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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.

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: J. C. Vanner
Born: 23 March 1896
Date of Death:
23 March 1919
Age at death: 
22
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: 
Leicestershire Regiment
Unit, Ship, etc: 
“A” Company, 7th Battalion
Enlisted: 31 March 1915
Rank: Captain
Decorations: WW1 Campaign medals (Victory Medal, British War Medal and 1914-1915 Star) and WW1 medals for bravery and gallantry – Distinguished Service Order (DSO), Military Cross (MC) and Bar
War (and theatre): WW1 (France and Flanders)
Manner of Death: Died
Family Details: Son of James & Mary V Vanner, 1 Steerforth Street, Earlsfield, London
Residence:
Home Department: Board of Trade – Chief Industrial Commissioner’s Department
Civilian Rank: Assistant Clerk
Cemetery or Memorial: Poole (Branksome) Cemetery, Dorset (C.MM.22); Board of Trade War Memorial, London; Memorial to the Staff of the Ministry of Labour (Caxton House, Tothill Street, London SW1)

Biography:

The following blog is republished from the previous Board of Trade war memorial pages published in early 2000s which included a detailed biography:

“Thanks to the generosity of his family, we are able to publish the following very full account, with photographs, of the most highly decorated soldier on the Board of Trade Roll of Honour.  James Vanner was awarded the rare combination of DSO, MC and Bar in a short career on the Western Front of a little over 2 years.  He survived the war to receive his medals from the King in December 1918 but, weakened by wounds and the effects of gas, he died in March 1919, four days short of his 23rd birthday.    

Photograph of James Vanner wearing his MC ribbon, taken in Paris, July 1917

Early life


James Vanner, known in his family as Jim, spent his early years in Earlsfield, where his father had a building firm.  He was educated at Waldron Road and then at the Higher Education Centre at Aristotle Road, Clapham where did well, wining prizes and becoming top boy.  On leaving school he joined the Board of Trade, continuing his studies part-time at a college in Westminster.

When war was declared Jim was 18 and working in the Chief Industrial Commissioner’s Department, headed by Sir George Askwith.  He was keen to enlist and, when permission was granted, became a Rifleman in the Queen’s Westminster Rifles (3/16 London Regiment).  His attestation papers in May 1915 reveal that he was 5′ 7.5 inches tall, with good physical development, good vision and a fully expanded girth of 38″.  

Military training

Initially Jim served at home with the Queen’s Westminsters,  a regiment favoured by many civil servants with its headquarters so close to Whitehall – but after only six months he applied for a commission, stating his address as The Camp, Richmond Park, Roehampton and quoting as referee the Vicar of Earlsfield who testified to his good moral character, having known him for four years.  His application was successful and on 14 January 1916 he was commissioned in the 11th Reserve Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, going to Plymouth School for officer training on 24 January.  He finally reached the Western Front in July that year, when the Battle of the Somme was raging and there was a great need for reinforcements to make up for the huge losses sustained so far.

So it was that Jim Vanner did not serve with the South Staffordshires, but instead was sent almost immediately in a draft of 20 new officers to reinforce the 7th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment.  He served with this unit throughout the war,  and indeed was still serving at the time of his death in 1919. 

On the Western front with 7th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment


The 7th was one of four new Service Battalions raised in quick succession from the thousands of volunteers in Leicestershire answering Kitchener’s call in 1914 for his first hundred thousand soldiers.  The story of these Service Battalions has been exhaustively documented by Matthew Richardson in The Tigers (published Leo Cooper, 2000) , an excellent source for the background to Jim Vanner’s wartime career, the men he led and the battles they fought.

Richardson describes how the Service Battalions were made up largely by men from skilled occupations, hosiery hands, engineering apprentices, clerks and office boys, drawn from upper working-class areas of Leicester , as well as miners, industrial and farm workers from Loughborough, Hinckley and Rutland.  These recruits were predominantly taller, fitter, and better fed than their pre-war counterparts, and, more significantly, they were used to a large extent to thinking for themselves .. Properly led, they were capable of displaying an initiative which the pre-war recruit was likely to have had square-bashed out of him.

