Frederick Joseph Edmund Carter: Ham’s young Home Guard

Frederick Joseph Edmund Carter (c. 1924–1942)
Home Guard,
Drowned, aged 18, while carrying out his duties, 19 March 1942,
at Teddington Lock.

Followers of Pike in Dad’s Army might be interested to know that Ham had at least one teenager in its Home Guard.  This week it will be 74 years since Frederick Carter lost his life on 19 March 1942—he is the F.J.E. Carter commemorated on Ham’s War Memorial.

The birth of ‘Frederick Joseph Edmund Carter’ was registered in Chelsea in the first quarter of 1924 i.e. indicating that his birth occurred at some point between mid-November 1923 and 31 March 1924.  He was the son of Frederick William Carter and his wife, Violet, who had married in Chelsea in 1922 and continued to live there for many years.

Initially I thought the ‘Edmund’ amongst Frederick’s names was probably in honour of his uncle, Corporal Edmund Charles Neighbour, K.R.R.C, who was killed on active service on 17 July 1916 in the opening weeks of the Battle of the Somme.  Frederick’s mother, Violet,  was the youngest child of John Thomas Neighbour and his wife, Jane Ann East, and Edmund was their second youngest child, so perhaps particularly close to Violet who was born after her father’s death.  However, having located his grandparents’ marriage certificate, I have realised that ‘Joseph’ could also have been for Violet’s paternal grandfather and the ‘Edmund’ for her maternal grandfather.

The 1938 Electoral Rolls for Chelsea show Frederick William Carter and Violet Carter living at 6 Gladstone House, 56 Tetcott Road, Chelsea. I think it highly likely that they are Frederick’s parents and having found the same couple on the Electoral Roll in Chelsea in previous rolls, and given the long connection of the Neighbour family with Chelsea, it is safe to speculate that Chelsea is where Frederick grew up.  The Tetcott Road address is likely to be where Frederick and his parents living before he moved to Ham.

1941: Ham's Home Guard © Richmond Local Studies Library and Archive

1941: Ham’s Home Guard
© Richmond Local Studies Library and Archive

As he had no obvious connection to Ham, I was initially puzzled about what might have taken him to Ham. Frederick was a fitter by trade, so I thought it possible that he was regarded as doing essential work for the war effort, and perhaps employed at the Leyland factory.  His joining the Home Guard, with long hours of overnight service, preceded and followed by the normal working day of a tool-maker, indicates his willingness to serve the community in which he was a resident.  The accompanying photograph showing the Home Guard, sitting near the Emergency Sanitation Huts, is a reminder of the extensive Civil Defence exercises held in Ham in 1941 and Frederick may well have been among those participating in this exercise. Some of them do look rather young!

Frederick was living in this house at the time of his death.

Frederick was living in this house at the time of his death.

At the time of his death, Frederick was living at 137 Tudor Drive, in the household of Charles Francis and Jane Ann Neighbour.  Initially I assumed, since he was not living with his parents, that Frederick was boarding or lodging with the family living at 137 Tudor Drive. Further research revealed that the adults shown in the household on the Electoral Roll, rather than being husband and wife, were mother and son. Jane Ann  turned out to be Frederick’s maternal grandmother, while Charles Francis, Jane’s son by her second marriage, was the half-brother of Frederick’s mother, Violet.

The Richmond and Twickenham Times carried two reports on the circumstances surrounding Frederick’s death on Thursday 19 March.  A brief report, two days after his death, under the heading HOME GUARD DROWNED read as follows:

‘Comrades’ Search After Hearing Cries’

Hearing cries of distress late on Thursday night, Home Guards of the Upper Thames Patrol at Teddington Lock, searched the river bank and scanned the river without discovering anything wrong.

One of their colleagues, Mr Frederick Joseph Edmund Carter, 18 years of age, of 137 Tudor-drive, Kingston, was due to come on duty at that time, and as he did not arrive, the river was dragged and his body was recovered from the lock cut nearly four hours later.

It is assumed that Mr Carter must have stumbled while wheeling his bicycle across the sluice gates and fallen into the river and been dragged down by the weight of his equipment.

An inquest will be held on Tuesday.

The report of the inquest in the following Saturday’s edition, provided more information. It, too, appeared under the heading HOME GUARD DROWNED and with one of the sub-headings, UNHEARD AND UNSEEN, prominently capitalised.

Crossing the lock gates at Teddington on a pitch black night Thursday last week, Frederick Joseph Edmund Carter, 18-years-old toolmaker and a member of the Home Guard, of 137 Tudor-drive Kingston, fell into the Thames and was drowned.

No one saw or heard him fall but at the inquest at Richmond on Tuesday, Mr R.H. Turk, his company commander, advanced the theory that Carter was carrying his bicycle and that this got caught in the wheel of some other part of the lock’s mechanism and caused him to fall. The cycle was recovered from the river on the Surrey side of the lock gates and shortly afterwards the body was found near the same spot.

Lance-Corporal C.N. Leeds, 78, St Alban’s-road, Kingston, who was in charge of the guard, said visibility was only about two yards.  He heard four or five cries of “Oh” and turned the guard out.  The Area was searched with torches but there was no sign of anyone having approached the river.  At about midnight the incident was reported to headquarters and witness then heard for the first time that Carter had been sent from headquarters and was overdue.  Further search was then made.

The Coroner (Dr C.F.J.Baron) said it seemed remarkable that Carter did not make his presence heard or seen before the guard heard his cry.  He recorded a verdict of death by misadventure.

Major J.N. Clemow, in an expression of regret, said the Home Guard had lost a keen and exceedingly able member.

Reading the newspaper reports on Frederick’s death, one wonders whether more could not have been done to locate the source of the calls for help, though if he was pulled under by the weight of his equipment, and that had nothing more than torches to assist them.

Frederick died on 19 March 1942 and was buried exactly a week later, in the Churchyard of St Andrew’s, where eleven years later, his grandmother, Jane, was buried.

 

Sources

‘Home Guard Drowned: Comrades’ Search After Hearing Cries,’ Surrey Comet, 21 March 1942, p.5.

‘Home Guard Drowned: Crossing Lock Gates on Dark Night,’ Surrey Comet, 28 March 1942, p.5.

Richmond Local Studies Library and Archive, ‘Richmond Civil Defence Records 1938–1945, RCD 12, ‘Exercise Ham 1941, Emergency Sanitation and Detachment of Home Guard’.  (Used with permission.)

Note:  Are you a relative of Frederick Carter?
In 1936, Jane’s second husband, William James Neighbour—who was Frederick’s great uncle and also his step-grandfather—was the first of this Tudor Drive household to be buried at St Andrew’s.  Relatives of the Neighbours might be interested in reading an explanation of this family’s relationships on my family history blog.

 

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About Margaret Frood

Margaret Frood is a Family and Local Historian with an insatiable curiosity about the partially told stories of a family's past. Her four war memorial blogs have been created in the hope that they will help to rescue from oblivion the stories of those listed on the war memorials of Petersham, Ham and Tur Langton, as well as Southern Africans commemorated in the UK and in Western Europe.
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