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John Mills Laurence

  • See John Frederick James’s entry on the Board of Trade’s Ancestry public tree.
  • This information updates the group’s previous research published on the former DTI website (now archived by the National Archives).
  • Do you have any more information about John Mills Laurence? If so the War Memorial Research Group would love to hear from you.

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: J. M. Laurence
Born: About March 1871, Crewkerne, Somerset, England
Date of Death: 11 November 1917
Age at death: 46
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: Royal Engineers
Unit, Ship, etc: 4th Army Wireless Company
Enlisted: London
Rank: Lance Corporal (Service No: 118453)
Decorations: British WW1 Service Medals (British War Medal and Victory Medal)
War (and theatre): WW1 (France and Flanders)
Manner of Death: Died of Wounds (DOW)
Family Details: 
Residence: Battersea
Home Department: Board of Trade – Labour Department (London & South Eastern Division)
Civilian Rank: 
Cemetery or Memorial: Duhallow ADS Cemetery, Ypres (grave III.B.12); Board of Trade War Memorial; Memorial to Staff of the Ministry of Labour

Biography:

John Mills Laurence’s lifestory has been difficult to piece together. Whilst he appeared in the 1901 census, other aspects didn’t slot into place easily, especially the question of his father. We know from church baptism records that John was baptised on 9 April 1871 in Crewkerne, Somerset. He is then recorded aged only 2 months old in the 1871 census living in Old Parsonage, Barn Street, Crewkerne, Somerset. Also in the same household are his mother Ellen Mills (1853-1906) and his grandparents William and Sarah Mills and another sibling William Mills. No father is listed on his baptism record. Nor is his father listed on the census return and Ellen (aged 20) is recorded as unmarried.

Ten years later in the 1881 census, John is still living (now aged 10 and at school) in Barn Street, Crewkerne along with his mother and another brother George William Laurence (1874-?). William Mills, the head of the family is working as a thatcher. Further research has uncovered another brother, Charles Mills who was born and died in infancy in 1877.

By the 1891 census, John has moved to Bermondsey and is living with his mother and possibly his father or a stepfather George Laurence (1844 – ?) who is working as a general labourer.

If our research is correct, John married a woman called Mary Elizabeth Kennedy, (born 1862 in Ireland). John and Mary were married in January 1899 at St George, Hanover Square, London. Two years later they are both recorded living together in Battersea during the 1901 census. Their address is No 11, Victoria Dwelling, K Block. John (aged 35) is working as a carpenter and labourer. Ten years later Mary dies in about July 1910 and unfortunately we haven’t been able to locate where John was living in the 1911 census. Nor do have any definitive records that indicate when he joined the Board of Trade.

John next appears in the records when he married his second wife, Eleanor Ophelia Wall (1875-1957) on 6 January 1915 at Battersea Register Office.

During WW1, according to his medal card, John served as a Private and then was promoted as Lance Corporal in the Royal Engineers. Known as ‘sappers’ this army corps provide engineering and technical support in the field. First formed in 1716, the Royal Engineers grew in size from 25000 men in 1918 to 315,000 in 1918. The roles of sappers expanded to included tunnelling, forestry, inland water transport,aerial survey, camouflage techniques, trench building and topographical photography as well as telecommunications. John served in a range of different units including at the General Depot,, the 7th Labour Battalion, the 4th Tramway Company and ultimately the 4th Army Wireless Troop.

He was first posted to serve in France on 18 September 1915 and gained the three WW1 service medals. More details can be found in his surviving war service record. From this document we know John served in England from 31 August 1915, when he enlisted until 16 September 1915. He then served in France until 7 January 1916 before returning back to France on 6 May 1916. We have some idea of what he looked like – being 5ft 7inches and with a scar on top of head and a small scar on his abdomen.

From both a war pension record we know John worked as a clerk at the Board of Trade Labour Exchange at Bow earning £32s a week. We also know that John suffered from a series of recurrent hernias and needed five operations throughout 1916. He was treated at Wharncliffe War Hospital, Sheffield before being sent to get better in Eastbourne and then set back to fight in France.

Telegram from John Mills Laurence WW1 Service Records recoding his death

John finally died on 11 November 1917. He is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery (CWGC) of Dulhallow Advanced Dressing Station (ADS) Cemetery in West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, alongside many other men who served in the Royal Engineers. This was a medical post about 1.6 kilometers north of Ypres which opened as a cemetery in July 1917. He is one of 1,602 men buried in the cemetery.

John is also remembered on two Civil Service war memorials – the Board of Trade War Memorial and the Memorial to the Staff of the Ministry of Labour. It is not known if he is remembered on any local war memorials in either Battersea or in Crewkerne where he grew up. He also has no known descendants.

Dunhallow ADS Cemetery, Ypres, France

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: G. F. Wheeler
Born: Bow, Middlesex
Date of Death: 6 November 1917
Age at death: 28
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: Middlesex Regiment
Unit, Ship, etc: 2/10th Battalion
Enlisted: Hounslow
Rank: Private (Service No: 240910 and 3810)
Decorations: WW1 Campaign medals (Victory Medal, British War Medal and 1914-15 Star)
War (and theatre): WW1 (Egypt & Palestine)
Manner of Death: Killed in Action (KIA)
Family Details: Son of Frank W and Maria E Wheeler of London. Husband of Winifred Wheeler, 19 Danesbury Road, Feltham, Middlesex
Residence: Feltham
Home Department: Board of Trade – Patent Office
Civilian Rank: Abstractor
Cemetery or Memorial: Beersheba War Cemetery (grave no. B.42); Board of Trade War Memorial; Patent Office Memorial; Feltham War Memorial

Biography:

George Frederick Wheeler was born in April or May 1889 in Bow, London. His parents were Frank William Wheeler (1852-1918) and Maria Elizabeth Brockington (1856-1913). He was baptised on 2 June 1889 at St Stephen’s Church, Tredegar Road, Bow. (The building sadly no longer exists, since is was severely damaged during WW2 and was later demolished).

St Stephen’s Church, Bow (where George was baptized) now demolished – Source:http://mfo.me.uk/showmedia.php?mediaID=2409

He came from a large family. We know from the 1911 census return that his parents were married for 35 years (and counting) and had a total of 14 children (5 of whom had died and 9 who had survived. George’s surviving siblings were – Grace Maria Wheeler (1876-1964), Edwin Francis Wheeler (1879-1968), William George Wheeler (1880-1972), Emily Edith Fanny Wheeler (1885-1973), Elsie Elizabeth Kate Wheeler (1888-1974), Alice Martha Wheeler (1893-1982), Frederick Stanley Wheeler (1895-1953) and Harry Brockington Wheeler (1898-1966).

