Australia officially became a nation on 1st January 1901 and over the next decade, the new country was desperate for young men to farm its wide open empty spaces. Young strong lads like Alfred George Chipperfield from 2 Maskell Road in Summerstown. According to the April 1911 census, Alfred was the son of a hostel attendant who worked for the council. The youngest of four, he was employed as a porter for a drapers. A sister was a machinist in one of the laundries and a brother worked in a candle factory. But in December of that year, at the age of eighteen, the intrepid Alfred set off for a new life, twelve thousand miles away in New South Wales, Australia where he intended to work on the land. Christmas 1911 must have been a time of mixed emotions at Maskell Road for on 28th December he set sail from the Port of London for Sydney, one of 750 passengers on The Geelong. For two years he wrote regularly to his mother and ‘appeared very happy’ with life on a farm outside Sydney. He even mentioned that he was considering ‘going up country to start on his own’. Then came the war. Ties to the mother country were strong and almost half a million Aussies answered the call to arms, sixty percent of these were born in Britain. Among them were Alfred Chipperfield and three other Summerstown 182 soldiers; Percy Cowles, Spencer Tibbenham and Philip Chapman. The extensive service records of all four are preserved in the National Archives of Australia and are accessible online. Alfred’s 56 page file indicates that he joined the 9th Battalion of The Australian Imperial Force in Brisbane, Queensland on 25th May 1915. This was possibly as a result of the news from Gallipoli. An attempt to force a passage through the narrow Dardanelles straits to Constantinople saw thousands of Australians slaughtered by a better equipped and more favourably postitioned Turkish army. Alfred and the 9th Battalion sailed from Sydney on 20th August on HMAT Shropshire and by the autumn were in The Balkans. He soon fell sick and was in and out of hospital with jaundice as they evacuated Gallipoli and moved on to Egypt. On 3rd April 1916 his regiment sailed from Alexandria to Marseilles and would see service on the Somme and at Pozières. Perhaps letting off a bit of steam after a summer of hard fighting, from 21st to 26th November, Alfred went absent without leave for five days. At his court martial, on 7th December he was charged and found guilty. According to his service records, he was sentenced to ‘45 days, F.P. No1’. ‘Field Punishment Number One’ involved a prisoner being shackled to the wheel of a gun or a fixed post for a few hours each day. Left on public view as an example to the victim’s comrades, it was both humiliating and degrading. His hands and legs were tied, his body sometimes spreadeagled in the form of an X. This punishment was used over 60,000 times during the war, but not apparently widely by Australian forces. Indeed there are accounts of Aussie soldiers releasing someone they came across who was tied up in this way. Whether the punishment was followed through or not, the next mention of Alfred Chipperfield is on 25th January when he was admitted to hospital with pneumonia. The height of the winter would not have been a good time to be tethered to a field gun. On the 28th he was on his way to England and was admitted to 1st London General Hospital on 29th and later transfered from there to another hospital in Wareham in Dorset. He was discharged from here in March. In May he was in trouble again, briefly ‘overstaying leave’ and sentenced to lose two days pay. In August and still in Wareham, the troublesome Aussie was in more hot water when he was charged with ‘disobeying brigade orders by gambling in camp’. This resulted in the loss of a further 14 days pay. On 25th October Alfred was back in France. Throughout the first part of 1918, he suffered more bouts of ill health, including hospitalisation for influenza. On 15th June he rejoined his battalion and would have been ready for the great allied surge that summer. The Battle of Amiens which began on 8th August was the opening phase of an attack which became known as the Hundred Days Offensive and ultimately lead to the end of the First World War. Allied forces advanced over seven miles on that first day, the greatest territorial gain in a single day on the western front. The German General, Erich Ludendorff described it as ‘the black day of the German Army in this war’. But on 23rd August, Alfred Chipperfield was killed in action. A grim typewritten note in his file indicates that ‘He was blown to pieces by shell fire near Luck Wood (Cappy) on 23rd August last. He was not buried as there was not enough of his body left to enable him to be identified’. TD Farmer, Capt, Commanding Officer. Cappy is a small village on the River Somme, not far south of Albert. He is commemorated at Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieres, a few miles further south. Also in his service records is a letter from his Mother, Sarah Chipperfield, back in Maskell Road, who wrote to the Australian War Office in August 1915 enquiring as to whether her son had joined up. She mentioned that he had written regularly but that ever since January 1914, her letters had been returned. Alfred was in fact fortunate, had he been in the British Army his absences without leave would very possibly have resulted in him facing a firing squad on a charge of desertion. Fortunately the Australians were the only country in the Empire who didn’t allow its soldiers to be executed. Just as well for the wild colonial boy from Summerstown with an inclination to go walkabout.