Tigers at the Somme – The Leicstershire Regiment (presented by Richard Lane and published by Leicester Museums)

Together, the four Service Battalions made up the 110th (Leicestershire) Infantry Brigade of the 37th Division and, unusually, served alongside each other throughout the war.  By the time Jim Vanner joined them at the end of July 1916, the Leicesters had been on the Western Front for a year and were recovering and reorganising after a brilliantly successful but hugely costly attack on the Bazentin-le-Petit village and wood on the Somme carried out on the night of 13/14 July.  The 7th Battalion war diary records total casualties from this engagement as 18 officers and 535 men killed and wounded.  The depleted Battalions marched north to Agnez Les Duisans, near Arras, and after eleven days spent chiefly in training, bayonet fighting and physical training, the newly constituted 7th Battalion went into the front line trenches at 11pm on 7 August.  Jim’s first night in the trenches is described in the war diary as Very quiet first night, no casualties.  

Promoted Captain and awarded Military Cross

As a Civil Service clerk from London, Jim had no previous links with Leicestershire or his new battalion.  At barely 20 years old, he cannot have had any real experience of being a leader.  Yet he quickly grew into his role as a junior officer, demonstrating cool courage under fire and energetic and inspirational leadership of his troops.  In eight months he was promoted twice and by May 1917 was commanding “A” Company, with acting rank of Captain (made substantive in July).  He is mentioned by name in the war diary report of operations on 3 May, when the Leicestershire Brigade took part in a major assault on the Hindenburg Line positions, part of the wider Battle of Bullecourt which was unsuccessful and resulted in large numbers of the two attacking Battalions (8th and 9th) being taken prisoner.  Jim Vanner was awarded the Military Cross for his part in relieving the pressure on the 8th and 9th Battalions, so allowing them to withdraw.  In the vicinity of Fontaine Wood he showed conspicuous gallantry when leading and controlling the front line of an attack, and in making a daring reconnaissance under heavy fire to clear up a critical situation.  He then consolidated the line taken and repulsed a strong counter-attack (London Gazette, Volume III, 1917). 

Distinguished Service Order

Jim’s second outstanding exploit to be recorded took place during the German assault on 21 March 1918, the first day of the Kaiser’s Offensive.  In the Leicestershire sector (near Epehy village) the enemy put down a heavy barrage at 4:30 am which lasted about 5 hours, beginning with gas and gradually developing into heavy explosive and shrapnel.  The enemy broke through in places but the Leicesters resisted stoutly and the battle for Epehy raged all day, eventually descending into street fighting in ruined houses and lanes before the Germans finally gained control of the village.  The survivors began a long retreat towards the old Somme battlefield on 1916.  The Brigade had suffered casualties of 31 officers and 1200 men killed, wounded and taken prisoner.  But, according to Richardson, the stand in front of Epehy had been a heroic one which had slowed the German advance and perhaps helped prevent all-out disaster for the BEF.  And the Germans took the unusual step of mentioning byname in their communique, the Leicestershire Battalions which had stood in their path.

For his part in this stand, Jim Vanner was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.  The citation records ?conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty while in command of two companies during a withdrawal.  He made a block in a railway cutting and caused the demolition of two bridges over the railway while the enemy were crossing.  His was fine conduct throughout (London Gazette, Volume III, 1918).  The Wandsworth Borough News printed a slight variation on the citation: “for splendid bravery and skilful leadership which he showed in holding up for 24 hours the German attack on our lines on 21 March 1918”.   

He wrote to his parents with the news of the DSO on 14 May:  “…… Two ribbons will look rather pretty and put another year or two on me.  Having a quiet time now.  We can all do with a little bit of a rest.  The excitement of battle isn’t as wonderful as it sounds……… It’s a case of here today, in tomorrow, out the next day, if you are still there, and so on…”

Gas poisoning, and plans for life after the war

In a letter to his mother 7 days earlier, Jim had written, “Back out of trouble again alright, got a bit scorched but am picking up fast again ” haven?t got much voice at present and chest rather raw but feeling tons fitter already” and then, in a postscript attempt to reassure his mother, “I’m not ill, just after effects of slight gas poisoning”.  He mentioned how much he wanted some home leave, but thought it, utterly impossible, though they will open leave again one fine day I suppose?.

