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Archive for May, 2018

RDKing

R D King – War Memorial Card

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: R. D. King
Born: April 1882
Date of Death: 19 April 1917
Age at death: 35
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: Hampshire Regiment
Unit, Ship, etc: 8th Battalion
Enlisted:
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Decorations: British War Medal and Victory Medal
War (and theatre): WW1 (Egypt and Palestine)
Manner of Death: Missing presumed dead (MPD)
Family Details: Son of John and Harriet King. Husband of Milly Elizabeth King (nee Wren), St Michael’s, Limpsfield, Surrey
Residence:
Home Department: Board of Trade – Labour Department (Wales Division)
Civilian Rank: Second Division Clerk
Cemetery or Memorial: Jerusalem Memorial, Israel; War Memorial in Wyke Regis, Dorset; Royal Russell School Chapel of St Christopher and the Infant Jesus; Memorial to Staff of the Ministry of Labour located at Caxton House, Tothill Street, London; the Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London)

Biography:

Reginald Duncan King was born in April 1882 in Edmonton, Middlesex. His father was John Rowland King (1844 to unknown) and his mother Jane Harriet King (nee Brown) who were married on 5 August 1876 in Pinner. They had four children in all (two of whom died in childhood) including Reginald and an older brother called Llewellyn John Rowland King. Their father was a drapers assistant and unfortunately died sometime between 1881 and 1891, when Reginald was only 9 years old and his wife was left widowed.

WarehousemenClerksDrapersSchool

Warehousemen, Clerks and Drapers’ Schools, Purley c. 1905 (copyright: Peter Higginbottom)

As a result, Reginald is recorded as living in 1881 at the Warehousemen Clerks and Drapers School in  the parish of Beddington, Surrey. In December 1853 a group of warehousemen and clerks were concerned to help the widow and young family of a fellow textile warehouseman who had recently died. Their idea quickly developed into establishing a charity for a school for “the children of deceased and necessitous warehouseman and commercial clerks”. The charity’s president was the former Prime Minister Lord John Russell and with him at the helm they decided to set up their own establishment, initially at Hatcham Grove House, a mansion house in New Cross, London (now demolished) which was leased. With a high demand for school places, funds were raised to find larger accommodation and consequently the schools were built on a 20 acre hilltop site on what is now Russell Hill Road, Purley (the Beddington site). The foundation stone was laid by the Prince of Wales on 11 July 1963 and the completed buildings were opened officially on 18 June 1866 by the Prince together with the Prime Minister Earl Russell. £5,500 was raised on the opening day. Long after Reginald left the school moved to a new site in Addington, Surrey. It was also subsequently renamed the Royal Russell School and became a fee paying independent school and no longer connected to the Drapers Livery company. The Purley/Beddington site is still home to a school – but this is now Thomas More Catholic School and Margaret Roper Catholic Primary School after the Diocese of Southwark bought the property in the 1960s.

Thanks to a good solid education, Reginald and his older brother Llewellyn both secured professional jobs – Llewellyn as an accountant and Reginald joining the Civil Service as a Second Division Clerk. In 1901 and 1911, Jane is working as a drapers buyer and living at 2 Compton Terrace, Islington, London.

At the time of the 1911 census we can only imagine the growing anticipation and excitement Reginald might have been feeling about his impending marriage for on 9 May 1911 at St George in Bloomsbury, Reginald was married to Milly Elizabeth Wren. After their marriage the King’s lived in Surrey – his address on his death is recorded as 91 Englewood Road, Balham. They had a daughter Kathleen Alice Mary King (originally born Eva but baptised as Kathleen) born in June 1911 in Wandsworth.

With the onset of the war, Reginald joined the 8th Battalion (also known as the Isle of Wight Rifles, “Princess Beatrice’s”) of the Hampshire Regiment where he served as a Second Lieutenant. This Battalion was initially stationed in August 1914 at start of WW1 at Newport before moving to the Isle of Wight followed by Bury St Edmunds and then Watford. The Battalion was mobilised overseas on 30 June 1915 and sent on to see action in Gallipoli, which was a hard-fought battle in difficult terrain due to the short beaches and high cliffs as well as tenacious opposition.

Reginald was one of the men who survived Gallipoli, although more than 10,000 Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzacs) and more than 30,000 British soldiers died.