In the 1891 census, the Wheeler family are living at 111 Morville Street. His father Frank is employed providing carpentry services and George is the youngest child aged 2 years old. Ten years later and the Wheeler family have moved to 41 Holly Road, Chiswick. His father, Frank is still working as a carpenter, George is aged 12 and has more brothers and sisters. By the 1911 census, the Wheeler’s are still living at the same address in Chiswick and his father is still working as a carpenter. George is by this time working as a clerk in the Civil Service, according to the census return.

St Stephen’s Church, Hounslow where George Frederick Wheeler married Winifred Lloyd on 29 May 1914

His mother died in April 1913. Following this sad time, a happier event was George’s marriage on 29 May 1914 at St Stephen’s Church, Hounslow to Winifred Lloyd (1888-1971). However, their time together was short-lived since, from August 1915, George began to serve in Egypt.

George’s detailed War Service record does not survive but we know from his Medal Card that during WW1 he enlisted as a Private in the Middlesex Regiment in the 2/10th Battalion of the Brigade. This was a territorial division based made up of volunteers based at Ravenscourt Park in London. By 22 October 1914, the battalion was up to full strength and they began training in the Windsor area, although they were hampered by poor equipment. In May he Division was moved to Bedford to continue training and then on 2 July 1915 was reported ready to serve in the Mediterranean. The battalion first sailed for Egypt on the HM Transport Huntsgreen, arriving on 1 August in Alexandria before sailing to Port Said and then making its way to Gallipoli.

However, according to George’s Medal Card he began to serve overseas from 30 October 1915 onwards joining the battalion at Gallipoli. Along with other members of the battalion he would endured spells on the front line before being in the rear. He somehow managed to survive, although the battalion was reduced by half its size by battle casualties and sickness. In October the 2/10th Battalion was reinforced with 4 officers and 200 men from the 9th Battalion of Sherwood Foresters and then on 13 December they were evacuated to Lemnos.

George and his battalion then spent a long period of rest of recuperation in the Nile Valley in Egypt. It is possible he would also have seen action at the Battle of Romani (3-6 August 1916) in fight to protect the Suez Canal from Turkish forces.

In March 1917, the British launched a military campaign in the Sinai and Palestine led by Field Marshal Viscount Edmund Allenby. This part of WW1 is little remembered or known about besides experts, and the public at the time weren’t aware of the scale or importance of the military campaign and thought resources should be spent on the Western Front in France. However, the Sinai and Palestine campaign was strategically important to resulted ultimately in the partition of the Ottoman Empire with France gaining control of Syria and Lebanon and the British Empire wining the mandates for Mesopotamia and Palestine.

Between April and October 1917 there was a period of military stalemate. By October 1917, the allied forces were entrenched in front of a strong Turkish force on the Gaza-Beersheba road for some months. On 31 October 1917, the British and Commonwealth forces were ready to attack Beersheba, an important strategic town, in the British push to capture Jerusalem, which Allenby aimed to capture by Christmas 1917.

The military action in Beersheba was followed by the Battle of Tel el Khuweilfe which began on 1 November 1917 and lasted until 6 November. This was a rocky, hilly area which rise to become part of the Judean Hills. The Tel el Khuweifle area dominated the surrounding landscape and also was a major strategic supply of local water. On the final day of the battle on 6 November, the 2/10th Middlesex, the battalion in which George served provided reinforcements and were ordered to hold their gains against a number of counterattacks. George was one of 14 casualties from his regiment. He died aged just 28 years old.

Battle of Tel el Khuweilfe on 6 November 1917 (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tel_el_Khuweilfe)

George is buried in the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery at Beersheba War Cemetery in Israel, where there 1241 WW1 burials. George’s name is remembered on three war memorials – the Board of Trade War Memorial, the Patent Office War Memorial and the Feltham War Memorial. His grave in Beersheba bears the inscription: “I THANK MY GOD FROM EVERY REMEMBERANCE OF YOU”.

George Frederick Wheeler’s gravestone in Beersheba War Cemetery, Israel

Robert Edwin Miller

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: R. E. Miller
Born: October 1892, Little Ilford, Essex
Date of Death: 6 November 1918
Age at death: 26
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: Royal Field Artillery
Unit, Ship, etc: 271st Brigade
Enlisted: Romford
Rank: Sergeant (Service No: 880177)
Decorations: WW1 Campaign medals (Victory Medal, British War Medal and 1914-15 Star)
War (and theatre): WW1 (Palestine)
Manner of Death: Died on Active Service (DOAS)
Family Details: Son of Robert E and Fanny Miller, 5 Forest View Road, Manor Park, Essex
Residence: 
Home Department: Board of Trade – Labour Department (Central Office)
Civilian Rank: 
Cemetery or Memorial: Beirut War Cemetery (grave no. 277); Board of Trade War Memorial; Memorial to the Staff of the Ministry of Labour, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London, SW1; Miller family headstone located in Manor Park Cemetery, Forest Gate, Newham, London.

Biography:

Robert Edwin Miller was born in about October 1892 in Southwark, London. His parents were Robert Edwin Miller (1832-1912) and his second wife Fanny Phillips (1854-?). His father Robert was initally married on 21 August 1864 to his first wife Mary Ann Susannah Renouf (1847-1882). They had six children – Philip Edwin Miller (1868-1931), Robert Henry Miller (1870-?), Jane Amy Miller (1872-1933), Walter Francis Miller (1873-1933), Mary Ann Emma Miller (1876-?) and George Stratford Miller (1880-1882). After his wife Mary died in April 1882, Robert Edwin senior remarried and had three further children – Eleanor Ivy Miller (1887-1976), Robert Phillips Miller (1890-1963) and Robert Edwin who was their youngest child.

In the 1901 census, Robert is recorded aged 8 living at 24 Winifred Road, East Ham with his parents and siblings. Robert Edwin Miller senior is employed working as a journalist and printer. Ten years later in the 1911 census, Robert is now 18 years old and the Miller family are all living together at 5 Forest View Road, Manor Park. By this time, young Robert Edwin is working for the Civil Service as a boy clerk in the Patent Office. At some point he later transferred to work in the Labour Department.