That fine day came sooner than expected, for on 28 July Jim wrote to his father after arriving back “in this rotten land of mud and water after a terrible train journey up.  He had spent some of his leave with a girlfriend, Iris, and in this letter mentions that he plans to marry her soon: “exact date I have not fixed yet but early next year (possibly next leave)”.  This was a big development in his life and it coloured his attitude to the war.  On 9 August he wrote to his father,  “Having a rather muddy time of it “.. Thinking greatly of the future, this last leave has left me very much disturbed and I can?t settle down to it again yet.  Now I’m absolutely disinterested in my work.. I’ve suddenly gone stale.

But it appears that this apathy was not long-lasting, for within a fortnight he was back in action and distinguished himself yet again, though on this occasion he was wounded, bringing his short but extraordinary military career to and end and leading eventually to his death 7 months later. 

Bar to the Military Cross

Jim’ third outstanding act took place in the final rapid British advance which began in August 1918 and continued until the war was finally won.  On 24 August the 7th Leicesters, fighting on the old Somme battlefield near the Ancre, ran into unexpected opposition from parties of Germans armed with machine guns.  He received a Bar to his Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and fine leadership during an advance.  His company and another became detached from the rest of the battalion but inspite of this he was instrumental in rounding up four machine guns and strong points, with the result that 78 prisoners were captured.  He displayed great skill and courage until wounded later in the operation? (London Gazette, Volume III, 1918) 

End of the road


Jim finished the war in hospital in Wandsworth.  On 4 October he wrote to his mother, now living in Parkstone, Dorset, “Am going on well”. The wound will soon be finished with and they are beginning to let me up for an hour in the afternoon now, my temperature has now gone down to normal, and altogether I’m quite happy. ” Did 10 yards on my own feet today, was a bit of an effort but think of the glory of its accomplishment”.

There are signs, however, that Jim was in fact facing up to the fact that his health was badly deteriorating, it was not so much the wound as his general weakened condition due to gas poisoning.  In the same letter he said “I shall have to see about resigning from the Civil Service”.

James Charles Vanner at Buckingham Palace investiture

He was well enough, just, to attend an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 13 December, though the photograph of him wearing the medals (reproduced above) suggests a sick man.  (The contrast with the boyish face in the photograph taken in Paris barely a year earlier is very noticeable.)  In the Wandsworth Borough News, the King is reported as having enquired as to Jim?s progress from his wounds and then asked his age.  On hearing that he was only 22 years old, the King reportedly told him that he was very young to receive the honours just presented to him.

Inscription on grave of J C Vanner at Poole (Branksome) Cemetery, Dorset

Jim’s health continued to decline and he died of tuberculosis on 19 March 1919 in Bournemouth.  He was buried with full military honours at Parkstone on the 31st.  The series of photographs below begins with the Guard of Honour from the Royal Engineers forming up at Vanner family home, Aliwal, Cromwell Road, Upper Parkstone, then follows the funeral procession to St John’s Church (via Jubilee Road, Ashley Road)  and thereafter up the hill to Branksome cemetery.   At the conclusion of the service at the graveside, three volleys were fired and the bugler sounded the Last Post.

James Vanner’s war decorations were given by his sister as a legacy after her death to the Regimental Trustees of the Museum of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment.  They may be viewed by appointment with Leicester City Museums Service (contact The Curator, The Newarke Houses Museum, The Newarke, Leicester LE2 7BY).

He is also commemorated on the Memorial to the Staff of the Ministry of Labour, now hanging in Caxton House, Tothill Street, London SW1″

Sources
J C Vanner, Officer’s Record of Service (PRO, WO 339/53266); War Diary of the 7th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment (PRO, WO 95/2164); The Tigers, Matthew Richardson (Leo Cooper, 2000); Wandsworth Borough News, 17 April 1919; unpublished family letters and papers.

The life of James Charles Vanner can be traced in birth, marriage and death records and census records. James was born on 23 March 1896 in Southwark area of London. He was baptised on 6 August 1897 in Blandford Forum, Dorset, his fathers hometown (hence why he is buried in Branksome Cemetery, Poole). His father was James Vanner (1870-1944), a labourer and builder and his mother was Mary Vickery Maidment (1870-1948). James was the eldest son of the family. He also had two younger brothers – Percial John Vanner (1898-1917) and Ronald F Vanner (1900-1935). He had four sisters – Ada May Vanner (1896-1926), Daisy V. Vanner (1901-1919) , Rose Mary Vanner (1906-1987) and Mabel Laura Vanner (1908-1994)

In the 1901 census, the Vanner family are living at 1 Steerforth Street, Earlsfield. James is aged 3 at the time. The family are still living at the same address in 1911 census when James is aged 15 and at school.