Reginald’s death eventually came, sadly, on 19 April 1917, by which time he was 35 years old, meaning he was one of the older Board of Trade men to die in the war.  He is recorded as “Missing Presumed Dead” or MPD. According to his probate record he died in Syria and is remembered on the Jerusalem Memorial in Israel. He left £1025 1s to his widow Milly Elizabeth King.

Reginald is remembered not just on the Board of Trade War Memorial but also on the old Ministry for Labour War Memorial located in Caxton House, Tothill Street, London. His name is also recorded on a war memorial in Wyke Regis, Dorset (where his wife’s family were from). His name is also recorded and remembered by his old school. For instance his name is mentioned ‘In Memoriam’ in the Old Russellian school magazine published in November 1919. The Royal Russell’s school Chapel of St Christopher and the Infant Jesus was built as a War Memorial and contains the names of Old Russellians who lost their lives in World Wars including that of Reginald Duncan King.

 

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Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: L. A. Smith
Born: About January 1885
Date of Death: 13 May 1918
Age at death: 33
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: London Regiment
Unit, Ship, etc: 9th Battalion (Queen Victoria Rifles)
Enlisted:
Rank: Lance Corporal
Decorations: British War Medal and Victory Medal
War (and theatre): WW1 (France/Flanders)
Manner of Death: Suicide
Family Details: Son of Alexander G Smith and Annie Smith
Residence: 19 Blenheim Crescent, South Croydon, London (in 1918)
Home Department: Board of Trade – Patent Office
Civilian Rank: Second Division Clerk
Cemetery or Memorial: All Saints Church Cemetery, Orpington, Kent;  the Patent Office Memorial 1914-1918 in Concept House, Newport, Wales and the Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London)

Biography:

Smith LA @Orpington All Saints Church 13-05-1918

L A Smith grave in Orpington, Kent

Lawson Akhurst Smith was born in Tooting, South London, in 1885. Lawson was the first child to father Alexander and mother Annie. Alexander was a Second Division Clerk in the Admiralty when Lawson was born, and Lawson would also join the civil service in 1904 when he got a similar position to his father’s in the Patent Office.

As the family expanded, with another son, Claude (b.1884), and a daughter, Vera (b.1891), so Alexander was promoted to the position to Chief Examiner at the Office of the Admiralty and Marine Affairs by 1911.

By this time, Lawson had married on 10 May 1910 in Ticehurst, Sussex to May Elizabeth Gilruth (b.1884), from Islington. The young couple settled into a new married life in leafy Algiers Road near the Hilly Fields Park in Brockley, south London.

It’s likely Lawson would have used his local Ladywell Station to commute to his position at the Patent Office, a journey of around 45 minutes today, but presumably a little quicker back then.

When War broke out in 1914, Lawson was still a Second Division Clerk at the Patent Office, and he enlisted with the Queen Victoria Rifles (QVR) of the London Regiment on New Year’s Day 1915.

The QVR had their HQ at Davis Street in London’s Mayfair district, and it’s possible Lawson enlisted here, although we’re aware some men enlisted into other regiments at the Patent Office itself.

For 2 years, Lawson served with the QVR at home where his records describe his character as ‘very good, steady and well conducted’. He was later to win an appointment as a Lance Corporal.

Lawson’s life would change dramatically in 1917, when he and his 9th Battalion was finally sent off to France to join the efforts on the Western Front.

Landing in France in early February 1917, Lawson spent just 5 months at the Front, and it’s likely he saw action at the Battle of Arras. This British offensive lasted 5 weeks through April and May 1917, but accounted for almost 300,000 casualties on both sides.

By July 1917, Lawson had been sent home and discharged from service.

It appears Lawson was to receive 6 months of convalescence at home, and it’s likely this would have included time spent at the brand new (opened June 1917) Highfield First Home of Recovery in Golders Green, north London.

This Home of Recovery was created by the Maida Vale Hospital for Nervous Diseases in an arrangement with the Ministry for Pensions. The Home of Recovery had 100 beds, and £6,000 was spent converting Highfield from a former girls’ boarding school.

At the Home would be discharged soldiers and sailors who were suffering from neurasthenia (shell shock) and other nervous system disorders. The idea was to have patients recovering at home, before being moved into Highfield for a period of up to 3 months. Patients would receive electrical treatment, physiotherapy and psychotherapy.

Lawson, as a married man, would have received £1.37 a week, and his wife May a further 69p a week, in an agreement with the Ministry of Pensions. Men were free to use the facilities as they pleased, and those more able would work the extensive gardens. Highfield was visited by the King and Queen in November 1917.

