Cut and Blow

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There would appear these days to be an inexhaustible supply of hairdressing salons on the main Earlsfield drag of Garratt Lane. So, it seems appropriate that one of the Summerstown182 should have a tonsorial connection. The soldier in question is Edward Anthony Lorenzi from 4 Maskell Road, the son of a French hairdresser from Menton, a lovely town on the Meditteranean coast not far from the Italian border and where my Mum worked as a Cook’s Tour Guide in the fifties. As with all the Maskell Road homes, the house has now gone, but positioned at the Garratt Lane end, the occupants would have been well placed a hundred years later to step out and explore their options for a quick cut and blow. Several of the census records incorrectly transcribe Michel Lorenzi’s  birthplace as ‘Merton’ and although our illustrious neighbouring borough is very pretty, the west bank of the Wandle is hardly the Cote d’Azur. We may well find that out when we walk it on Saturday.

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Many years later, in swinging sixties London, Vidal Sasson would have been snipping Mary Quant’s bob in the same road, but back in 1881, Michel Lorenzi was living and possibly plying his trade in Carnaby Street. He was 28 and married to Sarah Forsyth with a three year old daughter called Theresa. It would appear that two other children died in infancy; Edward in 1882 and Blanche in 1884. Edward Anthony, born in 1886 must have been a very special blessing. By 1901 the family were in Maskell Road and there were now two other sons. Theresa had followed her Dad into the hairdressing business and Edward, now 15 was a shipping clerk. In 1911 all four children were still at home. Theresa had laid down her scissors and was now working, rather grandly as a ‘Shop Assistant Costumier’. Edward was an insurance clerk and Louis and Francis were both engineers in a metal works. Michel and Sarah both lived to a ripe old age. Michel passed away in 1934 aged 80 and Sarah was 87 when she died seven years later. Sadly both Francis and Theresa also passed away that year, but Francis lived on locally until his death in 1978.

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Edward Lorenzi served in the 1st/20th battalion of the London Regiment. This regiment had its base in Blackheath and was a unit of the Territorial Army with its HQ at Holly Hedge House, Blackheath. This was bombed in WW2 and most of the regiment’s records were destroyed in the subsequent fire. It went to France in March 1915 and fought at Festubert, Loos and the following year at Vimy Ridge and High Wood on the Somme.

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From his medal roll, we can tell Edward entered France on 16th June 1916. Most likely as a conscript and now about to face one of the bloodiest battles ever fought. The front in northern France stretched for about twelve miles in a vertical line that ran to the north and south of the River Somme. In the next months he would have seen tanks in action at Flers and taken part in the capture of High Wood. A number of his Summerstown182 contemporaries including George Kidd, Arthur Clarke and George Collyer lost their lives in these ferocious battles.

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Edward Lorenzi had been in France a little over three months when he was killed in the land of his father’s birth. It was 1st October at what became known as the Battle of Le Transloy Ridge. This was one of the last offensives of the Somme, fought on already devastated terrain in persistent rain, mist and fog. His regiment were attacking near Flers on the day and the plan was to seize the stronghold of Eaucourt L’Abbaye. The attack began after a seven-hour bombardment, at 3.15pm on 1st October. It was met with fierce German resistance and it was not until the afternoon of 4th October that the objectives were secured. The 141st Infantry Brigade War Diary written up on the 4th bluntly states the casualties from noon on 30th September, to noon on 5th October as a total of 1,082. This included 134 killed and 293 missing. Edward Anthony Lorenzi would have been one of the missing, lost in the mud so evocatively described by John Masefield who had visited the Somme during the month and subsequently recorded his impressions; ‘I never saw such mud, or such a sight in all my days. Other places are bad and full of death, but this was deep in mud as well, a kind of chaos of deep running holes & broken ground & filthy chasms, and pools & stands & marshes of iron coloured water, & yellow snow & bedevilment. Old rags of wet uniforms were everywhere, & bones & legs & feet & heads were sticking out of the ground’.  

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Consequently Private Edward Lorenzi’s name would be inscribed on the great memorial at Thiepval. A few weeks ago we saw it – on a beautiful warm afternoon in late Autumn, we travelled from Fred Buckland’s cemetery at Mametz, through Bazentin-le-Petit and Albert, places where Edward would have trained or been in trenches. We passed the Tank Memorial and the Ulster Tower at Beaumont Hamel and observed the great Edward Luytens monument at Thiepval rising slowly on the horizon from behind the trees. Among the 75,000 names are thirteen of the Summerstown182 including Edward Lorenzi. The others are; George Benfell, James Chenery, Henry Foley, Robert Govan, Harold Hatcher, Ernest Haywood, George Hope, William Ibbott, Thomas Meikle, Ernest Pelling, Reginald Thomas and William Wood. The memorial is currently swathed in scaffolding, awaiting the great centenary year when one hundred years will have passed since the dark days when all of the names upon it were lost.