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: E. W. F. Skinner
Born: 16 January 1863 in Southwark, London
Date of Death: 19 March 1916
Age at death: 53
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: Royal Fleet Reserve
Unit, Ship, etc: HM Trawler Valpa
Enlisted: 1914
Rank: Chief Petty Officer (Service no: 128054)
Decorations: WW1 Campaign medals (Victory Medal, British War Medal and 1914-1915 Star)
War (and theatre): WW1
Manner of Death: Killed in Action (KIA), Drowned, Died at sea, ship mined
Family Details: Son of Christopher E and Eliza Skinner (nee Fruin). Husband of Minnie Skinner, 74 Links Road, Tooting, London
Residence:
Home Department: Board of Trade – Mercantile Marine Survey Staff
Civilian Rank: 
Tapeholder, Mark Lane
Cemetery or Memorial: Tooting (St Nicholas) Churchyard (C.14); Board of Trade War Memorial, London;

Biography:

Edwin William Fruin Skinner was the son of Christopher Edwin Skinner (1841-1915) and Eliza Fruin (1839-1917). He was born on 16 January 1863 in Southwark, London. He had four sisters – Emily Harriet Louisa Skinner (1861-1957), Alice Helen Skinner (1869-1889), Jessica Maud Skinner (1875-1953) and Madeline Felicia Skinner (1880-1959) and one brother – Christopher Ronald Skinner (1873-1914).

Edwin’s father was a card maker and and the Skinner family can be found in the 1881 census living at 48 Musjid Road, Battersea. Edwin is not living with the family (as we was presumbly serving at sea). The road is now only a cul-de-sac but previously was a whole street of houses, with its name taken from the Anglo-Afghan War (1878-80) and Anglo-Zulu War (1879).

Edwin doesn’t seem to appear in other census records until 1911 when he is listed as living at 26 Wycherley Road, Higher Tranmere, Birkenhead, Cheshire. By this time he is aged 45, married and is employed working for the Board of Trade. We know from other other records that he was a “tapeholder” working in the Mercantile Marine section.

He was married ten years previously to Minnie Carey (1877-1947) on 30 July 1901. They had one son, Herbert Edwin Skinner (1902-1982).

According to the UK, Royal Navy Register of Seaman’s Services (1848-1939), Edwin had a long career serving sea from the age of 21 when he served on his first ship, the Duncan on 1 July 1884.

At 53, Skinner was among the oldest Board of Trade staff to die on active service during the Great War. As a pensioner and reservist with a previous naval career, he would have been called up very early in the war, like other members of the Royal Fleet Reserve namely: James Brown (1866-1915), James Frederick Goodess and probably also Francis William Scoble.

Spurn Point, Yorkshire

Edwin Skinner died on 19 March 1916 when the Royal Navy boat he was serving on – HM Trawler Valpa – was struck by a mine placed by German submarine SM UC-7 and sank in the North Sea off Spurn Point, Yorkshire. He was one of four crew members to die.

The other men to die were Second Hand John Allan Fowler (aged 42) and Seaman Samuel Greep (aged 36) and Chief Gunner Robert William Garnham.

Edwin is remembered on the Board of Trade War Memorial and also on a memorial at Immingham St Andrews- RNPS. He is buried in a Commonwealth War Grave at Tooting (St Nicholas) Churchyard, London. His gravestone bears the inscription “Home is the sailor, home from the sea and the hunter, home from the kill”.

Edwin William Fruin Skinner gravestone in St Nicholas Churchyard, Tooting

Thomas Wilson

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: T. Wilson
Born: 1888
Date of Death: 16 March 1919
Age at death: 31
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: London Regiment
Unit, Ship, etc: 23rd Battalion
Enlisted: 1914
Rank: Sergeant (Service no: 3180 and 700815)
Decorations: WW1 Campaign medals (Victory Medal and British War Medal)
War (and theatre): WW1
Manner of Death: Died of pneumonia
Family Details: Son of Mr and Mrs Richard Wilson. Husband of Ethel L Baker (formerly Wilson) 28 Osborne Road, Stroud Green, London
Residence:
Home Department: Board of Trade – Bankruptcy Department
Civilian Rank: 
Personal Clerk
Cemetery or Memorial: Highgate Cemetery, London (98.41430); Board of Trade War Memorial; Holy Trinity Church, Stroud Green, London

Biography:

Thomas Wilson’s death is a timely reminder of the parallels with the world we now live in as continue to live through the modern day Covid19 pandemic (one year after the pandemic was declared and the UK went into a national lockdown. 100 years ago, in the aftermath of WW1, the world was facing the Spanish flu epidemic and Thomas Wilson fell victim to this deadly disease even though he had survived the war.

