Walter Henry Saunders (1898–1916)

68723 Gunner Walter Henry Saunders,
75th Battery, 146th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.
Died 6 September 1916 in Greece,
Buried at the Salonika Military Cemetery.

Note:  Here we again have two Walters in the same family unit.  After the initial Walter Henry, I refer to the man on the Ham War Memorial as plain Walter even though I have a suspicion that our man was probably known in the family as Henry.  I refer to Walter’s father always as Walter Edward.

Walter Henry Saunders was born in Ham on 25 May 1898 and baptised at St Andrew’s on 14 August 1898.  He was the second child and the eldest son of the eight children of Walter Edward Saunders, a native of Ham, and Sarah Edith Johnson, an Irish lass, who hailed from County Cork.

Walter was the great-grandson of Daniel Saunders (1820–1898), a native of Ruislip. whom we first come across in the 1841 Census, with his father, John Saunders, a bricklayer.  By 1843 he was in London, working as a Baker at the time of his marriage in Stepney to Ann Jaques (pronounced Jakes) daughter of James Jaques, a Miller.  Daniel and his wife were still north of the river in 1861, when we find them in Marylebone, with their sons, Daniel and Horace, as well as Daniel’s younger brother, Joseph, both men working as Gardeners.  At some point between 1851 and 1852, they moved to Twickenham where their daughter, Sarah was born; they soon moved to Ham, where three more children were added to the family between 1855 and 1861.  In that year, Daniel was described as a Farm Labourer—the family’s home was in Cambridge Grove, in Kingston.

The next decade saw a noticeable rise in Daniel’s fortunes, for the family was living in Ham, in a house on Ham Common, close to that of Thomas Benson, then a Corn Dealer, but in later years a Potato Dealer, ancestor of the Walter Stanley Benson on the War Memorial.

Perhaps of interest to present and former pupils at Fern Hill School, the next decade resulted in an even more striking rise in Daniel’s fortunes, for he was a Market Gardener, with 8 acres, employing one man at “Fern-hill, Richmond Road”.  Ann had died in 1873, so Daniel was described as a widower, living with his son-in-law, Frederick Gower, husband of Daniel’s youngest daughter, Eliza, as the Head of the household.  It is slightly mystifying why Daniel’s name is first on the list, and his son-in-law, head of the household, is described as “Garden Labourer”.  By 1891, he was a lodger at 5 Victoria Terrace, Lock Road, in the household of John W Fidler.  Daniel died in 1898, at which point he was living at Brockwell’s Cottages, and is buried in the St Andrew’s churchyard.

Of Daniel’s eldest surviving sons, Daniel and Horace, it seems that Daniel took on the potato dealership, operating out of this home in New Road.  The 1871 Census, taken taken eight weeks before Horace’s marriage, has his bride to be, Louisa Marshall, a ‘visitor’ in his family home.  Walter’s father, Walter Edward, was born in 1873.  Horace seems to have been a ‘potato salesman’ for at least ten years, and by 1891, was described as a Market Gardener, as was his son, Walter Edward.

It was probably at the time that Daniel ‘retired’ to Ham, that Horace took over at ‘Fernhill’.  He was there in the 1901 and 1911 Census, and was described on both occasions as a Farmer; he was still at ‘Fernhill Farm’ at the time of his death in 1931.  his wife, Louisa, continued there until her death.

Following the marriage in London, in 1895, of Walter’s parents, Walter Edward and Sarah Johnson, when they were both in their early twenties, the couple began their married life at 12 Dysart Cottages (now 27 Lock Road).  Although the family later moved to Norbiton, it was in Ham that young Walter had made some lasting friendships and it was to Ham that his parents would later return.

Walter was the only one of his parents’ five sons who would have been old enough to be involved in the Great War.  But was he old enough to have enlisted when he apparently did? At the time of his death in the Middle East in September 1916, Walter was barely 18 so he would certainly have commenced his basic training before reaching his eighteenth birthday.

Indeed, the Royal Field Artillery’s own records show Walter as having ‘disembarked’ on 17 April 1915, which was before his 17th birthday.  It is highly probable that he enlisted as early as August 1914—the month that war was declared—as it usually took 8 or 9 months of training before a soldier was competent enough to be deployed to a theatre of war.

There may be a clue in a ‘coincidence’ I have spotted.  The regimental numbers for George Victor Randall and Walter Henry Saunders are consecutive which also raises the possibility that they enlisted in the Royal Artillery together, and that the younger man may have been influenced by, or have been following, the example of his older friend. If that was the case, their military duties would have separated them early on, with George going into the Horse Artillery before his attachment to the Field Artillery and with both men in units deployed to different theatres of war.

It was Walter’s fate to be sent to the Balkans, where the fighting was harsh, the climate inhospitable and where malaria was endemic.  He eventually contracted it—as did well over 150 000 Allied soldiers during the Great War—and was admitted to the 43rd General Hospital in Salonika.  There he succumbed on 6 September 1916, and was buried in the Salonika Military Cemetery.  As was common, his mother was his sole legatee.

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Their Name Liveth: the Scottish Commemoration

On Sunday 11 November 2018, the names of every Scottish man or woman who died on military service during the Great War will be projected on the façade of the Scottish Parliament.  Starting at 5 p.m., it will take seven hours to beam 134 712 names.  Each name will be projected for ten seconds, with names appearing in alphabetical order.

Many of these were in Scottish Regiments that did not have a Scottish base—for example in the London Scottish (14/London) and the South African Scottish (4/South African Infantry Regiment).  Our Frank Lane served in the Canadian Scottish, one of a number of Scottish and Highlanders’ battalions in the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Ham has at least eight soldiers who were serving in Scottish regiments and their names appear in regimental rolls of honour in the Scottish National War Memorial.  I’ve touched on this in my recent post on James Cockburn.  You can also find out more in that post about visiting this memorial in Edinburgh.