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Ladybird, Ladybird

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A few weeks ago we spent three golden days visiting the graves and memorials of the Summerstown182 in northern France and Belgium. Some of the smaller cemeteries are very hard to find and on the trail of Frederick Sizmur Buckland we made a bad start, circulating the wrong Mametz before being advised that the one we were looking for was 25 miles away on the Somme. Then we spent about an hour entangled in the endless ring-roads around the town of Bethune, searching for Sandpits Cemetery at a place called Fouquereuil. Its very close to the cemetery where Henry Geater is buried at Fouquieres, which we kept passing. All very confusing. Anyway, back on track we headed up a dirt road beneath the A26 motorway and alongside a ploughed field to the edge of a wood. This was Sandpits Cemetery tucked into a leafy tranquil corner of a busy heavily-populated  industrialised sprawl. As we followed the path on the edge of the wood, acorns popped out of the surrounding oaks and crackled underfoot. The trees were a mid-Autumn blaze of red, green and gold. This was a special place and the man we had come to see was Arthur Crosskey from 22 Maskell Road. In fact we weren’t the only visitors to the graveyard, there was also an energetic little black ladybird with red spots purposefully circumnavigating his headstone.

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ladybird2sandpits5Arthur served with 4th Royal Fusiliers and died in the Battle of Lys on 27th April 1918, the final sting-in-the-tail of the great German Spring Offensive lead by General Erich Ludendorff. It was also known as the Fourth Battle of Ypres – there are five of them in total would you believe. This one, which ran from 9th-28th April resulted in the Germans outflanking the British and a great many soldiers were blinded by tear gas. Early that month German forces captured Messines and Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force issued his famous order ‘There must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one must fight on to the end’. The last shell fell on Ypres on the 14th of October 1918. In the area around it, with names such as Hill 60, Passchendaele, Lys, Sanctuary Wood…over 1,700,000 soldiers on both sides were killed or wounded as well as an uncounted number of civilians.
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Arthur was aged 22 and his mother Susan and his home at 22 Maskell Road is mentioned in his cemetery registration details. Susan who was originally from Ipswich married Henry Crosskey in 1886. By 1901 they had six children and were living at Boyce’s Cottage, Garratt Lane, roughly where Earlsfield police station now stands. There is a great photograph of these simple wooden workers cottages in the London Metropolitan Archives. Henry was a general labourer and eldest son Frederick worked in a bone factory. Ten years later the family were at 22 Maskell Road and sixteen year old Arthur was employed as a draper’s porter. There was now a youngest sibling called Alfred. Brian, born in 1942 was Alfred’s son and lived in the street until the late sixties. It would appear that there are quite a few Crosskey family members still around; in Bristol, Morden and Wallington. Two of them, read a short article about Summerstown182 in the Diocese of Southwark newsletter ‘The Bridge’ and came to St Mary’s Church and met Reverend Roger Ryan. Unfortunately they didn’t leave contact details. We would dearly love to speak to them and see if they know any more about Arthur or would like to join us on one of our Summerstown182 Walks.
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Sadly, unlike many of the houses of the Summerstown182, there is not much to see of No22, which would have been about half way down on the left in the picture above. On that side now there is a huge brick wall part of Louis Danzanvilliers’ lighting emporium. The massive London Big Bus tour company depot and a couple of print companies on St Martin’s Way back onto what would have been Arthur’s garden.The view below looks back up towards Garratt Lane.

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Over fifty years later, Arthur’s nephew Brian was still living at the same address. Another of the Summerstown182, Albert Hawkes had been resident just three doors away at No28. In the 1969 electoral roll his brother William was there with his wife Dulcie. Albert was in the Devonshire Regiment and extraordinarily died just two days before Arthur Crosskey, on 25th April 1918. What a very sad time for this street but how extraordinary that there were this little pocket of families resident in the same houses over such a long period. These are the lost houses on one of the lost streets, now largely covered by the Burtop estate. Indeed but for the floods, the Crosskeys and Hawkes might still be there today.
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Carved in Stone