James Ramage Morris, 12th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment was killed in the Battle of Courtrai on 14th October 1918. This great advance of the allied armies, now including the Americans, was the last final push, driving the Germans back to the River Lys and ending the war. It also liberated Belgian towns and villages which had been under German occupation for four years. I have learnt about this from my Belgian friend, Bart Seynaeve, whose village Gulleghem was liberated on 15th October. This was where my Great Uncle, Captain Alan Lendrum of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was injured and awarded a Bar to his MC ‘for conspicuous courage and excellent leadership’. In 2011 we followed the path of this advance using maps and extracts from the War Diary. We even visited the cemetery at Dadizeele where James Morris is buried alongside many Inniskilling Fusiliers. It is fertile land and all around are fields of turnips and cabbages, yet still throwing up the rusted shells and bullets that were exchanged almost one hundred years ago. Bart has a giant map he has assembled with the four advancing divisions, 50,000 strong, indicated by coloured stickers moving towards the German line. It looked terrifying on paper, what can it have been like in reality? At 0530, one hour before sunrise, on 14th October the barrage started and the attack began. It was witnessed by Lt Phillip Ledward, 15th Hampshire Regiment. ‘The signal was one shot fired from a 15-inch Naval gun many miles behind the line, and it broke an utter silence with the great crack of it speeding overhead, followed by a queer echoing roar of its passage growing less and less, till just as it had about ceased to be audible, the barrage burst out with one tremendous crash. It was like some stupendous orchestra, grand, inspiring, exhilerating, beyond imagination… The barrage was marked at every 100 yards or so by phospherous shells, which burst in the air, pouring out a golden rain like fireworks, and it was by the guidance of these that we followed’. Some how, in the midst of all that, James Ramage Morris was struck by a shell and lost his life. He was the licensee of a public house in Teddington called The Brittania, it’s still there, now called The Hogarth. On 6th April 1916 he married Eva Kathleen Buckingham in St Mary’s Church, Summerstown and they lived at 33 Swaby Road. He was wounded at Cambrai in 1917 but returned to France the following year. His name is also listed on the Teddington War Memorial.
UPDATE Michael Burrett got in touch with us to tell us that his Grandmother was an Ellen Morris and that he had found a photograph of her brother, James Ramage Morris. In 1891 James Morris Senior and his wife Elizabeth lived with three children in Battersea. He was a pastry and restaurant cook who became a house painter. By 1911 they were at 123 Penwith Road, Earlsfield with eight children, of whom 20 year old James, a grocer’s shop assistant was the second eldest. Ellen, born in 1906 was the second youngest, and Elsie, whom Mike remembers meeting when he was very little, was the youngest. The other children were Alfred, Alice, Rosie, Edith and William. James married Eva Buckingham in 1916. She was the second youngest of six children and at the age of 16 was already working in a laundry. Her late father Samuel was a ‘boot clicker’ from Colchester. The Buckinghams lived at 9 Franche Court Road, sandwiched between two Summerstown182 families, the Tickners and the Tuttys. This would be much closer to St Mary’s Church and explains why the couple married there and James is on the memorial.