Those listed on the War Memorial who served in Scottish Regiments were:

Walter Stanley Benson [Scottish Rifles, “The Cameronians”].

Leonard George Buckle [Seaforth Highlanders]

David Archibald James Chapman [Scots Guards]

Herbert Clarke [Border Regiment]

James Douglas Cockburn [London Scottish]

Harry Thornton Fricker [Highland Light Infantry]

Frank Lane [Canadian Scottish (16 Bn Canadian Expeditionary Force]

Felix Charles Hubert Hanbury Tracy [Scots Guards]

Further information online


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David Archibald James Chapman (1893–1916)

2/Lieut. David Archibald James Chapman,
2 Battalion, The Scots Guards.
Killed in Action in France, 15 September 1916,
Commemorated on The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

David Archibald James Chapman was born on 18 September 1893 at 29 Selborne Road, Hove, the only child of Colonel David Phelips Chapman, a professional Army Officer, and his wife, Agnes Mary Laurie. His father had reached the rank of Major, and seen service abroad, notably in the Sudan, by the time he married Agnes in 1892.  After his retirement, he retained the rank of a Colonel with regard to the Army.

The Manor House, Ham ©Matthew Rees 2009

David was educated at Eton College, and served as a Private in the College’s Officers’ Training Corps from 1908 to 1910 when he left school and joined the Royal Military College at Sandhurst.  At the end of his training, he was ranked 92nd in the Sandhurst Competitive Examination of June 1911 and was one of 13 candidates who were successful for appointment in the Cavalry.

It seems his sights were set on becoming an Army Officer. In June 1914, he applied for a Commission in the 19th Hussars’ Special Reserve, a Cavalry Regiment, giving his address as The Manor House, Ham.  While the medical examination  found him to be ‘unfit’, he was appointed a Second Lieutenant five months later (21 November 1914).

David A J Chapman, © IWM (HU 119789)

Four months later, on 17 March 1915, while based at East Liss, Hampshire, David obtained a licence to enable him to marry Lillian Georgina Warren, in the parish of St Simon Zelotes in Upper Chelsea. The marriage duly took place at that church three days later.  His bride was the daughter of a baronet, Sir Thomas Courtenay Theydon Warner and his wife Leucha Diana Maude.

In December of that year, David applied for a commission in The Scots Guards’ Special Reserve, a prestigious infantry regiment, with his application endorsed by Colonel Henry Fludyer of the Scots Guards itself. I add this last bit purely to save others who come after from the peril of transcribing the said colonel’s signature.

September 1916 found David’s battalion in the vicinity of Ginchy, Bernafay Wood, and then camped at Happy Valley.  On the 14th the battalion left camp and proceeded to Trones Wood.  The following account is taken from the Battalion’s War Diary for 15 September 1916.  As will be seen, it was a day which took out of action all the senior officers of the battalion, leaving it in the charge of a Lieutenant until a Major could be sent up to take command.  That officer was wounded on his way to join the Battalion.

The Division attacked LES BOEUFS  zero [hour] 6.20 am.  Owing to attack being held up about 6 pm the Battalion was ordered up to support Colonel I Campbell, 3rd Batt[alion] Coldstream Guards. Lieut.Colonel R.S. Tempest lead [sic] the Battalion between GINCHY and DELVILLE WOOD on a N.E. position. The Commanding Officer and Adjutant were hit almost immediately and Captain J S Thorpe and Lieut. D.A.J. Chapman were killed during a counter attack on our R[ight] Flank Company. Captain R.E.F. Maitland and 2/Lieuts Dawkins, Murdoch and Wodehouse were wounded. 2/Lieuts Dawkins and Murdoch died of wounds 4 days later. Lieut. W.A. Boyd was then left in command of the Battalion. Major Hon. R. Coke came up to take command. Lieut. E. ? M McDougal to do Adjutant and Lieut. D. J. Bethell to command R[ight] F[lank] Co[mpan]y.  Major Hon R. Coke was wounded on the way up.

David died three days short of his twenty-third birthday.  His parents, David and Agnes, moved away from Ham and lived on into the 1930s, dying in 1939 and 1937 in Canterbury and Chelsea respectively.  Both are buried in St Andrew’s Churchyard.

Ten years after her marriage to David, Lillian remarried, and by her second husband, Charles Ronald Mansel-Lewis, had a son, David Courtenay Mansel-Lewis (1927–2009).  She died in Essex in her 90th year.

Imperial War Museum, Bond of Sacrifice Collection, HU 119789, ‘Lieutenant David Archibald James Chapman’, accessed 9/11/2018. Copyright attribution © IWM (HU 119789).
The National Archives, WO 95/1223/4, ‘Battalion War Diary, 2 Battalion Scots Guards, 1 August 1915–28 February 1919’, accessed 2015..
The National Archives, WO 339/48788, Officers’ Service Records, 2nd Lieutenant David Phelips (sic) Chapman.  Note that this record has his father’s name in the record description, as well as the surname of Chapman written twice.

Posted in Agnes Mary Laurie, Army, Cavalry, David Archibald James Chapman, David Phelips Chapman, Ham, Ham War Memorial | Leave a comment

John Lucas Frost (1898–1918)

50014 Corporal John Lucas Frost,
C Company 16/King’s Royal Rifle Corps,
formerly East Surrey Regiment.
Killed in Action or Died of Wounds, 12 October 1918.
Buried at Montay, in the Montay-Neuvilly Road Cemetery.
Commemorated on the War Memorial Tablet for the Petersham Scout Troop.

The death of a popular, local 20 year old. occurred 100 years ago today.  Of those listed on the WW1 face of the Ham War Memorial, he was the “last to die” during the course of that war.   This is his story.

John (“Jack”) Lucas Frost was baptised in Petersham on 13 March 1898, the second son of a couple who were first cousins twice over—their fathers were brothers, and their mothers, sisters.  While the nickname Jack is usually associated with the name John, it is also routinely applied as a nickname, as many Frosts will ruefully acknowledge, to boys with the surname Frost.

