World War I heroes part 4

Felbridge Remembers their World War I Heroes, Pt. IV

2014 saw the centenary of the start of World War I and to commemorate the event the Felbridge History Group produced Felbridge Remembers World War I [for further information see Special, Felbridge Remembers World War I, SP. SJC 07/14].  So much information was donated it was decided to produce a series of Handouts that will culminate with the centenary of Armistice Day in 2018.  The following is Part IV of a series of Handouts that documents the information received into the Felbridge archive in response to the centenary, some of which may also appear in the commemorative publication Felbridge Remembers World War I, but where additional information has since be received this has be incorporated under the relevant sections. 

This, and all the Handouts in the series, sets out to tell the stories of some of the local heroes with Felbridge connections who fought in World War I and how their families were impacted during this tumultuous time.  Much of the information has come from descendants and family members who keep their memories alive, supplemented with information about their service from war records (where they survive) and details about some of the campaigns they were part of. 


Part I covered the Arnold, Roberts and Sargent families, Sidney Godley, the first Private to receive the Victoria Cross in World War I, Frank Wells whose war memoires (in his own words) survive and Christopher Wren of the Tank Corps, all of whom have descendants that still live in Felbridge and the surrounding area. 


Part II covered Henry Willis Rudd and the Lewis gun, the formation of the Voluntary Aid Detachment and the work of Mrs Blount of Imberhorne, together with some of the Auxiliary Hospitals/Convalescent Hospitals that were set up in the Felbridge area including the stories of Lt. Col. J B Pym and Lt. Col. R H Freeman MC who were sent for convalescence at The Lodge, Great Frenches Park and L. Sto. Reginald William Morgan who was sent to FelbridgePark to convalesce.  It also covered some of the wartime entries found in the Felbridge School Log and some correspondence of the war years, including a letter to The Times from Rev. G Osborne Troop of the Vicarage Felbridge and postcards sent home from the Front to the Martin and Sargent families.


Part III covered some of the servicemen who fought in World War I who have connections with members of the Felbridge community such L. Corp. William Howard Roberts MM whose daughter has spent her married life living in Felbridge and the four Kenward brothers who were related to the Felbridge Wheeler/Pattenden families; Military Officers who came from or decided to move to the local area including: Lt. Ivan Donald Margary, Capt. Andrew Duncan MacNeill and his brother Lt. William MacKinnon MacNeill, Major Stewart Inglis DSO and Major Douglas Stern MC; a plea of exemption from the Farm Bailiff at Imberhorne Farm for Alfred Pattenden, the only man left to farm Tilkhurst Farm during World War I; Seaman Arthur Ernest Pattenden; and the Women’s Farm and Garden Union that was established at Wiremill as a direct result of World War I.


This Handout, compiled in 2018 on the centenary of the end of World War I, will cover some of those who either killed in action, served in the war or suffered as a consequence of the war, remembered by the growing community of Felbridge, including: Pte. Francis Case, husband of Ethel Case née Furneaux of Rowplatt Lane and later of Penlee, The Crescent off Copthorne Road; Pte. Percy Curtis, brother of former Felbridge resident Frederick Curtis of Trevore, Copthorne Road, and the great uncle of Felbridge resident Doris Trefine (née Curtis) formerly of Park Cottages, Copthorne Road; Corp. John Benjamin Patrick Geary DCM, father of Pat Mayer of Tangle Oak off Mill Lane; Pte. Albert Edward Giles, father of Diane Giles of Whittington College; L. Corp. Charles Seymour Harris, grandfather of Charles Booth of Tangle Oak, off Mill Lane; L. Corp. Albert Mills, son of James and Sarah Mills of Copthorne Road, and brother of Minnie Back, née Vestey, née Mills of Copthorne Road and Edith Mary Murrell née Mills of Halsford Croft; AB1. Frank Murrell, husband of Edith Mary Murrell of Halsford Croft, son-in-law of James and Sarah Mills of Copthorne Road and brother-in-law of Minnie Back of Copthorne Road; and Agnes Whitwell, great grandmother of Val Clarke of StreamPark and great, great grandmother of Jeremy Clarke of Furnace Wood.


The impact of World War I on Felbridge

The impact of World War I on the people of the Felbridge community has to be viewed as two parts, those who sadly lost their lives, which can be measured in facts and figures and those who returned as very different men after fighting in the war.


For the facts and figures, eighteen men are recorded as having lost their lives in World War I in Felbridge.  Of these eighteen, only fifteen appear on the official Memorial Plaque in St John’s church, with a further two remembered on memorials erected in the churchyard and one who has no memorial [for further information see Handout, War Memorials of St Jon the Divine, SJC 07/02v].  Of the eighteen men, there are four pairs of brothers who died and at least one brother-in-law.  The average age of the Felbridge men who died was thirty, with 53% being single, 29% being married and the remaining 18% widowed or unknown.  Although the men served with a variety of regiments, the largest percentage, 41%, served with the Royal Sussex Regiment, which lost a total of 6,800 men and of this figure 0.1% came from Felbridge.  The highest loss of Felbridge lives occurred in 1915 and 1916, both years being 29% with 24% lost in 1917 and 18% lost in 1918, the majority of lives being lost in France.


The impact on the community of Felbridge also has to be considered in relation to the population figure of Felbridge at that time.  Felbridge, although no longer a manorial estate as it had started to break up in 1911 [for further information see Handout, 1911 Sale of the Felbridge Estate, SJC 01/11], did not grow during the intervening years.  This meant that the population figure was about the same as it had been during the time of being a manorial estate, which in 1913 was 293.  On this basis, Felbridge lost 6% of its total population during World War I and presuming that about half of the population were males, Felbridge lost 12% of its male population. Considering the average life expectancy in Felbridge in the early 1900’s was 60 (from burial data) and the age for conscripted service was 18 to 50 by the end of the War, Felbridge lost 2 in every 9 males who were eligible for war service.


General Information on World War I

Set against a back drop of manoeuvres for European supremacy, World War I began on 4th August 1914, triggered by the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand whilst on a visit to Sarajevo in Bosnia.  The War drew in all the World’s big powers divided between two main camps, the Allies consisting of Britain, France and Russia, later joined by countries from the British Commonwealth and America, and the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary.


It was the first war that involved the majority of the world and saw the introduction of a very different form of warfare to that previously experienced.  Men no longer fought hand to hand combat but saw the introduction of indiscriminate mechanical warfare at close range.  Originally believed to be ‘over by Christmas’ it soon became apparent that this war would not be so easily won and would end up having a huge impact upon all the countries involved. 


By the end of the war in Europe, on 11th November 1918, many millions of lives had been lost on all sides and the four major European imperial powers, German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman, ceased to exist after 1919.  Germany lost substantial territory, whilst the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman states were dismantled.  This saw the re-drawing of the map of Europe with several independent nations restored or created.  To try and prevent the repetition of such an appalling conflict again the League of Nations was formed, thus World War I was billed as the ‘War to end all Wars’ but sadly the weakened states renewed European nationalism and the German feeling of humiliation contributed to a rise of fascism and the conditions for World War II, just twenty years later.


Pte. Francis John Case

Pte. Francis Case was the husband of former Felbridge resident Ethel Case née Furneaux of Rowplatt Lane and later of Penlee, The Crescent off Copthorne Road.