Thomas Wilson was born in 1888 in Denbighshire, Wales. His father was Richard Wilson (1862-?) and Emily Jane Saddington (1862-1930). He had a younger brother, Richard Wilson (1890-?) and three sisters – Jane Wilson (1890-1968), Emily Wilson (1892-?) and Alice Wilson (1896-?). Thomas’s father was a pharmaceutical chemist.

In the 1891 census, the Wilson family are living in Brymbo, Denbighshre, Wales. In 1901 Thomas Wilson (aged 13) is attending the grammar school in Roughton, Worfield, Shropshire (whose headmaster was Rev Thomas William Turner) and then in 1911, he is again living with his parents and siblings at 41 Stroud Green, Finsbury Park, Islington, London.

In the 1911 census, Thomas (aged 23) is recorded alongside his parents (both aged 49) and his younger sisters. His occupation is recorded as “Govt Clerk Board of Trade”. We know that Thomas worked as a clerk in the Bankruptcy Department.

We also know that Thomas married Ethel Louisa Beard (later Baker) at St John the Evangelist Church in Finsbury Park, London on 22 August 1915.

Thomas Wilson enlisted in 1914 in the 23rd (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (also as a Private, was promoted to Lance Corporal and later to Sergeant. According to his medal card his military service numbers were 3180 and 700815. After landing in Le Havre, France, the battalion became part of the 6th London Brigade, 2nd London Division and then subsequently the 142nd Brigade in the 47th (2nd London) Division. Members of the battalion fought in the Battle of Loos and the Battle of the Somme and then fought in the Ypres Salient in 1916. In 1917, the battalion was involved in battles at Messines Ridge and Bourlon Wood. In 1918, the battalion faced the German Spring Offensive and took part in the Hundred Days Offensive, as well as the liberation of Lille. The battalion ended the war at Frasnes.

As one of the survivors of the war, Thomas Wilson faced being demobilised, which saw the gradual release of men from military service as explained by the Imperial War Museum’s “Voices of the First World War: Homecoming” podcast.

The great flu pandemic: why scientists are still battling to defeat an  outbreak from WW1
Flu epidemic post, 1918

Thomas was one of several borderline cases considered by the Board of Trade War Memorial Committee (comprised of Board of Trade staff members) in 1923, because he died of pneumonia which he contracted while on his demobilisation leave and had not returned to duty up to the time of his illness. The Committee ultimately decided that his name should be included on the Roll of Honour. (Board of Trade Roll of Honour, PRO, BT 13/11).

Thomas is buried in Highgate Cemetery and remembered in the list of war graves in the cemetery. He is also remembered in the Church of the Holy Trinity located in Stroud Green, Finsbury Park, close to where he and his family lived.

Holy Trinity Church Stroud Green
Chruch of the Holy Trinity, Stroud Green, London

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: E. Worrell
Born: 20 October 1869
Date of Death: 14 March 1915
Age at death: 45
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: Royal Navy
Unit, Ship, etc: HM Trawler Fentonian
Enlisted: 3 August 1914
Rank: Chief Petty Officer (Service no: 130204)
Decorations: WW1 Campaign medals (Victory Medal, British War Medal and 1914-1915 Star)
War (and theatre): WW1 (Dardanelles)
Manner of Death: Killed in Action (KIA), Died at sea
Family Details: Son of late Thomas and Mary Worrell of Battersea. Husband of Charlotte S Worrell, 48 Inworth Street, Battersea Park Road, Battersea, London
Residence:
Home Department: Board of Trade – Messenger Staff
Civilian Rank: 
Second Class Messenger
Cemetery or Memorial: Chatham Naval Memorial; Board of Trade War Memorial, London; Memorial to the Staff of the Ministry of Labour (Caxton House, Tothill Street, London SW1)

Biography:

Edward Timothy Worrell was born on 20 October 1869 in Surrey. His parents were Thomas Worrell (1843-1915) and Mary Scanlan (1843-1914). He was one of 10 children. His father was a general labourer.

