Sunday, February 12, 2017

Chailey War Memorial


Here's another photo from the unveiling of Chailey's war memorial on the 2nd October 1920. The crop below shows some of the men of the parish, but who are they?


Thomas Deadman is the man on the far right, but what about the other men, and who is the officer? A Blencowe perhaps? Also see my earlier post on the unveiling of Chailey's War Memorial.

10298 Pte Ernest Kelsey, Royal Fusiliers; later SE/31883 AVC

Private Ernest Kelsey was a patient at Beechland House Newick in 1917.  His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

The happiest hours of my life,
Were spent in the arms of another man’s wife,
My Mother.

Pte E J Kelsey
22 Royal Fusiliers
(Coventry)
9.8.17

He shares this page in her album with Sergeant H Hunter and 11066 Band Boy John William Pate, Dragoon Guards.

He is probably the same Private Kelsey who is mentioned in The East Sussex News of Friday June 29th 1917.  The paper reports:

INTERESTING STOOLBALL MATCH
The contestants were Major Grantham’s team of officers of The Royal Flying Corps from Brook House (Chailey) Convalescent Hospital and Miss Cotesworth’s team of NCOs and men from Beechlands (Newick) Convalescent Hospital, and the former gained an easy victory by 50 runs. 

The same match had also been reported on five days earlier in The Sussex Express which said that the event had taken place:

… at Balneath Manor, the residence of Major W W Grantham, between officers of the Royal Flying Corps from Brook House, the new convalescent Hospital, and a team from Beechlands Convalescent Hospital.  Those from Brook House were easy winners.  Needless to say, Mrs Grantham entertained the company present to tea.

Ernest John Kelsey was born in the market town of Bedworth in Warwickshire in about 1882.  He was a hatter by trade and appears on the 1911 census, aged 29, and still living in the family home with his brother and two sisters, all in their twenties.

No service record survives for Ernest but his medal index card gives the number 10298 for The Royal Fusiliers and SE/31883 for the Army Veterinary Corps.  The Royal Fusiliers regimental number dates to December 1914 whilst the AVC number is much later and dates to about the 8th or 9th October 1917, a couple of months after Ernest signed Nurse Oliver's album.  As he was only entitled to the British War and Victory Medal he was presumably wounded - or fell sick - overseas with the Royal Fusiliers, returned to England, transferred to the AVC, and then went back to France. 

Ernest Kelsey survived the war and died in late 1944 or 1945, his death registered at Nuneaton in the first quarter of 1945.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Mothers of the Empire - Mrs James Pointing of Chailey

On Friday 6th April 1917 the Sussex Express published a photograph of Mrs James Pointing of Chailey and her four sons and one son-in law. The digital version of this page is now available on Findmypast and The British Newspaper Library. This particular page, which is probably from old microfilm, has not scanned well and so anyone who desires a better copy is advised to go to the British Library and recall the original paper. There are separate pages on this blog for the men who are reported in the Sussex Express as:

Pte W Pointing, The Buffs
Sgt F Pointing, Royal Flying Corps
Pte G Pointing, Queen's Own
Signaller G Pointing, Sussex Yeomanry
Cpl E F Stephens, Royal Fusiliers

For what it's worth, even though it's a poor copy, I've reproduced the image on this post. Mrs Alice Pointing (who was possibly the cook for Sussex 54 VAD) is pictured below:




Beauty & The Beast

On Friday 9th February the East Sussex News published an article on "an entertainment" - Beauty and The Beast - which took place at The Parish Room, Chailey.  The full cast list was also printed, some of the players also appearing in Nurse Oliver's album.

The article and two subsequent articles are reproduced below.  Over time, I will add links for those men and women who appear in Nurse Oliver's album. For the others who didn't record an entry, all we know for sure is that they were convalescing at Beechlands in February 1917.

ENTERTAINMENT AT THE PARISH ROOM
An entertainment by the soldiers and staff of The Beechlands Red Cross Hospital, assisted by a few friends, took place at The Parish Room on Wednesday evening.  The proceeds are for The Prisoners of War Fund and, judging by the crowded room, the fund should benefit by a considerable sum.  Beauty and The Beast, a pantomime in three acts, proved very amusing and created roars of laughter.  It was preceded by comic songs by Mr Gus Avery. Songs by Miss Hoather and recitations by Miss Beauchamp Marshall.  The characters in the pantomime were represented as follows: Beauty, Pte Keenan; Beast, Lc-Sgt Croft; Languor, Pte Lucas; Vanity, Rfm Maginnis; Merchant, Lc-Corpl Smith (Canadians); Fairy Godmother, Lc-Corpl McCrorie; Folly, Rfm Hobbs; Commonsense, Gunr Bright; King Cole, Corpl Reynolds; Fiddler, Pte Flynn; Fiddler, S-S Atkinson; Fiddler and Farmer’s Boy, Lc-Corpl Stern; Highlander, Pte McKenzie; Queen of Hearts, Pte Oliver; Knave of Hearts, Pte Hubbard; Knight, Pte Lincoln; Wizard I, Pte Head; Wizard II, Pte Gray; Wizard III, Pte Washbourne; Bo-peep, Pte Proctor; Poppy, Pte Brassington; Bee, Lc-Corpl Smith (Buffs); Firefly I, Pte Robinson; Firefly II, Pte Jennings; Forget-me-not, Pte Hoidge; Fairies, Misses J and K Fenn.

Sunday February 18th 1917 - Chailey [The Sussex Express]
ENTERTAINMENT
The Parish Room was crowded with a large and appreciative audience on Wednesday evening, when a variety entertainment, organised by Miss Cotesworth, was given.  The first part consisted of song and recitations.  The second half of the programme was composed of a short musical play in three acts written by Miss Hughes, entitled ‘Beauty and The Beast”.  The proceeds will be donated to the Prisoners of War Fund.

February 23rd 1917 [The Sussex Express]

The variety entertainment which was held at the Parish Room a fortnight ago realised £9,17s for the Prisoners of War Fund.

Newspaper roll-call - Hickwells & Beechlands


On my original Chailey 1914-1918 website I included a page of extracts from local newspapers which mentioned convalescent patients and nurses. I am re-publishing that page here. For some of the men noted here, their name-checks is the only information I have.

The men whose names appear in bold, do not appear in Nurse Oliver’s album but from contemporary newspaper reports it is obvious that they were patients at Hickwells or Beechlands.  For the most part, they are referred to only by their rank and surname and it is therefore virtually impossible to research them further.  They do however warrant inclusion on this website and if any further information about any of the men named here comes to light, I will publish it in due course.

Soldiers highlighted in blue did leave an entry in Nurse Oliver’s album and their biographies can be accessed by clicking on their names.  A separate roll-call for men appearing in the February 1917 pantomime, “Beauty and the Beast” can be accessed by following the link.

Sussex Express
November 5th 1915 - Page 12 - Chailey 
CONCERT - A highly successful concert was held at the Parish Room the other evening.  The proceeds were in aid of the building fund and the performers included several wounded soldiers… duets: Corporal Wood and Private Allan; … song “The Sunshine of Your Smile”, Corporal Wood … recitation, “Wreck of the Hesperus”, Private Goldborough… The soldiers were cheered immediately they reached the platform.

Sussex Daily News
Friday November 26th 1915
CONCERT AT CHAILEY
A successful concert was held in the Chailey Parish Room on Wednesday evening in aid of the building fund.  The programme was composed mostly of items by the soldier patients of Hickwells Relief Hospital and, judging by the vociferous encores, was much appreciated.  A popular contribution seemed to be ‘Hickwells Band’ which, though not very tuneful, was certainly responsible for plenty of fun.  Bombardier Ryan announced the items and gave an excellent comic song with tambourine dance.  Sergeant Sheppard gave some bugle calls of the British Army.  Driver Bradley kept the audience in roars of laughter with his comic songs.  Corporal Nash, Lance-Corporal Smith and Private Allen’s [sic] songs were much appreciated.  The only civilian who took part was Mr Stone, who sang a couple of songs.

Sussex Daily News
Friday December 3rd 1915
WOUNDED SOLDIERS ENTERTAIN THEIR FRIENDS AT CHAILEY
The soldiers at Hickwells Relief Hospital at Chailey were ‘at home’ to their friends on Wednesday afternoon and by way of amusing them gave two excellent entertainments - one at 2:30 and the other at 4:30.  The bugle called the performers together and when the screens were withdrawn a nice little group of waxworks was disclosed, Bombardier Ryan shewing off their ‘beauties’ in his usual amusing way.  Corporal Nash (as St George) and Private Allen [sic] sang the ‘Tin Gee Gee’, Private Wise and Sergeant Calvert making two fascinating ‘Little Dolly Girls’.  Rifleman Collins, still on crutches, made a splendid broken doll.  Lance-Corporal Smith was a Japanese Lady, and, later on, although only having the use of one arm, cleverly ‘vamped’ some accompaniments.  While dresses were being changed, Private Hume and Private MacBride sang and danced, and then to the tune of ‘Here We Are Again’, Hickwells’ Pierrot troupe appeared and gave a spirited entertainment.  Driver Bradley and Private Allen [sic] made excellent ‘Corner Men’ and Bombardier Ryan was capital as the ‘Master of Ceremonies’.  The troupe included, besides those already mentioned, Sergeant Calvert, Sergeant Sheppard, Corporal Nash, Lance-Corporal Smith, Privates Wise and Holleran, Driver Cleary and Corporal Dicks, many of whom sang and recited.  Two of the nurses helped at the piano

Sussex Daily News
Monday December 20th 1915
SOLDIERS’ CONCERT AT CHAILEY
The soldiers at Hickwells’ Relief Hospital gave another entertainment to their friends on Friday evening and had an appreciative and crowded audience.  Corporal Nash made an excellent Master of the Ceremonies.  The performers were in fancy dress, some quite fine ‘ladies’ being among them.  ‘Hickwells’ Famous Band’ opened the proceedings.  Many and various were the instruments, from bells, drums, whistle-pipes and tambourines, while even a brass candlestick was made use of, and last but not least an accordion.  No encores were allowed and two of the nurses helped at the piano.

[There then follows a programme list - omitted here - performed by: Drummer Davis, Private Holyrod, Private Hume, Private Allen [sic], Lance-Corporal Savage, Corporal Nash and Private Wise].  Besides those already mentioned, the band included Sergeant Calvert, Corporal Littler, Driver Cleary, Private Harrison, Private McBride, Private Ladd, Private Dawson and Private Kearton.

Sussex Daily News
Friday January 21st 1916
IN AID OF BLINDED SOLDIERS - SUCCESSFUL CHAILEY CONCERT
In aid of St Dunstans Home, London, for soldiers blinded through the war, an enjoyable concert was held in the Chailey Parish Room on Wednesday evening.  The programme was nicely varied… wounded soldiers contributing three items.

… Gunner Davis and Private McCann each had to give a well deserved encore, and Private Baddock, in spite of a badly wounded head, gave some extremely clever ‘lightning sketches’ on the blackboard, illustrating some topics of the day, as for instance, ‘Lord Derby’s Christmas box for the Kaiser’, ‘Bottled up in the Kiel Canal’, ‘A captured British General’ (Omnibus) &c.


East Sussex News
Friday October 13th 1916
NEWICK – CONCERT IN AID OF ‘OUR DAY’
… the performers consisted of convalescent soldiers from The Beechland Auxiliary Hospital and several ladies, for the most part from Brighton… [Performers mentioned: Private McWilliams, Private Gordon, Private Raynor–Smith, Lance-Corporal Beeching, Private Tomkinson, Lance-Corporal Coates.  Proceeds amounted to £10] “Performers took tea together at the Beechland Hospital, after which the programme was repeated there for the benefit of those who were inacpable of going to hear it at the Reading Room.

East Sussex News
Friday January 26th 1917
[Whist drive reported – soldiers noted are: Private Maginnis, Rifleman Head, Corporal W Reynolds, Private H Proctor, Corporal A E Smith.]

Sussex Express
Friday January 26th 1917
WHIST DRIVE - A whist drive was held in the Reading Room on Wednesday in aid of the Red Cross Hospital ‘Bucklands’, [sic] Newick.  There were 24 ½  tables and the funds will benefit by £2,2s.  The prizes and winners were … Gentlemen … 3rd Private Magginniss, [sic] pipe rack, 170 points; hidden number, Rifleman F Head, money purse, 163 points.  For wounded soldiers only: 1st, Corporal Reynolds (bogey, bogey), 100 cigarettes, 169 points; lowest, Private Proctor, 10 cigarettes, 137 points, hidden number, Corporal Smith (better known as “Canada”), 50 cigarettes, 78 points.  The prizes, which, with the refreshments, and a box of cigars, for wounded soldiers only, the gift of a lady), were given away by Mrs Oldaker, to whom a hearty vote of thanks were recorded…

Sussex Express
March 23rd 1917 - Newick
[Another Whist Drive is reported held on March 22nd - 20 tables - special prizes for wounded soldiers going to Private Warner and Private Jennings.  Note, this may be the same Private Jennings who appeared in the Beauty and The Beast Pantomime held in February 1917.]

East Sussex News
Friday December 28th1917
[whist drive in aid of Reading Room.  Wounded soldiers mentioned: Pte Duffy, Pte Swift, Grenadier Whitwan.]

Sunday, January 29, 2017

21675 Pte O Keenan, Border Regt

I know very little about this man. He appeared in a performance of Beauty & The Beast which was reported in The East Sussex News and the Sussex Express in February 1917. He is reported simply as Pte Keenan and he played the role of Beauty. I have a note form another source that he was 21675 Pte O Keenan but that is all that I currently know.  The newspaper articles are reproduced below.  

Sunday 9th February 1917 [The Sussex News]
ENTERTAINMENT AT THE PARISH ROOM
An entertainment by the soldiers and staff of The Beechlands Red Cross Hospital, assisted by a few friends, took place at The Parish Room on Wednesday evening.  The proceeds are for The Prisoners of War Fund and, judging by the crowded room, the fund should benefit by a considerable sum.  Beauty and The Beast, a pantomime in three acts, proved very amusing and created roars of laughter.  It was preceded by comic songs by Mr Gus Avery. Songs by Miss Hoather and recitations by Miss Beauchamp Marshall.  The characters in the pantomime were represented as follows: Beauty, Pte Keenan; Beast, Lc-Sgt Croft; Languor, Pte Lucas; Vanity, Rfm Maginnis; Merchant, Lc-Corpl Smith (Canadians); Fairy Godmother, Lc-Corpl McCrorie; Folly, Rfm Hobbs; Commonsense, Gunr Bright; King Cole, Corpl Reynolds; Fiddler, Pte Flynn; Fiddler, S-S Atkinson; Fiddler and Farmer’s Boy, Lc-Corpl Stern; Highlander, Pte McKenzie; Queen of Hearts, Pte Oliver; Knave of Hearts, Pte Hubbard; Knight, Pte Lincoln; Wizard I, Pte Head; Wizard II, Pte Gray; Wizard III, Pte Washbourne; Bo-peep, Pte Proctor; Poppy, Pte Brassington; Bee, Lc-Corpl Smith (Buffs); Firefly I, Pte Robinson; Firefly II, Pte Jennings; Forget-me-not, Pte Hoidge; Fairies, Misses J and K Fenn.


Sunday February 18th 1917 - Chailey [The Sussex Express]
ENTERTAINMENT. 
The Parish Room was crowded with a large and appreciative audience on Wednesday evening, when a variety entertainment, organised by Miss Cotesworth, was given.  The first part consisted of song and recitations.  The second half of the programme was composed of a short musical play in three acts written by Miss Hughes, entitled ‘Beauty and The Beast”.  The proceeds will be donated to the Prisoners of War Fund.

February 23rd 1917 [The Sussex Express]

The variety entertainment which was held at the Parish Room a fortnight ago realised £9,17s for the Prisoners of War Fund.

Shoeing-Smith Atkinson

I know very little about this man. He appeared in a performance of Beauty & The Beast which was reported in The East Sussex News and the Sussex Express in February 1917. He is reported simply as "S-S Atkinson" which I take to mean Shoeing-Smith. The common surname means that he will be almost impossible to identify further. The articles are reproduced below.  

Sunday 9th February 1917 [The Sussex News]
ENTERTAINMENT AT THE PARISH ROOM
An entertainment by the soldiers and staff of The Beechlands Red Cross Hospital, assisted by a few friends, took place at The Parish Room on Wednesday evening.  The proceeds are for The Prisoners of War Fund and, judging by the crowded room, the fund should benefit by a considerable sum.  Beauty and The Beast, a pantomime in three acts, proved very amusing and created roars of laughter.  It was preceded by comic songs by Mr Gus Avery. Songs by Miss Hoather and recitations by Miss Beauchamp Marshall.  The characters in the pantomime were represented as follows: Beauty, Pte Keenan; Beast, Lc-Sgt Croft; Languor, Pte Lucas; Vanity, Rfm Maginnis; Merchant, Lc-Corpl Smith (Canadians); Fairy Godmother, Lc-Corpl McCrorie; Folly, Rfm Hobbs; Commonsense, Gunr Bright; King Cole, Corpl Reynolds; Fiddler, Pte Flynn; Fiddler, S-S Atkinson; Fiddler and Farmer’s Boy, Lc-Corpl Stern; Highlander, Pte McKenzie; Queen of Hearts, Pte Oliver; Knave of Hearts, Pte Hubbard; Knight, Pte Lincoln; Wizard I, Pte Head; Wizard II, Pte Gray; Wizard III, Pte Washbourne; Bo-peep, Pte Proctor; Poppy, Pte Brassington; Bee, Lc-Corpl Smith (Buffs); Firefly I, Pte Robinson; Firefly II, Pte Jennings; Forget-me-not, Pte Hoidge; Fairies, Misses J and K Fenn.


Sunday February 18th 1917 - Chailey [The Sussex Express]
ENTERTAINMENT. 
The Parish Room was crowded with a large and appreciative audience on Wednesday evening, when a variety entertainment, organised by Miss Cotesworth, was given.  The first part consisted of song and recitations.  The second half of the programme was composed of a short musical play in three acts written by Miss Hughes, entitled ‘Beauty and The Beast”.  The proceeds will be donated to the Prisoners of War Fund.

February 23rd 1917 [The Sussex Express]

The variety entertainment which was held at the Parish Room a fortnight ago realised £9,17s for the Prisoners of War Fund.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Fred Yeomans writes home


I was lucky enough to pick up this postcard on eBay last week. It was written by Fred Yeomans to his younger sister Florence back home in Chailey. He wrote,

M[y] O[wn] D[ear] Florr

Thanks so much for your most welcome letter just received, also [unclear] [unclear]. I was so pleased to hear that you are feeling better [unclear]; take great care of yourself. I am feeling quite fit. What rotten weather we are having; us have had rain, hail and snow; quite a selection[unclear]. I will write to [unclear] tomorrow. Good night dearest sis, fondest love and heaps of x. I remain, for ever, your loving Bro, xxx Fred xxx

The card is dated 16th April 1917 and was probably with Florence a few days later as there is a British postmark dated 19th April.

I am delighted to have found this card which adds another small detail to Frederick Yeomans' life.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Rifleman Hardcastle


I know next to nothing about this man. The photograph above, pasted into Nurse Oliver's album, identifies Rifleman Hardcastle as the man sitting front left with an eye injury.  That he is indicated as a Rifleman suggests a Rifle regiment of course like the King's Royal Rifle Corps or the Rifle Brigade; perhaps a Territorial Force battalion like the 5th London Regiment or the 6th King's (Liverpool Regiment); there are many possibilities. 

The photo was taken at Beechland House in the summer of 1916 but that, pretty much, is all that I know of Rifleman Hardcastle.

11976 Pte John Edward Griffiths, 10th Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment)

11976 Private John Edward Griffiths was a patient at Beechland House in 1916.  His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

Pte J E Griffiths
11796
West Riding Regt
Gassed at Plugstreet

Aug 29/16

Private Griffiths shares this page with 486742 Sapper Arthur Bee of the 470th Field Company, Royal Engineers.

John Griffiths was born in 1885 and - judging by his regimental number - almost certainly enlisted around 8th September 1914.  11794 Arthur Dunkerley certainly enlisted on this date, and with a number just two digits greater, it seems a good bet that John Griffiths did too. Nevertheless, he certainly didn't go overseas until 1916 as his medal index card indicates that he only received the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

It is uncertain from John's autograph entry and the scant surviving information regarding his war service, whether he was gassed on the 29th August 1916 or whether that was the date of his entry in Nurse Oliver’s album.  The medal roll entry notes that John served with the 10th West Riding Regiment which formed part of the 69th Brigade in the 23rd Division.

After he had recuperated at Beechland House he was transferred to the Durham Light Infantry and later discharged from its 21st Battalion on 2nd May 1918.  This suggests that he was a casualty for a second time.  By this stage he also had a new regimental number – 66280 - which would have been issued after March 1917.

Monday, January 02, 2017

8355 CSM John William Beeby Gale, 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment


8355 Company Sergeant Major John William Beeby Gale was a regular soldier with the 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment who, as he states in his entry in Nurse Oliver’s album, was wounded in 1914 and 1916.

He was born at Ellington, Huntingdonshire in September 1877, the son of Angelina Gale (nee Smith) and Charles Gale who had married at Huntingdon in 1871. On 23rd October 1905 he enlisted with the Bedfordshire Regiment aged 18 years and one month. He gave his trade as farm labourer and became 8355 Pte John W B Gale.

In all probability, John Gale's military career would have begun with 10 weeks' drill at the regimental depot at Bedford followed by two years' service in the UK. This would then have been followed by service overseas and by 1907 the 2nd Battalion was in Gibraltar, would move to Bermuda in 1910, followed by South Africa in 1912. In that year, Lance-Corporal Gale, serving with A Company, is recorded in the regimental magazine The Wasp as a contributor to the 2nd Battalion benevolent fund.

When war was declared with Germany in August 1914 the 2nd Battalion was stationed at Robert's Heights, Pretoria. It was mobilised on the 10th August and Gale and the rest of the battalion set sail for England aboard HMT Kenilworth on the 27th of that month. After a brief stop at the island of St Helena, the battalion arrived at Southampton on the 19th September where it was assigned to the 21st Infantry Brigade in the 7th Division. The battalion sailed on two ships, SS Cornishman and SS Winefredian, arriving at Zeebrugge on the 6th October.

John Gale's medal index card shows that he landed overseas as a lance-sergeant and records held at Bedfordshire County Record Office note that he was overseas until the 2nd November 1914 when, according to his own autograph entry in Nurse Oliver's album, he was wounded. Records at the Bedfordshire archives note that his wound was a GSW (gunshot wound) to the chest. It seems likely that he was wounded on the 31st October, this from the 2nd Battalion War Diary (transcribed and augmented by Steve Fuller):

31 Oct 1914
Near Inverness Copse. Early in the morning about 2.30 A.M. orders were received to occupy a small fir wood about 250 yards in front of our line which was then held by L.North Lancs.R. Captain Lemon [Arthur Buche LEMON] & 2 platoons of C Company were ordered to hold this position. This wood had been subjected to heavy shell fire from two sides during the previous day. Shell fire started as soon as it was light. It soon became evident that the enemy were advancing in force on the left of the wood held by Captain Lemon [Arthur Buche LEMON] & also on the right. The Adjutant went to report the situation to Brigade H.Q.& almost immediately on his return to Battalion H.Q. 2 orderlies arrived with an order from the Brigadier to retire fighting towards MENIN-YPRES Road. Part of the Battalion moved back in compliance of this order. An order was sent to Captain Lemon [Arthur Buche LEMON] to retire from the fir wood upon the Battalion. Part of the Battalion remained in the trenches till late in the afternoon about 4.30 p.m. when they were brought back & established a line which they held till relieved on Nov.5/6. The losses were very severe on this day. The C.O. Major J.M.Traill [John Murray TRAILL] & 2nd in Command Major R.P.Stares [Robert Percy STARES] remained in the trenches & were shot at short range. Lieut.Paterson [John Agar PATERSON] was killed in the fir wood. Lieut.Gott [Gilbert Ewart GOTT] was wounded in the Fir wood. Captain A.B.Lemon [Arthur Buche LEMON] was twice wounded in the fir wood & captured. Captain C.S.Garnet Botfield [Charles Sidney GARNETT-BOTFIELD] was severely wounded. 2/Lieut.W.Dixon [William DIXON] wounded. Captain E.H.Lyddon [Ernest Hugh LYDDON] missing [Comment; later assumed KIA]. Lieut.Anderson [Wilfred Cruttenden ANDERSON] missing. The Battalion strength on night October 31st-1st November was 4 officers, 350-400 other ranks. 4 officers were Captain & Adjutant C.C.Foss [Charles Calverley FOSS, VC, DSO], 2/Lieut.B.H.Waddy [Bentley Herbert WADDY, MC], Lieut.S.D.Mills [Stephen Douglas MILLS, MC], Transport Officer, Captain & Quarter Master H.Cressingham [Hugh CRESSINGHAM]. [Comment; also killed was Lieutenant Donald Godrid Campbell THOMSON] A short line was taken up and entrenched.


The wound was severe enough to keep John Gale in England for almost a year. He returned to The Western Front on the 19th October 1915 (having fortuitously missed the Battle of Loos) and rejoined the 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment at Bourecq.

In December 1915 he 7th Division’s 21st Brigade was assigned to the 30th Division, its four battalions of regular soldiers being mixed in with the newly created (and inexperienced) Pals battalions. The Bedfordshire’s new brigade was the 89th and they shared it with Kitchener volunteers from the 17th, 19th and 20th King’s Liverpool Regiment.

The 2nd Bedfords played a supporting role on 1st July 1916, following the 17th and 20th King’s as they moved through cut barbed wire to take their objectives as planned. The other brigades had also enjoyed similar successes and by the end of the day the division had taken all of its objectives and could claim the distinction of having captured the first three field guns of the battle as well as Montauban, the first village to fall.

On 10th July, orders were received that the 2nd Bedfords would attack Trones Wood the following day. Having taken Bernafay Wood almost without a struggle, Trones Wood was proving a much tougher nut to crack. Initial attacks on 8th July by battalions from the 21st Brigade had successfully established a foothold on the south eastern edge of the wood, but subsequent attacks had either failed or been met by stubborn resistance in a see-saw series of engagements which saw portions of Trones Wood switch from German to English control and then back to German. By the time John Gale and The Bedfords moved up to play their part in the action, the wood was still largely in German hands.

Despite the intensity of artillery and machine gun fire concentrated in the area over the previous three days, Trones Wood was still thick with undergrowth that made it difficult to see more than four yards in front. Into this tangle, the Bedfords had advanced at 3:10am, getting to within 400 yards of the south eastern edge of the wood before being spotted by German machine gunners. Thirty five minutes later they had managed to reach the southern end but not without sustaining many casualties on the way in. Two decades later, in a letter published in The Great War I Was There, Private E G Robinson, also of A Company, wrote:

“The first thing that greeted me was a pair of legs, but no body, cut off as clean as with a knife. Farther in, the dead lay in heaps, you couldn’t move without stepping on them… The wood was very dense so we could not see far ahead. We struck off towards the edge of the wood and we came to a clearing where we could see a trench and it was lousy with Germans. At this point we lost touch with the officer and never found what happened to him so we returned to the main body and reported… The branches of trees were flying about as bad as shells and bullets. We were troubled quite a lot by snipers who were up in the trees at the far end of the wood. Captain Tyler said we had better try to drive them out, so he took our platoon forward with that idea. But Jerry had other ideas, and promptly let loose hell: we dived from one tree to another, and the bullets were cutting the leaves and bark round our ears… Eventually we got back to our funk holes with the remainder of the Company. There was no rest of any sort, what with bombing, sniping, machine guns, shells, wounded and dying screaming, the stink of dead bodies, it was Bedlam.”

The remainder of the day followed the now familiar pattern of attack and counter attack, the Bedfords, supported by two companies of the 17th King’s managing to hold on to the southern portion of Trones Wood until relieved on the morning of the 13th by a battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment. The operation cost the Bedfords 244 casualties including John Gale who had been hit before even getting as far as the wood. He gets a mention in the battalion war diary entry for the 11th July:

"Whilst the men were digging in, strong patrols worked the interior of the wood collecting stragglers and bombing the enemy in their Trenches and Dug-outs, and accounted for a great number. "A" & "B" Companies were leading Companies in the Advance at 3.10 a.m. and were particularly unfortunate in losing many N.C.Os on entering the wood, including the C.S.M. of "A" Company (C.S.M.GALE)."

Bedfordshire archives records note that John Gale received a shell wound to his right knee. He must have remained in hospitals overseas for a couple of weeks as records show that he returned to the UK on the 26th July.

Back in England, John Gale would presumably have been sent to the 2nd Eastern General Hospital in Brighton before being sent to Beechlands in Newick, and his rendezvous with Nurse Oliver. He almost certainly would have met some of the men below, posing for Nurse Oliver's camera at Beechlands in 1916.

In the October quarter of 1916, John Gale married Emily Jane Warman at The St George's Hanover Square district. He spent the remainder of the war in England and, on the face of it at least, appears to have been untroubled by his wounds in his subsequent military career. He gets a number of mentions in The Wasp; playing football in 1922, winning the Spoon Shoot in July 1924 and a whist drive in 1924.

5942061 RQMS John Gale was discharged at Bedford on the 22nd October 1927 on the termination of his engagement. His conduct was recorded as exemplary and his address on discharge given as Kempston Baracks, Bedford. He was awarded a pension of 56d a day for life and had already been awarded the LSGC with gratuity in April 1924.

John Gale died on the 6th March 1943 aged 52. He is buried in Flitwick churchyard in Bedfordshire. I acquired his medals in December 2011.

Lance-Corporal Coates

Lance-Corporal Coates does not appear in Nurse Oliver's album but he was a patient at Beechlands. His name appears in an East Sussex News article from 13th October 1916:

NEWICK – CONCERT IN AID OF ‘OUR DAY’
… the performers consisted of convalescent soldiers from The Beechland Auxiliary Hospital and several ladies, for the most part from Brighton… [Performers mentioned: Private McWilliams, Private Gordon, Private Raynor–Smith, Lance-Corporal Beeching, Private Tomkinson, Lance-Corporal Coates.  Proceeds amounted to £10] “Performers took tea together at the Beechland Hospital, after which the programme was repeated there for the benefit of those who were inacpable of going to hear it at the Reading Room.

Nothing else is currently known about this man.

Private Tomkinson

Private Tomkinson does not appear in Nurse Oliver's album but he was a patient at Beechlands. His name appears in an East Sussex News article from 13th October 1916:


NEWICK – CONCERT IN AID OF ‘OUR DAY’
… the performers consisted of convalescent soldiers from The Beechland Auxiliary Hospital and several ladies, for the most part from Brighton… [Performers mentioned: Private McWilliams, Private Gordon, Private Raynor–Smith, Lance-Corporal Beeching, Private Tomkinson, Lance-Corporal Coates.  Proceeds amounted to £10] “Performers took tea together at the Beechland Hospital, after which the programme was repeated there for the benefit of those who were inacpable of going to hear it at the Reading Room.

Nothing else is currently known about this man.

Private Raynor-Smith

Private Raynor-Smith does not appear in Nurse Oliver's album but he was a patient at Beechlands. His name appears in an East Sussex News article from 13th October 1916:


NEWICK – CONCERT IN AID OF ‘OUR DAY’
… the performers consisted of convalescent soldiers from The Beechland Auxiliary Hospital and several ladies, for the most part from Brighton… [Performers mentioned: Private McWilliams, Private Gordon, Private Raynor–Smith, Lance-Corporal Beeching, Private Tomkinson, Lance-Corporal Coates.  Proceeds amounted to £10] “Performers took tea together at the Beechland Hospital, after which the programme was repeated there for the benefit of those who were inacpable of going to hear it at the Reading Room.

Nothing else is currently known about this man.

Private McWilliams

Private McWilliams does not appear in Nurse Oliver's album but he was a patient at Beechlands. His name appears in an East Sussex News article from 13th October 1916:


NEWICK – CONCERT IN AID OF ‘OUR DAY’
… the performers consisted of convalescent soldiers from The Beechland Auxiliary Hospital and several ladies, for the most part from Brighton… [Performers mentioned: Private McWilliams, Private Gordon, Private Raynor–Smith, Lance-Corporal Beeching, Private Tomkinson, Lance-Corporal Coates.  Proceeds amounted to £10] “Performers took tea together at the Beechland Hospital, after which the programme was repeated there for the benefit of those who were inacpable of going to hear it at the Reading Room.

Nothing else is currently known about this man.

Private Gordon

Private Gordon does not appear in Nurse Oliver's album but he was a patient at Beechlands. His name appears in an East Sussex News article from 13th October 1916:

NEWICK – CONCERT IN AID OF ‘OUR DAY’
… the performers consisted of convalescent soldiers from The Beechland Auxiliary Hospital and several ladies, for the most part from Brighton… [Performers mentioned: Private McWilliams, Private Gordon, Private Raynor–Smith, Lance-Corporal Beeching, Private Tomkinson, Lance-Corporal Coates.  Proceeds amounted to £10] “Performers took tea together at the Beechland Hospital, after which the programme was repeated there for the benefit of those who were inacpable of going to hear it at the Reading Room.

Nothing else is currently known about this man.

Private Goldborough

Private Goldborough does not appear in Nurse Oliver's album but he was a patient at Hickwells. His name appears in a Sussex Express article from November 5th 1915:


CONCERT - A highly successful concert was held at the Parish Room the other evening.  The proceeds were in aid of the building fund and the performers included several wounded soldiers… duets: Corporal Wood and Private Allan … song “The Sunshine of Your Smile”, Corporal Wood … recitation, “Wreck of the Hesperus”, Private Goldborough… The soldiers were cheered immediately they reached the platform.

It is possible that like Corporal Wood and Private Allan, he was a Loos casualty. Nothing else is currently known about this man.

50082 Driver James Gilbert, Royal Field Artillery

James Gilbert was a career soldier who was a convalescent patient at Hickwells in the spring of 1915.  His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

22nd April 1915

50082 Driver J Gilbert
Royal Field Artillery

In action Mons, Le Cateau, Aisne
La Basse, Ypres

He shares this page with entries from 5363 Private W Ferguson of the 3rd Border Regiment, W Wallace of the 1st Border Regiment and 19740 Private Joseph Leigh of the 3rd Border Regiment.

James Gilbert was born in 1890 and enlisted in the British Army on 6th February 1908.  He was an Old Contemptible who served with the XV Brigade Royal Field Artillery which formed part of the 5th Division.

His entry indicates that he served abroad from the outbreak of war in August (Mons) until November (Ypres).  He was awarded a silver war badge but was not discharged from the army until 19th April 1919 (discharged from the 4th Reserve Brigade).  This suggests that he may have rejoined his unit after his spell at Hickwells and been wounded again later in the war.  Without access to his service record however, this has to remain supposition.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Mikado - Beechlands, June 1917


"Entertainments" of one sort or another seem to have been common currency for VAD hospitals during the First World War, both as a means of raising morale, and of raising money.  The photograph above, undated, appears in Nurse Oliver's album and is one of those photographs that I have looked at and pondered on hundreds of times.  I now know though, that it dates to June 1917, thanks to this article in the Sussex Agricultural Express on the 22nd June.





Clerk Dorothy Austen Holcroft, Sussex 54 VAD

Dorothy Austen Holcroft was born in Morpeth, Northumberland in about 1888. By the time the 1901 census was taken, however, she was living in Sussex with her parents and two sisters. Dorothy's father, Thomas Austen Holcroft, was a Canadian-born Chuch of England clergyman serving the parish of Bolney in Sussex and living at Bolney vicarage. The family also had four servants as can be seen from the 1901 census return:


I know nothing of Dorothy's service during the First World War, only that her name appears in Nurse Oliver's album.  She never married and died in Lewes in 1970.

Probationer Rose Agnes Hancock, Sussex 54 VAD


Rose Agnes Hancock was born in Fulbourne, Cambridgeshire in about 1866. She appears on the 1911 census as a 45-year-old parlour maid working for the Green family at the Red House, Chailey. She had been in service since at least 1881, had worked as a parlourmaid form at at least 1891 and, by the time she joined Sussex 54 VAD, had served the Green family for over 14 years. According to her British Red Cross Society card, above, she served with Sussex 54 VAD from the 14th October 1915 and worked a total of 1429 hours. Her employer's daughter, Helen Marian Green, also joined Sussex 54 VAD on the same day.

Quartermaster Helen Marian Green, Sussex 54 VAD


Helen Marian Green was born on the 28th August 1877 in Sarrat, Hertfordshire.  She appears on the 1881 census as a three year old living at Great Sarratt Hall, Hertfordshire with her family.  The head of the family was William Green, a 28 year old Australian landowner (born in Melbourne) who is noted on the census as  a farmer of about 300 acres and employing eight men and two boys.  His 27 year old wife Marian had been born in Rickmansworth and they had three children: Helen, Lilian Green (aged one, born in Rickmansworth) and Bernard Bachan Green (aged ten months, born in Rickmansworth on the 12th May 1880).  

Two more brothers, Edward Wilson Green (born 19th September 1881), and Roger Day Green (born 26th May 1884) would swell the family further and in due course Bernard Green and Edward Green would fight for their King and Country during the First World War.
During the war years, the family lived at The Red House, Chailey and on October 7th 1915, Helen's sister Lilian married Dr William Stewart Orton of Sussex 54 VAD.
Helen's index card held by the British Red Cross archive (above) notes that she served as Quartermaster from October 1915 until December 1918, working a total of 7140 hours. 

She appears on the 1939 Register still living at The Red House, Chailey with her widowed mother and, remarkably, her three bachelor brothers.