We know from Robert’s WW1 medal card that he served as a Driver and then a Sergeant in the Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery (Service No 880177 and previously 369). He was initially sent to serve in France on 17 November 1915. He then served in the Middle East in Egypt and in Palestine and rose to the rank of Sergeant.

He was assigned to the 271st Brigade which formed part of the 54th Division. It is therefore likely that he would have served in Palestine from early 1917 onwards, fighting in three battles at Gaza in March, April and November 1917 before reaching Jerusalem at Christmas 1917, and then fighting Turkish forces in a range of smaller battles during 1918. More details of the brigades military movements can be gleaned from the War Diaries (https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/94270-rfa) and a very in-depth first hand account in a book held by the Imperial War Museum called “From Romford to Beirut” which covers the units movements and actions from mobilization in 1914 to demobilization in 1919.

“Romford to Beiurt via France, Egypt and Jericho” book

He died aged 26 on 6 November 1918 and is buried in Beirut War Cemetery in Lebanon. His gravestone touchingly and personally bears the inscription “Our dear brave Eddie loved so much by his mother, sister and brother”.

His name was also added to the family headstone in Manor Park Cemetery, Forest Gate, Newham, London where the words say “and of our dearest Eddie, Sgt Robert Edwin Miller R.F.A. who died on active service November 6th 1918 aged 26 interred at Beirut. “We loved him and miss him always”.

His name is remembered on two Civil Service War Memorials – the Board of Trade War Memorial and the memorial to staff of the Ministry of Labour.

Robert Edwin Miller’s gravestone in Beirut War Cemetery (Source: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/22730959/robert-edwin-miller)

Frank Studley

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: F. Studley
Born: 11 September 1878 in Uffculme, Devon
Date of Death: 5 November 1917
Age at death: 39
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: Royal Field Artillery
Unit, Ship, etc: “C” Battery, 168th Brigade
Enlisted: London
Rank: Driver (Service No: 132504)
Decorations: WW1 Campaign medals (Victory Medal and British War Medal)
War (and theatre): WW1 (France and Flanders)
Manner of Death: Died of Wounds (DOW)
Family Details: Father was Robert Studley and Mother was Lavinia Studley (both pre-deceased Frank). His nearest relatives were his brothers Robert Studley and Ernest Studley
Residence: Fairhaven, Worcester Park, Cheam, Surrey
Home Department: Board of Trade – Solicitor’s Department
Civilian Rank: Solicitors Clerk
Cemetery or Memorial: Dozinghem Military Cemetery, West-Vlandaaren, Poperinge (XIV.A.17); Board of Trade War Memorial; Worcester Park War Memorial Cross, Cheam, Surrey

Biography:

Frank Studley was born on 11 September 1878 in Uffculme, Devon. His parents were Robert Studley (1841 – 1880) and Lavinia Studley (nee Berry Jones) (1851-1914). Frank had an older sister Annie (1871-?) and two brothers – Robert (1874 -?) and Ernest Studley (1875-1949). In 1871, Robert and Lavinia and their eldest child Annie are living at the Commercial Hotel in Uffculme, Devon. Robert is recorded as a butcher and farmer.

Just a month after Frank’s birth, his father Robert Studley died on 21 October 1878 (with a will). His wife Lavinia (who he had married on 29 March 1870 in Taunton, Somerset) was recorded as a widow in the 1881 census. At the time of the census she was employed as an innkeeper running the Commercial Hotel in Uffculme, Devon. Frank is recorded in the census aged 3 alongside his mother and sisters.

Image of Uffculme, Devon showing the Commercial Inn (Source: https://www.oldpicturepostcard.co.uk/oldimages/uffculme.htm)

A year later, in about October 1892 in Plymouth, Devon, Lavinia married her second husband, Henry Pudney (1853-1895). Over the coming 10 years Lavinia and Henry’s family grew with the arrival of a number of step-siblings. The children being: Margaret Mary Pudney (1883-?), Henry Thomas Pudney (1885-?), Annie L Pudney (1886-?), Lavinia Frances Pudney (1887-?), Horace Arthur Pudney (1889-?) and Hilda K Pudney (1890-?).

In the 1891 census, the Pudney family are living at 64 Avondale Square, St Giles, London. Henry Pudney senior is working for the Inland Revenue and Robert Studley (Frank’s eldest brother is working for the Board of Trade as a copyist) and Ernest Studley is working for Customs as a copyist. Frank is recorded aged 13 and as a “scholar”.

We know from separate school admission records dated 13 May 1889 that Frank was a pupil aged 10 at Mawbey Road School in Bermondsey.

In the 1901 census, Lavinia is again listed as a widow and living with her children at 432 Old Kent Road, Camberwell, London. By this time, Frank is aged 23 and working as a law clerk.

In the 1911 census, Lavinia is living in a house called Fairhaven, Cheam Common Hill, Worcester Park, Surrey. She is recorded on the census with two of her daughters, Margaret Mary Pudney and Lavinia Frances Pudney and also with Frank Studley. By this time, Frank is working as a solicitors clerk for the Board of Trade.

Family misfortune struck the family again, when on 17 June 1914, Frank’s mother died aged just 63.

British Film Institute archive film footage of Royal Field Artillery training in 1917

During WW1, Frank enlisted and served in the Royal Field Artillery serving with the “C” Battery part of the 168th Brigade. He served as a Driver (Service No 132504). This rank was equivalent to a Private and meant that it is likely he drove teams of horses who pulled its medium calibre guns (think of the amazing book (and film) War Horse by Michael Morpurgo). The RFA was the largest of the army’s artillery units, serving close to the front line and providing howitzer guns and medium artillery. An artillery brigade usually comprised three Battery’s, each lead by a Major or Captain with a Lieutenant or 2nd Lieutenant in charge of each two gun section, along with a number of sergeants and non-commissioned officers (NCOs). The battery would also consist of farriers, saddlers, wheelers, trumpeters, bombadiers, gunners and drivers. It is likely that Frank would have to be very skilled at controlling horses and also be in constant danger due to continual troop movements using horses, putting him in potential vulnerable positions. An insight into what WW1 might have been like for him as a Driver in the Royal Field Artillery can be found in the memories shared of others in similar positions, such as Driver Sidney Harold Smith (1897 – 1956) from Luton who also served in the Royal Field Artillery.