Arthur and Ann Elizabeth Frost hailed from Derbyshire, where they were married on 4 January 1894 at All Saints’ in Bakewell.  At their eldest son’s baptism, in Matlock Bank in October of that year, his father was described as ‘House Steward’ and the family’s abode as Sudbrook Park. At the time of Jack’s christening, in St Peter’s, Petersham, the family was living in ‘The Annexe’ at Sudbrook Park, where Arthur had by then been the Club Steward for at least four years.

The Home Guard on an exercise in WW2 outside the former Ham Post Office © Richmond Local Studies Library and Archive, used with permission.

Arthur was later appointed the Postmaster of the Ham Post Office on the Petersham Road, but he combined that with employment at the golf club as Club Steward, while his wife, Ann, traded at their shop on the Petersham Road as a Draper and as Postmistress of Ham, when necessary.

In 1908, six boys became the founder members of The Petersham Troop of Baden-Powell Scouts—Jack, then aged ten, was one of those six and we are told that he was known to all the Troop as “Happy Jack”. He thrived in the Scouts, and maintained his links with the Troop until the end of his life.  His Scoutmasters, reflecting on their loss, recalled him as having been “an unselfish and popular fellow, always smiling and happy, and kept the Troop merry at their camps.  He was a sad loss to us all.”

Jack joined the colours at Kingston upon Thames, where he seems to have signed up initially with the East Surrey Regiment before his transfer to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. It is likely that, like his fellow Scout, Harold Joel, he joined up as soon as he reached his 18th birthday. (Jack’s being awarded the Victory and British medals indicates that, while he saw service abroad, he did not enter a ‘theatre of war’ on foreign soil before January 1916, at the earliest.)

It is difficult to work out exactly how and also  when Jack died. At the time of his death, he was acting as Sergeant in the Lewis Gun Section. Certainly there was action on the day of this death, but at least two sources (Soldiers Died in The Great War and the Register of Soldiers’ Effects) maintain that he died of wounds. I like to think that he may not have suffered for long, since his parents were told that he had ‘fallen’, which suggests death in action, or very soon after.

The morning of 12 October 1918  found the King’s Royal Rifle Corps east of Troisville and on the east bank of the River Selle, which had been bridged by the Royal Engineers. Jack was attached to C Company, but he would have been manning the Lewis Guns, rather than moving forward in the column formed by his company.

Extracts from the battalion’s War Diary follow, in italics.

At 0500 the Battalion attacked without Barrages in two columns consisting of A Company with C Company in support.

Initial news was that the attack was proceeding ‘satisfactorily’ and by 0800, C Company reported that it was in position on high ground. D Company, supporting the left column had both of its officers out of action, one killed and one wounded.

C Company reported the 9/H[igland] L[ight] I[nfantry] had to be helped up but that they were making progress towards the line of the Railway.

Shortly after Colonel Pardoe decided to advance to the next target, QUARRY, a heavy barrage was directed on the whole battalion. The decision was made to bring up a Lewis Gun —when the battalion eventually reached the Quarry, they found it occupied by the enemy, “in force”.  Perhaps Jack, as Acting Sergeant, was in charge of the gun which was then ordered forward.  Moving the Lewis Guns between positions was a complex job, often hard, slow work. The guns and the team operating each gun would also be a key target for snipers.

A Lewis Gun was brought up…and the enemy prevented from crossing the Railway at that point. Colonel PARDOE was here badly wounded. Runner sent to report situation to Major WILLIS who was left at Report Centre in Ravine…Adjutant and Intelligence Officer with Lewis Gun held on and endeavoured to find out the situation in front.

The Brigade was reinforced by 1/Middlesex Regt and ordered to attack the same objectives at 1700 hours.

This attack was postponed and eventually cancelled.

The Brigade was ordered to establish the line of the River SELLE with advanced posts beyond the River covering the crossings over the road…16th K.R.R.C. ordered to take over front of 9/H.L.I. but this was found impossible with the men available. Accordingly 70 men from 9th H.L.I. were left in the line under command of Lieut. THOMAS. The night was very dark and black with much Artillery and Machine Gun fire making movement and reorganisation extremely difficult…Officer casualties were Colonel PARDOE wounded, 2nd Lieut. SURRY killed, 2nd Lieut, BUDD wounded (since died of wounds), 2nd Lieut. A.H. VILLIERS wounded and missing.

The Diary’s report on the day does not mention the casualties incurred by the Other Ranks. In the absence of information from his fellow soldiers, we cannot be sure what happened to Jack. Perhaps some reports from his fellow soldiers reached his parents later.

The Richmond and Twickenham Times of 26 October 1918, carried this report of Jack’s death:

News has just been received by Mr and Mrs Frost of the post office, Ham, that their second son, Company-Sergeant John Frost of the Lewis Gun Section, has fallen in action in France. Previously to joining the colours he took a great interest in the local scout movement, and his death is regretted by a large circle of acquaintances.

He died in the vicinity of Montay, on 12 October 1918, aged 20 and is buried nearby in the Montay-Neuvilly Road Cemetery. The words chosen by his parents for his headstone  were ABSENT, BUT EVER NEAR.

Jack died just over four weeks before the Armistice and this War Diary reveals that the Imperial German Army was still holding its own at that point.  Victory was not yet certain.  The jubilation on Armistice Day must have been hard for Jack’s parents to bear, when their grief would still have been quite raw.  Jack’s father died in 1946 and his mother in 1952.  His brothers, Archibald and Sidney, lived on until 1987 and 1988 respectively so, had Jack survived, he might have expected to live, like his brothers, into his 80s or 90s.

It should be noted that Jack also has a link to one of those commemorated on Ham’s WW2 Memorial. Jack’s brother, Archibald, was the husband of Lois Emma Sanders, the aunt of John Harry Arthur Sanders, who was killed on active service in 1945.

