Saturday, September 17, 2016

Probationer Annie Bertha Hoidge, Sussex 54 VAD

Annie Bertha Hoidge was born in Twyford, Hampshire in September 1882. She was the daughter of William Pearn Hoidge (1842-1885) and Elizabeth Pearn Crosley (1843-1886), and the youngest of six siblings: Emma (1868-1948),  William Crosley (1872-1947), Elizabeth Loveday (1876-1945), Alice Mary (1877-1966) and John Henry (1879-1945).  In 1901, the six siblings posed together for a photo at Alice's wedding. Annie is believed to be the woman, far right.

Annie is also believed to be the VAD probationer who also appears in the Sussex 54 VAD group photo (middle row) standing directly in front of Edith Oliver with her hand raised.

Annie's card from the British Red Cross Archives' file notes that she was engaged as a VAD between the 14th October 1914 and November 1916, and again between the 1st February 1917 and 31st August 1918. She was thus a long-serving member of Sussex 54 VAD and worked at both Hickwells and Beechlands. Her personnel card records her address as Sennocke, Newick; a house that had been owned by her late uncle, William Crosley. He had died in 1912 but it is not known when Annie moved to Newick - or indeed how she was employed. She was certainly mentioned in a report on Sussex 54 VAD which later found its way into Edith Oliver's autograph album.  The date of the report is unknown. 


One of the strongest detachments of the Red Cross Society in Sussex is that of Chailey, the success of which is in a large measure attributable to the influence and energy displayed by the Commandant, Miss Cotesworth and the Quartermaster, Mrs J Blencowe.  Evidence of the good work of the Detachment was forthcoming at the annual War Office inspection, conducted in the newly erected Parish Room, Chailey, by Major Rattray, Brighton, yesterday afternoon.  Three Detachments - Lewes, Southwick and Chailey - compete for the distinction of representing the Lewes Division for the Duchess of Norfolk’s Cup, for which the whole of the Sussex Detachments are eligible, and yesterday’s interesting proceedings will decide whether divisional honours will fall to the Chailey Detachment.  The Parish Room was converted into quite a delightful little hospital.  It was all very realistic make-believe, but the work of the staff was, of course, undertaken as if the unreality were altogether absent.  The main building was divided into two wards for the treatment of surgical and medical cases, various supposed fractures, bullet wounds &c., being treated in the former, and diseases, such as rheumatic fever and pneumonia, in the latter.  In addition to this, an isolation hospital (in which a supposed cholera patient was under treatment), operating theatre, milk room, kitchen, camp fires, constructed with earth work, grease refuse pot &c., the principal idea of improvisation underlying the whole of the scheme.  The Quartermaster’s store was an ingeniously arranged hut adjoining the hospital, and no detail was overlooked in carrying out the idea of representation.  The members of the staff on parade were: Dr Orton (Medical Officer), Miss Cotesworth (Commandant), Mrs J Blencowe (Quartermaster). Miss Gander (Assistant Quartermaster), Sister Osmund (Lady Superintendent), Miss Holcroft (Clerk), Nurses Oliver, West, Pownall, Blencowe, M Blencowe, Sandford, Smith, Hancock, Greer, Grounds, U. Grounds, Smythe, Wilson, Gaston, Hoidge, and Rootes, and Cooks Curtis, Best, Bryant and Pointing.  Miss Campion, the Hon Secretary of the Sussex Division, was also present, and when the room was thrown open to the public later in the day, quite a number availed themselves of the opportunity of becoming acquainted with the useful work of the Detachment.

Sussex 54 VAD was also present at the Red Cross Field Day at Stanmer Park, Falmer in 1913 and I believe that the nurse who is 6th from the right is Annie Hoidge.

Nothing, apart from the scant information contained on her BRCS card, is known of Annie's service as a VAD during the First World War. What is known, however, is that she committed suicide at Sennocke in early 1921. The record office in Brighton has the coroner’s report which records death by strangulation (certified by the same Dr W S Orton with whom she had worked during the war years), the coroner ruling “Suicide during temporary insanity while suffering from neurasthenia, the result of overwork whilst serving upon the Army & Navy Canteen board”. 

The press cutting above was also in the same file. The coroner’s notes on Dr Orton’s testimony have a comment that the neurasthenia was brought on by her VAD experiences in Feb 1917, but there are no further details.

My sincere thanks to Annie Hoidge's great nephew, John Burd, for contacting me and providing me with the information that I have reproduced here.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

7480 Private Reginald Pimble, 1st Gloucestershire Regt

Reginald Pimble was a convalescent patient at Hickwells after being wounded at The First Battle of Ypres in November 1914.  His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

A trouble’s a ton
A trouble’s an ounce
A trouble is what you make it
It isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts
But just - how did you take it

7480 Pte R Pimble
1st Batt Gloucestershire Regt

Stopped two bullets at Ypres Nov 7th 1914

He shares this page with Private W Brown of the 1/9th Middlesex Regiment, Private 41441 Thomas George Clarke of the Norfolk Regiment and 3655 Private Martin Donnelly of the 1st East Surrey Regiment.

Reginald was born in Ross Workhouse, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire on 22nd May 1888.  He was the son of Ann Pymble (born c1862) and is probably the same three year old Reginald Pimble who appears on the 1891 census as a three year old “nurse child” living at 42 Suffolk Street, Gloucester.  The household in 1901 comprised George Phelps (head, married, aged 35, a grocer), his wife Isabella (aged 31), Albert Rea (brother-in-law, single, aged 25, working as a dock labourer), Sarah Rea (mother-in-law, married, aged 58), Reginald, and Mary Roach (visitor, single, aged 20).  Reginald’s place of birth is recorded as “not known”.

I have been unable to locate him on the 1901 census but his entry on the silver war badge roll at The National Archives in London states that he enlisted in the army on 12th March 1904.  He would have been two months short of his sixteenth birthday at the time and would have enlisted for boys’ service.  His reckonable service would have counted from his eighteenth birthday – 22nd May 1906.

On 19th April 1909 he married Florence Helen Limbrick in Gloucester and their first child – Ivy Annie Pimble –was born in Gloucester in August 1910.  A son, George Henry Pimble followed three years later in September 1913.

By the time war was declared on Germany in August 1914, Reginald was on the army reserve and was recalled to the colours on 5th August.  He arrived in France in late August 1914 and served with the 1st Gloucestershire Regiment until wounded at Ypres on 7th November.  The following information regarding the 1st Gloucestershire Regiment in its early days on The Western Front, is adapted from Part 6 of my Chailey narrative, The Hospital Way:

Although Reg Pimble arrived in France on the 27th of August, only two weeks after the battalion had disembarked at Havre, it had been an eventful fortnight.  Arriving at Haulchin, some ten kilometres south east of Mons on the 23rd, the 1st Gloucesters had Stood-To all day on the northern edges of the village only to receive orders at 7am the following morning to retire.  They had then commenced the 200 mile march to the Marne and it was at Rozoy, on 5th September that Pimble, amongst a draft of 100 men, joined his footsore colleagues.  This was the first reinforcement that the battalion had received since leaving England and with it came an inadequate supply of shirts, socks and boots which was nevertheless gratefully received by a number of the men, the condition of whose boots had reduced them to marching in bare feet.

Now though, they were in Flanders, rushed up to prevent the Kaiser’s armies from breaking through at Ypres.  On the 23rd October they’d successfully repelled determined German attacks north of Langemarck and re-claimed trenches recently taken by the enemy.  Terrible casualties had been inflicted on the advancing Germans, but the 1st Division, to which the 1st Gloucesters belonged, had also suffered heavily.  By the time it was relieved on the morning of the 25th, the Division had suffered fourteen hundred casualties over the previous few days’ fighting.

Four days’ later, they were back in the thick of it, thrown into the Battle of Gheluvelt and suffering further casualties.  Even when they had withdrawn to Inverness Copse on the 1st of November the men from the Cotswolds had been shelled mercilessly and suffered a further seventy five casualties during the relief.  The battalion was now reduced to just 240 other ranks and they badly needed a rest.

Reg Pimble in fancy dress, seated second from left

The next few days however, were hardly what they had in mind.  On November 2nd there were further casualties: three officers and fifty eight other ranks; some of these caused by ‘friendly fire’ from the British artillery which was unaware, during the ebb and flow of battle that the ground they were shelling was back in Allied hands.  On the 3rd November, 200 reinforcements arrived.  “These numbers,” recorded the author of the 1st Gloucesters’ battalion diary later, “were particularly welcome after the previous week’s casualties and greatly helped to put fresh life into the Regiment.”  On 5th November however, having been rushed back into the line and ordered to hold it for twenty four hours at all costs, the battalion had suffered a further forty one casualties from artillery fire which completely destroyed many of the trenches and buried a number of the men.

The 6th was spent re-organising the battalion, a task completed only just in time for there was a fresh emergency south at Zillebeke.  The Germans had pushed back the French troops holding that part of the line and were threatening to break through.  Leaving at four in the afternoon, the Gloucesters had arrived at their new positions north of the village of Zwartelen in darkness and amid much confusion.  The frontage the battalion occupied was lengthy, too large really for an already depleted battalion which nevertheless did its best by dividing the line up roughly into sectors and posting batches of men to them.  What few officers remained were distributed amongst the scattered outposts as effectively as their limited numbers allowed.

“7th November,” says The Official History, “was misty and marked the definite commencement of winter weather: mud henceforth seriously interfered with operations and cold at night made sleeping in the open difficult, if not impossible.”  Certainly, there had been little sleep for Reg Pimble and his pals on the eastern edges of Zwartelen and in the woods further to the north.  Now as the morning advanced, the order to assist the neighbouring 22nd Brigade in a counter attack on the left had been cancelled because it was just too foggy to see where they were firing.  The 22nd Brigade however, had pushed ahead and secured its objectives, reporting back that the trenches opposite the Gloucesters were empty.   Orders were issued for an immediate advance and for the enemy trenches to be seized; the rest of the 3rd Brigade would provide support.

The battalion pushed forward in two lines but no sooner had they emerged from Zwartelen than they were met with intense rifle and machine gun fire from German troops still holding on to some of the houses in the village.  “The whole advance,” continues the battalion diarist, “had been far too hurried and no definite orders had ever been given.  Officers and men were much too exhausted to do more than clear a few of the houses.  Most of the men had to lie down in the open all day and only a few could get back to the trenches they had dug the night before.”  At roll call that night, only three officers and 213 men answered their names.  Private 7480 Pimble, R was not one of them; shot twice, he’d received his Blighty wound and would not return to Flanders.

Although he does not state as much in Nurse Oliver's album, Reg Pimble’s wounds were severe, as reported in the Gloucester Journal of 28th November 1914.

He was discharged from the army on 7th July 1915 as no longer physically fit for war service and in due course he would receive his silver war badge (number 98887) and later his 1914 Star and British War and Victory Medals. A number of photographs of him appear in Edith Oliver's album and Frances Blencowe's album, including the one of him playing billiards (below) at Hickwells in early 1915.

Three more children were born to Reginald and Florence Pimble: Bertha Pimble in March 1916, Kathleen I Pimble in September 1918 and Violet Christine Pimble in June 1922.  At one time the family lived at 6 St Paul's Street, Gloucester and in civilian life Reginald was associated with Iron Acton and was a Gloucestershire County Council Workman.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

L/6273 Private Frederick John Harding, 4th Middx

L/6273 Private Frederick John Harding was probably a patient at Hickwells and may have transferred to Beechland House in June 1916. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

L/6273 Private F Harding 4th Batt Middlesex Regiment

Wounded at Freicourt [sic] on 15 April 1916

God made little Bees and little Bees made Honey
The Patients do the work and the Sisters get the money.

According to his attestation paper, Frederick Harding was born in 1882 at Hayes, Middlesex although his Conduct Sheet lists his place of birth as Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire.

He enlisted with the Middlesex Regiment on 20th November 1900 at Hounslow, giving his religion as Church of England, his trade as park keeper and gardener and his age as twenty years. Again though, his attestation paper gives his trade as labourer and his age as 18 years and one month. He was five feet, seven inches tall, had fair hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion.

On 23rd November 1900 he was posted to the 3rd Middlesex Regiment but a little over a year later, was in trouble, forfeiting three days’ pay after absenting himself from the Military Tattoo at Woolwich in December 1901. That Boxing Day he was confined to barracks for ten days for not complying with an order but he had broken out of barracks on New Years’ Eve and remained at liberty until the 7th January when he was again apprehended, confined to barracks for seven days and deprived of eight days’ pay.

From March to September 1902 he was stationed on the island of St Helena where he had again been in trouble for not complying with an order, insolence to an officer and absenting himself from another Tattoo.

A three month spell in South Africa followed, followed in turn by a posting to India in December 1902. Despite a further transgression – insolence to Sergeant Greenaway – in January 1903, Harding appears to have liked life in the British Army and in June 1904 he extended his service to complete eight years with the colours. He was granted second class service pay at four shillings which was extended the following March to 1st class service pay at six shillings. In March 1905 he was granted his first Good Conduct Badge but eighteen months later he was in trouble again. In October 1906 at Mandalay, he was charged with conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline and violence to his superior officer. His penalty was 56 days’ imprisonment and the loss of his badge (which however, was restored in December 1907). On 6th November 1908, after nearly six years in India, Frederick Harding returned to England and 15 days later was transferred to the Army Reserve.

In April 1911 Harding married Emma Orange at Dalston in London and the couple moved to nearby Tottenham. The following February a son, Henry William, was born. Still on the Army Reserve, but now nearing the end of his term, Harding re-engaged as a Section D Reservist and a day after war was declared he was mobilised at Mill Hill, a few miles away from his home in North London.

Initially posted to the 6th (Reserve) Battalion of the Middlesex on 11th August, he was transferred to the 4th Battalion on 7th October and two days later was in France.

On 10th March 1915 he was appointed lance-corporal (unpaid) and on 23rd June 1915 this was amended to lance-corporal (paid). On 27th September 1915 he was appointed acting corporal but less than a month later he had reverted to lance corporal and posted to the Middlesex Depot in England. He remained in England between 23rd October 1915 and 15th January 1916. On the 16th January he was again posted to the 4th Middlesex, re-joining the battalion in France.

On 31st March 1916, whilst in France, and now an acting corporal again with B Company, Harding fell out of the line of march without permission, neglected his duty whilst in charge of a fatigue party and absented himself without permission. He was charged with these offences the following day and deprived of his acting rank. On the 2nd April, he was absent from his billet from 8:30pm until 6am on the 3rd April for which he was deprived seven days’ pay.

On 15th April 1916 he sustained a gunshot wound to his left leg and was returned to England.

The War Diary of the 4th Middlesex (WO 95/2155), records the events at the time Harding was wounded in April 1916.

14th April 1916
“Battalion relieved the 9th KOYLI in the trenches. This new sector of the line is a marked contrast to the Trenches which the battalion have been used to. The country is hilly and the ground chalky, and therefore though harder to dig than Flanders mud. The revetting of trenches and the enormous quantity of sandbags which had to be utilised for that purpose and conspicuous by their absence. The nature of the soil however lends itself to mining enterprises which fact is duly realised by both sides… The relief was complete by 6pm… Our artillery reply very quickly at all times and respond on principle to any annoyance from the enemy… In our sector [of] the line, the TAMBOUR, Rifle Grenades are the chief arrivals and cause of 80% of our casualties. Our casualties were 1 killed and 4 wounded the first night owing to this weapon.”

15th April 1916
“During morning rain fell. The enemy were again busy with Rifle Grenades and Trench Mortars. We replied vigorously both by artillery and grenades. Sniping is very scarce here but our snipers are active and claim 1 hit. Our casualties during day were 1 killed 1 wounded.”

Frederick recovered sufficiently to be posted back to his regiment and, after further minor misdemeanours (including absenting himself from yet another tattoo in December 1917), he was discharged from the army on 18th January 1918 as no longer physically fit for war service. He had completed 17 years and 60 days in the British Army.

Inage, courtesy National Army Museuam.

Monday, March 07, 2016

12517 Cpl Frederick John Denton MM, 9th Essex Regiment

12517 Corporal Frederick John Denton (pictured, above in October 1916) was a patient at Beechland House from October 1916 until August 1917. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

Think kindly of those, that thought so kindly of us in our hour of need.

Wounded at Ovillers La Boiselle in the big Push on the 3rd of July 1916.

12517 Cpl. F.J. Denton
9th Battalion Essex Regt.

Better known as the Hungry Ninth.

1 Somerset Rd Linford
Nr Stanford-Le-Hope. Essex.

Mentioned in Dispatches Sept 1915. Mentioned again June 1916. Awarded the Military Medal
Sept 15th 1916 & presented with the Military Medal by Major General Sir G Kitson KCVO CB CMG on the 25th of November 1916 at the Newick VAD hospital.

There is some confusion about Frederick Denton’s true date of birth. His attestation papers give 20th January 1894 while his daughter gives the same month and day but 1896 as the year. He was probably born on 20th January 1895. The civil registration index of England and Wales 1837-1983 notes that his birth was recorded in the March quarter of 1895 at Orsett, Essex and the 1901 census also notes him as a six year old.

When the census was taken he was living with his family at 17 and 18 Dock Dwellings, Chadwell St Mary, Tilbury. The household comprised: Henry William Denton (head, married, aged 37, a police constable), his wife Amy Louisa E Denton (aged 36) and seven children: Florence Amelia Denton (aged 11), Edward George Denton (aged ten), Henry Arthur Denton (aged eight), Frederick (aged six), Victor Harold Denton (aged three), Walter Cecil Denton (aged two) and Alfred Milner Denton (aged ten months). The children’s father had been born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent; their mother in Islington, London. Florence’s place of birth is noted as Custom House, London but all the other children have “Tilbury” noted against their names.

Alfred Denton died in infancy in 1902 aged two years but three more children were also born after the 1901 census was taken: Amy Winifred Denton in 1901, Margaret Elsie Denton in 1903 (died 1904 aged one year) and Francis William Denton in 1906.

According to his nephew, Frederick’s father, Henry William Denton was born in 1864 and, prior to joining the police force, was an RSM with the Grenadier Guards. He had married Amy Louisa at St George’s Chapel, Windsor in 1886. The civil registration index for England and Wales notes her maiden name as Danton.

The Denton children attended East Tilbury village school and when war was declared all of the brothers (except Francis who was still a schoolboy) volunteered to fight for their King and Country. Florence was married by this stage and running her own household but her younger sister Amy worked as a nurse during the latter stages of the war.

Frederick attested with the Essex Regiment at Grays on 1st September 1914. His age is noted as 20 years and 192 days (although he was probably a year younger than this), his height as five feet, seven inches and his weight as 149 pounds. He had blue eyes and a fair complexion. He gave his occupation as sailmaker for the Orient Steam Navigation Company at Tilbury Docks and his home address as 21 Lower Crescent, Linford, near Stanford-Le-Hope, Essex. He was given the service number 12517.

On the 16th September he was posted to B Company of the 9th Essex Regiment and remained with this battalion in England until 29th May 1915. Posted with him was his seventeen year old brother Victor who had joined up the same day as Frederick and been given a service number just 11 digits apart – 12506. In civilian life he was apprenticed as a painter at the Orient Steam Navigation Company dockyard.

On 11th April that year, no doubt aware that he was going to be posted overseas shortly, Frederick married his sweetheart, Maud Annie Silver at the Parish Church in Mucking, Essex.

He was appointed lance-corporal (unpaid) on 17th May 1915 and less than a fortnight later was in France. He would spend the next thirteen and a half months overseas and during that time would be Mentioned in Despatches twice (in September 1915 and June 1916) and awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in October 1915. In April 1916 he was appointed corporal.

Frederick was wounded at Ovillers La Boiselle on 3rd July 1916 during the opening stages of the Battle of The Somme. The following account is adapted from part 14 of The Hospital Way:

The 9th Essex formed part of the 35th Brigade, 12th Division, its objective the capture of Ovillers. The Division would attack on a two brigade front with the 35th Brigade on the right and the 37th on the left. The 9th Essex would be in support of the attacking battalions of the 5th Royal Berkshire and 7th Suffolk Regiments and all men would take up positions by the 2nd July in readiness for an attack the following day.

At around 3:00 am on Monday July 3rd, the attacking troops of the 12th Division left their trenches and moved under cover of artillery fire to assembly trenches dug in no man’s land. Fifteen minutes later, the barrage ceased and the men rushed the German trenches under cover of a smoke screen to their left. At first, all went well. The 5th Royal Berkshires suffered few casualties whilst crossing and used the cover of a sunken road to lead them straight into Ovillers. The German wire had been virtually obliterated by artillery fire and the men passed with relative ease through the first and second lines until they reached the ruins of houses on the Western edge of Ovillers. Here though, they were engaged in heavy bombing attacks and due to a lack of further supplies of bombs, the leading companies suffered heavy casualties. The 7th Suffolk Regiment’s advance followed a similar pattern. They too passed through the German first line, encountered strong opposition in the second line but pushed forward to the third. This position was strongly held and made even more uncomfortable for the attacking troops by German fire coming in from the left flank.

Fred and Victor Denton and their comrades in the 9th Essex fared even worse. “The march of the Battalion,” wrote one of its soldiers later, “… will forever be remembered by those engaged. Innumerable gun flashes lit the darkness of the night; they seemed endless and as one approached the line, the noise was deafening. After what appeared to be endless marching we reached the trenches in front of Ovillers. They were of hard chalk and with the bad weather not at all easy to negotiate without trench boards. In moving to positions for attack the congestion in the trenches was awful and mortally wounded men could not be moved.” To make matters worse, the German defenders, by now fully awake and repelling the attacking battalions in front of them, were sweeping no man’s land with machine gun fire. Here, states the Divisional History, “considerable casualties were sustained, and the waves of the attack becoming a series of small parties not strong enough to give any material assistance to the forward formations, the 35th Brigade attack broke down and the remnants of the battalions were driven out of the German lines.” C Company, supported by a platoon from B Company managed to reach La Boiselle and capture 200 Germans but it was an isolated success on a morning of strong initial advances, punished by vigorous counter attacks and German machine guns brought up from deep dug-outs which had been unaffected by the intense one hour bombardment which preceded the assault.

By nine o’clock, the Division was reporting that the attack had failed. A combination of flanking machine gun fire, lack of cohesion by troops advancing in the dark and the pock-marked terrain, made impassable in places due to the recent heavy rains, had put paid to the Division’s efforts.

The 6th Royal West Kent Regiment, lost 19 officers and 375 other ranks out of an attacking force of 617. Other battalions suffered similarly. The casualties for the 12th Division’s two attacking brigades amounted to 97 officers and 2277 other ranks and Victor and Fred Denton were numbered amongst them. At around 4am, the 9th Essex attack had come to a standstill and the survivors withdrew to the front line to be relieved by the 7th Norfolks. In little under one hour the battalion had suffered 12 officer and 386 other rank casualties. Corporal Fred Denton had survived the bombardment on the way to the trenches but had taken a bullet in his left forearm which would finish his service as an infantryman. Of Victor however there was no sign and no news and he was posted as missing. Much later, Fred would learn that his brother’s body had been found and laid to rest in France by an old school friend from East Tilbury. Frederick’s nephew records the school friend’s name as “Gorbrer Salmon” and this may be Alfred Salmon (born 1897 in Tilbury). The grave though, would never be found and in time Victor’s name would be added to the memorial to the missing at Thiepval.

Frederick Denton arrived back in England on 8th July and was sent to Beaufort War Hospital in Bristol where he remained until 18th September. He was then posted to the 3rd Essex before being transferred down to the Eastern Command Depot at Shoreham on Sea where he underwent special arm and leg drill. He remained there until 17th October when he was again transferred, this time to The 2nd Eastern General Hospital in Brighton and from there, to Beechland House at Newick.

The presentation of Denton’s Military Medal in November was obviously quite an occasion, not just for the patients at Beechlands but also for the local community as a whole. It was something that the newspapers of the time covered in considerable detail. The Sussex Daily News carried a report on 27th November and this was followed up by two reports published by The Sussex Express and The East Sussex News:

The Sussex Express
December 1st 1916 - Newick
MILITARY MEDAL PRESENTED - At an entertainment given on Saturday evening at the Red Cross Convalescent Home, Beechlands, Corporal F I [sic] Denton of the Essex Regiment was presented with the Military Medal for gallant conduct at the Hohenzollern Redoubt last year. The sergeant of the bombing team was wounded and Denton took charge… Three hearty cheers were given for the recipient, who in a few words of acknowledgement, said the other men present had all done as well as he had, for they had all been out and all had done their bit, (Applause). Subsequently Major-General Kitson said that he had lately been in France (not on active service) and he could tell them from what he saw there was no difference between the old Army and the new. They were all one Army and they were all alike doing their duty. Captain Colesworth [sic] attended the presentation. A very enjoyable entertainment was provided by friends from Brighton, assisted by some of the patients at Beechlands. Corporal Denton, who was accompanied by his wife and child, who are staying in Newick, received many congratulations from those present. He joined the Essex Regiment on 1st September 1914, previous to which he worked as a sailmaker at Tilbury. He went to France in May 1915, gained his distinction in the following Autumn, and in July 1916, was wounded in the left forearm.

East Sussex News
Friday December 1st 1916
… the service for which Corporal Denton was given his award had to do with some bombing work last year when his battalion was in an attack against the Hohenzollern Redoubt and subsequently it appears that a sergeant of his platoon was wounded, when he promptly took his place in organizing the bombing teams, carried out their general instructions and he was commended by his officer for his work, in which he ably carried out the duties of a senior NCO. He afterwards received an official card with the following recognition: “Your Commanding Officer and Brigade Commander have informed me that you have distinguished yourself by conduct in the field. I have read their report with much pleasure and have brought it to the notice of the higher authority (signed) S M Scott, Major-General, Commanding 12th Division.”

Frederick remained at Beechlands until 7th August 1917 when he was posted back to the 3rd Essex Regiment. Recovered, but not sufficiently so to warrant further service with an infantry battalion, he was transferred to The Army Service Corps and ended the war as a corporal with C Company of the 1st Heavy Repair Shop. He was given a new number: M/323366.

On 28th April 1919 he was transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve on de-mobilisation. He was awarded a small army pension which recognised his degree of disability as just ten per cent with the likelihood of it being only temporary.

After the war Frederick worked as a training lieutenant aboard the Exmouth training ship at Grays on the River Thames and moved with it to Shotley, Suffolk, when hostilities again broke out in 1939. He died at Chadwell St Mary in 1974 at the age of eighty.

As mentioned previously, all of his brothers also served their King and Country during the First World War. Edward served with the Mercantile Marine. Arthur was a sergeant in the East Surrey Regiment and like Frederick, was also awarded the Military Medal. Walter served with the Norfolk Regiment and was severely wounded at Cambrai in 1917, receiving a full army pension for life. Prior to this he was at sea and was torpedoed aboard the SS Minnewaska off Crete.

Private Davey

Very little is known about this man.

Private Davey did not leave an entry in Nurse Oliver’s album but he was a patient at Beechland House, Newick in June 1917. He is recorded simply as “Pte Davey”, one of the Beechland House stoolball team, in a report in The East Sussex News on 29th June 1917:

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.

Five days earlier, The Sussex Express had also reported on the match, noting that it was played at:

“… 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.”

Nothing further is currently known of this man.

16621 Private James Cowley, 1st Kings Own (Royal Lancaster Regt)

16621 Private James Cowley of the 1st King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment was a patient at Beechland House after being wounded on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album (which has been over-written in black ink at a later date) reads:

Pte J. Cowley 16621.
1st Kings Own Royal Lancs

Wounded on the 1st July 1916
Between Serre and Beau-mont-Hamel [sic]

With My Best Respects &
Good Wishes To The Hospital
Staff at Newick for Their
Kind Attention And Services
Rendered During My Brief Stay

James Cowley arrived in France on 29th July 1915 as part of a draft of reinforcements and was posted to the regular 1st Battalion of the King’s Own Royal Lancashire Regiment. He was one of the 34,156 other ranks wounded on July 1st 1916.

On that day his division, the 4th, had pushed forward north of Beaumont Hamel, taking the German held Munich Trench and pushing on to Pendant Copse beyond it. Lying in support of the 6th and 8th Battalions of The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, the 1st Kings had left their trenches at 8:45am and succeeded in reinforcing the furthest troops only to assailed by machine gun fire and bombing counter attacks launched from a German strongpoint at Serre. By 11 am they had been forced back. Twenty fours later they would abandon their position altogether.

After recuperating at Beechlands, James Cowley subsequently joined the Royal Air Force (number 145302) and finally, the Labour Corps (279301). His 1914/15 Star medal roll entry, dated at Blandford on 7th October 1920 gives his RAF number whereas his British War and Victory Medal roll entry gives the Labour Corps number.

George Clarke, National Reserve

Very little is known about this man and his entry in Nurse Oliver’s album does not make it clear whether he was a Hickwells or Beechland House patient. It reads:

Thomas George Clarke N.R

Late 1st Cold Guards

He shares this page with 1218 Private W Brown of the 1/9th Middlesex Regiment, 7480 Private Reginald Pimble of the 1st Gloucestershire Regiment and 3655 Private Martin Donnelly of the 1st East Surrey Regiment.

NR is National Reserve and it seems quite likely that this man did not serve overseas.

Corporal Chatterton

Very little is known about this man.

Corporal Chatterton did not leave an entry in Nurse Oliver’s album but he was a patient at Beechland House, Newick in June 1917. He is recorded simply as “Cpl Chatterton”, one of the Beechland House stoolball team, in a report in The East Sussex News on 29th June 1917:

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.

Five days earlier, The Sussex Express had also reported on the match, noting that it was played at:

“… 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.”

Nothing further is currently known of this man.

16534 Private William Chadwick, 7th King's Own Scottish Borderers

William Chadwick was a patient at Hickwells in October 1915. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

Pte W Chadwick
7th KOSB

Wounded at Loos Sept 25th 1915

Man's Life is But a Dream

He shares this page with 9457 Cpl Horace F Wood and 5365 Private George Robert Alfred Lucas, both of the 8th Royal West Kent Regiment.

William Chadwick was born at Hollingworth, Cheshire in March 1885. He appears on the 1901 census living with his family at 12 Knowl Street, Hollingworth. The household comprised George W Chadwick (head, married, aged 42, working as a cotton waste sorter), his wife Kate Chadwick (aged 40) and their four children: William (aged 16), Harry Chadwick (aged 12), John Chadwick (aged eight) and Alice Chadwick (aged three). Kate’s 68 year old father, Thomas Minton (born in Ireland) was also living at the same address. William is noted on the census as a “cotton spinners piecer”.

On 8th August 1906 William married Ada Wigglesworth at Christ Church, Tintwistle, Derbyshire and appears to have settled with her back in his native town of Hollingworth.

He attested at Glossop on the 8th November 1914, stating that he wished to serve with the Scottish Borderers. “Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders” is written on his attestation papers but this is crossed out and “King’s Own Scottish Borderers” (KOSB) written in its place. He was posted to the 9th Battalion and given the number 16534. He gave his occupation as labourer and his age as 28 years and eight months. He was five feet, five and three quarter inches tall, had dark brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. He weighed close to 133 pounds.

On 15th November he was posted to the 7th Battalion which formed part of the 46th Brigade in the 15th (Scottish) Division. The battalion sailed for France on the 9th July 1915 and numbered 1020 men comprised of 30 officers, six warrant officers, 43 sergeants, 40 corporals and 901 other ranks. The French Army added an interpreter which was to prove extremely useful as the men would find themselves billeted in areas previously unoccupied by British troops and were able, thanks to his services, to find buildings that had been overlooked by the French authorities. By nightfall, on the 10th July 1915, the entire 15th Division was on French soil.

William Chadwick was one of 600 7th KOSB casualties on the opening day of the Battle of Loos (25th September 1915), sustaining a gunshot wound to his left foot. The following account is taken from part 10 of the Hospital Way and describes the action of the 7th KOSB at Loos:

At 5.50am on Saturday the 25th September 1915, the British bombardment that had been directed against the German lines over the last four days, fell with a renewed intensity on their front defences. At the same time, the chlorine gas that had been so carefully stored under the British parapets, was released from its cylinders. Forty minutes later, in the face of German rifle and machine gun fire, the men of the 15th (Scottish) and 47th (London) Divisions clambered out of their trenches and headed off through the smoke, gas and mist towards the German lines.

William Chadwick and the men of the 7th KOSB had got off to a slow start. Just as they were preparing to go over the top, a change in wind direction had blown the gas back into their trenches. The men hesitated. Piper Laidlaw, forty years old and a recalled Reservist, seeing that the men were wavering, jumped onto the top of the parapet and, with shells exploding and bullets whistling around his ears, proceeded to march up and down playing the regimental march, ‘Blue Bonnets over the Border’. Urged on by his example, the 7th KOSB rallied and, with Laidlaw still piping, they ran forward together. Laidlaw was awarded the Victoria Cross. Half an hour after leaving their trenches, the Borderers and the 10th Scottish Rifles attacking with them had pushed through the German first line of defence and on towards Loos where they halted in front of the wire entanglements.

To their right, the leading battalions of the 44th Brigade: the 9th Black Watch and the 8th Seaforth Highlanders, had pushed on into the village followed by the 7th Camerons and 10th Gordons in support and by 8am, after fierce hand-to-hand fighting during which the men moved systematically from house to house, the village was in British hands.

By 9.30am, the advance on the 15th Divisional front was going so well that the order was sent for the Royal Engineers to bridge trenches and prepare tracks for the Royal Field Artillery to move forward . Having fought their way through Loos there was no holding back the eager recruits of the 15th Division. The 1500 men of the 44th and 46th Brigades who had survived thus far, now moved up the slope of Hill 70, pushing the Germans in front of them and whilst some men established themselves in a line along the reverse slope, between 800 and 900 others pushed forward.

The slope of Hill 70 though, inclined towards the South East and so instead of pushing ahead towards their 6th line objective of Cite St Augustin, ‘the men being excited’ (according to the war diary of the 7th KOSB), wheeled round to the right and towards the German held Dynamitiere, a heavily fortfified strongpoint. As soon as they reached it, the fleeing Germans had turned around and now opened up a deadly fire on the men racing down the slopes.

The Fifteenth Divisional history reports that some men of the leading lines of the 44th Brigade actually got as far as the outer houses that comprised the Dynamatiere but were then either killed or captured. The remainder, with a few of the 46th Brigade were exposed in the open within eighty yards of the German front trench and it was now their turn to seek whatever cover they find. Exposed to what the War Diary of the 10th Gordon Highlanders describes as ‘scathing machine gun and rifle fire’, they remained where they were until around 1pm when those that could manage too, were forced to retire back over the crest and rejoin the line on Hill 70 late in the afternoon.

Wounded in action, William Chadwick fell back. He arrived back in England on 28th September aboard the Hospital Ship Dieppe and was then taken in a medical convoy to the 2nd Eastern General Hospital at Brighton. His name appears in The Sussex Daily News published on 5th October as one of a number of wounded soldiers at the hospital. Three days after that report appeared, the military authorities officially informed his wife that he was at hospital in Sussex.

Having recently been mobilised, almost certainly in response to the casualties streaming back from Loos and Gallipoli, Sussex 54 VAD threw open the doors of Hickwells to welcome the newcomers. It was no longer a convalescent home but an Auxiliary Home Hospital attached to the 2nd Eastern General Hospital. It received its first batch of patients on 13th October and William Chadwick along with Stan Collins, John Currie and John Allan was almost certainly part of that first contingent.

William probably remained at Hickwells for around six weeks. On 1st December he was posted to B Company of the 9th KOSB. This may have been at Catterick because on 21st December at Hipswell Camp (which was at Catterick) he went absent without leave for ten days. He was awarded ten days’ Field Punishment and forfeited seven days’ pay. Unrepentant he went absent without leave again on 30th January, returning at 9.30pm on New Years’ Day; presumably somewhat the worse for wear. He was given 72 hours’ detention and forfeited another three days’ pay.

William was posted back to the 7th Battalion in France on 17th March, embarking at Folkestone aboard the Golden Eagle. He arrived at Etaples the following day and re-joined his battalion in the Field on the 29th. On 30th May 1916 the 7th and the 8th KOSB were combined and William’s designation now became the 7/8th KOSB.

On 24th June 1916 his service record states that he was admonished and fined one shilling for “losing by neglect, cap badge”. The following day he was back in hospital, this time with haemorrhoids.

William Chadwick’s haemorrhoids kept him out of the front line for about the same length of time as his Loos wound. His service papers show that he returned to the UK on 6th July 1916 and then spent time at hospitals in Colchester and Romford in Essex before being transferred to a convalescent hospital at Eastbourne. He was discharged fit on 26th August 1916 and then took eight days’ leave – presumably going home to Hollingworth.

He was due to return to the 3rd Battalion KOSB at Kinghorn, Fife on 4th September but it appears that he did not actually return until the 6th; an offence for which he was rewarded with an admonishment by Captain W P Donaldson and the forfeiture of three days’ pay.

On 6th September he was posted to the 53rd Training Reserve Battalion, remaining with them until 15th December when he embarked for the third time for France. He joined the 21st Infantry Base Depot on the 16th before being posted to the 1st KOSB and then, on 7th January 1917, to the 2nd Battalion. In June 1917 he was reported as being absent from a working party and was fined three days’ pay.

On 11th October whilst at Senlis in Northern France, William was admitted to the 14th Field Ambulance. It appears to state that his cause of admission was “H T Buttock” but I do not have a modern translation for this Whatever it was, it caused him to be admitted to hospitals at Rouen, Trouville and Calais and kept him out of the trenches until January 1918.

It next appears that he went briefly to Italy (in March and April 1918) but by 10th April he was back in hospital in France, this time with impetigo. He rejoined the 2nd KOSB on 2nd June 1918 and was appointed lance –corporal (unpaid) on 20th June.

On 3rd July 1918 whilst at St Pol he was admitted to the 12th Stationary Hospital with mild deafness, returning to duty on the 23rd. Exactly three months later, on the 23rd October, he reported “concussion of the labyrinth” but was discharged to duty the same day.

William Chadwick was appointed paid lance corporal on 25th December 1918 and on 13th January 1919 returned home to the UK for good. He was transferred to class Z of the Army Reserve on 10th February 1919, giving his address as 49 Market Street, Hollingworth, Cheshire.

1583 Sergeant William Calvert, 1/5th East Lancashire Regt

William Calvert was a patient at Hickwells from November 1915. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album (accompanied by a line drawing of the East Lancashire Regiment badge reads:

The Summer. The Summer.
The exquisite time.
The red roses blush and
The nightingale chime.
The chant of the Lark and
The boom of the Bee.
Make all sad hearts look up with glee.

Sergt. W. Calvert
1583. B.Coy
1/5 East Lancs Regt

He shares this page with an entry from R/1480 Rifleman Stan Collins of the 12th Kings Royal Rifle Corps.

William was born in Harrogate around February or March 1878. I have been unable to trace him on the 1881 and 1891 census returns but he appears on the 1901 census living at 2 Wood Street, Baildon in the West Riding of Yorkshire. By this time, William, aged 23, had left the family home and was heading his own household. The household comprised William (a shoemaker), his wife Mary Calvert (aged 26) and their two children: Clara E Calvert (aged three) and Florence Calvert (aged one). There is also a 25 year old boarder - the name looks like Clara Hodgeth although the gender is given as male – working as a Woolcomber.

William attested with the 6th West Riding Regiment (Territorial Force) at Keighley on 31st January 1911, giving his age as 32 years and eleven months. He signed on for four years’ service in the United Kingdom and gave his trade as master shoemaker, employed in Burnley, Lancashire. He also indicated that he had previously served with the 2nd Volunteer Reserve Battalion (West Yorkshire Regiment) and the 3rd Volunteer Reserve Battalion, West Riding Regiment. He was given the service number 1515.

A medical examination conducted a few days later found him to be five feet, six inches tall with good vision and fair physical development. His application was approved on 14th February 1911.

William attended the annual camps at Ripon in July/August 1911 and Flamborough in July/August 1912. On 27th May 1913 however, he transferred to the 5th East Lancashire Regiment, presumably because he had been living in Lancashire at least since the time of his joining the Territorial Force and it made more sense to serve with a local unit than one on the other side of the Pennines. He was given another regimental number: 1583.

On 5th August 1914 he was embodied as a private and simultaneously promoted to sergeant and appointed master shoemaker. On 10th September he embarked at Southampton aboard HT Deseado and fifteen days later disembarked at Alexandria. He remained in Egypt until 5th May 1915 when he embarked for the Dardanelles. On 13th September he was admitted first to a Field Ambulance and then to the 11th Casualty Clearing Station which noted that he was suffering from jaundice. He presumably then spent a number of weeks in hospital on the peninsula before being evacuated to England on 4th November 1915 aboard the Hospital Ship Mauritania. He arrived at Brighton a week later.

On 20th November, The Sussex Daily News published a list of sick and wounded men who had arrived at Brighton nine days earlier and William Calvert’s name appears there. On 3rd December he was mentioned in the paper again:

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 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 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.

“Entertainments” were very much the vogue in Chailey and such sky-larking was still sufficiently novel for newspapers to report on. On 17th December there was another concert which was again covered by The Sussex Daily News:

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, 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.

I am unsure how long William Calvert remained at Hickwells but by 10th May 1916 his soldiering days were over. He was discharged from the army “in consequence of the termination of his period of engagement” and went home to his wife and children at 2 Evelyn Street, Burnley.

22824 Private Henry Robert Burn, 2nd Worcestershire Regt

Henry Robert Burn was a patient at Hickwells in February 1916. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s book is a cartoon – probably copied although I have not identified the original – in which Germania (represented by an old lady) is berating Kaiser Wilhelm about the turning tide. The cartoon is signed:

Pte H R Burn
2nd Worcesters

Wounded at Cambrian
on the 26th of January 1916

Henry Robert Burn’s birth was registered in the name of Robert Henry Burn in the March quarter of 1896 at Epsom in Surrey. He also appears on the 1901 census as Robert H Burn. When the census was taken he was living with his family at Ewell, Epsom. The household comprised: George J Burn (head, married, 29, general labourer, born in Penge), Ada E Burn (wife, married, 29, born Twickenham), Robert H Burn (aged five), Albert G Burn (aged three) and Primrose E M Burn (aged one). All of the children were born in Ewell.

Henry attested with the Worcestershire Regiment in Epsom on 5th June 1915. He was apprenticed as a plumber to Mr F J Godfrey of 14 Boundaries Road, Balham, south west London. He gave his mother – Ada Burn of 10 Woodcote Side, Epsom – as his next of kin.

Henry was in good health. He was five feet five and a half inches tall and passed the medical examination with flying colours. He was marked A1.

On 11th June he was posted to the 5th Worcestershire Regiment and shortly afterwards, on 1st August, appointed acting lance-corporal. On 3rd October he was posted to the 2nd Worcesters and embarked at Southampton with the 18th Reinforcements, disembarking in France the following day.

He joined the battalion on 6th October but just six days later was admitted to the 5th Field Ambulance at Rouen with tonsillitis. From there he travelled first to the 1st Casualty Clearing Station and then on to the 4th General Hospital. He was discharged to duty on 12th November and rejoined the 2nd Worcesters on the 16th.

He was wounded on 26th January 1916 at Cambrin with a gunshot wound to his right foot. “Gunshot wound” on army service records seems to cover a multitude of sins and it seems more likely that he was wounded by a fragment from a rifle grenade. The following extract is taken from the war diary of the 2nd Worcesters (my italics):

26th January 1916
Our trenches were shelled with shrapnel and a few 4.2s landed beyond our reserve trenches. Two men were wounded by enemy’s rifle grenades. We put out several wire bales and constructed some loop holes and knocked out an enemy’s snipers post… This company was moved into the 2nd lines about midnight. The night passed fairly quietly. Our artillery fired during the night.

Henry travelled to the 19th Field Ambulance at Rouen and then onward to a casualty clearing station before being admitted to Number 2 Canadian General Hospital at Rouen. He remained there for nine days before sailing (on 6th February) to England aboard the Hospital Ship Cambria. Landin at Dover, from there he was whisked away to the 2nd Eastern General Hospital at Brighton, The Sussex Daily News reporting the arrival of the convoy. It was the first convoy of the year and comprised a contingent of 180 men, 100 of whom were “cot” cases. The paper reported:

Many of the men had come straight from the trenches with the mud of Flanders still caked to their boots. They crossed the Channel to Dover and travelled to Brighton in an admirably appointed Great Eastern Ambulance Train which drew up at the main arrival platform at the Central Station at half past ten.

On 12th February 1916, Henry was named in the Sussex Daily News as having been admitted to the 2nd Eastern General Hospital Brighton but it seems likely that he was sent on immediately to Hickwells.

His time at Hickwells however, was remarkably short. By the 24th of February he had been posted back to the Worcestershire Regiment Depot where he remained until 4th July. There is then quite a bit of movement. On 7th July he transferred to the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and was posted to its 3rd Battalion on 13th August. His surviving service papers give a number – 261825 – which was later crossed out. On 7th November he was transferred to the 13th Devonshire Regiment at Egg Buckland and then finally, on 29th April 1917, posted to 745 Company, The Labour Corps.

Although they no longer exist in his service papers, it seems probable that Henry attended a number of Medical Boards although why he was transferred to the Ox and Bucks and the Devons remains unclear. His medal index card, held at The National Archives only lists his Worcestershire and Labour Corps army numbers.

On 30th June 1917 he was posted again, this time to the 364 Res[erve] Emp[loyment] Company at Woodford and the following month, on 29th July he sailed for France again. Once overseas he was posted first to 745 Area Employment Company and then, on the 14th November 1917, to 945 Area Emp[loyment] Coy where he joined “A” (Artizan) Company.

Apart from 18 days in hospital with mild tonsillitis in February 1918, the remainder of Henry’s war appears to have been uneventful. In March 1919 he attended a medical examination at which it was found that he had suffered a ”Gunshot wound penetrating region of metatarsal phalangeal joint of great toe”

He was sent to the UK for demob at Shorncliffe on 9th April 1919 and on 2nd May was transferred to Class Z of the army reserve. He had served three years and ten months in His Majesty’s Army. Twenty eight days later a grateful country acknowledged that he had suffered a 20 per cent disability and awarded him a lump sum pension of thirty two pounds and ten shillings.

Pte S F Brown, 2/9th Middlesex Regiment

Private S Brown did not date his entry in Nurse Oliver’s album. Underneath a drawing of a Middlesex Regiment cap badge he has simply written:

Pte S F Brown
2/9 Middlesex Regt

His entry is on the same page as entries from Private W Baddock of the 3rd Grenadier Guards and G4780 Private Edward John Burnage of the 2nd Royal Sussex Regiment. Both these men were patients at Hickwells so their entries can be dated to pre June 11th 1916 when Sussex 54 VAD moved their hospital to Beechland House, Newick.

The 2/9th Middlesex Regiment as a territorial battalion formed at Willesden, North London in September 1914. It remained in England and was disbanded in November 1917.

1218 Private W Brown, 1/9th Middlesex Regt

Nothing is known about this man and a medal index card has not been traced for him at the National Archives, suggesting that he did not serve overseas and was probably a patient as a result of sickness. The entry in Nurse Oliver’s album (which was probably written whilst she was nursing at Hickwells) reads:

Pte W. Brown
1218 No 2 Coy
9th Middlesex Regt

The mumber 1218 dates to around Janaury 1914. Private Bown shares this page in Nurse Oliver's album with 7480 Private Reginald Pimble of the 1st Gloucestershire Regiment, Private 41441 Thomas George Clarke of the Norfolk Regiment and 3655 Private Martin Donnelly of the 1st East Surrey Regiment.

Private T W Brown, Durham Light Infantry

Private T W Brown was a patient at Beechland House. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads

Dear little sweetheart
Tis hard to say goodbye
But duty must be done
Tis harder still to leave you
But victory must be won.
Someday when your loving face
I see, you’ll find my love is
just as strong as the days that used to be.

But if it is that I am slain
& you [sic] loving face I never see again
You’ll proudly know I died a heroes
death with my face towards the
foe. So we’ll just say Au revoir
dear with hope we meet once

Pte T. W. Brown

Wounded on the Somme
Sep 1916

Sixteen battalions of the Durham Light Infantry fought on the Somme in 1916. These were: 2nd Battalion, 1/5th Battalion (TF), 1/6th Battalion (TF), 1/7th Battalion (TF), 1/8th Battalion (TF), 1/9th Battalion (TF), 10th (Service) Battalion, 11th (Service) Battalion, 12th (Service) Battalion, 13th (Service) Battalion, 14th (Service) Battalion, 15th (Service) Battalion, 18th (Service) Battalion (1st County), 19th (Service) Battalion (2nd County), 20th (Service) Battalion (Wearside) and the 22nd (Service) Battalion (3rd County Pioneers).

Of these, the 18th, 19th and 22nd Battalions alone did not see action during September (when Brown was wounded). It seems a reasonable assumption to make therefore that he served with one of the remaining thirteen battalions.

The National Archives has one possibility for T W Brown (76 Private T W Brown of the 1/5th Durham Light Infantry) and two possibilies for Thomas W Brown: 6/3262 Private Thomas W Brown (later 203841 Private Thomas W Brown, DLI) and 10154 Private Thomas W Brown (later 113341 Private Thomas W Brown, MGC).

There may also be other name combinations however that fit “T W Brown” and at the moment there is not enough information to go on to positively identify this man.

86771 Private Thomas S Benton, 41st Signal Coy Royal Engineers

Thomas Benton was a patient at Hickwells in August 1915. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

Pte T Benton
No 86771
41st Signal Coy
Royal Engineers

August 5th 1915

He shares this page with entries from L Reed and 20491 Private William Holt of the 20th London Regiment.

Private Benton’s medal index card at The National Archives indicates that he has the middle initial S. There is a four year old Thomas S Benton listed on the 1901 census return for Cottenham, Cambridgeshire (also born in Cottenham) who is probably Thomas Stanley Benton (birth registered in the June 1897 quarter at Chesterton, Cambridgeshire). Further research is necessary however to identify whether Nurse Oliver’s Benton is the same man who was born in Cottenham.

602919 Pte James Bentley, 7th (British Columbia) Canadians

James Bentley was a patient at Beechland House, Newick in November 1916. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album comprises a drawing of a maple leaf with the word CANADA written underneath, followed by a verse and text. His original entry has been heavily over-written in blue biro in later years. It can be viewed here in part 19 of The Hospital Way.

The entry reads:


[line drawing of maple leaf]

We’re the Boys from Canada
and we have come across the Sea
We’ve come to fight for Old England’s right
And to help win Victory
Don’t you hear our song
When they blow fall in
We’re on our way to old Berlin
For we are the boys of the Maple Leaf.

Pte J Bentley. 7th Canadians
Wounded at Ypres on June 16th ’16 Hill 60
Now under Convalescence at Beechlands

Nov 26th Newick

According to his attestation papers, James Bentley was born at Leicester on 15th February 1890. He attested with the 34th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, at Sarnia, Ontario on 16th August 1915. He gave his home address as 434 Russell Street, Sarnia and his next of kin as his father, Thomas Bentley. James gave his occupation as car repairer. He was unmarried, five feet nine and three quarter inches tall with brown hair, dark blue eyes and a dark complexion. The doctor examining him also noted scars on his knee caps, a burn on his left elbow and moles and brown marks on his shoulder blades.

His attestation was approved the following day and on 1st November 1915, 602919 Private James Bentley arrived in England aboard SS California. At Bramshott on 3rd February 1916 he was transferred to the 23rd Battalion and then on 25th May, overseas, transferred to the 2nd Battalion. The following day he was transferred again, this time to the 7th Battalion. Three weeks later, on 16th June near Ypres, he was hit on the left knee by a piece of shell. His medical notes written at Shornecliffe in Kent in February 1917 explain the subsequent sequence of events:

“Was hit by piece of shell on left knee cap producing fracture. Dressed at various aid stations taken to Poperinghe, then taken Boulogne 14 General. Patient was there 10 days. Had patella removed and excision of knee joint. One drainage tube. Then taken 2nd Eastern General Hospital Brighton where patient had four operations for the purpose of drainage – wound healed up except sinus on outside which still persists. Patients statement. Entry on MHS 26.6.16. Excision of patella and knee joint – residual abscess.”

MHS is Medical History Sheet and it is easy on reading the above statement to gloss over weeks of what must have been tremendous pain for James Smith. His medical notes in 1917 continue:

“Patient is lame and unable to bend leg. Curved scar seven inches on anterior portion femur. Old scars on under side of joint healed where tubes have been. Small sinus still discharging on external surface. Joint was opened. Patella fractured – present condition ankylosis of joint – atrophy of Quadriceps extension X-Ray 4013 Bony ankylosis knee. Left periodtitis inner side of knee involving both bones. Patella absent. No evidence of necrosis. All other organs healthy.”

It is unclear how long James Bentley spent at Beechlands. His medical records indicate that he first arrived at the 2nd Eastern General Hospital, Brighton on 26th June 1916 but then seems to have been almost immediately transferred to the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre at Folkestone. It would appear from the date he writes in Nurse Oliver’s album that he was at Beechlands at some time between June 1916 and February 1917 (when he was transferred to Moore Barracks Hospital in Shornecliffe. I am not even convinced that 26th November, as over-written on his original album entry, is a correct date; it could just as easily be “Nov ‘16”.

James was discharged from hospital on 11th May 1917 and sailed from Liverpool for Canada two days later. His arrival date is unclear but he was admitted to a convalescent home in Canada on 21st May and started attending in-patient classes at MHCC (acronym unknown but the MH possibly stands for “Military Hospital”) on 6th June.

His last pay certificate, dated 30th September 1917 records him as being with F Unit MHC and notes his home address as 333 Wellington Street, Sarnia. His pay for the month of September amounted to $42.80 broken down as $1 per day for regimental pay, 10 cents per day Field Allowance, three days subs allowance at 60 cents per day plus and $8 clothing allowance. He was discharged as Class 3.

486742 Sapper Arthur Bee, Royal Engineers

Arthur Bee was a patient at Beechland House in Autumn 1917. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album (which has been heavily over-written in blue biro at a later date) reads:

Riches have wings
Grandeur is a dream
But when I landed at Beechlands
I found it was real

486742 Sapper A Bee

470th Field Coy R.E.

Wounded at Ypres Sept 26th 1917
also went out to Ireland for the Irish rebellion April 25th 1916

There is another entry on this page from 11796 Private John E Griffiths of the West Riding Regiment.

Arthur Bee’s entry in the Silver War Badge Roll notes that he was discharged in March 1919 aged 22. I can find no birth entry in the England and Wales Civil Registration Index for 1897 but there are two men listed in 1896 whose births were registered at Nottingham and Stoke on Trent.

Arthur enlisted on 19th October 1915. The 470th Field Company of The Royal Engineers was formed in February 1915 and was named the 3/1st (North Midland) Field Coy until Feb 1917. It formed part of the 59th (2nd North Midland) Division. The North Midland connection fits particularly well with the Arthur Bee born in Nottingham.

As Arthur says in his entry, the division moved to Ireland in April 1916 and was the First Territorial Force Division to serve there. It returned to England in January 1917 and then moved to France the following month.

Arthur was one of thirty-eight 59th Division Royal Engineers wounded at Passchendale on 26th September 1917. On the day, the division sustained over a thousand killed, wounded and missing casualties.

As previously mentioned, Arthur was discharged in March 1919 as being no longer physically fit for war service (wounds). His entry on the British War and Victory Medal roll notes two numbers for him: 876 and 486742, the former being his original TF number.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Albert Langridge & Cecil Langridge

One of the benefits of publishing reserarch online is that you can continue to add to it as more information comes in. Imagine how frustrating it must be to see your work in print one day, and to receive more information the day after.
Yesterday, I was sent some more information and photographs relating to Albert Langridge and his brother Cecil Langridge. As a result of this I have been able to update the men's pages. I shall be thinking of Cecil in particular this 31st May 2016 which will mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland and the day on which he and his pal Steven Curd lost their lives.
The photo above shows Albert Langridge, seated third from left, possibly aboard HMS Winchester.  Check out his page and his brother's page for more previously unseen images.
My sincere thanks to Hazel Dean for getting in touch.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Chailey's VADs online

I don't think I've mentioned this before but even if I have done so, it won't harm for a repeat. The British Red Cross website is steadily populating with information about the volunteers who served during the First World War. The indexing leaves a lot to be desired and the cropping of the original images is amateurish, at best. Nevertheless, there are records there which many will find of interest. Commandant Margaret Cotesworth's card is above.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

370722 Rifleman Harold William Parkinson, 1/8th London Regiment

2537 Private Harold William Parkinson was a patient at Beechland House in 1917. He was there not due to wounds but due to sickness. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

Rifleman Harold Parkinson
Post Office Rifles
Better known as
Bronchial Billy. Feb 28th 1917

[ha’penny stamp stuck in book]

By gum Its stuck HP

There is also a group photo of hospital patients pasted onto this page and it is possible that Harold is one of the many unidentified patients there. Nurse Oliver is certainly pictured (back row, third from left) as is the matron, Miss Marshall, who sits at the front with a small dog on her lap.

Harold Parkinson, the son of James Parkinson, was living at 10 Elm Park Avenue, South Tottenham, London when he enlisted with a reserve battalion of the 8th (City of London) Regiment (Post Office Rifles) on 9th September 1914. He was appointed acting corporal on the 26th September 1914 and posted to the 1/8th Battalion on the 10th February 1915. He arrived in France with the Post Office Rifles on the 18th March 1915 and was overseas for just over one year, returning to England on 22nd March 1916 as a result of sickness. He was discharged due to sickness on 22nd April 1917.

His reference to bronchial problems may indicate that he was gassed – he would certainly have been exposed to clouds of gas at the Battle of Loos in which the 1/8th London Regiment took part, and probably after that as well. There is, however, no reference to the reason for his discharge in the six pages of service record which survive in series WO 364.

Harold’s medal index card gives two army numbers for him; the second one: 370722, (which was allocated to him when the Territorials were re-numbered in early 1917), falls within the range of numbers allotted to the Post Office Rifles.

Bombardier Garland, Royal Artillery

Bombardier Garland is referenced only once in Nurse Oliver's album and that is in two faded photographs of a series of five, pasted onto a single page. I am unsure whether these photographs were taken at Beechlands or Hickwells although I suspect they were taken at Beechlands as one of the men, Trooper Hicks, was certainly a patient at Hickwells from May 1916 but transferred to Beechlands the following month. Another of these faded photographs appears to show lupins growing and as these plants bloom in late May / June and continue through to August, I deduce that Beechlands is the more likely location. But I could be wrong.

He appears in the photo above, on the far right, smoking a cigarette.  Other named men in this photograph are, from left to right:

Back row
Sergeant Milne, Private Hilton, Sergeant Richey

Middle row
Trooper Hicks, Private Foster, Rifleman Deers, Private Hart, Bombardier Garland

Front row

Rifleman Hardcastle, Private Dorchester, Rifleman R Nicholson

In the second photo, above, he is named as "Bdr Garland" stands, far right, next to "Mr Hughes".

There are 114 men with the name "Garland" who served overseas with The Royal Field, Horse or Garrison Artillery, not to mention men with the same surname who may have enlisted but did not serve overseas. Thus identifying this man beyond his name and rank is an almost impossible task.

Pte Dorchester

Private Dorchester is referenced only once in Nurse Oliver's album and that is in a faded photograph, one of a series of five, pasted onto a single page. I am unsure whether this photograph was taken at Beechlands or Hickwells although I suspect it was taken at Beechlands as one of the men, Trooper Hicks, was certainly a patient at Hickwells from May 1916 but transferred to Beechlands the following month. Another of these faded photographs appears to show lupins growing and as these plants bloom in late May / June and continue through to August, I deduce that Beechlands is the more likely location. But I could be wrong.

He appears in the photo above, the middle of three men, seated cross-legged on the ground.  Other named men in this photograph are, from left to right:

Back row
Sergeant Milne, Private Hilton, Sergeant Richey

Middle row
Trooper Hicks, Private Foster, Rifleman Deers, Hart, Garland

Front row
Rifleman Hardcastle, Private Dorchester, Rifleman R Nicholson

There is not enough information to positively identify Private Dorchester beyond his rank and surname, although he also appears in another undated and un-named photograph (below). Here, I believe he is the man seated far right with his arm in a sling. Trooper Hicks is also in this photograph, lying on the ground on the left.

6155 Pte Frank Chivers Dixon, 1st Wiltshire Regiment

6155 Private Frank Chivers Dixon was a convalescent patient at Hickwells in 1915. His (by today’s standards) politically incorrect entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

6155 Pte F C Dixon
1st Bn Wiltshire Regt

Wounded at Dixebusch Nr Ypres
May 11th 1915

God made the nigger
He made him in the night
He made him in a hurry
And forgot to make him white


He shares this page with entries from 2229 Trooper Alfred Rock of the Royal Horse Guards, 6271 Private Ernest Whitcomb of the 1st Middlesex Regiment, 22002 Private D Jones of the Army Service Corps and 1921 Private James William Salmon of the 4th Royal Fusiliers.

Frank Dixon was born in Cirencester, Gloucestershire in August 1881. He appears on the 1891 census living with his family at 197 Cricklade Road, Swindon, Wiltshire. The household comprised: George Dixon (head, married, aged 44, working as a shoe maker), his wife Jane Dixon (aged 40) and seven children: Henry William A Dixon (aged 15, working as a shop boy), Annie Kate C Dixon (aged 13), Frank (aged nine), Walter Fred Dixon (aged seven), Sidney Gilbert Dixon (aged six), Wilfred Dixon (aged two) and Beatrice Dixon (aged one).

By the time the 1901 census was taken, the family had moved to 22 Devizes Road and the household had shrunk somewhat. George Dixon is recorded as a shoe finisher. Living with him and his wife Jane were Frank (aged 19, working as a bolt maker), Sidney (aged 16), working as a printer’s compositor. Wilfred (aged 12) and Ernest L P Dixon (aged seven).

Frank had enlisted in the 3rd Wiltshire Militia on 29th December 1899 whilst living in Old Swindon, attesting for a period of six years. His attestation papers give his age as eighteen years and four months whereas his medical record sheet, dated 30th December 1899, notes his apparent age as seventeen years and ten months. He was given the service number 6183.

On 16th December 1902, he enlisted in the regular army giving his age as twenty-one years and three months. He was given the service number 6155. On 13th February 1903, he completed his Certificate of Education (3rd Class) and on 18th July that same year, whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment, extended his period of army service to complete eight years with the colours. The date on which his army service would expire was given as 15th December 1910.

On 8th September 1904, Private Dixon completed his Certificate of Education (2nd Class) and followed this up on 26th September 1905 with the Certificate of Education (1st Class).

On 16th December 1910, he was transferred to the Army Reserve on the expiration of his army service. He was 29 years and three months old and by this time, living in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. He gave his trade as Labourer although for the past four years he had been employed in the army canteen. His conduct sheet reported his service as ‘exemplary’ and he had received two good conduct badges. Distinguishing marks were noted as a tattoo of a butterfly on his right forearm and a bugle on his left forearm. Frank must have had these tattoos done during his time with the militia. On transfer to the Reserve he gave his intended place of residence as 64 Havelock Road, Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa.

On 15th August 1914, still on the Army Reserve, Frank Dixon re-joined the colours and by 22nd October was in France with the 1st Wiltshire Regiment which formed part of the 7th Infantry Brigade in the 3rd Division.

On 13th December 1914, he was admitted to No 8 Clearing Hospital at Bailleul suffering from the effects of cold and two days later was transferred to No 12 General Hospital at Rouen with rheumatism. On 24th December he was sent home to England. He was admitted to hospital in Weymouth on 17th February 1915 with gastritis and discharged on the 24th.

On April 27th 1915 he rejoined his battalion in France and was wounded in action at Dickebusch on 11th May. He was admitted to No 18 General Hospital at Boulogne two days later with a severe gun shot wound to his right thigh and on 17th May was returned to England. From 20th May to 12th September 1915 he was at West Hall VAD hospital and during that time, also spent time convalescing at Hickwells. (As can be seen, his autograph entry in Nurse Oliver’s album is dated 23rd July 1915).

On 12th September 1915 he was discharged from West Hall and it was reported that his wound was now healed and he was walking quite well.

On 15th December 1915, Private Frank Dixon was discharged from A Coy, 3rd Wilts Regt at Littlemore Camp in consequence of “the termination of his first period of engagement.” (Para 392 (xxi) King’s Regulations. He was described as 34 years and three months old, five feet, five inches tall with dark brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. He had completed exactly 13 years’ service (including the additional "bounty year" which he had been obliged to complete as his country was at war) and returned to South Africa. Had he still been in England in January 1916, whether he liked it or not, he would have been conscripted. Nevertheless, his military character was described as “exemplary” and by the time he was discharged he had been awarded a further good conduct badge.

The war diary of the 1st Wiltshire Regiment (WO95/1415), gives more details of the action in which he was wounded. On 1st May 1915 the battalion was at rest at Dickebusch, moving the following day to Elzenwalle. “Marched from Dickebusch and took over P sector of the trenches, relieving HAC. 3 men wounded.” The battalion remained at Elzenwalle until 11th May when it was “relieved by HAC about 9pm. 1 killed, 1 wounded.”

As only one wounded casualty was recorded on this day it can be reasonably assumed that this man was Frank Dixon. During their spell in the trenches at Elzenwalle from 1st - 11th May in what the diary describes variously as a “quiet”, “fairly quiet” or “very quiet” period, the following casualties are recorded:

Officers: 1 killed
Other Ranks: 3 killed, 15 wounded.