Tragically, he’d only been a resident at Highfield a very short time when he apparently jumped from the French windows in his bedroom, a height of between 30 and 40 feet.

Initially surviving the fall, Lawson is reported in the local press to have stated “What have I done? You’ve been very kind. Leave me alone.”. He was taken to nearby Hendon Infirmary where he died the same day, Monday 13 May 1918, aged 33. Lawson’s Death Certificate listed the cause of death of ‘suicide whilst insane’.  He’s buried at Orpington All Saints Churchyard. His wife May who never remarried, died in August 1964, aged 80 and is buried in the same church plot but her name is not marked.

PatentOffice

Patent Office War Memorial 1914-1918 at Concept House, Newport, Wales

Yet, Lawson’s story doesn’t end there. Although he was commemorated on the Board of Trade’s War Memorial in 1923, as well as the Patent Office’s memorial before that in 1919, he was not recognised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).

When Department of Trade & Industry staff began researching the men on the Board of Trade memorial, it was noticed Lawson was not recognised by the CWGC. A submission was placed to have him recognised in 2007, and this was initially refused before finally being accepted a little later in the year. This means he joins the list of servicemen recognised on the CWGC list of war dead, as well as being granted the official CWGC headstone.

Find Lawson’s entry on the CWGC’s website. With special thanks to the Lost Hospitals of London website.

 

 

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Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: E. V. D. Birchall DSO
Born: 10 August 1884
Date of Death: 10 August 1916
Age at death: 32
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
Unit, Ship, etc: “D” Company, 1st Buckingham Battalion
Enlisted:
Rank: Captain
Decorations: Distinguished Service Order (DSO), Mentioned in Dispatches, British War and Victory Medals and 1914-1915 Star
War (and theatre): WW1(France/Flanders)
Manner of Death: Died of Wounds (DOW)
Family Details: Son of John Dearman and Emily Birchall of Bowden Hall, Gloucester. Younger brother of John Dearman Birchall (1875 – 1941) MP for North East Leeds and Arthur P Birchall (1877 – 1915), Lt Col, Royal Fusiliers, attached 4th Battalion Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regiment), killed at Ypres on 24 April 1915.
Residence: Saintbridge House, Gloucester
Home Department: Board of Trade – Labour Department (South Western Division)
Civilian Rank:
Cemetery or Memorial: Etaples Military Cemetery (Grave reference: I.B.42), Upton St Leonards War Memorial, Gloucesterhire, Eton Colleage WW1 Sunningale Memorial Window, Ministry of Labour Staff War Memorial (located at Department for Work and Pensions, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London) and the Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place)

Biography:

Edward Vivian Dearman Birchall

Captain Edward V D Birchall

Edward Vivian Dearman Birchall’s story has captivated me because he is perhaps one of the ‘lucky’ men whose story and legacy lives on in particular through a charitable organisation that he helped to found – the NCVO. At the same time, his story is not unique, since Edward Birchall’s involvement and connection with voluntary bodies and organisations was a characteristic of the First World War era, which saw a surge in voluntary activity with 18000 charities founded during the four years of year between 1914 and 1918.

Edward Birchall was born on 10 August 1884 at a country estate purchased by his father in the 1860s called Bowden Hall located in Upton St Leonards, Gloucestershire  (which is now the Mercure Gloucester: Bowden Hall Hotel). His parents were (John) Dearman Birchall (a woollen merchant orginally from Leeds) and Emily Jowitt Birchall.

In the 1891 England Census, Edward his recorded (aged 6) living at Bowden Hall along with his father John Dearman Birchall (aged 62) and his other siblings – Clara Birchall, John Dearman Birchall (who went on to become MP for Leeds North East from 1918 to 1940), Arthur Percival Birchall, Violet Emily Birchall and Constance Lindaraja Birchall. The household also includes 9 servants including a butler, footman, cook and housemaids.

Prior to the war he was unmarried and lived with one of his sisters in Gloucestershire.

According to the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Chronicle 1916-17 and also a short biography published on the NCVO website, Edward Birchall was educated at Eton (which he is recorded as attending in the 1901 census)  and Magdalen College, Oxford. He studied chemistry, graduating in 1907 with a fourth class honours degree! After leaving university, thanks to having the means to do so through his father, he devoted his time to social work and philanthropy in Birmingham and London. This was at a time when a new approach to dealing with poverty and charity was being developed with greater inks between public and private organisations and greater organisation of volunteers. For instance in 1906 he co-founded the Birmingham Civic Aid Society and sat on the committee of the National Association of Guild’s of Help  (NAGH) including as president in 1915. At the same time, he was also honorary secretary of the Agenda Club, which he helped to co-found in February 1911. This organisation was inspired by the Samurai for their ‘civic heroism’ and for being ‘careless of material gain’.  One of the organisation’s initiatives was to set up a health week in April 1912 to discuss public health measures in a number of London boroughs and towns. He also subsequently joined the Board of Trade at Bristol.