Francis John Case was born at Nunhead, Camberwell, on 2nd August 1877, the son of George Case, a labourer, and his wife Betsey née Harley.  Francis’ siblings included: George James born on 17th February 1868 but who sadly died in 1869, Frederick born in February/March 1871 and Albert Edward born 4th August 1874.  In 1881, the Case family were living at 1, James Street, Peckham, and in 1891 the family were living at 52, Howbury Road, Peckham; Francis working as an office boy.  In 1901 Francis was still living with his parents, then at 7, Wroxton Road, Peckham; Francis working as a clerk for a Gas Metre Testing Office.  On 15th October 1906, Francis, then of 16, Rye Hill Park, Peckham Rye, Surrey, was admitted to the Freedom of London.


On the 6th August 1910, Francis John Case married Ethel Furneaux at Roupell Park Methodist Church in West Norwood, Surrey.  Ethel had been born in Kennington, on 29th September 1881, the daughter of William Samuel Furneaux, a professor and lecturer, and his wife Mary Emma née Allen [for further information see Handout, Professor Furneaux and the ‘Penlees’ of Felbridge, SJC 03/09].  At the time of their marriage Francis was working as a Municipal Clerk; their first married home being 132, Jerningham Road, London.  Francis and Ethel had just two children, Francis Henry born in 26th May 1912, and Lucy Muriel (known as Muriel), born on 30th April 1916.


In 1914 when World War I broke out, Francis Case did not voluntarily enlist as he had been a lifelong pacifist, however, when conscription was introduced in 1916 Francis enlisted in Croydon, giving his address as Addiscombe.  Francis enlisted with 7th Battalion, Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment as Private no. T/4254 and later transferred to the 1st Battalion as T/201910.  Sadly Francis died in the Fortress Hospital on 3rd August 1918 (some documents state 5th August) in Kiel in Germany, aged 41.  Five years after the death of Francis, a government decision was taken that the graves of Commonwealth servicemen who had died all over Germany should be brought together into four permanent cemeteries, and as such, the remains of Francis John Case were moved to Ohlsdorf, Friedhof cemetery in Hamburg. He is remembered on the Corporation of London War Memorial in the Guildhall, Gresham Street.


Ethel, widowed with two young children, lived at 10, Sissinghurst Road, Addiscombe, Croydon, until 1923 when she moved to 26, Rowplatt Lane, Felbridge, which she named ‘Sissinghurst’ after the name of the road in which the Case family had lived in Addiscombe [for further information see Handout, Professor Furneaux and the ‘Penlees’ of Felbridge, SJC 03/09].  Ethel and her children remained at ‘Sissinghurst’, 26, Rowplatt Lane, until about 1928/9 when they moved to ‘Penlee’ (now re-developed as Thicket Cottage), Crawley Down Road, Felbridge, to live with her aging father William Furneaux, putting the house in Rowplatt Lane on the market.  In 1937, William Furneaux conveyed ‘Penlee’ to Ethel and in 1939, after the sale of her Rowplatt Lane house, Ethel bought a plot of land off Copthorne Road on which she had built a new house called ‘Penlee’; her father living with her there until his death in 1940, aged 84.  Three years after the death of William Furneaux, Ethel moved to Vicarage Road, Crawley Down, again calling her home ‘Penlee’.  Ethel eventually moved to a Methodist run home for the elderly in Cliffdene in Tankerton, Kent, where she died in February 1962, aged 80.


Pte. Percy Curtis

Pte. Percy Curtis was the brother of former Felbridge resident Frederick Curtis of Trevore, Copthorne Road, and the great uncle of Felbridge resident Doris Trefine formerly of Park Cottages, Copthorne Road, later of Brendoncare Stildon Nursing Home, Dorset Avenue, East Grinstead.


Percy Curtis was born in East Grinstead in the June quarter of 1898, the son of William Curtis, a baker, and his wife Lucy née Knowles.  William Curtis had been born in Brighton in Sussex, and met Lucy when he moved to Aldershot in Hampshire, around 1870.  William and Lucy married in 1873 when she was just sixteen.  By 1874, the couple had moved to Stockton-on-Tees, Durham, where the first child of their large family was born.  The Curtis family remained in the northern part of Britain until about 1880 when they moved to London, then back to Aldershot for a year or two before moving to East Grinstead, living first at 137, West Street, where William established a baker’s and grocer’s shop.  He then opened a second shop at 86, London Road and moved to 94, London Road (now no. 104) in 1907, from where he also opened refreshment rooms selling cakes and buns baked at the bakery at 16, De La Warr Road; William and many of his family moving to De La Warr Road by 1911, at which time William was listed as a baker and confectioner with wife Lucy and eight of their children assisting with the business. 


Apart from Percy, William and Lucy Curtis had at least fifteen other children including: Lucy born on 24th September 1874, William born on 11th November 1875, Albert born in the June quarter of 1876 but who sadly died within a year, Mary born in June quarter of 1878, Annie Isabella born in the December quarter of 1880, Samuel born on 11th September 1882, Albert born on 5th November 1883, Harry born on 22nd August 1886, Frederick born in the 16th August 1888, twins Edith Fanny and John Harold born on 3rd January 1890 (sadly John died within three months of his birth), twins Margaret Isabella and Winifred Kate born on 28th August 1891, and twins Ernest and Constance born on 2nd November 1895.  Most of the sons followed their father’s traded as a baker, many working alongside him.  In 1907, when William moved to London Road, he handed over his West Street shop to son-in-law Henry Thwaites who had married William’s daughter Lucy in 1899.  Henry Thwaites was aided in the running of the shop by William’s son Albert (who was the baker and went on to run the shop during the 1920’s and 30’s) and youngest son Percy, who in 1911, was employed as the baker’s assistant.


On the outbreak of World War I, Percy Curtis was just sixteen years old, legally too young to enlist, so he waited until he was seventeen and then enlisted, still under age, at Guildford, Surrey.  Percy first served with the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment that had been formed in Chichester in September 1914.  By April 1915, the Battalion had moved to Shoreham in Sussex and then on to Woking in Surrey by June 1915, possibly explaining Percy’s enlistment being in Guildford. The 9th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment landed in Boulogne on 1st September 1915.  Unfortunately not all of Percy’s military records survive so it is not known when he was moved to the 7th (Service) Battalion, which landed in Boulogne on 1st June 1915. 


Percy Curtis spent two years and seven months as part of the British Expeditionary Force fighting on the Western Front in France before he died of wounds sustained in battle, aged just 19/20.  Referring to the War Diary of the Royal Sussex Regiment, it is possible to read day-to-day activities of the 7th Battalion and the events leading up to Percy’s death and just after:


February              FLEURBAIX

1st                           Working parties 220.  Draft of 19 OR. arrived.

2nd                         Working parties 220.  2 Lt Perkin returned from leave.  Received sudden orders to relieve 8th R. F. in front line next day.


3rd                          Relieved 8th R. F. completed 12 noon.  Distribution: A Coy right front; D Company left front; C Coy right support  B Coy left support.

4th                          Enemy raided PENSAM POST held by A Coy at 5.30am.  Casualties 3 killed, 8 wounded & 4 missing.  2 Lt T Clarke returned from I Army Inf. School.

5th                          Quiet day – 2 Lt. Mc Cracken proceeded to England for 6 months.