Remembering the horses of World War 1

Frank’s individual war record does not survive, but his medal card does. We know that the Brigade initially trained in Ripon and then Salisbury Plain in England. In France, in June 1916, the 168th Brigade served at the Somme with “C” Battery based at Authuille Wood. In later phases of the Somme, the 168th Brigade was deployed at Bazentin and on the Ancre.

By 1917, the 32nd Division was in action on the Ancre and on the Hindenburg Line.

Frank died of his wounds aged 39 on 5 November 1917, possibly during the Second Battle of Passchendaele which was the last large scales attacks that took place during one of the main military WW1 engagements, the 3rd Battle of Ypres which lasted from July to 10 November 1917. He is buried in Dozinghem Military Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Poperinge (grave XIV.A17) where a total of 3174 WW1 British and Commonwealth casualties are remembered (and also 65 German war graves) and a number of WW2 graves. Its likely Frank would have died at one of the clearing stations on the edge of the front with the cemetery being close by.

As well as the Board of Trade War Memorial, Frank’s name is also remembered close to his last home in Cheam, Worcester Park, Surrey on a war memorial cross.

Frank died unmarried. The executor of his will was his brother Ernest Studley who also served in WW1.

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: R. G. Hugo
Born:
Date of Death: 
28 March 1918
Age at death: 
32
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: Highland Light Infantry (and previously 28th Battalion, London Regiment)
Unit, Ship, etc: 11th Battalion
Enlisted: 1914
Rank: Lieutenant (Service No: 2375)
Decorations: WW1 Campaign medals (Victory Medal, British War Medal and 1914-15 Star)
War (and theatre): WW1 (France and Flanders)
Manner of Death: Died of wounds (DOW)
Family Details: Son of Edwin and Sophia J Hugo, 74 Foxbourne Road, Upper Tooting, London
Residence: 
Home Department: Board of Trade – Patent Office
Civilian Rank: Second Division Clerk
Cemetery or Memorial: Etaples Military Cemetery (XXVIII.F.7); Board of Trade War Memorial; Patent Office Memorial 1914-1918 (now located at Concept House, Newport)

Biography:

Reginald Graeff Hugo was born on 2 August 1895 in Westminster and was baptised on 23 August 1885 at St Mark’s Church, North Audley Street, London. He was the only son of Edwin Hugo (1844-1922) and his wife Sophia Jordan Graeff (1852-1915) who had married on 22 December 1881.

In 1891 the Hugo family are living at 32 King Street, Marylebone. His father, Edwin is working as a joiner or carpenter) and his mother, Sophia is working as a dressmaker. Reginald is aged 5 and attending school. Two servants are also living in the household.

By 1901, the Hugo family have moved to live at 74 Foxbourne Road, Upper Tooting, Balham. Ten years later they are still at the same address and Reginald is recorded in this census working as a clerk for the Civil Service.

Reginald Hugo enlisted in 1914 as Private in the Artists’ Rifles Officer Training Corps (28th Battalion, London Regiment) and was promoted to Lance Corporal and later to Corporal. He was commissioned as an officer on 4 December 1915 and transferred to serve with the 11th (Service) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry from 9 July 1915.

According to his medal card he first served in France from 11 August 1915 joining the regiment overseas (who had previously landed in Boulogne back on 12 May 1915).

The 11th Battalion was later amalgamated in 1916 due to military reorganisations to form the 10th/11th (Service) Battalion.

In 1916, the battalion saw action at the Battle of Pozieres, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, the Battle of Le Transloy and attacks on the Butte de Warlencourt. In 1917, the battalion was involved in fighting at the First and Second Battles of the Scarpe, the Battle of Pilckem and the Battle of Langemark. In 1918, the battalion fought during the German Spring Offensive at the Battle of St Quentin (21 March 1918), the Battle of Bapaume (24-25 March 1918). It is most likely that Reginald died of his wounds following the Battle of Bapaume. He died on 28 March 1918 (aged 32 years old).

Reginald is buried in the Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s Etaples Military Cemetery which is just south Boulogne. It was an area of reinforcement camps and hospitals. The cemetery contains 10,771 WW1 Commonwealth burials (35 of whom are to this day still unidentified) as well as 662 non-Commonwealth burials. It is the largest CGWC cemetery built in France and was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Reginald is also remembered on the Board of Trade and Patent Office war memorials.

Reginald had no siblings and no descendants to mourn him and as yet we have been unable to trace a photo of him, but his memory lives on.

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: D. S. Black
Born: 1889 in Arbroath, Angus, Scotland
Date of Death: 
27 March 1918
Age at death: 
28
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: Suffolk Regiment
Unit, Ship, etc: 3rd attached 7th Battalion
Enlisted: October 1914
Rank: Captain (Service No: 16161 and also TR/2/24292)
Decorations: WW1 Campaign medals (Victory Medal, British War Medal and 1914-15 Star) and WW1 Bravery medal: Military Cross
War (and theatre): WW1 (France and Flanders)
Manner of Death: Killed in action (KIA)
Family Details: Son of Mr and Mrs David Black, 167 Greenhead Street, Glasgow and Brother of Mary, William A and George A Black
Residence: 
Home Department: Board of Trade – Labour Department (Scotland Division)
Civilian Rank: 
Cemetery or Memorial: Pozieres Memorial (Panel 25); Board of Trade War Memorial; Memorial to Staff of the Ministry of Labour, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London

Biography:

Captain David Smith Black, MC was born in about 1889 in Arbroath, Scotland. He was the son of David Black (1862-1962) and Alexina Easton Smith (1866-1945) and the grandson of George Smith of Brechin Road, Arbroath. He had two sisters – Mary Black (1893-?) and Margaret Black (1896-?) and a brother William A Black (1900-?). His father was a carpenter or joiner.

In the 1891 Scotland census, the young David is aged 2 years old living at 8 London Road, Glasgow. Ten years later in 1901, David is living with his parents at 3 Bridgeton Cross, Glasgow.

He was employed by the Board of Trade – Labour Department (Scotland Division).