Notes on “the last to die”
I described Jack as “the last man to die in Ham”, using the words of one of his relatives.  We believe that Percy Joseph Wooldridge was the last Ham man to die of injuries incurred on active service, but because he died after 31 August 1921, he was deemed  not to ‘warrant’ a Commonwealth War Grave.  He is, however, buried in the Churchyard of St Andrew’s in grave BB32—in a grave which the good folk of Ham might wish to visit.  We ought not to forget that many men returned home to Ham, but as invalids, and while their time in the services was shortened by that, their lives may also have been shortened and altered by the severity of their injuries.

While some consider that Happy Jack’s relative, Private John Harry Arthur Sanders (The Queen’s RWS) was, coincidentally, the last man to die in WW2, there are actually two named on the memorial who died later than he did.  Lieut. Bruce Edward Enzer (RNVR), was carrying out his duties as a ‘Human Torpedo’ against the Japanese when he was killed in an exercise on 22 June 1945.  Signalman Reginald Harry Griffiths (RCS) died on 21 March 1947, inside the CWGC’s WW2 ‘cut-off’ date, and was also, quite properly, duly commemorated on the Parish War Memorial.

I have yet to discover whether there are people who died after the official cut-off date as a result of injuries acquired while on active service during WW2.

Key Sources
BIDDULPH, G.T. and JOEL, W.C., A short history of the Petersham Troop of Baden Powell Boy Scouts with some account of the commencement of the Movement in the District from 1908 to 1922, 1923.
The National Archives, WO 95/2430/3–7, ‘War Diary of 16 Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, 12 October 1918.

Recommended Reading
I have recently been reading Harry’s War, the diary of Harry Drinkwater MC, a private who later became an officer in the British Army.  Soldiers were strictly forbidden to keep a diary, yet he managed to keep it throughout five and a half years of Army Service, without it seems this crime having been discovered.  If you want to get a real feel of what the war was like for ordinary soldiers, you should try to get hold of it—Richmond Library has at least one copy.  By coincidence, when I was writing up my post on Jack Frost, I was reading the chapters which relate to Harry’s being in a Lewis Gun team. The risks and difficulties that the Lewis Gun team faced, made me wonder, considering all that Harry had been through, that he could have been induced to stay on in the Army after the end of the war.

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Archibald Francis Noble (1886–1916)

Captain Archibald Francis Noble,
Adjutant of the 10/Cheshire Regiment.
Killed in Action in France, 21 May 1916,
Buried at the Ecoivres Military Cemetery.

Selby House
© Matthew Rees, used with permission.

Two of the men whose lives are commemorated on the Ham War Memorial have links with Selby House, one of the grand mansions on Ham Common.  Elizabeth Mary Noble, the daughter of the house, was to lose both her brother, Archibald and her husband, Kenneth Douglas Field, who were both killed in action in France.  And in 1940, her son-in-law, Arthur David Watson, was also killed in action, while serving in the RAF—he is commemorated on the Petersham War Memorial.

Archibald was the only son of a prominent solicitor, Joseph Horace Noble and his wife, Sarah Sturgess and, unusually for this family (hence my emboldening the names by which they were known) was called by his first name. Archibald (born 4 July 1886) and his sister, Elizabeth Mary (born 11 November 1888) moved to Selby House from 7 The Circus, Greenwich, on 15 March 1889. Three weeks later the family was joined by their widowed grandfather, Joseph Alfred Noble and their father’s unmarried sisters, Fanny Elizabeth and Emily Maria, as well as their personal maid.

We can be exact on this, as detailed records were  kept by the Nobles throughout the family’s sojourn in Ham. For a local historian, the minutiae of the family’s life makes interesting reading, as the names of others in the community are included in the narrative, like George Rooke, the builder, employed to ‘rectify’ the dilapidated house. There are alleyways too numerous to follow: why did the nursemaid leave? Was Ham too remote for her? We know the price he paid for the 5 seat family pew, We learn which local ‘charlady’ cleaned the house, and which bricklayer built the gate pillars, that they kept hens, were self-supporting, what plants they added to the garden, what the gardeners were paid, the nursery that supplied the plants and even the cheeses the family preferred. Every working day, Horace walked to Richmond Station, always travelling first class; though on holiday, he always travelled in third. A leading local philanthropist, we know which local charities and sports clubs he supported.

A memorial to Archibald Noble in St Andrew’s Church.

The fee for the family’s 5 seater pew was a necessary expense, given his wife’s strong religious faith. A regular worshipper at St Andrew’s, Sarah never missed a service at All Saints’ (Kingston) and St Alban’s (Teddington) where the music was apparently “very good”. The compiler of this summary, typing before the computer age, notes that “Walking quite long distances was taken as a matter of course 100 years ago, not as somewhat eccentric as it would be today.”
We know also the roles Archie’s parents played in local societies and that among their close friends were the solicitor, Arthur Onslow Julius and his wife, Elizabeth Woodifield, (parents of Cecil Herbert Woodifield Julius who is also on the Ham War Memorial), and the Harkers of The Elms, as well as the Misses Hornby of Orford House.

Genealogy and Heraldry were Horace’s weakness, the only ‘non-essential’ on which he spent his money until eventually attaining a grant of arms in 1891.

Despite the family’s comfortable background, their two children grew up unspoilt with few presents, though Archie, aged four, had a fishing rod, a violin and skates–all relating to Horace’s own interests–ones he hoped, perhaps, would bring the same pleasure to his son.

Horace and Sarah did not skimp where the education of their son and daughter was concerned. A governess taught Archie at home from the age of six, and the following year he was sent to Miss Holland’s ‘dame school’ at Elm Lodge, before starting at Kingston Grammar School in September 1895, when he was nine. At twelve he started at Westminster School, where he was a boarder at Grant’s House in term time. He progressed well as scholar and sportsman and was confirmed in the school chapel in 1901.