6th                          Quiet day – Took over left half of 11th Middlesex sector.  Relief complete.  2 Lt. Clements, Rowsell & Stanley returned from XVthCorpsSchool.  2 Lt. Jones & Lothein joined & posted to A & C Coys respectively.


What is so sad about the entries in the diary is the number of ‘quiet days’ that followed what had been the fateful day for Percy Curtis, being one of the wounded mentioned on 4th February. 


A member of the Curtis family has retained a letter that was sent to Mrs Lucy Curtis from 130 Field Ambulance, dated 5th February 1918.  The letter reads:

You have already received the War Office notification of the wounding of your dear boy Percy, and by now the sadder tidings which spell bereavement for you and yours, are on their way by telegraph.

Less than an hour ago – I am writing at 9.15pm – the dear lad passed peacefully away, as quietly as if he were falling asleep.

He had been, as you know, severely wounded (by a bomb), and was too weak when brought into this station (Advanced Surgical Station) for immediate operation.

This centre, I should explain, is some five miles from the enemy lines and is maintained for the treatment of cases too serious to be sent on the longer journey (by motor) to the nearest CCS.

Besides a skilled Surgeon in Charge, there are three Sisters and of course Orderlies, and Percy had the very best attention.

I was with him constantly and the dear boy was good and patient beyond raise.

His patience and quietness helped him, but his case seemed hopeless from the first.

This evening, as a last resource, he was operated on, but he slipped away, for someone was calling him.

His last words to me, when I asked him how he was feeling were, “I mustn’t grumble, Sir”.

Whenever he saw me he would smile, and last night as I was tip-toeing through the Ward, he called out quite clearly, “Good night, I am much more comfortable, Sir”.

The Surgeon and Sister were with him at the end.  The Surgeon asked him if he would have a drink, he answered, “Bye and bye” and “fell on sleep”.

I have written this hurriedly, I wanted you to know as much as I could tell you, without delay.

Forgive the half-sheets of paper, you will understand, and make allowance.  Let me know if there is anything I can do, but remember, your dear boy is nearer to you than you may realise.  You have not lost him.


Yours with sympathy,

GV Griffiths CF

(Non-Conformist Chaplain)


It is ironic that the letter was addressed to Mrs Lucy Curtis as she had in fact pre-deceased her son Percy, having died in the March quarter of 1915, aged just 59, so the wording in the last paragraph was, perhaps, even more poignant and relevant.


The official war records state that Pte. Percy Curtis, G/7659, died of wounds received in the Western European Theatre of War on 6th February 1918.  This date is the day after that which was outlined in the letter from the Chaplain and can possibly be explained by the fact that Percy died quite late at night and therefore his death would probably not have been officially reported until the morning of the 6th February.  Percy was buried in the Estaires Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France, and was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.  Percy’s father William Curtis received his personal effects and a War Gratuity of £11 10/- in 1919.


Percy was the only one of the seven surviving Curtis brothers that fought in World War I who did not return.  His memory was kept alive in Felbridge through two sets of relations.  Firstly through his nephew Sydney Curtis, the son of Percy’s brother William, who married Emma Streeter and who lived at Park Cottages, Copthorne Road, along with their daughter, Percy’s great niece, Doris Trefine née Curtis; and secondly through his brother, Frederick Curtis and his wife Florence [Florrie] née Pearless who had moved to The Firs, Crawley Down Road, by 1929 and then to Trevore, Copthorne Road, by 1935.  As a point of interest, Frederick and Florrie Curtis had a son called Harold who was born in 1916, who was sadly killed during World War II on 6th November 1940, being buried in the churchyard of St John’s, Felbridge [for further information see Handout, War Memorials of St John the Divine, Felbridge, SJC 07/02v].  


Corp. John Benjamin Patrick Geary DCM

Corp. John Geary was the father of former Felbridge resident Pat Mayer of Tangle Oak off Mill Lane.


John Benjamin Patrick Geary[1]  was born in Lambeth, in the autumn of 1898, the son of John Geary[2]  and is wife Mary née Batty.  John’s[1] siblings included: half sister Florence Ellen Batty born in 1894 and sisters May Ellen born in 1897, Ruby born in 1901 and Catherine Mary born in 1903; all the children born in Lambeth.  In 1901, the Geary family were living at 17, Springfield Road, Lambeth; John[2] working as a carman.  By 1903, at the time of John[1] and Catherine’s baptism, the Geary family had moved to 1, Springfield Place, Lambeth; John[2] listed as a labourer.  By 1911, the Geary family had moved again, this time to 15, Richmond Place, Lambeth; John[2] listed as a labourer at the Gas Works. 


Based on information given by the family, John Geary[1]  ‘joined the (13th) East Surrey Regiment at St John’s Hill, Clapham, in 1914, aged 15½’.  However, the 13th (Wandsworth) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment was not raised until 16th June 1915, being adopted by the War Office on 28th August 1915, which would have made John 17½ years old.  Unfortunately John Geary’s service records are incomplete so it has not been possible to determine his exact war service, although it is known that John Geary’s Regimental number in the 13th (Wandsworth) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment was 34625.  It is also known that after initial training the 13th (Wandsworth) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment moved to Witley in Surrey in September 1915 and joined the 41st Division.  In October, they transferred to Aldershot returning to Witley in November 1915.  In February 1916, they underwent their final training and proceeded to France, landing at Le Havre on 4th June 1916 as part of the 120th Brigade in the 40th Division.  A collaborating factor that John Geary’s army service did not start in 1914 as family legend tells, is borne out by the fact that he was not awarded the 1914 Star Medal (Mons Medal), which was only awarded to those who saw active service in France and Belgium between 5th August and 22nd November 1914.  However, the family also believe he served in the Navy so it is possible that he signed up for the Navy in 1914, aged 15½, although there are no surviving naval records to collaborate this.


The 13th (Wandsworth) Battalion, the East Surrey Regiment joined the Front Line near Loos and saw action in The Battle of the Ancre on the Somme in 1916.  Information given by the Geary family says that John was ‘captured by the Germans, being imprisoned at Frederickshavn [a Danish town on the northeast coast of the Jutland peninsula in northern Denmark] for 11 months’.  Unfortunately there are no surviving collaborating Prisoner of War records for this event. 


In 1917, the 13th (Wandsworth) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment saw action during the German retreat of the Hindenburg Line and several other skirmishes including the Battle of Cambrai and the Battle of Arras.  In February 1918 they transferred to the 119th Brigade, still part of the 40th Division.  It is not known whether John Geary took part in any of these battles or whether he was ‘imprisoned’ at the time.  They then fought in

the Battle of St Quentin and the Battle of Bapaume on the Somme and then the Battle of Estaires and the Battle of Hazebrouck in Flanders; the Battalion suffering heavy loses.  As a result they transferred through several Divisions during the spring of 1918, ending up in the 25th Division on 30th May 1918.  It is not known how much of the action John Geary saw during this period but he was Mentioned in Dispatches (MiD) and was also awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) on 3rd September 1918 for bravery in the trenches. 