David Smith Black enlisted in October 1914 and initially served as a Private in the 17th (Service) Battalion (3rd Glasgow), Highland Light Infantry (a regiment that dated back to 1881 and which took recruits mainly from Glasgow and the Scottish Lowlands). The 3rd Glasgow battalion was a Pals Battalion of Kitchener New Army volunteers who heeded Lord Kitchener’s call to enlist at the start of the war. It was formed in Glasgow on 10 September 1914 by the Chamber of Commerce. The battalion was commonly known as the “Glasgow Commercials” or “Featherbeds” (after an incident at their training camp in Gailes). Most of the recruits were white collar tradesmen and workers from Glasgow or former pupils of Glasgow Technical College or local schools. The battalion moved briefly to Gailes on 23 September 1914 and then to Troon on 13 October 1914 as part of early training. The battalion (including David Smith Black) landed in France at Boulogne-sur-Mer on 22 November 191 as part of the 97th Brigade in the 32nd Division.

Excerpt from “The Big Picnic” – a play about the Glasgow Pals Battalions

We know from David Smith Black’s medal record card that he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the Suffolk Regiment on 28 February 1917.

He was awarded the Military Cross and also gained the rank of Captain in August 1917.

The Military Cross was first established as an award by King George V on 28 December 1914 in recognition of acts of exemplary bravery during active military operations on land. It was awarded to Captains or officers of lower rank up to warrant officers. Notice of his award appeared in the London Gazette Volume III, 1917.  (D S Black, Army Service Record, PRO, WO 339/74630) stating that “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during a raid on the enemy’s position. Finding that the first objective required but little mopping up, he led the second wave to the second objective, where many of the enemy were killed and wounded. He then withdrew his company in good order, after taking a number of prisoners and, having re-organised them under heavy shell fire, took over a portion of the frontline. Throughout he displayed great pluck and initiative.”

David Smith Black was finally killed in action on 27 March 1918. At the time of his death, which was during the height of the German Spring Offensive, the 7th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment was fighting around Albert, which was the main town about 3 miles behind the lines for Allied soldiers fighting in the Somme in 1916. David was one of 250 men from the battalion who were killed, wounded or missing from the action

The following description of the 7th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment’s role in fighting at Albert is taken from the Friends of the Suffolk Regiment website:

On 26th March they were rushed forward to form a defensive line to the east of Albert. By mid-morning the Germans looked set to advance and take their positions. They could be seen swarming down the western slopes of Tara Hill and the CO decided that a general retirement should be made. Within the space of an hour, the Germans had bypassed the town to the south and were now being stopped by ‘A’ Company on the west of the town along the Amiens Road. ‘B’ Company on their left, close to the railway station reported that the enemy were coming on in heavy waves, and that their position was becoming precarious. With their Lewis gun teams out of action, the German snipers caused terrible casualties. The situation was ‘obscure’ but by 6.00pm, it was clear that the Germans had by now obtained a strong footing to the north and had enveloped the town. A large attack around 6.00pm pushed ‘C’ Company back some 200 yards, where they dug in along the railway. Though as darkness descended the enemies fire rescinded, it was clear that at first light another large-scale attack would be launched upon them.  They readied themselves.
In an attempt to stem the tide, a counter-attack was launched on their old positions in darkness at 11.00pm. They were successful in regaining their old ground, but it left a dangerous salient for them to occupy. Enemy patrols throughout the night were repulsed and at first light a large-scale attack was made by the 9th Division on the Battalion’s right.​ The line held…temporarily
.”

David Smith Black’s name is remembered on Panel 28 of the Pozieres Memorial in France. Pozieres is a village 6 kilometres north of Albert in the Somme region. The Memorial commemorates over 14000 soldiers names from the UK and 300 men from South Africa who have no known grave and who died fighting during the German Spring Offensive of 1918. The memorial (and adjoining cemetery) were designed by W. H. Cowlishaw and sculpted by Laurence A. Turner. The memorial was first unveiled on 4 August 1930.

David Smith Black is also remembered on the Arbroath Roll of Honour and on two Civil Service War Memorials – the Board of Trade War Memorial and the Ministry of Labour War Memorial.

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: J. R. J. McHale
Born: 1888 in Stoke Newington, London, England
Date of Death: 
24 March 1918
Age at death: 
29
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: King’s Liverpool Regiment (and previously Royal Army Medical Corps)
Unit, Ship, etc: 19th Battalion
Enlisted: 
Rank: Lieutenant (Service No: 35257)
Decorations: WW1 Campaign medals (Victory Medal and British War Medal)
War (and theatre): WW1 (France and Flanders)
Manner of Death: Killed in action (KIA)
Family Details: Son of Patrick Lyons and Jane Mary Stewart McHale, 39 Ramsden Road, Balham, London
Residence: 
Home Department: Board of Trade – Labour Department (London & South Eastern Division)
Civilian Rank: 
Cemetery or Memorial: Ham British Cemetery, Muille-Villette, Somme (II.A.15); Board of Trade War Memorial; Memorial to the Staff of the Ministry of Labour, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London; War Memorial in Holy Ghost Church, Balham, London; also remembered by monument to the King’s Liverpool Regiment, St John’s Gardens, Liverpool and on a memorial frieze to the Liverpool Pals regiments located at Liverpool Lime Street Station

Biography:

John Richard Jarlath MacHale (whose names is spelt incorrectly as McHale on the Board of Trade Memorial) was born in about October 1888 in Stoke Newington. His parents were Patrick Lyons MacHale (1858-1933) and Jane Mary Stewart (1860-1947). He had six sisters – Mary Jane MacHale (1883-1964), Annie Catherine MacHale (1884-1965), Helena Carmella MacHale (1886-1977), Norah Frances MacHale (1890-1961), Josephine Angus MacHale (1893-1931) and Grace Winifred MacHale (1895-1977). He also had two brothers – Patrick Bernard MacHale (1898-1918) and Leo Alexander MacHale (1900-1992).

John’s father was a journalist and printer/corrector for the press.

In the 1891 census, the MacHale family are living at 79 Oldfield Road, Stoke Newington and John is aged 3 years old. By the 1901 census, the MacHale family have moved to live at 85 Beresford Road, Tottenham. John is aged 12 years old. In the 1911 census, the MacHale family have moved south of the River Thames and are living at 54 Adelaide Road, Brockley, London. By this time, John (aged 22) is now working a civil service clerk for the Board of Trade.

We know that John worked for the Labour Department (London and South Eastern Divisions).

His last known address before serving in WW1 was 39 Ramsden Road, Balham, London.

During WW1, according to his WW1 Medal Roll Index Card, John served as a Sergeant in the Royal Army Medical Corps or RAMC (Service No 35257). On 3rd April 1915 he was granted a commission into the King’s Liverpool Regiment. He was appointed as a Second Lieutenant in the 19th Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment (a Liverpool Pals battalion) in March 1916. His medal card details the award of the WW1 campaign medals – the British War Medal and Victory Medal. He was not awarded the 1914-15 Star which indicates that he was only posted to France after 1 June 1916.