On 3 October 1908, Edward married Charlotte Sophia Cox in Wandsworth, London. The couple went on to have three children – Edward Alfred Worrell, Charlotte M Worrell and William H Worrell.

In 1911, Edward and Charlotte are recorded as living 48 Inworth Street in Battersea. Edward’s occupation is listed as “Pensioner R.N.” and their eldest son, Edward Alfred Worrell is aged just 1 years old.

A detailed record of Edward’s service in the Royal Navy survives thanks to the UK, Royal Navy Registers of Seamen’s Services, 1848-1939. This record details that Edward first served at sea on 13 January 1885 on the Impregnable. He was only 15 years old at the time and went on to have a long and good career at sea. It is not known exactly when he joined the Board of Trade as a messenger staff member, but it is presumably at some point after the 1911 census was taken.

During WW1, Edward continued to serve in the Royal Navy, as a Chief Petty Officer. This rank is that of a senior non-commissioned officer.

Edward died (aged 45) on 15 March 1915 at Gallopoli in Turkey whilst serving on the HMS Fentonian, a requistioned trawler turned into a minesweeper.

The backdrop to this period of WW1 (which occurred ahead of Allied and Anzac forces attempting to make their disastrous and ill-fated landing invasion on the Gallipoli Penninsula), was the fight for control of the Dardanelles Strait. Fighting in this area was seen as perilous. Turkish forces, who were defending the straits had laid 393 mines (backed up by on-shore guns).

WW1: Gallipoli Campaign

An article titled “Sweeping the Dardanelles – Naval actions prior to the Anzac landing at Gallipoli” by Mike Turner published in March 1915 in the Naval Historical Review explains more about the lead up to Edward’s death.

According to Turner, a plan was approved by the British War Council on 13 February to try and force the Dardanelles by neutralising the outer forts of Cape Helles and Kum Hale with long-range gunfire, neutralise the shore guns and sweep a passage as far as Kephez Point and then to continue from there to the Sea of Marmara. The British and French naval fleet comprised the dreadnought HMS Queen Elizabeth, 16 pre-dreadnought battleships, one RN battle-cruiser, five cruisers, the seaplane carrier Ark Royal, 16 Royal Navy destroyers, six submarines and 35 minesweeping trawlers.

The work of the minesweepers was dangerous and the Turks repelled the Allied minesweeping efforts by bombarding the Allied boats resulting in slow progress.

Mike Turner continues to explain the circumstances of 13/14 March when the Allied boats came under heavy shelling as follows:

“A final attempt to sweep a channel through the Kephez minefields was made on the night of 13/14 March. If this attempt failed it would be necessary for the minefield batteries to be destroyed before sweeping resumed. The battleship Cornwallis bombarded searchlights and minefield batteries, followed by Amethyst  (a light cruiser) and destroyers at closer range. Again seven trawlers steamed up in line astern. The sweepers were illuminated by two searchlights and the Turks held their fire until the sweeping flotilla was in the middle of the minefields. Even with all available guns brought to bear on the trawlers they managed to reach their turning point just up from Kephez Point. The damage to the sweepers was so heavy that only one pair of sweepers had a serviceable sweep. This pair of sweepers swept through several mine lines. About four mines were snagged and their moorings parted after being dragged together. Picket boats parted the mooring of more than eight mines, and over 12 drifting mines were located on 14 March. Amethyst provided support from near the southern mine line and was hit by a heavy shell that killed 24 men.”

On board HMS Fentonian, one of the minesweeping vessels, Edward Worrell died in this incident alongside one other man called Gilbert Morvinson (1879 – 1915) deck hand, Royal Naval Reserve (DA 2088).

Edward is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial, which is one of three memorials in the main British ports of Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth that serve to remember members of the Royal Navy with no known grave, having died at sea. The Chatham Naval Memorial was designed by Sir Robert Lorimer and sculpted by Henry Poole. It was unveiled by the Prince of Wales (later to become King Edward VIII) on 26 April 1924. The memorial commemorates 8517 sailors from WW1 (and 10,098 men from WW2).

Edward is also remembered on two Civil Service War Memorials in London – the Board of Trade War Memorial and the Ministry of Labour War Memorial.