To be ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’ meant that the person’s name appeared in an official report written by a superior officer, which was then sent to the high command, describing the individual’s ‘gallant or meritorious action in the face of the enemy’.  It was the most junior form of recognition that was announced in the London Gazette for all to see back home in Britain.  Originally there was no award as such, the literal mention of the individual in the despatch being deemed sufficient.  However, during World War I it was decided that an oak leaf emblem could be worn with the ribbon of the Victory Medal denoting the mention.  The mentioned man also received a certificate carrying his service details and a reference to the despatch in which he was mentioned.  However, the mention did not entitle the man to use the letters MiD after his name for official purposes.  The Distinguished Conduct Medal, established in 1854, was awarded to ‘other ranks’ (ie: non officers) of the British army for gallantry in the field, being a second level military decoration, ranking below the Victoria Cross (VC).


The 13th Battalion returned to England and was disbanded on 3rd November 1918.  However, from the Geary family information John ‘being a military man at heart, decided to “join up” again’ (which military records confirm), this time with the Northamptonshire Regiment as a Corporal, Regimental No. 70949. Unfortunately it is not known how long John Geary served with the Northamptonshire Regiment as there are no surviving service records of this period of his life but he does not appear in civilian documents again until 1922.  On return to civilian life, John Geary took employment in the pump and tank department at Pratt Oil Co. Ltd. (now ESSO Petroleum Co. Ltd), the company he remained with until the outbreak of World War II. 


In 1922, John Geary married Winifred Turner in Wandsworth.  Winifred had been born in Wandsworth on 20th March 1899, the daughter of William Turner, a bricklayer’s labourer, and his wife Winifred Ann née Figg.  It would appear the John and Winifred had just one daughter, Patricia Eileen, born in 1923.  In 1923, the electoral rolls show that John Geary was living at 20, Caistor Road, Wandsworth, moving to 66a Caistor Road in 1924, and remaining there until sometime between 1927 and 1935 when the whole Geary family were living at 8, Godley Road, Wandsworth.  It is interesting to note that Winifred Geary does not appear at the address with her husband John, until 1935.  With the outbreak of World War II, John Geary again enlisted, this time with the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) as a driver and, from family information, saw active service in ‘Europe, immediately after D Day’.  After the war, John returned to ESSO and retired after thirty-eight years service in 1963.  John Geary died on 13th June 1967, aged sixty-eight, from 37, Alfred Butt House, Holderness Road, Tooting.  John Geary’s wife Winifred died in 1981, aged 82.


It was John Geary’s daughter Patricia, who moved to Felbridge and brought his World War I memories with her.  In 1946, Patricia married Cyril J Mayer, having lost her fiancé Robert James Wannell, in World War II.  Sgt. (Air Gunner) Robert James Wannell had died whilst serving with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, aged just 19, on 22nd November 1943, being buried at the Fulham Palace Road Cemetery.  Patricia and Cyril Mayer appear not to have had a family and spent most of their married life in Wandsworth and Sutton in Surrey, before moving to 2, Tangle Oak off Mill Lane in Felbridge by 1983.  Patricia was to remain in Felbridge until her death on 7th February 2014, aged 90.


Pte. Albert Edward Giles

Pte. Albert Edward Giles was the father of Felbridge resident Diane Giles of WhittingtonCollege. 


Albert Edward (known as Bert) Giles[1] was born in Copthorne, Sussex, on 4th October 1898, the eldest son of Albert Edward Giles[2] and his wife Olive Elsie née Bradford who had married on 26th March 1898 at St Mary’s Church, Horne, Surrey.  As a point of interest, Albert Giles[2] was the son of Daniel Giles and his wife Louisa née Ford.  Daniel was a Game Keeper for Alfred Palmer of WestPark [for further information see Handout, West Park Estate, SJC 04/99] and they lived at Keeper’s Lodge, between the Copthorne Road and East Park Villa on the West Park Road, Horne. 


Besides Albert[1], Albert[2] and Olive Giles had at least four other children including: Sydney George Richard (known as George) born in 1891, Norman William D born in 1906 but who sadly died in 1908, Bernard Tom born in 1910 and Norman M born in 1918.  At the time of Albert’s[1] birth, the family were living in the Copthorne area but by 1901 had moved to 37, Willow Way, Lewisham, where Albert[2] was working as a gardener’s labourer.  By 1906, the Giles family had moved to the Croydon area and in 1911 where living at 45, Buxton Road, Thornton Heath, Croydon; Albert[2] working as a bricklayer’s labourer.


With the outbreak of World War I Albert Giles[1] was just sixteen years old and as such was too young to enlist.   Albert’s surviving service records record that he was ‘deemed to have enlisted on 4th October 1916’ this would have made him 18 years old.  However, his enlistment application is dated 2nd April 1917, when he was 18 years and 4 months, enlisting at Croydon, the application being approved by the Depot of the East Surrey Regiment at Kingston-upon-Thames.  At the time of his enlistment, Albert was working as a ‘rulering apprentice’, living at the family home at 25, Lucerne Road, Thornton Heath, Croydon, Surrey.  His description on enlistment is given as 5ft 4½ [163.83cm] inches tall, he weighed 98lbs (7 stone [44.5kg]), he had a chest measurement of 31½ inches [80cms] and a fresh complexion, blue eyes and fair hair.  From surviving damaged military records, Albert served with two regiments during World War I.  His enlistment papers show that he was first a Private with the Bedfordshire Regiment, Reg. No. 10711.  This has then been crossed through and the papers stamped with the Suffolk Regiment, Reg. No. 45742, and this in turn has been crossed through and ‘Bedfords’ has been hand written, Reg. No. 41142.  However, a clearer picture of Albert’s service can be gleaned from his Casualty Form.  This shows that he began his service with the 23rd Training Reserve, 3rd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment on 3rd April 1917 at St Albans, Hertfordshire.  On 3rd June 1917 he was transferred to the 24th Training Reserve.  On 11th October 1917, the 3rd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment embarked at Folkestone for active service in France.  On 16th October 1917 Albert was posted to the 11th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment which was joined by the 15th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment.  On the same day, Albert was transferred to the Bedfordshire Regiment being posted to the 1st Battalion and allocated a new regimental number – 41142.  On 18th October 1917, Albert joined the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment being posted to C Company. 


Albert was wounded in action on 21st August 1918, the entry in the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment War Diary for that day reads:

21 Aug 1918 [The Second Battle of the Somme (1918) - The Battle of Albert] Battalion moved forward to the attack at 4.45 a.m. meeting with very slight opposition.  The objective was about 1500 yards from original German Front Line which had already been taken by the 37th Division.  Battalion gained objective which they consolidated, remaining there in support to the 1/Norfolk Regt. who passed through to take the next objective.  Casualties Capts G. de C. MILLAIS [Geoffrey de Carteret MILLAIS] & H. J. WEST M.C. [Herbert John WEST, MC] wounded (since died of wounds) & 46 O.R.s [Other Ranks] Killed & wounded etc.


Albert Giles was one of the ‘O.R.s’ referred to in the diary entry; ironic that he should be wounded in the Battle of Albert!