Two thirds of First World War service records for ranks other than officers were destroyed during a 1940 air raid on London. Fortunately Arthur James Mullinger Mace’s papers were one of the so-called ‘burnt documents’ which survived. They tell us a great deal about his situation and explain why he, and very likely his brother, do not appear on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database. They also tell us that the office boy of 1911 was now a ‘cinema operator’. Arthur Mace joined the 1st Battalion, Welsh Horse regiment at Diss in Norfolk on 7th March 1915, a month short of his twentieth birthday. In September 1915, as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, they sailed for Gallipoli and landed at Anzac Cove. This particular campaign had seen huge losses of Australian and New Zealand forces with 25th April always remembered in those countries as Anzac Day. The Welsh Horse arrived some months after the worst fighting. They had been there just under eight weeks when Arthur first got sick with dysentry and was invalided home on 19th November. His poor record of health continued to afflict him and he was plagued with constant chest pains, breathing difficulties and coughing up blood. On 25th September 1916, after one year and 205 days service, he was discharged from the army, pronounced as ‘being no longer physically fit for war service’ and suffering from ‘tubercular disease of the lung’, (commonly known as TB). It was noted on the form that his father had died of phthisis and a brother was invalided out of the army with the same condition. This was almost certainly William Henry Mullinger Mace who died in Clapham in March 1917. The same report stated that the disease was ‘not due to, but aggravated by experience of hardship on active service’. He was discharged in the aftermath of the Somme at a time when the army’s need for manpower was at its most insatiable. TB would have thrived in the dirty and cramped conditions of trench life, but there was also concern about thousands of infected soldiers returning to their homes and spreading the disease further. The discharge report does note though that his condition might not be permanent and that he should be reviewed in six months. In August 1917, another report stated Arthur’s temporary adddress as being ‘Downs Sanatorium in Sutton’ and that ‘TB is present’. A later one in April 1918 indicated ‘complete incapacity’. A few months later on 1st October Arthur James Mullinger Mace died in South Eastern Hospital, New Cross. This was an old ‘smallpox and fever hospital’ admitting ex-servicemen with TB until 1921. There is something extremely sad about the story of Arthur James Mullinger Mace, the young man who in March 1915 stood five foot nine and whose physical development was noted as ‘good’ was essentially destroyed by his brief exposure to war. He escaped it, yet was condemned to live out the last years of his life in sanatoriums and fever hospitals, in a state of chronic ill health. We had another look for them in the cemetery today but it seems likely they are in unmarked graves. Lambeth Council are going to help us pinpoint exactly where they are. Thank you to Dorothy Williams in Preston for locating Arthur Mace’s service records.
In 1916 the Anglo-American Laundry was the largest of four laundries all clustered in an area bounded by Burmester Road and Huntspill Street. It is still an imposing building, now converted into flats with its original external features still intact. It was opened in 1900, but greatly developed in 1906 when seven houses in the road were purchased, pulled down and the present red-brick and stone building erected on the site. Apparently the company wanted to develop further by extending on the stretch of Burmester Road to the right of the building but a rival laundry beat them to it by purchasing the houses and preventing the expansion. Hence the rather unsymmetrical nature of the frontage. Taking charge in 1902 was a formidable manageress by the name of Mrs Creeke. Incredibly she remained in charge for at least 28 years. An article in the Edinburgh Gazette from 1919 reports on the formation of a national regulating board for the laundry trade. In the company of 17 males, the redoubtable Mrs Creeke is the only woman. By 1916 the staff numbered 500 and their welfare was well catered for with tennis, netball and running clubs. No doubt much of this activity taking place on adjoining Garratt Green. The St Mary’s parish magazines of the early 1930s has a number of accounts of gymnastic dispalys and recitals being put on by the staff. Some of these were elaborate performances with up to forty people in costume.
It was a proper well-run local enterprise employing a lot of people living in the area, including many of the Summerstown 182’s family members. The census records reveal many ‘laundresses’ and ‘laundry workers’, mostly female, but there were other associated roles such as that of William McMullan’s father who was ‘a laundry horse keeper’. His brother Samuel worked there as did countless sisters, wives and mothers, including Edith Port the sister of Thomas, who ironed shirts there for 56 years. It was though extremely hard physical work and there are recollections of people developing serious back problems as a result of their years of toil, most notably Caroline Danzanvilliers, the wife of Louis.