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9R7Jw0Oosfv2_uHsvxMtS8ypJWyjSq4L

From previous research by the Liverpool Pals website we know more about his military career with the King’s Liverpool Regiment. Their research makes clear that:

He was wounded during the Somme offensive on 11th July 1916. No 3 Company was sent to Trones Wood in support of the Befords and “were badly cut up”. C.O was killed and 3 Officers wounded. 2nd Lieutenant MecHale received a Gun Shot Wound to the left leg. He was hospitalised between 17/07- 07/08/1916 at Queen Alexandra’s Military Hospital at Millbank. He was sent to Polesden Lacey Hospital for convalescence* . On 1st July 1917 he was promoted to Lieutenant.

He was killed in action on 24th March 1918, after the German breakthrough around St Quentin. The 19th Battalion had been stationed behind the Battle Zone near Germaine, when the German attack began on 21st March. It moved up to man battle stations and took the brunt of the German assault at Roupy on the 22nd, when it was all but wiped out. It was then forced to retire through Fluquieres towards Ham, which it reached at 02.00 am. Ham itself fell at 06.00am that morning and the Battalion was forced to retire further to the canal bank between Esmery Hallon and Moyencourt. By this time it had sustained losses of 19 officers and three hundred and forty other ranks.

By the morning of the 24th March a further withdrawal became necessary and although the Battalion was harried throughout the day, it eventually reached Roiglise, (spelt Roye Eglise’ in the Battalion War Diary) at 19.30 pm. It had pulled back about seventeen miles since 21st March and lost virtually all its fighting strength.

Although the Battalion War Diary states that two other officers, Major C W Biggs and Lieutenant J N Parker, along with sixty other ranks became casualties during the course of the day, Lieutenant MacHale is not mentioned at all. Probably because of the chaotic situation brought by the retreat, as there is no doubt that he lost his life that day. He was aged twenty nine.

Originally buried close to where he fell, his body was exhumed and reburied at Ham in April 1920. He now rests at Plot 2,Row A, Grave 15 in Ham British Cemetery, Muille-Villette, France where his headstone bears the epitaph:

“JESUS UT PALMA FLOREBIT PS. XCI. RIP”   which translates as the righteous shall flourish, the words of a Gregorian Chant. 

Sadly a few months after John’s death, the MacHale family suffered a second tragedy when one of John’s younger brothers, Private Patrick Bernard MacHale was killed in action (aged 20) on on 30 August 1918 whilst serving with 22nd Battalion, London Regiment. He is remembered on a special memorial at Combles Communal Cemetery Extension. His gravestone inscription reads “Requiescat in pace non recedet memoria ejus ecclus XXXIX”.

John is also remembered on two Civil Service War Memorials. Both brothers, John and Patrick are also remembered on a war memorial at the Holy Ghost Catholic Church, Balham, London. In 2014, a memorial frieze was unveiled by Prince Edward in memory of the Liverpool Pals battalions at Liverpool’s Lime Street Station. John was one of 5000 men who served in the Liverpool Pals battalions of whom 3000 died.

*Polesden Lacey, which is located at Great Bookham near Dorking, Surrey, was a non-surgical hospital offering rest and recuperation to officers injured in WW1 between June 1915 and late 196. The aim of the hospital was to get the men back into service quickly. Some stayed weeks, others months and others never returned to the front. John R J MacHale was one of 9 officers who stayed at Polesdon Lacey who returned to the front only to later die in fighting. He is still remembered at Polesden Lacey (which is now owned by the National Trust).

In John’s memory we remember the words of a poem written by a Polesden Lacey volunteer (and shared on the National Trust website):

Sacrifice

For the life I never had, my friends,
I gave it all for you.

To a wife, whose hand I long to hold
And a son I never knew.

For King and country I gave my all,
So shed no tears for me.

I lay here now in Flanders fields
So you can all be free.

When we think of WW1, the large battles of the Somme and Passchendaele often come to mind. However there were other equally significant parts of the war. One of the main decisive moments was in the Spring 1918 when the Germans launched a Spring Offensive. This began on 21 March 1918 and lasted until 17 July 1918. It was a last ditch attempt to defeat the Allied Forces on the Western Front and was planned by First Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff.

The Imperial War Museum’s Voices of the First World War: The German Spring Offensive and other sources provide more insight into this period of WW1.

There were various phases and elements to the German Spring Offensive – the first being “Operation Michael” which saw 60 German divisions from three armies attack along an 80km front from Arras to St Quentin. The German attack began at 4.20am with 6,473 German guns and 3,582 mortars bombarding the Allied front line during five hours. The Germans crossed the Somme and advanced towards Paris.

The second phase was Operation Georgette which began on 9th April 1918 and then Operation Blucher on 28th May, Operation Gneisenau on 9th June and Operation Marneschutz-Reims launched on 15th July 1918.

Massive numbers of men on both sides either died, were wounded or taken prisoner during the German Spring Offensive. For instance during Operation Michael only there were 200,000 Allied casualties including 70,000 men who were taken as prisoners of war. The Germans suffered nearly 1 million casualties. A significant number of Board of Trade men died and they are remembered collectively below.

A number of the Board of Trade Civil Servants who died during the German Spring Offensive in 1918 are remembered on either the Arras Memorial or on the Pozieres Memorial or Ploegsteert Memorial. Others are remembered in individual graves in Commonwealth War Grave Cemeteries dotted around northern France.

Those men named on the Arras Memorial include Abel Charles Roger, Alexander Ritchie, Joseph Max Wyler, James Alfred Parsons, David Beatty, George Cecil Grace, Norman John Allan and William McGinn.

The men named on the Pozieres Memorial include Thomas George Gordon Heenan, Percy Joseph Henley, Harold Lloyd, David Smith, Cuthbert Carruthers and John Henry Nicholas

The men named on the Ploegsteert Memorial include Frederick George Pinner, Harold Pinner

Over the coming months the Trade Historians Group will be blogging about each of the Board of Trade men who died during this period.

