enemy.  He was the first Allied soldier to be buried in the new Extension to the Montigny Communal Cemetery.  His widow, Hilda, appears not have remarried and is possibly the Hilda E Upton, whose death was registered in Staines in 1940.  The death of their son, Ernest Thomas, was registered in Wandsworth in 1985.

All four children of William and Jane Upton enlisted, the younger two in the Regular Army, before the outbreak of war, and the older two as volunteers, within six months of the outbreak of war. Their exposure to danger over such a long period must have caused considerable anxiety for their parents.  It seems appropriate to acknowledge here, also, the service of the two brothers who survived.

Ernest George Upton (1884–1950?) enlisted the month before Percy.  By trade, a Motor Lorry Driver, Ernest was still living in Fulham when war broke out.  He ‘took the oath’ on 18 January 1915, and joined up at Grove Park, the Army Service Corps Depot, the following day.  He was immediately given a week’s leave until the 26th, and, somewhat surprisingly, embarked at Avonmouth the following day. On arrival he was sent to the Motor Transport Base at Rouen.  Reclassified as a Storekeeper in 1916, Ernest continued to serve abroad until his demobilisation in June 1919, whereupon he was transferred to the Army Reserve.

The Regimental Roll for the East Surrey Regiment shows that their youngest son, William Henry Upton (1896–1986), enlisted on 3 December 1913. His marriage to Edith Hockley in 1920 is listed on the roll, as is the birth of their eldest child, Edith Jane, born in 1921, but the children born after Edith Jane are not recorded.  It is possible that William may have continued in the Army after the War, or have been transferred to the Army Reserve, as many soldiers were.  The roll also notes his re-enlisting in the Territorial Army in 1931 when he would have been in his mid-thirties.

The Upton parents continued to live at 2 Evelyn Terrace in Ham Street until William’s death, aged 74, in January 1938.  He was buried at Ham St Andrew, whose burial register gives the Evelyn Terrace address.  Jane Upton died in March 1939, aged 81, and was also buried at Ham St Andrew.  However, the address given in the register for Jane’s residence at the time of her death, was 69 Hornsey Lane, Highgate, which may have been the address of relatives, or of a nursing home.  (The Victorian building at this address today is rather grand, though the street may have been re-numbered since—as has been the case with Ham.)

Thomas had at least one grandchild. The Upton brothers are also still remembered by the grandchildren of their brother William.

Atkinson, C.T., The Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment): 1914–1919, London, 1924. Note that if you are looking for this book in a library, the Dewey Code of 356.10941 may be followed by [50th}.  There are a large number of military histories sharing this code, so the old Foot Regiment number, rather than the author’s surname, is used to sort the books by regiment.
The National Archives, WO 95/1664/1, ‘2 Bn The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment)’ 1 August 1914–31 December 1915.
The National Archives, WO 95/2040/2, ‘7 Bn The Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)’, 1 June 1918–30 April 1919.

Christine Williams spoke about our research into the Upton Brothers at the Commemoration on Remembrance Day 2014 at Ham Library; genealogical and military research since then has been done by Margaret Frood.

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1 July 1916: Remember Ham’s “Bert” Clarke

These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be…
                                Rupert Brooke (1887–1915)

If you are watching the Commemoration at the Thiepval Memorial to British and South African soldiers, killed on the Somme, but who have no known grave, you might like to be reminded about Ham’s Herbert Clarke, who died 100 years ago today, at Beaumont Hamel, in fighting near the very spot at which the Commemoration is being held.

20 000 men lost their lives on 1 July 1916 in the opening hours of the Battle of the Somme. Some of the heartbreak of the losses on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, one hundred years ago today, came to a family in Ham Street.  Herbert Clarke was one of those who laid the world away and gave up the years to be.

 I uploaded a post about him a year ago.  That post will tell you about Bert’s background, his working life, his family, where they lived in Ham, and also about the engagement in which he was killed one hundred years ago today.

Here in Ham, we continue to remember Herbert.  I have recently been working, together with local historians, Keith Mulberry and Graham Clark, and with helpful contributions from others on the Ham & Petersham Social Histories and Memories Group, to pinpoint the gardeners’ bothy in the grounds of Ham House.

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The Clarkes of Oak Lodge

Sydney Alfred Clarke (1880–1940)
and his wife Dorothy Mabel Austin Pittar (1900–1940)
killed at Oak Lodge as a result of enemy action, 29 November 1940.

Oak Lodge © Matthew Rees

Oak Lodge © Matthew Rees

I wrote last year, in the Ham and Petersham Magazine, about two properties in Ham which were linked to the loss of more than a single individual, taking into account here, the losses sustained in one or both World Wars.  But there are others, and one of the other properties is Oak Lodge.  Ernest Parsons was employed there before he enlisted in the First World War; Sydney and Dorothy Clarke were killed when the house sustained a direct hit in the Second World War.