However, as the School’s website points out, Archie’s career there was not without some minor incidents:

He did not have an unblemished record at the school; the Grant’s House ledger notes that he was tanned twice in 1902. One of the occasions was for smoking in Grant’s on Saturday night, and the other was for being “more than 5 minutes late for Sunday breakfast”!

It was perhaps at Westminster, or through the family’s friendship with Colonel Biddulph of Grey Court (uncle of Douglas House’s Victor Biddulph, who is commemorated on the Petersham War Memorial) that he became keen to join the army. This was not Horace’s choice of career for Archie, as he was anxious for his son to join him as an articled clerk in the firm of Bayley, Adams, Hawker and Noble, based at Moorgate and later at Tower Bridge Road, Bermondsey.

Archie was, however, able to join the Inns of Court Rifles Volunteers in 1903, and thereafter spent his holidays at army camps undergoing basic training. He passed the London Matriculation in the First Division in 1904 and was articled three months later. By 1908 he was a qualified solicitor.

In 1912 Kenneth Douglas Field, then an army officer and stationed in Edinburgh, became engaged to Archie’s sister, Mary, whom he married in 1913. He was known in the family as “Grouse’ but whether this was a nod to his shooting skills or to his temper, I cannot say! Later that year, the couple sailed for Colombo to take up Douglas’s posting to India.

In early November, Horace’s illness took a dramatic turn for the worse. He died on 6 November following an emergency operation. In his funeral address, the Vicar spoke of the high esteem in which Horace had been held in Ham, of his “penetrating insight” and his “polished culture”. As a person, he was “simple, deep and quiet”.

When war broke out, having served in the Inns of Court Rifles as a Volunteer since 1903, Archie was called up almost immediately, enlisting in September in the 10th (Service) Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment. At the time of his death, he was its Adjutant, with the Battalion engaged in heavy fighting at Vimy Ridge (near Arras).

The following passage is the entry made in the War Diary of the 10th Cheshire Regiment on 21 May 1916.  Normally this would have been Archibald’s job, as adjutant for the Regiment.  The previous day, the headquarters of A and D companies were hit, the former being set on fire.  This would have made communication difficult.

During morning the C[ommunication] T[renche]s suffered some damage caused by shellfire and minen werfen.

At 3.45 pm an intense bombardment was opened on all C.Ts and supports, this firing was particularly heavy on the left of our sector.  The bombardment continued with unabated violence for four hours at the end of which time most of the trenches on the left were crushed and a very large proportion of the men were killed or wounded.  At 7.45 pm the enemy attacked and took our outpost and line of resistance on the left with but little resistance as there was as a result of the bombardment practically nobody left to oppose them.  A counter attack was delivered at 2 am which was successful in retaking the line of resistance (GUERIN).  The adjutant CAPT. NOBLE and CAPT. LANGDON were killed.  Five officers including the C[ommanding] O[fficer] LIEUT.COL. BROUGHTON were wounded.  Other ranks 33 killed, 101 wounded and 41 missing.

What the diary does not make clear is that Archie was wounded, and taken for treatment to a nearby dressing station. While he was being treated there, the dressing station was hit by a shell and Archie was killed.

More grief was to come to the family with the death of Mary’s husband in 1917, following which Mary moved back to Selby House with her daughters, Anne and Rosemary. The sisters married two brothers, Martin and David Watson, of Greystones in Petersham. David was killed in action in 1940.

In 1953, Mary moved away from Ham to live with her daughter, Rosemary. By then the house had been in the Noble family’s hands for 65 years.  Mary died in 1988, aged 100.

The photograph of Selby House is used by kind permission of Matthew Rees, who holds the copyright. His blog,, is a remarkable resource for those interested in the parish of Ham.

The National Archives, WO 95/2243/1, ‘War Diary of 10 Cheshire Regiment, 18 May 1916–31 May 2016.
Richmond Local Studies Library and Archive, ‘Evelyn Pritchard’s file on Residents of Selby House’.
Westminster School, ‘The Fallen’, accessed 4/10/2017.

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Harold Anson Gunner (1891–1916)

1126 Corporal Harold Anson Gunner,
Royal Field Artillery (A Battery, 282nd Brigade).
Killed in Action in France, 7 October 1916,
Buried at the Guards’ Cemetery, Lesboeufs.
Chorister at St Andrew’s Church.

Following on from James Douglas Cockburn, we have the story behind another man who was also killed in the vicinity of Ginchy, barely a month after the death of James in that very area.

Matching the name H.A.GUNNER to the correct war casualty was not straightforward.  Four H. Gunners were killed in the Great War.  None of them had the easily recognisable connection with the parish of Ham that a local historian expects to find—residence, birth or even employment in the parish at some point during his or her lifetime.

One of these men was 2/Lieut. Harold Gunner, also known as Percy, and serving in the Australian Infantry Force, though described as a “native of England“. This man had been employed as a Page Boy in his youth and was the son of  Ellison Gunner and Caroline Noble.  Had he been a page boy at Ham House or one of the other grand houses?  Was his mother connected with the Noble family of Selby House?  The answer to both those questions was, No.  This Harold had emigrated to Australia with his mother and his sister, Matilda, and had an enviable service record, intact and detailed, in contrast with the majority of British servicemen’s records which were lost or damaged in 1940.

There was also a Corporal Harold Anson Gunner, in the Royal Field Artillery, and described as a “native of Huntingdon”.  He was a Civil Servant in the 1911 Census, and had by then been living for some time in Wandsworth at 291 Earlsfield Road, in the household of David and Elizabeth Taylor.  (Harold was still listed at that address on the Electoral when he left for France in 1915.)  He was the son of John Matthias Gunner, a Schoolmaster and his wife, Elizabeth Ann (“Bessie”) Northway.  Could his father have been appointed to a school in Ham or Petersham?  Further research indicated that no, he wasn’t.

I fairly soon ruled out the other two, Gunner Harry Gunner of the Royal Garrison Artillery, and Lance Corporal Herbert Gunner of the Sherwood Forresters.  There was also an Eliza Gunner, working as a Cook at Petersham House, whom I was also able to eliminate as a relative of any of the four H. Gunners on the CWGC database.