On 24th August 1918, Albert’s Casualty Form records that he had been wounded in the arm and neck, which by 25th August 1918 was altered to ‘G. S. W. [Gun Shot Wound] arm mild’ and on 1st September 1918 Albert was transported back to England on board the Hospital Ship Carisbrook Castle.  On arrival in England, Albert was transported to the Military Hospital at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, where two Pavilion buildings of the Trent Bridge Cricket Ground, that had been requisitioned by the War Office in 1915, were being used as a Military Hospital.  As a point of interest, between 1915 and March 1919 3,553 patients were treated in rooms in the Main Pavilion and Old Ladies Pavilion; both being slightly enlarged to accommodate around 300 beds.  On his admission to the Military Hospital on 3rd September 1918, it was reported that Albert had received a ‘superficial wound’ 1 inch (25mm) in diameter, to his front left shoulder, ‘healing when transferred’.  With regards, to the term ‘mild’/’superficial’ wound, Albert’s daughter remembers that for the rest of his life he had a ‘hole in his left arm’, which was about 3 inches (75mm) shorter than his other arm, and that he later suffered with symptoms that would today be diagnosed as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).


From his military records, on 9th October 1918, 36 days after admittance to the Military Hospital, Albert joined the Bedfordshire Command Depot at Ampthill and on 17th January 1919, Albert was sent to the No. 1 Dispersal Unit, Crystal Palace Dispersal Station.  Documentation shows that Albert had attained ‘Specialist Military Qualifications’ during his time at The Front, listing him as a ‘rifle bomber’.  A rifle bomber was an infantry man who had been trained to use a rifle-based grenade launcher, which gave a longer effective range than would be possible if the grenade was thrown by hand.


Albert was eventually ‘Discharged on Demobilisation’ on 31st March 1920.  For his services in World War I, Albert was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  However, this was not the end of his army career and on 23rd August 1922, Albert signed up for four years service with the 4th Battalion, Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment (Territorial Army), Reg. No. 6079935.  At this enlistment, Albert gave his height as 5ft 6½ inches [168.91cms], having grown 2 inches [5cm] since 1917, was recorded as working as a ‘machine worker’ and was still living at 25, Lucerne Road, Thornton Heath. 


On leaving the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, Albert married Lily Selina Patten at St Paul’s church, Thornton Heath, on 26th June 1926.  Lily had been born in Croydon on 11th May 1902, the daughter of Wilmot George Patten, a plumber, and his wife Elizabeth Kate née Patching.  Lily had at least five siblings including: Doris Elizabeth (known as Dolly) born on 28th September 1897, Philip Alfred born on 6th March 1899, Queenie Rita born on 11th September 1904, Wilmot George born in June 1908 and Percy Herbert was born on 5th May 1911; Doris was born in London and the remaining children had been born in Croydon.  Albert and Lily Giles started their married life with Lily’s parents at 18, Bensham Grove, Thornton Heath; Albert working as a ‘machine ruler’.  Albert and Lily had three children: Edwin John (known as John) was born on 10th September 1927, Rita Elizabeth was born on 24th August 1931 and Diane Olive born on 2nd July 1940.


In the 1939 Register, Albert was recorded as living with the Patten family at 28, Dale Park Road, Upper Norwood, Croydon, working as a machine ruler (printing trade), whilst Lily, along with John and Rita, were living with her sister Queenie and her husband George Phillips, a police constable, and son David, at 304, London Road, Bayswater [Headington], Oxfordshire.  With the outbreak of World War II, Albert Giles fortunately did not serve but did become an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Warden.  The ARP organisation had been established in 1937 and was dedicated to the protection of the civilian population, being particularly active with increased enemy bombing raids during The Blitz.  In September 1940, six weeks after the birth of Albert and Lily’s youngest child, the Giles family home in Thornton Heath was flattened in a bombing raid and as a result, the family moved to 43, BenhurstGardens, Selsden, Croydon. 


After the end of the war, the Giles family continued living in Selden until 17th December 1953, when they moved to a bungalow called Hawthorn in Crawley Down Road, Felbridge.  They remained there until 1966 when they moved to 7, Lodge Close, East Grinstead, Albert’s last home before he died on 4th January 1972, aged 73.  Lily lived on until 29th December 1994, when she died, aged 92, from Flat 1, Grosvenor Court, Grosvenor Road, East Grinstead.


It is through his youngest daughter Diane Giles, formerly of Clevecote, StreamPark, later of WhittingtonCollege, that the memory of Albert Giles lives on in Felbridge.


L. Corp. Charles Seymour Harris

L. Corp. Charles Harris was the grandfather of Felbridge resident Charles Booth of Tangle Oak off Mill Lane.


Charles Seymour Harris was born in Bovey Tracy, Devon, in the spring of 1892, the son of John Russell Harris, a flour merchant (travelling), and his wife Edith née James.  It appears that Charles may have been the only child of John and Edith.  In 1893, the Harris family were living at Edgecumbe Street in Plymouth; John Harris listed as a commercial traveller.  In 1901, John and Charles were living at 21, Kingston Road, Plymouth; John listed as a flour merchant, (travelling).  Living with Charles and his father in 1901 was housekeeper, Bessie McCauley, but there is no Edith Harris, who unfortunately has not yet been located in the census records.  Sadly in 1903, John Russell Harris died and in 1911, 19-year old Charles Seymour Harris can be found at the Mandora Barracks, Stanhope Lines, Aldershot, Hampshire.  As a point of interest, the Mandora Barracks were home to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers between 1910 and 1913, although from family memories Charles served with the Army Ordnance Corps (AOC).  Unfortunately it has not yet been possible to determine what happened to Charles between 1903 and 1911 or how he ended up as a career soldier in the Army Ordnance Corps, but the absence of records referring to either of his parents after 1903 may have been a factor. 


At the beginning of the 20th century, the Army Ordnance Corps was a corps of the British Army that dealt only with the supply and maintenance of weaponry, munitions and other military equipment.  With the outbreak of World War I the Army Ordnance Corps became heavily engaged, especially in the artillery-dominated theatre of war on the Western Front.  From 1914, the number of ordnance personnel grew sharply, as did the storage and logistics infrastructure needed to supply the guns.  As a soldier in the Army Ordnance Corps, Charles Seymour Harris would have seen active service from early on in the war. 


Unfortunately, the only surviving service records for Charles can be found in the British Army Medal Roll Index 1914-1920.  These state that he joined the Army Ordnance Corps on 9th October 1914, that he was awarded all three of the World War I medals: Victory, British and Star, and the fact that Pte. Charles S Harris, S/6611, was ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’ (MiD) on 29th May 1917, his name appearing in the London Gazette.  The Index also records that at on 1st December 1920 Charles Harris was promoted to Temporary Lance Corporal in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (the Corps having been granted the prefix of ‘Royal’ in 1918) and that he was entitled to the ‘Emblem’ (rank badge worn on the shoulder of the army tunic).


A year after deployment, Charles Seymour Harris married Emily Agnes Maria Wicks in 1915, at Farnham, Surrey; Emily had been baptised at St George, Hanover Square, London, in 1891.  In 1911, Emily was living in the household of Winifred Abbot (a single women living on private means) at Pitfield, Seale near Farnham, Surrey, where she was working as a parlour maid.  Unfortunately no further information has yet been established with regards to the early life of Emily.  However, it would appear that Charles and Emily had a child whilst living in Farnham, a daughter they named Betty C, born in 1918.