It was not quite the Oak Lodge you see above, because, when the war damage was eventually reinstated, the house was converted into two semi-detached houses. I’m using another view of Oak Lodge, taken by Matthew Rees, for this post, but still hope to find, and obtain permission to use, a picture of the house as it appeared before 1940.

Sydney Clarke, a stockbroker, was born in Kent in 1880.  He married, firstly, in London in 1908, Dorothy Matesdorf, the daughter of an Austrian immigrant. The couple went on to have two daughters, Clarita and Sybil, and a son, Theodore with Clarita and Theodore being named after their maternal grandparents, and Sybil after  her mother’s only sibling. (Clarita was known by her middle name, Pamela.)

In 1934 Sydney married a second time, in Dorset, another Dorothy, the daughter of Charles William Erskine Pittar and Mabel Frances Austin.  She was born in Bengal on 28 July 1900, and the family is likely to have been living in the city of Barisal, where she was baptised Dorothy Mabel Austin five weeks later.

Sydney and Dorothy were killed six days after the death of Louisa Speirs and Michael Jux. Like the four members of the Naylor family—killed or fatally injured when a bomb landed in their dining room at The Thatch, Petersham, in October 1940—Sydney and Dorothy Clarke died when a large bomb landed in their dining room on 29 November 1940, while they were having their evening meal. Their dog was also killed.  In their case, the bomb did not explode, and they were killed, according to a report in the local newspaper, “by concussion”.

Here is the account as it appeared a week later, in the Richmond and Twickenham Times.

Havoc by Unexploded Bomb

High explosive, incendiary, and delayed action bombs were dropped in one district during a particularly heavy night raid recently. One bomb, 5ft high by 18in. wide, fell on the dining room of the house belonging to Mr Sydney Clarke.  He and his wife, who were having dinner, were killed instantly by the concussion, although the bomb did not explode.  Their dog also was killed.  Three days later a detachment of the Bomb Disposal Squad of the R[oyal] E[ngineers] removed the bomb.

Dorothy Pittar was no stranger herself to the effects of war. Her brother, Lieut. Charles Austin Pittar M.C., 1 Battalion, The Coldstream Guards, had distinguished himself in WW1 and was awarded the Military Cross in November 1918. This link takes you to a post which provides more detail about Dorothy’s brother.  Dorothy and Sydney had no children, so she was survived only by her mother, who lived until 1955.

Sydney’s son-in-law,  a Ham resident missed out on the memorial
There is a fourth serviceman associated with Oak Lodge, who is not recorded on the Ham War Memorial. I will eventually post about and record the natives or residents of Ham who lost their lives while on active service but who are not recorded on Ham’s War Memorial.

Sydney Clarke’s son-in-law, Lieutenant Commander David Byam Shaw, O.B.E., (1906–1941),  was the husband of Clarita Pamela Clarke, and the father of Ann Dalrymple Byam Shaw and Nicholas Glencairn Byam Shaw.  The Shaws lived at Holly Bush Corner, Ham Common, near Latchmere House and just a short walk away from the home of Pamela’s father and stepmother.

Hollybush Corner was also owned by the Dysarts and the 1949 Sale Catalogue records that the then tenant, Mr A.M. Symington, had a lease dating from 29 September 1941. In the case of David Byam Shaw, this indicates that the family’s move from Ham to Putney, following the death of the Clarkes, had occurred a few months before David’s death in 1941 when HMS Stanley was torpedoed.

The Byam Shaws were therefore not a resident at the time of David’s death, but I will overlook that technicality.  Here’s why. Far from rejecting Ham, and moving to Putney, which itself was certainly not as safe as Ham, it is likely that the move was an inevitable response to the family tragedy.  The mere sight of Oak Lodge, damaged and forlorn, would have triggered distressing reminders of the tragedy for Sydney’s daughter and her young children.

A bit more about Oak Lodge, post-war
Contrary to what the newspaper suggests, the house did not ‘belong’ to the Clarkes, who were tenants in the property which was owned by Buckminster Estates/the Dysarts.  It was not until May 1946 that plans were submitted for the “reinstatement of war damage” and to divide Oak Lodge into two, with the part not visible in the above photo, known thereafter as Oak Lodge Cottage.  Both properties went under the hammer in 1949.

I note that the plans were drawn up by Partridge and Daniel, the firm of architects with which Ronald Daniel was associated, and which seems to have continued to bear his name.

Rees, M., ‘A Fresh Look at Ham House’,, accessed 23/5/2015.
‘Killed by Concussion’, Richmond and Twickenham Times, 7 December 1940, p.8

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