Died 21st March 1918

  • Percy Joseph Henley
  • Thomas George Gordon Heenan
  • Corporal Abel Charles Rogers, 1/18th Battalion (London Irish Rifles), London Regiment (died aged 24)

Died 22nd March 1918

  • Harold Lloyd
  • James Alfred Parsons
  • Alexander Ritchie
  • Joseph Max Wyler

Died 23rd March 1918

  • Edwin Thomas Charles Head
  • Harold Ernest Neal

Died 24th March 1918

Died 25th March 1918

  • David Beatty

Died 27th March 1918

Died 28th March 1918

  • Reginald Graeff Hugo
  • George Cecil Grace
  • Norman John Allen

Died 31st March 1918

  • Private Cuthbert Carruthers, 15th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry
  • P:rivate Frank Hanlon, 15th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (1st Leeds Pals Battalion)

Died 1st April 1918

  • William McGinn

Died 8th April 1918

  • Claude Howard Hook

Died 13th April 1918

  • Ernest Cooper
  • George Gerald Randall Bott
  • William Thomas Davies
  • Frederick George Pinner
  • Harold Newbury

Died 17th April 1918

  • George Harold Edmundson Warburton

Died 19th April 1918

  • Frank Thomas Libby

Died 26th April 1918

  • Francis Purves

Died 28th April 1918

  • Victor George Evans

Died 29th April 1918

  • Reginald Henry Buvington

Died 3rd June 1918

  • George Edgar Kenyon Pritchett

Died 14th June 1918

  • John Henry Nicholas

Died 18th June 1918

  • William Matthews Paul Cater

Died 20th June 1918

Died 21st June 1918

Died 28th June 1918

  • William Kilpatrick Turner

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: L. V. Thorowgood
Born: 
17 April 1894, Croydon, Surrey
Date of Death: 
22 March 1918
Age at death: 
23
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: Royal Flying Corps and previously The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) and the 18th (1st Public School) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers
Unit, Ship, etc: 107 Squadron
Enlisted: Epsom
Rank: Captain (Service no: 608378) and previously Private and then Second Lieutenant
Decorations: WW1 Campaign medals (Victory Medal, British War Medal and 1914-15 Star)
War (and theatre): WW1
Manner of Death: Killed in training accident whilst flying
Family Details: Son of Arthur Francis and Lottie Isabel Thorowgood of Hove, Sussex
Residence: Upper Tooting
Home Department: Board of Trade – Labour Department (Central Office)
Civilian Rank: Abstractor
Cemetery or Memorial: Durrington Cemetery, Wiltshire (Grave 276); Board of Trade War Memorial; Memorial to the Staff of the Ministry of Labour, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London; Hove Library WW1 Memorial, Hove, Sussex

Biography:

Leslie Vernon Thorowgood was born in about October 1894 in Croydon. He was later baptised on 25 February 1900 at Holy Trinity Church, Paddington. He was the son of Arthur Francis Thorowgood (1865-1952) and Lottie Isabel Rawlings (1870-1936) and had two sisters Kathleen May Thorowgood (1890-?) and Violet Emily Thorowgood (1892-1979). His father worked for the stock exchange.

He is recorded in the 1901 census living (aged 6) at 136 Westbourne Terrace, Paddington and then in the 1911 (aged 16) census living at 139 Trinity Road, Upper Tooting, London.

He joined the Board of Trade and worked for the Labour Department (Central Office).

During WW1, Leslie saw action in different aspects of warfare as a soldier and in the airforce. He initially enlisted as a Private in the 18th (1st Public School) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. This battalion was raised in Epsom on 11 September 1914 by the Public Schools and University Men’s Force. After initial training near Epsom, the battalion joined the 98th Brigade, 33rd Division which trained near Mansfield, Nottinghamshire in July 1915. They then moved to Salisbury Plain for final training and firing practice.

According to his medal card he was sent to France on 14 November 1915. From military records, we know that the 33rd Division was located near Morbecque and on 27 November the battalion was transferred to the 19th Brigade. On 26 February 1916 the battalion transferred to GHQ and was disbanded on 24 April 1916.

Like many of the other men of the 18th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, Leslie was then commissioned as an officer and promoted on 6 July 1916 to serve as a Second Lieutenant in The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). He then transferred as a 2nd Lieutenant to the Royal Flying Corps in 1916.

World War One Royal Flying Corps Song

Leslie would undoubtedly have been attracted to serving in the Royal Flying Corps, attracted into a cutting new edge of technology and warfare. In WW1, flying was only in its infancy and the planes and technology as explained by the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in their article about “What impact did the First World War have on Aircraft and Aerial Warfare?”. Leslie was one of nine Board of Trade men who served in the airforce.

Leslie joined the 42nd Squadron and then No 107 Squadron, Royal Air Force which was based at the Lake Down Airfield near Salisbury (the home of the UK’s military flying operations) which operated from 1917 to 1919. The site covered 160 acres with technical and domestic operations on site. There were four men’s barracks, a Sergeants mess, four officers quarters and an officers mess, a women’s hostel and a reception station and various other buildings and tents. There were also six aeroplane sheds and various hangers and workshops.

According to C.G. Jefford in ‘RAF Squadrons‘ (2nd Edition) page 58, the No. 107 Squadron was formed at Catterick with a nucleus from 46 Training Squadron.  The squadron moved to Stonehenge on 18 Oct 1917 then Lake Down on 2 Dec 1917.  According to Jefford the squadron was (fully) equipped with DH.9 during May 1918 before being deployed to Le Quesnoy, France on 5 June 1918.  

Thanks to the RAF Museum’s archives and Leslie’s airforce records, we know that we was involved in several flying accidents – the first taking place when he was slightly wounded on 27 November 1916 when the plane he was training in stalled. This accident was judged to be pilot error.

He later had a second accident on 21 September 1917 when flying a De Haviland D.H.5 plane.

It should be remembered that flying was a hazardous business, “with 80% of flying casualties caused not by enemy activity, but by the hazardous nature of flying itself” (Source: The First World War Stonehenge Aerodrome)

Leslie’s luck finally ran out when he died, prior to the squadron’s deployment to France, on 22 March 1918 in an aeroplane accident in his DH.9 plane. The Airco DH.9 (de Havilland 9) plane was a single-engine biplane bomber which was used extensively by the Royal Flying Corps. When it entered service, it was ultimately “unsatisfactory. The Adriatic engine was unreliable and failed to provide the expected power, which gave the DH.9 poorer performance than the aircraft it had meant to replace. The performance deficit was blamed for the heavy losses they suffered over the Western Front” (Source: Wikipedia).