All the above may seem a little irrelevant to Harold himself, but I have come across elsewhere mistakes over the identities of some of the Gunners, and I hope this will be useful and of interest to more distant relatives of ‘our’ Harold who currently who may be researching this family.

St Andrew’s Choristers
Eventually a list, Men in the Parish Serving with the Colours, was located in a box labelled St Andrew’s Church, and held by Richmond Libraries’ Local Studies Collection.  This list revealed that Harold Gunner had been a member of the Church Choir.  Five other members of the St Andrew’s Choir were also on that list: John Elder (later a churchwarden at St Andrew’s, whose wife, Anna Paula Schmidt, whom he had married in 1914, was German); H.G. Hall; John Motton; Ernest Owen and R. Price.

Harold’s story
Harold Anson Gunner was born at The School House at Great Stukeley, in Huntingdonshire, in the third quarter of 1891.  His parents John Matthias and Bessie had married in 1883 in St Mark’s Chapel of Ease in Battersea and, by the time of John’s birth, had a daughter, Elizabeth.

Anson was the middle name of several sons in this and earlier generations of the Gunner family and may indeed, if interpreted as the first half of a “double-barrel” have bumped  Harold’s name to the head of the list, by alphabetical order, of names on the South Petherwin War Memorial.

Harold’s maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Honey Gaud, was the daughter of John Gaud, Innkeeper of The Queen’s Head, an ancient pub in West Street, Tavistock, while his maternal grandfather was Samuel Northway, a watchmaker.

His maternal grandfather, David Gunner, had been a Tailor working near Golden Square in Westminster, who became a Scripture Reader when he reached his fifties.  Scripture Readers worked among the illiterate, the poor and the destitute, reading Bible passages and religious tracts to them. Their work in this field in Poplar may have inspired their children to become teachers at a time when the passing of the 1870 Elementary Education Act recognised the need for a few years of basic education to be compulsory for all children.

The 1881 Census has Sarah, widowed and at 167 East India Road, Poplar, as a Scripture Reader, perhaps having only taken this up after her husband’s death the previous year.  David had died the year before, but three of their children were still living in the family home—one was a governess, and two were teachers. There was a fourth teacher visiting the household, while under the same roof were a lodger and her niece, both teachers.

The births of Harold and his three siblings, all within 8 years of each other, were registered in Blything, Hendon, Aylesbury and Huntingdon—each one in a different county—depending on where their father happened to be teaching at the time. The second of them, Ralph Anson Gunner, died before his first birthday.

South Petherwin War Memorial
Used under the terms of a Creative Commons licence.

Eventually their father’s promotion took the family to South Petherwin, in Cornwall where John Matthias ended his career as a Head Teacher and where he and his wife remained for the rest of their lives.  Perhaps the move to Cornwall had been in the pipeline for some time since Bessie had been born at Gunnislake in Cornwall, giving the couple all the more reason to settle down there with their three surviving children. In later life, their son Percy’s affection for South Petherwin was reflected in the name of his house, Petherwyn, in Shere Avenue, Epsom.


Harold Gunner in the Board of Trade record of Staff on Active Service

Almost certainly this Schoolmaster’s children received a sound basic education under the watchful eye of their father, and this must have been of some benefit to Harold when he sought employment.  His first job, as a Boy Clerk in the Civil Service, required him to move to London where, as we have found, he lodged with the Taylors.  Thanks to those at the Board of Trade currently researching their memorial, we now know that Harold went on to reach the grade of Abstractor, working in the Seamen’s Registry.

Harold enlisted in the Territorial Force in February 1913, expressing a preference for the Royal Field Artillery. He served first as a Gunner—there must have been the odd double-take when a call went out for Gunner Gunner—and then as a Bombardier before his promotion to the rank of Corporal which he held at the time of his death.

At some point, Harold’s elder brother, Percy Cyril—also a clerk in the Civil Service, but with the Charity Commission—joined him at 291 Earlsfield Road. It may well be that this was simply to  establish residence in the parish as it is the address Percy gave when he married Marie Emily Glover, by licence, in St Andrew’s Earlsfield, just nine days after the outbreak of war.  Harold was a witness, as was Marie’s sister, Maud.

Perhaps the haste suggested by a marriage by licence was propelled by the onset of war and the prospect of separation. Percy Cyril had enlisted in the Territorial Force in 1911—so even earlier than Harold—also having chosen to serve the Royal Field Artillery. Indeed, the brothers arrived in France on the same day, 5 October 1915, though in different units and the coincidence of this in their records led to my looking more closely at Percy’s military records.  His rise in the Territorial Force was rapid—following his enlistment, Percy was promoted at every annual T.F. camp and had reached the rank of Sergeant by March 1914.  Percy soon became his brigade’s Quartermaster Sergeant—perhaps his training as a civil servant helped to make him the very model of a modern quartermaster.

A gunner’s life in the RFA is the topic of a Google Site which focuses on the 175th Brigade. Anyone with a gunner in the family will find this informative and interesting.  We know that the initial training of a recruit took three months for an infantryman—but it was said that it took twelve months to train a gunner to the necessary standard.  Unfortunately, they did not always have the luxury of that length of training.  Being a gunner was skilled work, demanding and dangerous because the guns were a key target for the enemy. Because the guns were heavy, it was difficult to move a gun out of range at short notice.

The War Diary for 282 Brigade for October 1916.

Harold’s service in a theatre of war during 1915 entitled him to receive the full suite of three medals.  He was killed in action on 7 October 1916  a year and two days after his arrival in the Western Theatre of War.  It is said he was killed when an enemy shell landed near his gun position. Unfortunately the War Diary for 282 Brigade for the entire month of October has been lost, as I discovered when I viewed the unit’s War Diary at The National Archives.