He had served as a territorial soldier in the Bucks Battalion for eight years before the war and was promoted to Captain on 5 October 1913.

He went to France with the 1/1st Bucks Battalion and served continuously until his death on 10 August 1916 (on his 32nd birthday) of wounds received in action at Pozieres on 23 July 1916. The Battle of Pozieres, whish ultimately lasted from 23 July until 3 September 1916) was part of the wider Battle of the Somme. The objective from the British and allied perspective was to capture the plateau north and east of the village or Pozieres in order to threaten the German position at Thiepval from the rear. This was eventually achieved at huge cost, with the lives of Birchall and thouands of other soliders on both sides including those from Australia fighting alongside the British. Whilst Gallopoli is often remembered for the huge loss of Australian life, the six week battle for Pozieres was even more devastating. According to Charles Bean, the Pozieres ridge “is more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth” (see Wikipedia for further detail of the Battle of Pozieres).

A full account of attack at Pozieres on 23 July 1916 can be found in the war diary of the 1st Bucks Battalion (available at the National Archives in file WO 95/2763) and also in an account “Citizen Soldiers of Buckinghamshire 1795-1926″ by Major General J C Swann . Whilst rather long this is worth quoting in full given the particular praiseworthy mention of the leadership of Edward Birchall who ultimately died as a result of this particular military action.

“On the night of the 22nd/23rd July a general attack was delivered by the greaterpart of the Fourth Army, during which the Australians captured Pozieres. The 145th Infantry Brigade of 48th (South Midland) Division attacked on their immediate left, in the following order from right to left: 1/4th Oxfords, 1/4th Royal Berks, 1/5th Gloucesters, the Bucks Battalion being in reserve in the Mash Valley behind Ovillers. The Oxfords and Berks gained a footing in their objectives, but sustained very heavy casualties, and were cut off from the Australians by a large stretch of trench which remained in the hands of the enemy. On their left the attack of the 5th Gloucesters was unsuccessful, which left them in a very perilous position without any communication with the rear.

At about 4 a.m. the Bucks Battalion received orders to attack, and seize at all costs, that portion of the trench against which the attack of the Glosters had been directed previously. Zero had been fixed for 6.30 a.m., and there were 2 miles of strange trenches to be covered before reaching the jumping-off trench. There was no time to lose. Orders therefore were of necessity scanty, and much had to be left to the initiative of the Company Commanders concerned, who fully justified the confidence reposed in them by the Commanding Officer. The attack was one of very great difficulty owing to the way the trenches ran. The enemy position was a stretch of trench approached by two communication trenches about 400 yards long. The right-hand one was in good condition and met the enemy’s trench at right angles, the enemy having a bomb stop about fifty yards from the end. The left-hand communicator was badly damaged, and ran at an obtuse angle into the enemy’s line.

“B” and “ D” Companies were detailed for the attack

—“ B” under Captain 0. V. Viney on the left, “D” under Captain E. V. Birchall on the right. Both Companies at Zero were to leave their trenches and form inwards on the intervening space—about 200 yards. “A” Company, under Captain N. S. Reid, were to be in support in the right communicator; “ C” Company, under Captain P. A. Hall, was to provide the necessary carrying parties after the attack had been launched. Unfortunately “B” Company whilst getting into position came under a barrage of our own heavy guns, which were shooting short, and sustained many casualties, being thus delayed in getting into position.

“D” Company, however, under the splendid leadership of Captain Birchall, carried out their orders to the letter, and by dint of advancing practically in the barrage succeeded in capturing the whole position single-handed. The support Company at once moved up to assist in the work of consolidation and clearing the prisoners, about 150. The result of this action was that touch was immediately established with the isolated troops on the right, enabling bombing operations to be carried out by the 145th Brigade, and a junction with the Australians was effected. Several attempts by the enemy to retake the position were successfully repulsed by the Battalion.

The Battalion sustained 88 casualties.

The Brigade Commander (Brigadier-General H. R. Done) expressed his appreciation of the services of the Battalion in a letter to Lieut.-Colonel Reynolds (CO 1/1st Buckinghamshire Battalion) thus:

‘Please give my heartfelt congratulations to all ranks of the Regiment under your Command on their gallant and entirely successful attack on the 23rd July. By this success, which was obtained in spite of heavy loss, you enabled the Brigade to carry out the whole of the task allotted, and also made secure the position of the troops who had already gained a footing in the enemy’s position on your right.’ ”

The day before his death, he was informed informally of his immediate award as a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order. This is a military order awarded to officers for exceptional service under fire. During World War One only 8,894 men were awarded the honour and only one other man named on Board of Trade WW1 Memorial received a DSO award. As standard practice, Birchall’s citation for the honour was listed in the London Gazette on 25 August 1916 and read:
“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in action. He led forward his company with great dash under heavy fire, entered the enemy’s trenches, and, though dangerously wounded, refused any assistance till assured that the position won was firmly held”.

A local Gloucester newspaper (dated 19 August 1916) carried a quotation from Birchall’s Colonel:
“I feel I must write and tell you how awfully sorry we all are that he has been so badly wounded after his perfectly magnificent leading of his Company on 23rd, which resulted in the capture of a strongly-held enemy trench and secured his position of other troops, who would otherwise have been isolated and probably had to retire with heavy loss. It is no surprise  to us who have served with him for so long and know how he has never spared himself when his men have been concerned, and know that where dogged pluck and perseverance would tell he was sure to come through.” 

A friend of Birchall’s and fellow Battalion officer, Captain Lionel Crouch, in a letter home to his mother (or my dear old ‘massah’) penned on 9 March 1916, wrote about Edward Birchall’s views on life and death. He writes:  “Birchall says that he doesn’t want to get killed a bit. He wants to die at the age of ninety-five and be buried by the vicar and the curate, and his funeral attended by all the old ladies of the parish! He strongly objects to large objects of an explosive nature being thrown at him, and then his remains being collected in a sandbag and buried by ribald soldiery and dug up again two days later by a 59!” Captain Crouch himself died on 21 July 1916 only a few hours before Birchall himself was mortally wounded.  As an officer, Birchall had the responsibility to write to the families of those men in his unit who died and he wrote a heartfelt letter to Captain Lionel Crouch’s father on 22 July expressing his sense of loss. He says “personally I feel it very deeply; I don’t think anyone could help loving him he was so absolutely simple and loyal and kindly and about the only man I never knew depressed or worried….It is difficult to think of the Battalion without Lionel, and of old Sirett and all the Aylesbury me without ‘the Captain’.” We know all this from a small volume of letters published by Lionel Crouch’s father in 1917 as “Duty and Service: Letters from the Front from Captain Lionel William Crouch, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry”. The published letters cover the period from Lionel Crouch’s mobilisation on 4 August 1914 unitl 21 July 1916 when he died. A full text of the book ‘Duty and Service” is available at https://archive.org.

On Edward Birchall’s death he left considerable sums to charities and amongst his bequests was “£2,000 to the Chairman of the Buckinghamshire Territorial Association for the benefit of the wounded men of the 1st Bucks Battalion and for the widow and dependents of those killed in the war.”

His legacies also included £1000 (which equates to about £46,600 in today’s money) given to a friend S. P. Grundy to set up an organisation for the promotion of voluntary services. Before leaving for war, Birchall wrote to Grundy and said: “If I am scuppered I’m leaving you £1000 to do some of the things we tallked about”.

This money was used, as Birchall envisaged, to establish the National Council of Social Services in 1919 (which was later renamed the National Council for Voluntary Action or NCVO in 1980). The NCVO is an umbrella organisation that works to support the voluntary and community sector in England. It currently has a membership base of over 12,000 voluntary organisations ranging from well known national charities (such as Age Concern, the Youth Hostel Association and the Charities Aid Foundation) to smaller local community groups and volunteer centres. The organisation’s main aims to campaign for and  champion volunteering and the voluntary sector, to strengthen, grow and enhance volunteering and to connect people and organisations.

Edward Birchall’s role in foreseeing the creation of the NCVO is still remembered to this day by the organisation over 100 years later. For instance, the NCVO’s Chief Executive, Sir Stuart Etherington wrote a letter of thanks to him on the anniversary of the start of World War One in August 2014. In this letter, Etherington says how “it is impossible to imagine life without the charities and volunteers that enrich our society……Today, on the anniversary of the Great War, it is fitting to renew our commitment to the principles you held so dear, and to thank you – one hundred times over – for the sacrifice you made”. A full copy of the letter can be viewed on the TFN website.

Etherington explains the purpose of acknowledging Birchall’s legacy in the form of an open letter: “Birchall had a passion for voluntary action and he wanted to see this field promoted and legitimised. Birchall represents the millions of soldiers who volunteered, some in their communities at home and others who went freely to the front. My letter is addressed to one man, but on this day, the anniversary of the Great War, we commemorate the contribution of all”.

Upton St Leonard

Upton St Leonard memorial

Edward Birchall is commemorated by a number of war memorials – at Eton College’s WW1 Sunningdale School Window to commemorate former pupils,  on the Upton St Leonards War Memorial, Gloucestershire, the Ministry of Labour Staff War Memorial (located in the Department for Work and Pensions, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London) as well as on the Board of Trade War Memorial. He is buried at Etaples Military Cemetery near Boulogne, France. He is also remembered by an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Birchall-grave-Etaples

Birchall’s grave at Etaples

As the preface to the volume of letters published by Lionel Crouch’s father states:

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. (John xv, 13)

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Memorial Card - JRAAbbas

Twitter Memorial card for J R A Abbas

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: J. R. A. Abbas
Born: 28 December 1896
Date of Death: 18 March 1916
Age at death: 19
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: London Regiment
Unit, Ship, etc: 17th Battalion (Poplar and Stepney Rifles)
Enlisted: Bow
Rank: Rifleman (Service No 4445)
Decorations: British War Medal and Victory Medal
War (and theatre): WW1(France/Flanders)
Manner of Death: Killed in Action (KIA)
Family Details: Son of Joseph and Annie Abbas, 1 Amoy Place, Limehouse, London
Residence:
Home Department: Board of Trade – Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen
Civilian Rank: Abstractor
Cemetery or Memorial: Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, Pas de Calais, France and also on St Anne, Limehouse, War Memorial (as well as Board of Trade WW1 Memorial)

Biography:

War Memorial at St Anne's Church, Limehouse

Joseph Robert Alexander Abbas was born on 28 December 1896. He was baptised a month later on 24 January 1897 in St Paul’s Church, Greenwich. Unfortunately no photo of Joseph has survived but from the sound of his name and knowing that his father was from Persia or Iran, we know that Joseph was of mixed Iranian/British descent and possibly spoke Farsi as well as English. His father was also called Joseph Abbas (born 1863) and his mother was Annie Abbas (nee Rumble) (born 1875 – March 1949) who had married on 5 December 1895 at St Luke’s Church in Millwall. His father worked as a courier and later a guide or interpreter.

In both the 1901 and 1911 census records, Joseph is recorded living with his parents at 1 Amoy Place, Limehouse, London.

Thanks to the London Gazette records, we know that he joined the Board of Trade on 28 May 1914 as an Assistant Clerk (Abstractor) after an open competition. He would have been only 17 years old.

Sadly Joseph’s full military service record has not survived and all we can only piece together his war service based on the overall movements of his battalion.

We do know that he enlisted in Bow (regimental no 4445) and joined the local 17th (County of London) Battalion (Poplar and Stepney Rifles) which formed part of the London Regiment as a Territorial Force unit (or part-time volunteer organisation). During World War One the Battalion operated as an infantry division.

Based on information published by the Wartime Memories Project, we know that Joseph’s battalion was headquartered at 66 Tredegar Road in Bow – hence a natural unit for a local young man to enlist with. The Division had just arrived for their annual summer camp on Salisbury Plain when war was declared in August 1914 and they were immediately recalled to Bow and mobilised for war service. After training in St Albans, the Battalion arrived in Le Havre, France on 10 March 1915.

The Battalion fought at a number of battles in 1915 including the Battle of Aubers Ridge, Battle of Festubert, Battle of Loes and Hohenzollen Redoubt Actions.

We know he was a Rifleman within this battalion and that he was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Joseph was killed in action on 18 March 1916. According to the regimental war diary on that day (a Saturday), the battalion was in the Carency sector and “the enemy shelled our trenches with aerial torpedoes, trench mortars and L.H.V.” Three men are reported as wounded and one man killed (presumably Joseph). He was only 19 years old.

Joseph is buried in Souchez in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais area of France. His name is listed on the War Memorial at St Anne’s Church, Limehouse as well as the Board of Trade WW1 War Memorial in 3 Whitehall Place.

 

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