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.

KILLED BY CONCUSSION
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.

Sources
Rees, M., ‘A Fresh Look at Ham House’, http://hamphotos.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/a-fresh-look-at-oak-lodge.html, accessed 23/5/2015.
‘Killed by Concussion’, Richmond and Twickenham Times, 7 December 1940, p.8

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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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Mead Road 1940: Louisa Spiers and Michael James Jux

Louisa Spiers née Willis,(1888–1940),
 wife of Reginald Spiers (1891–1961)

Michael James Jux (1938–1940),
son of Ernest James Jux and Dorothy Beatrice Lovesey,
brother of Alan Jux.

Michael James Jux, aged 2 © Alan Jux

Michael James Jux, aged 2
© Alan Jux

The parish’s first civilian deaths from enemy action, occurred on the night of 23 November 1940, when several high explosive bombs fell on Ham, one of them landing on 29 Mead Road, where Michael Jux and his parents were visiting his father’s aunt, Louisa Spiers. The Juxes lived not far from Louisa, at 158 Dukes Avenue. That bomb resulted in the death of Michael Jux and of his great aunt, Louisa (née Willis), the sister of his grandmother, Eliza (‘Lizzie’) Jux.

Louisa and Lizzie were daughters of James Edward Willis and his wife, Emma Wadlow Grimes.  Their father, a Covent Garden porter, died when Louisa, the youngest in the family, was just three years old with the inevitable consequence that their mother struggled to support her young family. The 1901 census returns hint at this, showing the youngest children in the family,  Matilda and Louisa, as boarders at Rockford House, a “Temporary School” in Cricklewood, whilst their widowed mother was in a “Temporary Infirmary” as an inmate—as distinct from a patient—at Rockhall, also in Cricklewood, with all three of them under the care of the Willesden Guardians.

Union Court in 2015 © Margaret Frood

Union Court in 2015
© Margaret Frood

In 1903, Louisa’s sister, Lizzie, married Edward Jux in the Parish Church in Richmond, the couple giving their address as Union Court.   I cannot now walk through Union Court without associating it with the loss sustained by this family, and the double blow for Eliza, who lost both her sister and her grandson.  Not surprisingly, with her elder sister settled in Richmond, Louisa moved there from Willesden, finding employment at 54 Queen’s Road as a Domestic Nurse in the household of Harry Reynell, a retired Stockjobber.  In 1915 Louisa married Reginald Spiers, then a stoker in the Royal Navy; the couple went on to have tw0 sons, Reginald James (1916–1976) and Francis Grimes (1919–1965), and a daughter, Marguerite Louisa (1921–1986), later known as “Jackie.”

Michael’s parents were injured in the explosion which took the lives of their aunt and their son. They had to wait a considerable time before they could be dug out of the ruins, because firemen had first to attend to fire caused by a burst gas main.  Once rescued, Ernest and Dorothy Jux were taken to a local hospital.

It had indeed been a bad day for the residents of Mead Road. Another family in the street, the Newmans, also had to be dug out, after their house was hit by one of the bombs and demolished. Their daughter sustained a head wound that was serious enough to require hospitalisation.

The Vicar of Ham officiated at the joint funeral for Louisa and Michael, which took place five days later at Richmond Cemetery. Louisa and her nephew were interred there in the same grave. This cemetery may have been chosen for their resting place because of the long connection of the Jux family with Richmond.

On the very day of Louisa and Michael’s deaths, the Richmond & Twickenham Times included a report on a recent family celebration.   This happy event had been the marriage, the previous Saturday in St Matthias’s Church, of Michael’s uncle, Edward Jux “of 54 Queen’s Road”—the same address at which Louisa had been working thirty years previously—and Miss Mabel Kirby.  It noted also that Mr Ernest Jux (Michael’s father) had been his brother’s best man. Perhaps the family had been visiting Louisa that evening to share that newspaper report, or photographs taken at the wedding. Perhaps she had been babysitting for them.  And then the air raid warning sounded.