Harold’s grave is in the Guards’ Cemetery at Lesboeufs, in France.  He is also commemorated on the Ham Parish War Memorial, on the Board of Trade’s War Memorial in London, and on the South Petherwin War Memorial in Cornwall.

The Board of Trade War Memorial is now at 55 Whitehall/3 Whitehall Place London SW1A 2AW.  Those commemorated on that memorial have not been forgotten by those who are now at the Department of Trade.

Google Sites, 175 Brigade Royal Field Artillery, ‘A gunner’s life’,, accessed 29.7/2018.  This is not the brigade to which Harold Anson Gunner was attached, but the general description of the life of a gunner applies to other Brigades and Batteries in the Royal Field Artillery.

Photograph of the South Petherwin War Memorial is used under the terms of the Creative Commons Licence.

The National Archives, BT series, ‘War Memorial’,

The National Archives, WO 95/2941/1, War Diary of 282 Brigade Royal Field Artillery, 1/10/1915–31/12/1916.  Note: the diary for the entire month of October 1916 is missing.

Genealogical Research conducted by Margaret Frood.

Posted in Members of St Andrew's Choir, Royal Field Artillery | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Percival Joseph Wooldridge (1889–1927)

14164 Lance Corporal Percival Joseph (“Percy”) Wooldridge,
2/The Royal Fusiliers.
Discharged 6 October 1917 as a result of injuries incurred on active service.
Died 14 December 1927 as a result of his war injuries.
Buried in St Andrew’s Churchyard, Grave Reference Y 68.

Percy’s Discharge Document
© The Family of Percy Wooldridge

Percy Wooldridge (1889–1927) appears with his brother, Alfred, on a document drawn up by the parish in 1915, listing the ‘Inhabitants’ of the Parish of Ham, who were serving in His Majesty’s Forces.

This is his story.

Percy was a Nurseryman by trade and, given the healthy environment of Ham at the turn of the century, he could have expected, like many others working in that pleasant rural environment, sheltered between the open spaces of Richmond Park and a bend in the River Thames, to have lived to a ripe old age.  The war killed that prospect. Instead, he died in 1927, aged 38, his life cut short by his wartime experiences, leaving a widow, Amy, and seven surviving children.

Percy was the son of Charles Wooldridge and Charlotte Newman, who had been married in St Andrew’s Church on 5 October 1868.  Charles was born in Guildford and Charlotte in Beaconsfield, so it is likely that at least one of them obtained work in Ham where their paths seem to have crossed. Charles Wooldridge made his mark in the register, while his bride, Charlotte signed her name—this in itself a poignant reminder of how few children received formal education prior to the Education Act of 1870, which preceded the Education Act of 1880, that would at last make universal education compulsory between the ages of five and ten.   All nine of their children were born in Ham.  Percy, the second youngest, was born on 12 July 1889 at the family home on the Petersham Road— 21 years after his parents’ marriage. He continued to live with his parents until his marriage.

On 9 April 1909, he married Amy Sarah Ann Gregory, the daughter of Frederick James Gregory, and his wife Amy Smart.  Four days later their first child, Frederick, was born at her parents’ home, 2 Burridge’s Cottages in Richmond.  By 1911 the couple and their toddler son were living with Percy’s parents at 1 Evelyn Terrace (now 46 Ham Street); Amy returned to her parents’ home in Richmond for the birth of their second child, a daughter.  Within five months they were in a home of their own, initially at 2 York Cottages but  by the time of Percy’s enlistment, at 3 Wiggins’ Cottages where the family remained for many years.  But with two adults and seven children, they did, eventually, outgrow its four small rooms and the family was later to move to 48 Lock Road.

Percy’s military service began on 17 March 1915 when he enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers at Hounslow. Although a father with a wife and three young children, and himself only 25, he chose to sign up voluntarily nine months before conscription was introduced. Up until the time Percy enlisted, only four men with links to the parish had been killed. The first man from Ham to die had been a Royal Marine, Albert Edward Thurley, who died at sea when HMS Aboukir sank, and who had lived at the Ham Common end of Ham Street. He was four years older than Percy, and may have known him. The remaining three were relatives of the Tollemache family, all with far more tenuous connections with the parish.

This suggests that Percy’s decision to enlist, instead of waiting to be conscripted, could either have been a response to reports of the heavy loss of life of soldiers in the Regular Army during the early months of the war, or under the influence of what is now known to have been exaggerated and sometimes fake news of German ‘atrocities’ or simply by a pressing desire to ‘do his bit’—or all of these.

We know from the records that survived that Percy was 5ft 7¼in, that he had blue eyes, light brown hair and vaccination scars on his left arm.  His pension records also include the following list of his children as of October 1917, based on information provided by Percy and which would have had to be supported by appropriate documentation:

Frederick Alfred James born 13 April 1909 in Richmond.
Percival Joseph born 15 December 1912 in Ham.
Albert Ernest born 1 June 1914 in Ham.
Ethel born 5 May 1916 in Kingston.

Their daughter Amy Gertrude, who died in infancy, is not listed on the pension record.  She was born in Richmond on 6 October 1911, and her burial was recorded just five months later at St Andrew’s on 9 March 1912.  At the time, her parents and older brother were living at 2 York Cottages, Ham Common.

Percy’s Medal Roll Index Card notes the Theatre of War in which he served as 2B (Balkans)—this code refers to Gallipoli—and states that he landed there on 15 December 1915, joining members of his battalion who had been there since the previous April, engaged in the Battles for Krithia and the notorious Achi Baba Heights.  Gallipoli was a harsh experience for soldiers to endure, the conditions desperate, and a long way from home, with the tide of battle often against them.

British Army Medical Records for WW1 throw some light on Percy’s brief time in the Mediterranean.  The records for HMHS Assaye reveal that Percy was a patient taken on board this hospital ship on 18 December 1915, only four days after his arrival in the Mediterranean Theatre of War.  He was suffering from “p.o.u.o” or “Pyrexia of Unknown Origin”.  (This was an unexplained high temperature, and useful to cover the period until doctors were able to identify the cause behind this fever.)