In 1919 and 1920, Charles Harris was recorded as residing at The George & Dragon, Wharf Road, Farnham, although there is no mention of Emily who would not have been eligible to vote, being under the age of 30 and not a householder or wife of a householder.  It is also not known in what capacity they were living at The George & Dragon, lodging or landlords.  In 1922, Charles and Emily had a second child, John B, born in Doncaster where the Harris family had moved, according to family information.  Their first home in Doncaster was at 13, Park Terrace where they lived until 1929, before moving to 30, Wolsey Avenue between 1930 and 1934.  They spent 1934 living at 54, The Grove, Doncaster, and between 1935 and 1947 living at 16, Baxter Avenue, Doncaster.  Charles and Emily eventually moved to Sutton, Surrey, where Emily died, aged 76, in the spring of 1968 and Charles a few months later, also aged 76.


It is through Charles Harris’s daughter Betty that his memory would eventually travel to Felbridge.  Betty married Frederick S D Booth in Doncaster in 1938 and they had one son, Charles F born later that same year.  By 2002, Charles F Harris and his wife Ann had moved to 3, Tangle Oak off Mill Lane, Felbridge, bringing the memory of Charles Seymour Harris to Felbridge.  


L. Corp. Albert Mills

L. Corp. Albert Mills was the son of former Felbridge builder James Mills and brother of former Felbridge residents Minnie Back, née Vestey, née Mills of Copthorne Road and Edith Murrell née Mills of Halsford Croft, North End.


Albert Mills was born in East Grinstead in June 1897, the son of James Mills, a bricklayer, and his wife Sarah Ann née Coomber.  Albert’s siblings included: Edith Mary born in 1885 (for further information see below), Alice born in 1887, James Edward born in 1889, Minnie Gertrude born in 1893 [Handout, Three More Biographies from the churchyard of St John the Divine, Felbridge, SJC 09/10, FHWS], Arthur Thomas born in 1895, Nellie Rose born in 1899 and Stanley George born in 1900; all the children being born in East Grinstead.


In 1891 and 1901, the Mills family were living at 88, Glenvue Road, East Grinstead, but by 1911 they had moved to Highgate, Forest Row, Sussex, where James Mills senior was working as a builder’s foreman.  It is not known for certain, but Albert probably followed his father into the building trade but with the outbreak of World War I, enlisted with the 12th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, rising to the rank of Lance Corporal; Reg. no. G/17879.  Unfortunately, no enlistment service or medal records survive for L. Corp. Albert Mills.


The 12th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment was formed on 3rd November 1914 by L. Col. Claude Lowther MP and Committee, with the main recruiting office at Bexhill-on-Sea in Sussex. The battalion was fully recruited by the end of the month and a 3rd South Downs Battalion was then formed.  Original enlistments were given an ‘SD’ (South Downs) prefix to their regimental number, so Albert Mills with a ‘G’ prefix for ‘General Service’ was not one of the original ‘South Downs’ recruits.  Initial training took place at Cooden Camp, near Bexhill, between November 1914 and July 1915, at which time the War Office took over direct control of the Battalion and moved it to Detling Camp, near Maidstone in Kent, and then, on 29th September 1915, to North Camp at Aldershot in Hampshire.  In October 1915, it became part of 116th Brigade, 39th Division and from this date until March 1916, the Battalion stayed at Witley Camp in Surrey.  On 5th/6th March 1916, the 12th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment landed at Le Havre where it served on the Western Front with 116th Brigade, 39th Division until the spring of 1918. 


The 12th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment saw action at a number of battles of the Somme in 1916 including the Battle of the Thiepval Ridge, the Battle of the Ancre Heights and the Battle of Ancre.  However, it was at the Battle of Ypres, in the Battle of the Pilckem Ridge in 1917 that L. Corp. Albert Mills was killed in action on 31st July 1917, aged just twenty, on the first day of the battle.  He was killed as part of the British Expeditionary Force and was buried at the NewIrishFarmCemetery, Ypres, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, and he is remembered in England on the War Memorial at Crawley Down. 


It is through Albert’s parents, James and Sarah Mills and two of his sisters Edith and Minnie that his memory lived on in Felbridge.  At the time of his death Albert’s parents, James and Sarah Mills were living at FelbridgePark, Felbridge, later moving to Binfield, Copthorne Road, Felbridge, from where James died in 1937.  Sarah outlived her husband and died at Bosworth House (home of her daughter Minnie) in 1945.  In 1919, Albert’s sister Minnie had married John Joseph Vestey, after the death of his first wife, and in 1922 the couple and his two sons from his first marriage moved to Bosworth House (105, Copthorne Road), Felbridge.  Sadly, John Vestey died in August 1932.  After his death, Minnie continued to live at Bosworth House and, in 1934, married Richard H Back.  Minnie died in 1966, aged 73 [for more information see Handout, Three More Biographies from the churchyard of St John the Divine, Felbridge, SJC 09/10 and Handout, Felbridge Women’s Institute Celebrates 90 Years, SJC 11/14].  For information on Albert Mill’s sister Edith Murrell, see below.  


AB1. Frank Murrell

Frank Murrell was the husband of former Felbridge resident Edith Mary Murrell née Mills of Halsford Croft, North End, son-in-law of James and Sarah Mills (see above) and brother-in-law of Minnie Back née Vestey, née Mills (see above), of Copthorne Road, Felbridge.


Frank Murrell was born at 4, Springfield Terrace, Streatham, on 18th September 1883, the son of George Murrell, a policeman, and his wife Catherine Josephine Wellstead.  Frank had at least nine siblings including: George Joseph born in 1876, Ellen Maria born in 1878, Charlotte born in 1880, Alice Louise born in 1882, William Edgar born in 1885, Septimus Charles born in 1887, Phillip Stephen born in 1888, Daisy Catherine born in 1891 but who sadly died in 1892 and Violet Carrie Elizabeth born in 1894.  Daisy and Violet were born in Ashurst Wood, East Grinstead, Sussex, but all the rest were born in various parts of the London area.  By 1891, George Murrell had been invalided out of the Metropolitan police force, family legend says through injuries sustained whilst on duty, and was living in a cottage in Water Lane, Ashurst Wood, with his family, including Frank.


On 3rd February 1899, Frank Murrell joined the Navy, as a B2C (Boy 2nd Class) serving on the Impregnable and Lion, his occupation on joining given as ‘page boy’.  By 9th November 1899 Frank had risen to B1C (Boy 1st Class) serving on the Lion, Agincourt, Alexandra, Hannibal, before rising to Ord. (Ordinary) Seaman on 18th September 1901, and AB. (Able Bodied) Seaman on 7th May 1903, on Hannibal.  Frank served as an AB. Seaman until 12th January 1907 on a number of ships including: Vernon, Firequeen I, Excellent, Formidable and Victory and on 13th January 1907, Frank joined RFR (Royal Fleet Reserve) at Portsmouth.  The naval records give a description of Frank Murrell, aged 16: 5ft 1½ ins. tall with dark brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion; is height later amended, on reaching the age of 18, to 5ft 4ins. 


Alongside his naval duties Frank also worked as a fireman attached to the Fire Station at Shooters Hill, Woolwich, SE London, and on 21st March 1911, he married Edith Mary Mills.  Edith Mary Mills had been born in Ashurst Wood on 22nd June 1885 and was the daughter of James and Sarah Mills (see above), and in 1901 she had been living with her cousin Nellie Mills, a laundress, at 160, High Street, Lambeth.  In 1911, Frank Murrell was living at the Fire Station at Shooters Hill, but Edith was living with his widowed mother, Catherine, at her family home at Summer Vale, Ashurst Wood, and on 5th October 1912, Frank and Edith had their one and only child, Frank James George Murrell.