I was struck by the discovery that, on the day they died, the air raid sirens sounded in Ham for the 379th time.  Most of those warnings would have sounded over the previous three months, and anxiety in Ham would also have been exacerbated by residents’ awareness of the four civilian deaths, a month before, in Petersham.  Ham families would have been only too aware of the consequences of bombing, reinforced by the experience of the evacuees from the East End, billeted, temporarily, in Ham and Petersham, while awaiting evacuation to safer areas.

Michael was only two years old so the last few months of his short life would have been punctuated by those sirens and he may well have sensed any stress that sound evoked in others.   At that stage, he was his parents’ only child—indeed it was not until some years after the end of the war that their second son, Alan, was born.  This tragic experience and their loss of Michael was not something which, as loving parents, they allowed to overshadow Alan’s life, and they rarely mentioned it to him. He noticed, however, the reaction of his mother, throughout her life, to the sound of any siren.

Apart from the deaths of Louisa and Michael, and the injury to the Newmans’ daughter, two other families in Mead Road were affected by the loss of their children on active service during the Second World War. Corporal William Henry Burkmar had died earlier that year, on 29 May, in Belgium, while Aircraftwoman Irene Daisy Collett was killed in 1943. William’s parents lived at 2 Mead Road and the Colletts at number 26.

On Remembrance Day last year, a group of Year 6 children, including two who live in Mead Road, conducted their own Remembrance Ceremony, paying tribute to those commemorated on the War Memorial. Amongst the photographs they were shown of people commemorated on the War Memorial, was one of Michael, given to me by his brother, after our visit to the grave of Michael and Louisa in Richmond Cemetery.

Ham’s GI bride
Louisa’s daughter, still in her teens when her mother died, served in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. After the war, she was able to make a fresh start in America, with marriage to Steve Peter Jarett, a native of Medicine Lodge, Kansas, whom she had met in Algiers, when she was serving there with the Air Force and he with the U.S. Air Force. Her naturalisation record shows that she arrived in New York on board the Queen Elizabeth on 16 October 1947.  At that time the vessel was deployed in transporting servicemen and GI brides back to the USA.  Jackie (as Marguerite was known) and Steve married three weeks later, in Los Angeles, the city to which his sisters and their husbands had emigrated in order to work in the ‘defense plants’—presumably the wartime munitions industry.  Following their marriage, Jackie and Steve were also to make Los Angeles their permanent home, and there they raised their sons, Stefan and Keith.

Sources
Richmond & Twickenham Times, ‘Killed in Bombing Raid’, 30 November 1940, p.8.
Richmond & Twickenham Times, ‘The late Mrs Spiers’, 30 November 1940, p.9.

Acknowledgement
Alan Jux, Michael’s brother, provided information about the effect of this tragedy on his parents, and permitted me to use the photo of Michael which accompanies this post. His interest and co-operation are much appreciated.
Information provided on the Find A Grave website, contributed by Lloyd Williams, a cousin of Steve Jarett, provided helpful information on where Jackie and Steve met.  I have attempted to contact Mr Williams, but have, so far, had no response.

Notes
According to official records, these fatalities occurred on 23 November. However, the newspaper report of their joint funeral stated that Louisa and Michael had died on Friday 22 November.  The earlier report of the raid, described it as happening “one night last weekend”. I have chosen to go by the official records, aware that almost every newspaper report on this has been either deliberately vague (with the enemy spies in mind) or unintentionally inaccurate (when reliant on hearsay).
Descendants of Louisa’s mother, Emma Wadlow Grimes, are welcome to contact me for further information about Emma’s ancestors. In the course of confirming the relationship between Lizzie and Louisa, a family reconstitution exercise was required.  I am happy to provide this information to proven descendants.

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Herbert Wells (1881–1917)

41249 Private Herbert Wells,
2nd Battalion, Middlesex Regiment,
Died of wounds, 13 May 1917, Peronne, France.
Buried at the La Chapellete Cemetery.