Helpfully the records confirm Percy was in B Company of the 2/Royal Fusiliers, allowing us (in time) to focus on that company within the war diary of that battalion.

Three weeks after Percy joined his battalion, they were all  evacuated to Egypt, from where they were eventually sent to France, in preparation for The Somme where they were involved in the Battle of Albert and the Battle of the Transloy Ridges.  In 1917, Percy’s battalion was involved in eight major battles, including the Battle of Cambrai.

That Percy was a competent, reliable soldier, trusted to lead his men effectively, is indicated by his promotion to the rank of Lance Corporal on 10 April 1917.  Just six months later, on 6 October 1917—the anniversary of the birth of Amy, the daughter they lost—Percy was honourably discharged under King’s Regulations Paragraph 392 (xiv)—as “no longer physically fit for war service”.

This decision would have been taken because he had either developed a chronic illness, or acquired an injury which would prevent his being an ‘efficient’ soldier.  We know that Percy received at least one serious injury during his time in the army, because it is noted in his service record as G.S.W. Leg (i.e. a Gun Shot Wound to the leg) but as the entry is undated, and not all the pages of his records have survived, we cannot be sure whether this was the injury that led to his discharge.  Given the unhygienic conditions, the mud, the contaminated debris and lack of antibiotics and the high risk of infection, many did not survive. Percy may have been in hospital for a long period—perhaps four to five months.

In September 1916, George V introduced the Silver War Badge to be awarded to those who were honourably discharged from active service because of the severity of their wounds or chronic illness.  At a time when young men who were not in uniform were often harassed by members of the public, this badge proved to potential critics that the man concerned had fulfilled his duty to his country with honour.  When he was out and about and wearing his badge, no one would present Percy with the dreaded white feather.

After Percy’s return home, three more children would be added to the family—Gladys, Lilian and George in 1918, 1921 and 1925 respectively.

Percy’s Medals and his Funeral Card © The Family of Percy Wooldridge

When medals were distributed after the war, Percy’s service since 1915 entitled him to be awarded the full suite—the 1915 Star, as well as the British and Victory medals, known by their recipients as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, respectively.  Percy’s Silver War Badge is displayed above his Funeral Card.

Percy died on 14 December 1927, and is buried in what one of his granddaughters remembers as ‘a rather lowly grave’ marked by a simple wooden cross.  The burial register records the location in St Andrew’s Churchyard as Y 68.  Despite his death being a result of his injuries on active service, he had no CWGC headstone. This is because he died after 31 August 1921, which was the cut-off date for having a Commonwealth War Grave.  I like to think that, had he had any choice, Percy would have preferred the extra time with his family to a headstone and a grave tended in perpetuity.

Percy was a Nurseryman, but we think his grave is now unmarked.  If anyone has any thoughts about how we could do better by our Nurseryman’s grave, please feel free to post your suggestions via the Comment Box for this post.

The Aftermath
Percy’s widow, Amy, was left to bring up her children, ranging in age from 18 down to 2.  All but the eldest two, Frederick and Percy Junior, and the youngest, George, were still of school-going age.  It is likely that her older sons provided financial support to their mother and siblings, for as long as there was a need. Perhaps Percy’s father and his siblings also provided support of some kind to Amy and her children.

Percy’s mother died in February 1914, six months before war was declared.  She is buried in plot O 67 at St Andrew’s Church.  Percy’s father, Charles, died in March 1928, aged 87, and just a few months after his son,  He, too, is buried in St Andrew’s Churchyard, but in plot N 66.  I imagine Row O 67 and N 66 are fairly close together but at some distance from Percy’s grave (Y 68).

Alfred Wooldridge, Percy’s younger brother, is also on the list, Inhabitants of the Parish of Ham serving in H.M. Forces in 1915. He was the youngest child of Charles and Charlotte Wooldridge and served in the Army Service Corps.  Alfred’s name was registered at birth as Alfred Vincent Wooldridge but he seems to have adopted other versions during his lifetime. In official records I have found him as Arthur (sic) Vincent Wooldridge and Alfred Vincent Newman Wooldridge.  There could well be variations that I have not yet come across! The entry for his burial in St Andrew’s Burials register, records his name as Alfred Newman Wooldridge.  Newman was his mother’s maiden name.

At the time of the birth of Percy’s wife, Amy Sarah Ann, her name was registered as Sarah Ann Gregory, after her paternal grandmother. She was later known as Amy, apparently after her mother, Amy Smart. This name came into use after the registration of her birth and her baptism, and before her second birthday.  Whether the alteration was ever formalised, I cannot say.

The burial of Charlotte Wooldridge, née Newman, did not show up on a search of Surrey Burials, because her name was transcribed by Ancestry as Charles Wordriffs. I may have managed, by flagging up the record, to avoid future Wooldridge researchers having the same problem. My advice to family historians is that, when an Official Death Registration supplies the quarter within which a death was registered, but you cannot find the burial via Ancestry, Find My Past or whichever provider has digitised that particular county’s burial registers, that you browse the online images for that quarter in the relevant parish yourself, page by page.

Percy’s regimental number was 14164.  There’s a very slightly spooky Wooldridge coincidence, though I am perhaps being overly spooked!  The only P. Wooldridge to die as a result of enemy action in WW2 was 141164 Flying Officer Peter Meredith Wooldridge, 56 Squadron, Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve, who died on 3 November 1943, aged 21.  He is one of over 20 000 airmen commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

Further information/Sources
Photographs used with kind permission of the copyright holders, The Family of Percy Wooldridge.
Richmond Local Studies Library and Archive, ‘Church Road, Ham’ folder, Inhabitants of [the] Parish of Ham, Surrey, serving in H.M. Forces, 1915.

Posted in Army, Family Members serving, Lock Road, Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, Royal Fusiliers, Served and Survived, Wiggins' Cottages | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment