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.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Alice Pointing, cook, Sussex 54 VAD


Alice Pointing was the sister of Frank Pointing, George Pointing, James Pointing and William Pointing.  She married Ernest Stevens who also appears on this Chailey roll-call.

I know very little about Alice other than that she served, at some point anyway, as a cook with Sussex 54 VAD. She was born in about 1891 and her mother was also Alice Pointing although I believe it was the daughter (pictured above with Ernest Stevens) who was the cook, rather than the mother.

The photograph above must date to after Alice and Ernest's marriage in 1915.



Probationer Kathleen Etheldred Pownall, Sussex 54 VAD

Kathleen Etheldred Pownall was born on the 15th January 1889, her birth registered at Kensington district, London, in the first quarter of that year.  She appears on the 1891 census living at 5 Stafford Terrace, Kensington with her family.  The household comprised: Henry Harrison Pownall (head, aged 37, working as a barrister), his wife Blanche Pownall and their two children: Kathleen E (aged two) and John C G Pownall (aged under one month).

Kathleen appears on the 1901 census of England and Wales as 12 year old Cathleen [sic] Pownall living at Ades, Cinder Hill, Chailey. 

On the 1911 census 22-year-old Kathleen is recorded as a visitor at the home of Frances Mary Pownall (aged 56) at 44 Montague Road, Richmond Hill, Surrey. I'm guessing that Frances was either a sister of her father or perhaps a sister-in-law; it should be easy enough to verify. Both women are recorded as having "private means".

I am unsure when Kathleen's connection with Sussex 54 VAD began but she had certainly served with the British Red Cross Society since 1911. She is undoubtedly the same "K E Pownall" whose signature appears in Edith Oliver's album on the page dedicated to Sussex 54 VAD in 1913.  British Red Cross Society files note that she subsequently served with Hampshire 46 VAD and worked in Adhurst St Mary Hospital.

Kathleen Pownall died in 1978 at the age of 89. Two of her three brothers: Lionel Henry Yorke Pownall and John Cecil Glossop Pownall would also serve their King and Country during the First World War.

Assistant Quartermaster A Gander, Sussex 54 VAD


I know next to nothing about this lady.  She appears in the photo above, seated third from left.  Her (heavily over-written) signature appears in Nurse Oliver's album on the page devoted to Sussex 54 VAD.  

An undated and so far unattributable newspaper report, probably from 1914, also refers to her as assistant quartermaster. She also appears, third from left in the main photo on the Sussex 54 VAD Personnel page which is taken from one of Frances Blencowe's albums. 


Finally, she appears again in Nurse Oliver's album (above), staring at a pile of wood.  The photo was probably taken at a Field Day in 1913 or 1914.  "A Gander perplexed" is the caption that Edith Oliver had written to accompany the photo. Nothing else is currently known about this woman.

Probationer Emily Bryant, Sussex 54 VAD

In common with too many of her colleagues in Sussex 54 VAD, I know little about Mrs Emily Bryant.  In 1913 she noted in Nurse Oliver's book, on a page dedicated to the Detachment, "E Bryant" and in a 1914 newspaper report on an "Interesting Chailey Display" she is referred to simply as "Nurse Bryant".
 
I think she is almost certainly the same Mrs Emily Bryant who, on the 1901 census, was recorded living alone at Cottage number three, Coppards Bridge, Chailey.  She is noted as a 34 year old widow working as a monthly nurse.  Her place of birth is given as Barcombe.
 
I believe Emily's maiden name was Spring and that she married John Bryant in late 1888 or early 1889.  Their marriage was recorded at Lewes in the March quarter of that year.  John Bryant died in 1893.  Born in 1848 he was 45 years old when he died, leaving Emily, at 27, a widow.
 

Nothing further is currently known of Emily Bryant.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Probationer Marina Edith Bourne Grounds, Sussex 54 VAD

Marina Grounds was born at Brighton in 1874, her birth recorded at Brighton in the June quarter of that year.  Her name is recorded in volume 2b, page 243 as Marina Edith B Grounds. 

She was the daughter of David and Mary Eleanor Grounds (nee Brandreth) whose marriage was registered at Wandsworth, Surrey in the December quarter of 1872.  In 1881, the census records the family living at 83 Ditchling Rise, Preston, Brighton.  Her mother and father are noted as having been born in Standish, Lancashire and Wigan, Lancashire respectively.  Her older brother David was born in Clapham while Marina and her brother George were born in Brighton.  A domestic servant, Hannah Johnson, is also recorded living at the address.

The 1891 census records Marina living at the same Preston address.  The household comprised David Grounds (head, married, aged 40, working as a clerk in a School Board office), his wife Mary Eleanor Grounds (aged 49) and their four children: David Reginald Brandreth Grounds (aged 17 and working as a fitter’s apprentice at the railway works), Marina Edith Bourne Grounds (a 16 year old scholar), George Thomas Bourne Grounds (a fourteen year old scholar) and Unis Rita [sic] Bourne Grounds (an eight year old scholar).

The writing on the 1891 census is not easy to interpret and the spelling of some of the name seems, at best, approximate.  David Reginald (who probably went by the name of Reginald rather than David) definitely has his mother’s maiden name as his third name.  His siblings however, have “Bourne” as their third name.

To confuse matters further, the 1901 census gives different spellings again.  The family is still living at 83 Ditchling Rise but initials replace the middle names. Marina is recorded as, what looks like, Marion and Unis is recorded simply as “Bownce”.  The head of the household is still recorded as a “Clerk in School Board” and Reginald (recorded as David R B Grounds) is noted as a “Mechanical Engineer Fitter”.

It seems likely that the Grounds family moved north towards Chailey at some point after the 1901 census was taken.  George Grounds is included in Reverend Jellicoe’s roll call of Chailey connected men who served their King and Country while Marina and Unis Grounds played an active role as nurses with Sussex 54 VAD.  They are both noted in a June 1914 newspaper article (source unknown) which reported on Chailey’s showing at the Stanmer Park Field Day at Falmer, Sussex and they also appear in photos taken of the Chailey detachment at the time.

In March 1916 their mother died and the four Grounds children as well as their father, are noted as chief mourners at her internment, in an article published in the East Sussex News on 24th March 1916.

Marina and her sister appear to have been enthusiastic Red Cross Society members.  In December 1919, a Miss Grounds is noted in the Parish Magazine as one of a committee of ten individuals who formed the Chailey Nursing Society; the aim at that juncture being to take control of local nursing arrangements and the appointment of a Parish Nurse.

From conversation with Chailey residents it seems that in an age when to refer to people by their first names was simply not done, Miss Marina Grounds was known as “Miss Grounds the elder”.

Probationer Unis Reta Bourne Grounds, Sussex 54 VAD

According to the 1891 census, Unis Grounds was born in Brighton.  Her birth though was recorded at Steyning, Sussex in the July quarter of 1882.  Her name is recorded in volume 2b, page 314 as Unis Reta B Grounds. 

She was the daughter of David and Mary Eleanor Grounds (nee Brandreth) whose marriage was registered at Wandsworth, Surrey in the December quarter of 1872. 

The 1891 census records Unis living with her family at 83 Ditchling Rise, Preston, Brighton.  The household comprised David Grounds (head, married, aged 40, working as a clerk in a School Board office), his wife Mary Eleanor Grounds (aged 49) and their four children: David Reginald Brandreth Grounds (aged 17 and working as a fitter’s apprentice at the railway works), Marina Edith Bourne Grounds (a 16 year old scholar), George Thomas Bourne Grounds (a fourteen year old scholar) and Unis Rita [sic] Boune Grounds (an eight year old scholar).

The writing on the 1891 census is not easy to interpret and the spelling of some of the name seems, at best, approximate.  David Reginald (who probably went by the name of Reginald rather than David) definitely has his mother’s maiden name as his third name.  His siblings however, have “Bourne” as their third name.

To confuse matters further, the 1901 census gives different spellings again.  The family is still living at 83 Ditchling Rise but initials replace the middle names. Marina is recorded as, what looks like, Marion and Unis is recorded simply as “Bownce”.  The head of the household is still recorded as a “Clerk in School Board” and Reginald (recorded as David R B Grounds) is noted as a “Mechanical Engineer Fitter”.

It seems likely that the Grounds family moved north towards Chailey at some point after the 1901 census was taken.  George Grounds is included in Reverend Jellicoe’s roll call of Chailey connected men who served their King and Country while Marina and Unis Grounds played an active role as nurses with Sussex 54 VAD.  They are both noted in a June 1914 newspaper article (source unknown) which reported on Chailey’s showing at the Stanmer Park Field Day at Falmer, Sussex and they also appear in photos taken of the Chailey detachment at the time.

In March 1916 their mother died and the four Grounds children as well as their father, are noted as chief mourners at her internment, in an article published in the East Sussex News on 24th March 1916.

Unis and her sister appear to have been enthusiastic Red Cross Society members.  In December 1919, a Miss Grounds is noted in the Parish Magazine as one of a committee of ten individuals who formed the Chailey Nursing Society; the aim at that juncture being to take control of local nursing arrangements and the appointment of a Parish Nurse.

Probationer Jessie Mary Fenn, Sussex 54 VAD


Jessie Mary Fenn (pictured above left with her older sister, Kathleen) was born at Dover, Kent in 1886, her birth registered in the district in the December quarter of that year.  She appears on the 1891 living at 86 Maison View Road, Dover with her well-to-do family.  The household comprised, Edwin Fenn (head, married, aged 53, a Colchester born physician and surgeon), his wife Mary (aged 39, born in Stratford St Mary, Suffolk) and five children: Grace Fenn (aged 19, born in Fletching, Sussex), Kathleen Fenn (aged 15), William Fenn (aged 14), Leonard Fenn (aged 11) and Jessie (aged four).  The youngest four children had all been born in Dover.  Also at the house were a 19 year old Swedish boarder (Adele Damfelt), a cook and a housemaid.   I have been unable to locate her older brother, Edwin Anthony Fenn (born about 1870) on the 1891 census but another brother, Ernest J Fenn (born around 1868), was working in London.

Mary was Edwin Fenn’s second wife, his first wife Alice having died in 1881 at the age of 42.  My research suggests that he married Mary Ann Oliver in North London in 1884, their marriage registered at Edmonton in the September quarter of that year.  Jessie was therefore a half sister to the other Fenn children.   

According to the 1901 census, at some stage the family had moved to Ardleigh near Harwich in Essex.  Edwin Fenn, now aged 63, is recorded as a retired physician and surgeon.  With him in the house are his three daughters: Grace, Kathleen and Jessie.  Kathleen is recorded by her first name, Alice.  Although Edwin’s status is recorded as “married” rather than “widower”, Mary Fenn does not appear on this census return. Ernest, William and Leonard had all moved away from home.  Edwin had died in Dover in 1895 at the age of 25.    

I am unsure when Jessie and Kathleen joined Sussex 54 VAD.  There was already a distant connection to Chailey Parish through their brother Ernest who had been born at Fletching and it could be that when their father died in 1911, the sisters moved away from Essex.  As a physician and surgeon I have wondered whether they picked up any of his skills but there is no mention of any trade or occupation against any of the girls’ names on the 1901 census and their father was presumably sufficiently well-off, even in retirement, to look after them.   

Jessie was still living at home with her parents when the 1911 census was taken. Edwin is recorded as a 73-year-old retired doctor of medicine.  

The two Fenn sisters are mentioned in the East Sussex News dated 9th February 1917.  Reporting on a pantomime staged at Beechland House, the unnamed journalist notes that “Misses J and K Fenn” took on the roles of fairies.   Nothing else is known about these two ladies.  Their brother Ernest attested for service with the army in January 1916 and is mentioned in Chailey’s parish magazine but he does not appear to have been called up.

Probationer Alice Kathleen Fenn, Sussex 54 VAD


Alice Kathleen Fenn (pictured above right with her younger sister Jessie), was born at Dover, Kent in 1876, her birth registered in the district in the March quarter of that year.  She appears on the 1881 census living with her family at 4, Camden Crescent, Dover.  The household comprised Edwin Fenn (head, married, aged 42, a Colchester born General Medical Practitioner), his wife Alice Anne (or Annie) Fenn (aged 42, born in Ardleigh, Essex) and five children: Ernest J Fenn (aged 13), Edwin Anthony Fenn (aged 11), Kathleen (recorded as Alice K Fenn, aged four),  William C Fenn (aged four) and Leonard H Fenn (aged one).  The two older boys had been born in Fletching (as had a sixth child, Grace Fenn, born about 1870); the other children had all been born in Dover. Lending a hand at the house were 18 year old Alice Watson, a general servant and 14 year old Ellen McPay, a nursemaid.   

By the time the 1891 census was taken the children’s mother had died, their father had re-married and the family had moved to 86 Maison View Road, Dover.  There was also a new half-sister for the Fenn children.    Alice had died in 1881 at the age of 42, her death recorded in the December quarter of that year.  Edwin had then re-married.  My research suggests that he married Mary Ann Oliver in North London in 1884, their marriage registered at Edmonton in the September quarter of that year.   The 1891 census notes Edwin as a physician and surgeon.  His wife Mary is recorded as 39 years old and born in Stratford St Mary, Suffolk.  Children noted are: Grace (aged 19), Kathleen (aged 15), William (aged 14), Leonard (aged 11) and the new arrival, Jessie Mary Fenn (aged four, born in Dover).  Also at the house were a 19 year old Swedish boarder (Adele Damfelt), a cook and a housemaid.  I have been unable to find Edwin but Ernest was working in London.   

Ten years later, according to the 1901 census, the family had moved to Ardleigh near Harwich in Essex.  Edwin Fenn, now aged 63, is recorded as a retired physician and surgeon.  With him in the house are his three daughters: Grace, Kathleen and Jessie.  Kathleen is recorded by her first name, Alice.  Although Edwin’s status is recorded as “married” rather than “widower”, Mary Fenn does not appear on this census return.  Ernest, William and Leonard had all moved away from home.  Edwin had died in Dover in 1895 at the age of 25.    

I am unsure when Kathleen and her younger half sister Jessie joined Sussex 54 VAD.  There was already a distant connection to Chailey Parish through their brother Ernest who had been born at Fletching and it could be that when their father died in 1911, the sisters moved away from Essex.  As a physician and surgeon I have wondered whether they picked up any of his skills but there is no mention of any trade or occupation against any of the girls’ names on the 1901 census and their father was presumably sufficiently well-off, even in retirement, to look after them.  

Kathleen appears on the 1911 census as a 35-year-old single matron working at Dulwich College.   

The two Fenn sisters are mentioned in the East Sussex News dated 9th February 1917.  Reporting on a pantomime staged at Beechland House, the unnamed journalist notes that “Misses J and K Fenn” took on the roles of fairies.   Nothing else is known about these two ladies.  Their brother Ernest attested for service with the army in January 1916 but does not appear to have been called up.

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. 

INTERESTING CHAILEY DISPLAY

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.