Herbert Wells was one of three Ham brothers who were killed as a result of enemy action in The Great War. Their father, Daniel (1851–1904), was a house painter who had moved south from Stamford in Lincolnshire and had married Sarah Jane Tantony Hawkes (1852–1939) at Holy Trinity, Paddington in 1873. Sarah was a native of Ham, as was her mother, Mary Tantony.  After the birth of Edmund, their first child, the couple left Paddington, and moved to Ham.

Herbert, their fifth son and seventh child was born in Ham on 8 December 1881.  The family was already beginning to run out of names: Herbert was the middle name of his older brother, Daniel Herbert, whose first name was the middle name of their eldest brother Edmund Daniel.  Herbert was the first of their seventeen children to be given just one Christian name, and thereafter, of the ten children to follow him, only Mary Hawkes Wells, named after her maternal grandparents William Norton Hawkes and Mary Tantony, was given a second name.

Herbert grew up at 2 Poynter’s Cottages, in the back garden of which was a large outhouse, where his mother worked as a laundress, assisted in the business by fellow laundresses—neighbours and, perhaps occasionally, by a visiting daughter. (Given the size of their family, at a relatively early age, the older children had to make way for later arrivals, but it has been interesting to see that, while Sarah’s daughters all went into service as housemaids and kitchenmaids, they were often able to find employment in a household where a sister was also employed.)

After leaving the Ham National School, Herbert found work as a gardener at the ‘Golf Grounds’, and, like George Darnell, was likely to have been working at the nearest golf club to Ham, which was in Sudbrook Park.  Herbert married Laura Sparkes in St Andrew’s in 1911, a venue where eight months later, his younger brother, Thaddeus, was to marry her younger sister, Florence Mary.

Because Herbert died of wounds, and his service record has not survived, we cannot determine in precisely which action he was mortally wounded.  The action closest to his death, on 13 May 1917, occurred eight days earlier when the battalion, together with the 2nd Scottish Rifles raided the outworks of the Hindenburg.   Among the Other Ranks, there were four deaths, three men missing, and 48 wounded.

From the entry for Herbert in the Register of Soldier’s Effects, we know that he died at the No. 34 Casualty Clearing Station (or C.C.S.)  At the time of his death, that C.C.S was stationed at La Chapellette, near Peronne, in France.  Unfortunately, for the period in which Herbert was a patient, the MH 106 records for Other Ranks at that Clearing Station are not amongst the ones held at The National Archives.  A Casualty Clearing Station is the final point in the casualty evacuation chain, from where wounded soldiers, unless close to death, would be moved to a larger and better equipped Base Hospital.

Private Wells is buried in the cemetery at La Chapellete.  The wooden cross, which originally marked his grave, was returned to his family when those crosses were replaced by CWGC headstones.  It later passed to St Andrew’s Church, along with the cross for his brother, Thaddeus, and both crosses can be seen in the gallery above the West Door of St Andrew’s Church, Ham. Their brother, William, who was lost at sea, has no known grave so he is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial, with other sailors lost at sea.

Herbert’s death was reported as follows, in the Richmond and Twickenham Times of 9 June, under the headline, Heroes of Ham:

News has been received that Private Herbert Wells, son of Mrs Wells, of Poynter’s Cottages, has fallen in action in France, he being the third (sic) son that Mrs Wells has lost in the war. The sincerest sympathy is felt with her.

For Herbert’s widow, there would be more grief in the weeks ahead.  Three weeks after Herbert’s death, his brother, Thaddeus, who was the husband of her sister Laura, so Laura’s brother-in-law twice over, was killed in action.  Laura, lived for the rest of her life with her younger sister, Florence, Thaddeus’s widow and their two children, at 6 Catherine Villas, New Road. Both widows supplemented their income as local School Caretakers.

Laura died in Kingston Hospital, six years after her sister Florence, still a resident of the house in New Road that had been their home for so many years.  Laura’s ashes were interred in the Churchyard of St Andrew’s Church.

She was survived by her younger sister, Emily Jane Phillips, to whom probate on her estate was granted.

 

Sources

The National Archives, WO 95/1713/1, War Diary, 2 Bn Middlesex Regiment. If you are viewing this online, you need to choose to view the file named WO-95-1713-1_2.pdf.  Then locate p.165 (of 193) and keep reading.

National Army Museum, Registers of Soldier’s Effects, Accession Number 1991-02-333, Record Number 529033.

 

Was your Ham ancestor, like Herbert Wells, a market gardener?

You might like to visit The Model Market Garden in Marble Hill Park and the travelling exhibition Feeding London: the forgotten market gardens, which is at Squires Garden Centre in Twickenham, but only until 15 February 2016.

 

Posted in Army, Relatives on Ham Memorial | Leave a comment

Thaddeus Wells (1886–1917)


30214 Private Thaddeus Wells,

7/Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers,
Killed in action, 7 June 1917, Flanders.

Thaddeus Wells was the third of the sons of Daniel and Sarah Wells to be killed in the Great War.  He was a ‘motor workman’ by trade, and thus able to give agriculture a wide berth. On 6 January 1912 in St Andrew’s Church, he married Florence Mary Sparkes whose elder sister, Laura, had married his brother Herbert just seven months earlier. Thaddeus and Florence moved to Fulham where their son, Walter Thaddeus named after his maternal grandfather and his father, was born on 18 May 1914, three months before the outbreak of war.  A daughter, Evelyn Florence followed two years later.  As his service records have not survived, we cannot be sure when Thaddeus enlisted in the 7th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Fulham.  The 7th Battalion was a Service Battalion, one of nine ‘New Army’ battalions to be raised by his regiment.

Thaddeus, known, apparently,  as ‘Thad’ was not the first to be named Thaddeus in the Wells family.  Daniel, his father, had an uncle, Thaddeus (c.1808–), a ‘professor of music’, who named one of his sons, also a musician, Thaddeus (1832–1906).  This Thaddeus, a cousin of Daniel Wells has a link with Kingston because it was there that, at All Saints’ Church, in 1865, he married the singer Emma Jenkins (1840–1885).  This was several years before Daniel appears in Ham, after his marriage to Sarah in 1873 and at least five years before Daniel left Stamford.

Thursday 7 June 1917 marked the start of the Battle of Messines Ridge, an Allied offensive whose objective was to deprive the Germans of the advantageous position they held there, south of Ypres. The action was also intended to take pressure off the French on the Aisne front.  Thaddeus’s battalion was at the Wytschaete end of the ridge, known by the troops as ‘Whitesheet’, between, on their left the 6th/8th Wiltshires, and on the right, the 7/8th Royal Irish Fusiliers.

The day started early for the officers and men of Thaddeus’s  battalion.  By 1.35 that morning, all were in position in readiness for what the war diary describes as “the upheaval of mines”.  Miners had been preparing for this preparatory ‘upheaval’ and had dug and packed 21 mines with well over 450 tonnes of explosive.  While the Germans had been aware that the British were mining, they had no idea how extensive that mining was, nor how devastating the explosions would be, when all but 2 were fired successfully at 3.10 a.m. This was the time at which it was expected that there would be sufficient light to see a man at 100 yards (about 90 metres). Immediately afterwards, two companies of the 7th Battalion moved forward, followed by the remaining companies, in a second wave,  100 yards behind the first. Initially there was little opposition, and, apart from sporadic firing from shell-holes and intermittent machine-gun fire, this situation continued.

Having reached one of their targets, the RED line, not ideal either “as a line of defence or from which to reinforce”  they consolidated their position there together with the Irish Fusiliers. The A and B companies, with their ‘moppers up’ achieved the battalion’s first two objectives, with the C and D companies and their ‘moppers up’ achieving the battalion’s third and fourth objectives, reaching the BLUE line, by 4.45 a.m.  Along the way between 100 and 125 prisoners were taken, with two machine guns in good serviceable condition were captured.  At 7 a.m. the Battalion Headquarters gave instructions for the battalion’s withdrawal to the CHINESE wall, and once the overnight gains had been consolidated, this went ahead.