Having signed up for twelve years on 18th September 1901, Frank’s service concluded in September 1913.  However, with the outbreak of World War I, Frank joined Glory as AB1. (Able Bodied 1st Class) Seaman, 203155.  A family story recants that Frank ‘was serving on a ship docked at Halifax in Canada, during World War 1 while his brother Septimus was working in the dining car as a cook for the Canadian Pacific Railway and was also in Halifax.  Septimus asked the name of the ship and when he recognized it, he had someone semaphore a signal to the ship from the shore and ask for Frank (Buff) Murrell [Buff was the family nickname by which he was known].  Frank was on board and communicated with his brother and then came ashore.  Septimus gave him some rings to take home to their mother as Buff was expected to be returning to England.  Instead Buff's ship was sent straight to the Dardanelles where Buff died of dysentery [on 16th August 1915, aged just 31].  It was the last time anyone in the family saw Buff and needless to say, the rings were never delivered to Granny Murrell [Catherine Murrell].  Frank Murrell was buried at the PortianosMilitaryCemetery, West Mudros, Lemnos, Greece.


It was through his wife Edith Murrell that Frank’s memory lived on in Felbridge when she moved to 10, Halsford Croft, North End, together with Edith’s parents, James and Sarah Mills of Binfield, Copthorne Road, and her sister Minnie Back née Vestey of Bosworth House, Copthorne Road.  As a point of interest, Frank’s son Frank went on to marry Muriel Irene Kelf in 1938, the daughter of Charles J and Edith Kelf of Norfolk, and like his grandfather, Frank joined the Metropolitan Police Force.  Edith Murrell continued to live in the Felbridge area until her death in 1969, aged 84. 


Agnes Frances Whitwell

Agnes Whitwell was the great-grandmother of Felbridge resident Val Clarke of StreamPark and great-great-grandmother of Felbridge resident Jeremy Clarke of Furnace Wood.


Agnes Frances Whitwell was born Agnes Frances Morley in Tollesbury, Essex, on 12th November 1855, the daughter of Stephen Morley, a farm bailiff, and his second wife Sarah Cowley.  Stephen Morley had first married Mary Anne Nunn in 1845, with whom he had two daughters, Honor born in 1845, who sadly died within a couple of months, and Mary Anne born and died in the December quarter of 1848, along with her mother Mary Anne.  Stephen Morley married Sarah Cowley on 24th April 1850, at the Church of St John, Moulsham, Chelmsford, Essex.  Sarah Cowley had been born in Eastwood, Essex, in 1826, the daughter of Joseph Cowley, a watchmaker, and his wife Frances.  Besides Agnes, Stephen and Sarah Morley had four other daughters: Emma Honor born in 1851, Alice born in 1854, Mary Ann born in 1857 but who sadly died in July 1857 aged 3 months, and Vernon Sarah born in 1859; the first two girls were born in Foulness, Mary Ann in Tollesbury and Vernon Sarah in Orsett, Essex.


In 1861, the Morley family were living ‘near Bell House’, Eastwood, Essex, but later moved to The High Road, Little Wakering, Essex, where Stephen would remain until his death in 1885, and Sarah until her death in 1892. 


Agnes Frances Morley married George[1] Whitwell on 10th May 1879 at Great Barling, Essex.  George[1] Whitwell had been born on Potten Island, Little Wakering, on 25th August 1853, the son of George[2] Warner Whitwell, a ‘farmer (160 cows and 2 labourers)’ of Little Wickering and his wife Mary Ann née Brownsea.  George[1] Whitwell later lived with his uncle and aunt, James and Joyce Whitwell, at The Farm House, Little Potten Island, where James was a farmer of 300 acres, employing 4 men and a boy. 


George[1] and Agnes Whitwell had eleven children, including: George Ernest born in 1879; Alice Maud born in 1881; Charles Victor born in 1882 (listed as Oscar Whitwell in the 1901 census); Amy Constance born in 1884; Joyce Sarah born in September 1885 but who sadly died on 26th May 1886; Florence Rachel born in 1887 (listed as Frances in the 1891 census and Flora in 1901 census); May Edith born in 1890 (listed as Mary in the 1901 census); Frances Vernon born in 1892 (listed as Fanny in the 1901 census); Florence Sarah born in September quarter 1893 who sadly died in the March quarter 1895 (no mention of her in family memories); Chrispin [Crispin] Albert born in 1896 (listed as Charles in the 1901 census); and Ivy Annie born in 1900 (listed as Ida in the 1901 census).


At the time of their marriage, George Whitwell was working as a carpenter, the occupation he practised for the rest of his working life.  The couple began their married life in Little Wakering but had moved to Great Barling in Essex by 1881.  By 1885, the family were living at Temple Sutton Cottages, Temple Sutton Farm, Rochford, where George was working as a wheelwright.  In 1891, the family were living at The High Road, Sutton, Rochford, but had moved to Southend-on Sea in Essex by 1900 when George took up work with Southend Council, living first at 126, North Road, Prittlewell, Southend, before moving by 1911, to 120, North Road.  It is known that as a Council carpenter, George worked on Southend pier after it was damaged by a ship that cut straight through the structure on 23rd November 1908.  


On 5th April 1915, George and Agnes Whitwell’s, second surviving daughter, Florence Rachel, married Harry Staines at the Congregational Church, Chelmsford Avenue, Southend; Harry had been born in South Ockenden, Essex, on 2nd December 1885, the son of James Staines and Eliza Ellen née Wilson.  This would have been a time of celebration for the Whitwell family, but just over a month later they suffered a tragedy when Agnes Whitwell was killed during a Zeppelin bombing raid, making her the sixth civilian to be killed by Zeppelin in Britain during World War I and the first civilian to be killed in Southend-on-Sea. 


The raid was the first Zeppelin raid on Southend and it took place on the night of the 10th May 1915.  The LZ38 Zeppelin, commanded by Hauptmann Erich Linnarz, announced its arrival by first dropping an incendiary bomb at 2.45am that fell near the prison ship SS Royal Edward that was moored at the end of the pier, which unbeknown to the German officer, held POWs and ‘enemy aliens’.  The Zeppelin then made its way along the Thames towards CanveyIsland where it met with fierce anti-aircraft fire forcing Linnarz to turn back.  Returning to Southend, Linnarz dropped his remaining incendiaries on the town, causing considerable damage.  One of the casualties was 60-year old Agnes Whitwell, asleep in her bed at 120, North Road.  Although in the bed beside her, her husband George Whitwell miraculously escaped but sustained serious injuries and burns as he tried to put out the fire.  Many of the incendiary devices exploded in the town and extensive damage was done over a wide area, including several other houses that were gutted and Flaxman’s Timber Yard in Southchurch Road, which burned to the ground. 


Records show that LZ38 dropped just four high explosive (HE) bombs but as many as 120 incendiaries, over Southend, Leigh and Westcliff on the night of the 10th May 1915.  British defence aircraft flew eleven sorties at various times searching for LZ38 but none located it.  The next day it was found that Linnarz’s crew had also left a message as they departed, when an unexploded bomb was discovered in the garden of 11, Rayleigh Avenue, which had a piece of card attached to it, bearing the following: ‘You English.  We have come we’ll come again soon.  Kill or cure.  German.’  The raid had huge consequences in Southend and on 12th May 1915, a near riot occurred in the town with German and Austrian-owned shops being attacked.  True to his word, Hauptman Erich Linnarz did return in the LZ38 to bomb Southend again on the night of 26th May 1915, dropping 47 incendiary bombs and 23 small high explosive (HE) bombs.  However, damage was not as great as in the previous raid, although there were more casualties, with three civilian deaths. 


A contemporary report of the funeral of Agnes Whitwell states that on the day of her funeral, Saturday 15th May 1915, ‘the route to the Sutton Road cemetery was lined with people – six to seven deep in High Street and the Broadway.  Nearly every household had drawn blinds and shutters were down at shops’.  Agnes was transported to her final resting place in a horse-drawn glass hearse pulled by a pair of black horses sporting black funeral plumes.


All the Whitwell family were members of the Salvation Army and the Southend branch reported (abridged) the death, funeral and memorial service of Agnes Whitwell as follows:


May 22, 1915




The reality of war (writes Bandmaster Devoto) has been brought home very forcibly during the last week to the Bandsmen and soldiers of Southend I.  During heavy bombardment by a Zeppelin early on Monday morning week an incendiary bomb crashed through the roof of the house of Brother and Sister Whitwell, the two oldest Soldiers of the Corps, and also parents of Ensign Whitwell, of The Army’s Slum Work, and Bandsman Chrispin Whitwell, instantly killing Mrs. Whitwell and severely injuring Brother Whitwell.  This caused great sorrow to every member of the Corps, more particularly as both comrades were present at the Sunday evening Meeting, when Mrs. Adjutant Liddle took as her subject ‘The brevity of time’.



We had scarcely got over this terrible shock when the news arrived that our esteemed Deputy Bandsmaster, Brother Rosenbrock, had been killed in action…………



The funeral of Sister Mrs. Whitwell took place at Southend on Saturday, and was conducted by commissioner McKie, assisted by Lieut. Colonel Holmes.  The Band was in attendance, together with the Songsters and many of the local Soldiers.  A great impression was made upon the crowds by the solemn music of the Band en route to the cemetery.  The Commissioner’s address at the citadel, and again at the graveside, went home to many hearts.  The police arrangements were excellent, and the intense sympathy was manifested by the public generally.



The Memorial Service for Deputy-Bandsmaster Rosenbrock and Sister Mrs. Whitwell drew a big congregation to the Hippodrome on Sunday evening.  At the proceeding Open-Air Meeting opposite the TechnicalSchool a great crowd congregated.  The band played ‘Promoted to glory’ with much feeling, whilst the Songsters sweetly sang ‘Songs of Heaven’.  Thousands witnessed the slow march to the Hippodrome, and all along the route men stood with their heads uncovered……..


Agnes Whitwell’s daughter Rachel and her husband Harry Staines went on to have five children: Nita Frances born on 23rd September 1915 (just four months after the death of her grandmother Agnes), Norman Henry born on 2nd July 1918, Clifford George born on 18th April 1921, Ivy Mary born on 6th February 1923 and Joyce Rachel born on 17th July 1924.  Of the five children, it is through Norman Henry Staines that the memory of Agnes Whitwell travelled to Felbridge.  Norman Henry Staines married Gladys Florence Coley on 14th July 1940 at St Mary’s Church, Prittlewell, Essex, and in 1978 their daughter Valerie moved to Felbridge with her family, which included son Jeremy; both still residing in Felbridge in the year of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.




Post Script

There are probably many more men and possibly women who served in World War I from the Felbridge area but with the expansion of Felbridge as a village and the demise of old Felbridge residents their names have become a distant or lost memory.  Also without surviving military records their services have faded into irretrievable history, so apologies for those who have not been included in this series of Handouts.


Lest We Forget








Special, Felbridge Remembers World War I, SP. SJC 07/14, FHWS

Handout, Felbridge WWI Heroes, PT.1, SJC 01/15, FHWS

Handout, Felbridge WWI Heroes, PT.2, SJC 09/16, FHWS

Handout, Felbridge WWI Heroes, PT.3, JIC/SJC 07/17, FHWS

Handout, 1911 Sale of the Felbridge Estate, SJC 01/11, FHWS

Census Records, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911,

1939 Register,

Birth, Marriage & Death Index,

Pte. Francis John Case

Freedom of the city of London,

Handout, Professor Furneaux and the Penlees of Felbridge, SJC 03/09, FHWS

Documented memories of L Muriel Case, FHA

Service Records for F J Case, T/201910,

Probate of F J Case, 1918,

Pte. Percy Curtis

Hawes/Jackson Curtis family trees,

East Grinstead and It’s Environs by D Gould

WWI Service Medal and Awards Rolls, 1914-1920,

The National Roll of the Great War, 1914-1918,

Army Registers of soldier’s Effects, 1901-1929,

The Royal Sussex Regiment, The Long, Long Trail,

Royal Sussex War Diary, Ref: RSR MS 7/11, WSRO

193 died on this day: Wed 06/02/1918,

Brave Percy Passes away Peacefully, EGO, local newspaper article, 28/10/04, FHA

Handout, War Memorials of St John the Divine, Felbridge, SJC 07/02v, FHWS

Corp. John Benjamin Patrick Geary, DCM

Documented memories of P Mayer, FHA

Obituary of J Geary, 1967, Newspaper article, FHA

DCM citation, Edinburgh Gazette 5/9/1918

Surrey Electoral Rolls, 1923-1939,

Pte. Albert Edward Giles

Documented memories of D O Giles, FHA

Adams/Emery - Giles family trees,

Handout, WestPark Estate, SJC 04/99, FHWS

British Army WWI Service Records 1914-1919,

World War I Medal Index,

Bedfordshire Regimental Records,

Extracts from 1st Battalion, 1917/18 War Diary – Bedfordshire Regiment, &

L. Corp. Charles Seymour Harris

Documented memories of C Booth, FHA

British Army Medal Roll Index 1914-1920,

London Gazette, 30th May 1915, FHA

Electoral Rolls, 1919-1948,

L. Corp. Albert Mills

Handout, Three More Biographies from the churchyard of St John the Divine, Felbridge, SJC 09/10, FHWS

12th Battalion Royal Sussex,

UK Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1918,

Handout, Felbridge Women’s Institute Celebrates 90 Years, SJC 11/14, FHWS

AB1. Frank Murrell

Handout, Felbridge Women’s Institute Celebrates 90 Years, SJC 11/14, FHWS

Handout, Lost Property of Felbridge, SJC 07/18

Marjorie-Birley Family tree:

Murrell, Navy Service Record,

Murrell, Record of War Service,

Murrell, UK Memorial Book for WWI and WWII, 1914-1945,

UK, Royal Navy and Royal Marine War Graves Roll, 1914-1919,

Agnes Whitwell

Documented memories and family tree of Whitwell/Staines/Clarke family, FHA

15th & 26th May - Ian Castle Zeppelins and First Blitz:

Destruction and death rained from Southend Skies: Anniversary of Zeppelin Attack on Southend, 1915

Southend Timeline – Zeppelin Raid 1915:

Southend-on-Sea by Jessie K Payne

Southend-on-Sea Salvation Army account: The Bandsman, Local Officer and Songster, May 22, 1915, FHA


Texts of all Handouts referred to in this document can be found on FHG website:

JIC/SJC 11/18