It appears there were a number of receiving offices in different parts of London from which articles were conveyed ‘to be returned beautifully cleaned and laundered’. This was done in horse-drawn wagons emblazoned with the Anglo-American crossed-flags crest and if you have a look at the below Pathe News clip you can see some footage of them in action. A coloured stone relief of this motif can still be seen, high at the front of the building. Not long after the war the horses would be replaced by vans. The Laundry will forever have a strong attachment to the Summerstown 182 story through the fact that it was a substantial last-minute donation from the management and workforce that helped ensure that the war memorial in St Mary’s church was finally constructed. To pay for it collecting cards were printed and collectors despatched to every house in the parish to raise the estimated cost of £200. It was a lot of money for an already over-stretched community and some re-drawing of plans had to be made before the project got the go-ahead. Finally on 30th November 1919 the church was packed to overflowing for the unveiling ceremony. Hats off to Mrs Creeke and her beautiful laundry.
The Maces, AJM and WH are on the St Mary’s war memorial, sandwiching Sunday School teacher, WA Mace. The November 1918 issue of the parish magazine recounts that ‘Arthur James Mullinger Mace of the Welsh Horse, died in hospital from wounds received in action on 1st October’. His burial on 7th is also noted later. These two were for some time a mystery as curiously, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission appears to have no details of either. Going through Thurso Street house-by-house on the 1911 census, just before Christmas, I came across the Mace brothers living with the Smith family at No 2. Further research indicated that they were the stepsons of Clara Amelia Smith and lived at this time with eleven other people in a five room house. Arthur, then aged 16 was an office boy, his younger brother William Henry Mullinger Mace was only 13. Just a few doors away on Thurso Street are two houses, from each of which three brothers were killed. This morning I dropped into Lambeth Cemetery on Blackshaw Road and from the huge dusty leather bound ledgers, the names of the two Mace brothers materialised. They are both buried in Streatham Cemetery off Garratt Lane. Arthur’s notes reveal that he did indeed die in ‘South Eastern Hospital, New Cross’. William apparently was buried on 19th March 1917 and died at 29 North Side, Clapham Common. The Cemetery were able to tell me what section they are in and I had a quick tramp around to try and find them, but it seemed like a thankless task. If I can wait a couple of weeks the council will send me a little map pinpointing exactly where they are. The mystery as to why neither ended up in a war grave remains.
A tight little parcel of streets sits to the north of the church on the other side of Garratt Lane. Its a peaceful enclave, sheltered from the hustle and bustle of the main road. Bellew Street, Squarey Street and Aboyne Road all run parallel and L-shaped Huntspill Street wraps itself around them like some giant protective arm, leading up to the playing fields of Garratt Green. On the bend of the road, an archway leads to a few more houses in a development called Eden Mews which is on the site of what was in 1914 one of four laundries in this area. From this small oasis of tranquility, came at least 13 of the 182. Five of these were from Huntspill Street, including William Mace, one of the Sunday School Three, resident at No 39. Living at No 15, was William James Nichols. His family had a long association with the road and he was married at St Mary’s church on 30th June 1912. He was twenty one. On 2nd September 1914, less than a month after the outbreak of war, he joined the London Regiment. However, not long afterwards he was pronounced ‘unlikely to make a good soldier’ and was discharged from the army. Whilst many others would have rejoiced at this ‘get-out’ , it says much about this young man’s character, determination and bravery, that he sought another regiment and joined the 2/6th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment.
He returned to France and was killed on 21st March 1918. As often happened in these conflicts, official notification of his death wasn’t immediate and eight months later the St Mary’s parish magazine noted that he was still ‘missing’. One of his sisters was head parlour maid to Sir John French, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in the early stages of the war. With the assistance of Lady French, searches were made for William in salt mines in Germany where prisoners of war were put to work. His name is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial near the Somme. Those remembered on this memorial were killed in what became known as the German ‘Spring Offensive’ (Kaiserschlacht), a great wave of elite flame-throwing stormtroopers which drove the Allied Fifth Army back across the former Somme battlefields and threatened to turn the course of the war. By the end of the first day of this attack, in which the Germans fired 3,000 shells a minute, 21,000 British soldiers had been taken prisoner and William Nichols was dead.
Two of my Great Uncles were caught up in this ferocious onslaught, one survived, one perished in a field hospital. Much of the information about William Nichols has been provided by Sharon Given. For some time she had been looking for a war memorial on which her own Great Uncle’s name was inscribed. Earlier this week she heard about this project on south west London’s Radio Jackie. She has been in touch with us and is planning to visit St Mary’s church and see the name, ‘W J Nichols’ on the war memorial.