Wells Widows 23 New Road was 6 Catherine Villas

6 Catherine Villas

Thaddeus was one of 14 men of the 7th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers to be killed on 7 June. Five others died subsequently as a result of wounds received.  The previous month his brother, Herbert, had died of wounds in France.  A report in the Richmond & Twickenham Times, nine days later, mentions the great sympathy felt for the boys’ mother, for their widows, ‘the Misses Sparkes,’ and for Thaddeus’s young children.

Their widows, Florence and Laura, lived together at 6 Catherine Villas, in New Road, for the remainder of their lives.  Thaddeus and Florence had both been born in Ham, and Thaddeus’s children, while natives of Fulham, were able to grow up in its pleasant, rural surroundings, within walking distance of their Wells and Sparkes grandmothers.

Aftermath
Thaddeus Wells is buried in La Laiterie Cemetry.  The wooden cross, which originally marked his grave, was returned to his family when the crosses were replaced by headstones.  It later passed to St Andrew’s Church, along with the cross for his brother, Herbert, and both crosses can be seen in the gallery above the West Door of St Andrew’s Church, Ham.  Their brother, William, who was lost at sea, has no known grave and is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial.

Sources
Richmond and Twickenham Times, ‘Private Thadeus (sic) Wells’,16/6/1917, p.6.
TNA, WO 95/1977, War Diary of 7/Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 7 June 1917. If viewing this online, you want the file WO-95-1977_1.pdf and 7 June begins on image 107 of 168.
‘The Battle of Messines’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Messines_(1917), accessed 19/1/2016.

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William Norton Wells (1875–1916)

163809 Petty Officer William Norton Wells, R.N.V.R.,
HM Drifter Kent County,
Lost at sea, off Lowestoft, 8 December 1916.

Daniel Wells (1851–1904) and his wife Sarah Jane Tantony Hawkes (1852–1939) followed the traditional pattern in naming William, their second son, after his maternal grandfather, William Norton Hawkes (1825–1869).  William’s parents were introduced in an earlier post Hardest hit—the Wells family.

Having first worked in Ham as a ‘garden boy’, William Norton Wells joined the Royal Navy shortly before his 16th birthday.  On his 18th birthday, two years later, he signed up for 12 years’ continuous service.  We have a physical description of him at this point.  His height had increased since 1891, by half an inch to 5ft 5½in, while his hair was brown, his eyes grey and his complexion ‘fresh’.

Examining his service record, we can see a steady rise through the ranks from Boy 2nd Class in 1891 to Petty Officer in 1899.

William did not see out his 12 years’ ‘continuous service, purchasing instead his release shortly before his marriage to Edith Emily Eyles in 1902. He did, however, immediately join the Royal Fleet Reserve and so was liable to be summoned in the event of war. Back in civilian life, William was to work as an electrician.

William and Edith made their home at 22 Lilian Road in Barnes, where their eldest son, Albert Frederick was born the following year.  He was followed by Edith May in 1905, Elsie Edith Emily, in 1911, a second Albert (but Albert Walter Edward) in 1914 and finally, Norton William James, in 1915, a year before his father’s death.

William’s skills as an electric wireman were vital to the navy, and he lost no time, when war appeared imminent, in re-enrolling in the Royal Navy two days before the declaration of war. After just a week at Chatham, he was assigned briefly to the Actaeon for a fortnight, and thereafter spent the bulk of his time in the navy on board HMS Halcyon.

At the time of his death William was serving as Petty Officer on the 86-ton steel drifter, HMD Kent County,  Built in 1911 by the shipbuilders Cochrane and Sons, the drifter had been owned in peacetime by the County Fishing Co. Ltd, but was taken over by the Royal Navy for use as a patrol boat.