In this incident the wings of his plane fell off at 2000ft whilst training at Lake Down, Stonehenge, Wiltshire. He died alongside Second Lieutenant Harry Alfred Courtenay Evans, aged 20 (Service No A01).

Harry was the son of Alfred Richard and Lyle Evans from 3 Cedars Road, Barnes Common, London. He was a former pupil of the Choir School, Newlands, Malvern and also Worcester Kings School and his named o their school memorial and also a memorial at Newlands St Leonards Church. On the outbreak of the war, he joined the Public Schools’ Battalion and served for 18 months in France as 2nd Lieutenant in the East Lancashire Regiment, being attached to the Headquarters of the 31st Division. Early in 1918 he returned to train for the Royal Flying Corps. According to “The Vigornian, June 1918, No 92, Vol IX”, Harry was accidently killed at Leck Down Camp, Salisbury when flying, falling 1500 feet when in the observers seat”. (Details as published on Remember the Fallen website).

According to the Royal Flying Corps’ records there was a Court of Inquiry (No 20664/1918) held into the accident. This determined and draw following conclusions:

“The court having viewed the wreckage and carefully considered the evidence are of the opinion that; a. The machine was in apparent perfect condition when it left the ground. b. The accident was due to the fact that the main planes folded back and broke away from the fusilage, owing to the machine diving at too great a speed, and that this breakage may have been caused through the required modification in strengthening of the compression ribs not having been carrried out in accordance with the specification and drawings. c. In our opinion no blame can be attached to any person or persons at this, Lake Down Station.”

Both Harry and Leslie are buried in Durrington Cemetery, Wiltshire (where there a total of 204 graves from WW1). Leslie is remembered on two Civil Service War Memorials – on the Ministry of Labour War Memorial and the Board of Trade War Memorial. He is also remembered on the Hove Library WW1 Memorial plaques and the Hove Roll of Honour (given that his parents had moved to Hove during the war).

Grave of Leslie Vernon Thorowgood (Durrington Cemetery)

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: A. C. Rogers
Born: January 1894, Fulham, London
Date of Death: 21 March 1918
Age at death: 24
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: London Regiment
Unit, Ship, etc: 1/18th Battalion (London Irish Rifles) – Formerly 3837 5th Battalion, London Regiment
Enlisted: Bunhill Row
Rank: Corporal (Service no: 608378)
Decorations: WW1 Campaign medals (Victory Medal and British War Medal)
War (and theatre): WW1
Manner of Death: Killed in Action (KIA)
Family Details: Son of Elizabeth J Rogers, 7 Moss Hall Crescent, Finchley and late Cornelius Rogers
Residence: Finchley
Home Department: Board of Trade – Labour Department (Central Office)
Civilian Rank: Abstractor
Cemetery or Memorial: Arras Memorial (Bay 10); Board of Trade War Memorial; Memorial to the Staff of the Ministry of Labour, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London;

Biography:

Abel was born in January 1894 in Fulham, London. His parents were Cornelius Rogers (1840-1905) and Elizabeth Julia Pickard (1866-?). He had one brother, Daniel Herbert Rogers (1891-1966). His father was initially an apprentice in the Merchant Navy before becoming a signal fitter.

In the 1901 census, Abel(aged 7) is living with his parents and elder brother at 51 Mulgrave Road, Fulham. Just four years later, when Abel was 11 his father died. In the 1911 census, Abel is aged 17 and has begun his working life in the Civil Service working as a Boy Clerk in the Post Office (having been appointed aged 15 in November 1909). He is recorded living in the 1911 census at 35 Elm Park Road, Fulham with his mother (widowed), his elder brother and a servant.

His last known address on his probate record was 10 Melrose Villa’s, Ballard Lane, Finchley, London.

In a Board of Trade staff listed of April 1913, Rogers is listed as one of 47 Abstractors (New Class) in the Labour Exchanges and Unemployment Insurance Branch. His appointment dated (and his pension accrued) from 15 January 1912. His salary was £50.

Turning to his service in WW1, we know from his WW1 Medal Roll Index Card, that Abel enlisted initially as a Corporal in the 5th London Regiment (Service No: 3837) before serving in the 1/18th Battalion (London Irish Rifles) (Service No 608378). The rank of Corporal was that of a senior non-commissioned officer in charge of an infantry battalion.

From his service number in the 5th London Regiment, we know that Abel enlisted between 6th December 1915 and 16th March 1916 (as 3755 enlisted on the first date and 4310 enlisted on the later date).

The 5th (City of London) Battalion, London Regiment (also known as the London Rifle Brigade was headquartered at Bunhill Row, London, where Abel enlisted. Unfortunately, Abel’s service record does not survive so we don’t know when he was transferred to the London Irish Rifles battalion.

Abel is known to died on 21 March 1918 in France. He was just 24 years old. According to the War Diary of the Irish Rifles, the battalion was attacked on an outpost line in the Vacqueries sector with heavy casualties. In the days prior to his death the battalion had been in reserve at Vallulart Camp.

The 21 March 1918 is remembered in history as the start of the German’s Operation Michael which formed part of the German Spring Offensive, which saw the Allied forces face heavy artillery bombardment. The London Irish Rifles were fighting in a separate military sector and bore the brunt of the German attack supporting Operation Michael.

Abel was one of three Board of the Trade men who died on 21 March 1918 (the other two being Thomas George Gordon Heenan and Percy Joseph Henley) with many more sadly dying in the days and weeks that followed as the German’s tried to push their offensive.

Abel’s body was not recovered and therefore he has no gravestone. He is remembered on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Arras Memorial (Bay 10). The Arras Memorial commemorates around 35,000 servicemen from the UK, South Africa and New Zealand who served in the region of Arras from spring 1916 until 7 August 1918.

Sadly there is no memorial naming either Abel or others from the Fulham area who died in either WW1 (or WW2). The borough’s local cottage hospital was renamed as the Finchley Memorial Hospital but does not include a list of names. Abel was one of at least 554 men from Finchley and Fulham to die in WW1 and his remembered by the http://www.barnetwarmemorials.org.uk digital memorial site, whose members and supporters hope to have a more permanent reminder of the local men who died in the future.

As the group says “All that they had left was their names”. Hopefully in future Abel’s story can continue to be told and remembered by people from the Fulham and Finchley area alongside other men who sacrificed their lives during WW1. That’s why we continue to keep the memory of the Board of Trade men alive and tell their individual stories.