On 8 December 1916, the drifter sank off Cross Sand, near Lowestoft, with the loss of all 11 men on board.  Records indicate that it was “presumed mined”. I have not been able to find a report of his death in the Richmond and Twickenham Times, but we can be in no doubt that it was a severe blow to his wife.  Her older children were still at school, and three were under 5.

William was killed on his brother Herbert’s birthday.  His younger brothers, Herbert and Thaddeus were to die within six months of William’s death, and within three weeks of each other.

William’s body was not recovered, so he has no known grave, and is therefore among those commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial.

The Barnes Directory for 1939 records that “Mrs Wells”  was still living in the family home at 22 Lilian Road with her youngest child, Norton. (Norton Wells died in 1941 at the age of 25.)

The WW2 bomb map for Barnes shows that, among the many bombs to be dropped over Barnes, one landed in the rear garden of 20 Lilian Road in February 1941, fortunately without resulting in any casualties. This was the quarter in which Norton died. If William’s widow was at home, and alone, when this occurred, it could have been a frightening experience.

Sources
The National Archives, ADM 188/242/163809, Service Record of William Noughton (sic) Wells.

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Christmas 1916: gifts for the troops

While searching the Richmond and Twickenham Times of December 1916 recently, hoping to find a report of the death of William Norton Wells—there wasn’t one—I found, on page 7 of the issue of 2 December 1916, a report on a fundraising event in the parish.  The report noted that “A Whist Drive was held at the Working Men’s Institute to enable Christmas gifts to be sent to men from Ham now serving abroad. There was a record number of thirty-five tables.”

This report adds that “Mrs Higgins presented the prizes to the numerous winners and was presented with a beautiful bunch of chrysanthemums given by the hon[orary] treasurer (Mr F.C. Burgess)”

In the following week’s edition of the Richmond and Twickenham Times, it was announced that the sum raised had amounted to £11 17s.

The report added that this success “was largely due to the donors of the prizes: Lord and Lady Sudeley, Mrs Dumas, Mrs Higgins, Mrs Noble, Mrs Field, Mrs Shadwell, Mr Fisher, a Friend and A.N. Other.”

These reports appeared a few weeks before the meeting described in the post Decision as to tribute to the gallant dead,    Readers may recognise, amongst these names, some of those familiar to us from the account of that particular meeting as being  ‘leading lights’ in the decision to erect a memorial cross on a piece of land then on the common land, but which was to be included in the Churchyard.

Lord and Lady Sudeley had lost their son Felix in 1914, and Mrs Noble her son, Archie in 1916.  Mrs Field was Mrs Noble’s daughter, and the sister of Archie Noble.  Her husband, Kenneth Douglas Field, was a professional soldier, who would be killed nearly a year later, in November 1917.

The other key donors of prizes are also familiar to us, except for Mrs Dumas and Mr Fisher.  Mrs Dumas is likely to be the wife of Gerald Piers Dumas, who was living at Langham House at about this time.  We are not completely sure of the identity of “Mr Fisher”, but he is likely to be John Fisher, of Whinhurst, on Ham Common.   If, however, he was Thomas Abner Fisher, a market gardener, then he was the father of Thomas Henry Fisher, who was killed in September 1918.  The Fishers lived at 7 Hope Place, behind what is now 323 Petersham Road.  There was another family of Fishers in Ham, in 1911, but William Fisher, a boot repairer, the head of that household seems also rather less likely to be the Mr Fisher who donated a prize.

What was the comparative value in today’s currency of £11 17s?
This sum may not sound a great deal, but according to The National Archives’ Currency Converter, £11 17s in 1915 would have the purchasing power of £510.26 in 2005.  This tool requires you to choose from a year listed in multiples of five years, and supplies a result in terms of the equivalent ‘value’ of the amount in 2005.

The Purchasing Power Calculator on the site Measuring Worth, offers several options depending on what type of relative value you are seeking.  The results suggest that an amount of £11 17s in 1916 had a relative value of at least £717.60 in 2014.

Sources
Richmond and Twickenham Times, 2 December 1916, p.7

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