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Anyone researching a soldier called Arthur James Mullinger Mace and coming across his record on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database would see an intruiging message written along the bottom, beneath his biographical details. ‘Arrangements are being made to add this gentleman’s name on the Screen Wall in this cemetery’. The CWGC have told me that it might still be a year before this happens, but how wonderful that it is, and what an occasion it will be for 90 year old Joan and 87 year old Ivor to see their Uncle’s name carved in the soft white stone. Ninety nine years after he served his country in the First World War, recognition at last for Trooper Arthur Mace from Thurso Street.
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The names of Arthur and William Mace are on the St Mary’s Church war memorial in Summerstown, but to our great surprise there was no trace of them on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database, the definitive record of servicemen killed in the First World War. Both had been discharged from the army as a result of their tuberculosis and they died shortly afterwards. The Mace brothers are both buried in unmarked graves in Streatham Cemetery, about ten minutes walk from the church. Before we knew that, one bleak day, myself Sheila and Reverend Roger Ryan searched for signs of his grave in Block E, grave 807. There was no trace of it and the burial register in Lambeth Cemetery confirmed that he was in a public grave with twelve other people. The gravedigger kindly marked out the precise location with a wooden peg. William is buried a few minutes walk away, with ten other people in Block D, Grave 420. He’s not far from a holly bush in a raised grassy area which probably contains the remains of hundreds of people. Both are tranquil parts of this cemetery and I’ve closed my eyes several times and tried to imagine the scene of their burial. Were there any family there that day? Perhaps their mother, a brother or a sister?

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The news about Arthur being accepted for CWGC recognition broke last December, six months after we passed on his death certificate and other relevant details to Terry Denham at an organisation called ‘In From the Cold’. It was very exciting but the mood was tempered by the fact that William had been rejected. We were desperate to share the news with Arthur’s family. Finding them wasn’t going to be easy. In the 1911 census the Maces were living at No2 Thurso Street. The details presented a startling chaotic picture of thirteen people rammed into the bottom half of a typical Tooting two up, two down. The boys mother Clara had remarried, to a man called Harry Smith in 1906. They now had three small children of their own as well as two girls from Harry’s previous marriage. Besides the three Mace children, there were three boarders in the house including two soldier brothers from Brixton. Arthur and William’s sister Kathleen was around but a younger brother Frank had died as an infant and it seemed there was no male line. There was no sign of another sister called Hilda who had been present in the 1901 census. Further research showed that Hida had married a gentleman called Dick Durham at St Mary’s Church in 1915 and that there were children. This was now the best chance of finding a relative of the Mace brothers.
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Dick was a jockey and it appeared that the family had settled in the Epsom area. Sheila found an address for an Ivor Durham who was most likely Dick’s son. Not long afterwards we got a phone call from Anne Wood, Ivor’s daughter. It has taken a while to sort out and been probably quite hard for the family to comprehend how a bunch of strangers in south London know so much or care about their family. Ivor and Joan never knew that these brothers of their mother ever existed. For some reason Hilda never mentioned them. They were respectively nine and six years younger than her but no one knew about them until a family member did some research a few years ago. Until they heard from Sheila they certainly didn’t know they were on a war memorial in Summerstown or that a bunch of pupils at Ernest Bevin College in Tooting are planning a campaign to get William officially recognised.
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We finally met them last Friday; Ivor and his children Anne and David and his sister Joan. We showed them the war memorial in St Mary’s Church then walked via Thurso Street to Streatham Cemetery. Its unlikely we’ll come across a photo of Arthur or William or find out very much more about them. We are all agreed, this is as close as it gets. Clara was known to Ivor and Joan as ‘Granny Smith’ and her second husband curiously had the moniker ‘Skipper of Merton’. They remember visiting Thurso Street and recall that the family lived downstairs. Their mother Hilda, then aged 21 had gone to work as a nurse at the Manor Asylum Hospital in Epsom which was how she met Dick Durham. The Maces came from Rochester and while there is no photo of Arthur and William, there is one of their home in Rochester, a pub called The Spread Eagle in Union Street. Here in 1901 their father Harry is listed as a printer and ‘beer housekeeper’. There were five children. Harry died in 1904 at which point the family probably moved to London. We were also kindly shown a photo of Harry Smith and Clara probably taken in the thirties at Thurso Street.
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Arthur went to Diss in Norfolk on 7th March 1915 to join the Welsh Horse Yeomanry. He was just short of 20 years old and gave his occupation as a cinema operator. They were part of the East Coast Defence Force, invasion threats were taken seriously and in the spring of 1915 several towns in East Anglia were bombed by Zeppelins. In September they found that they were posted to Gallipoli. They sailed from Liverpool on board SS Olympic on 23th September 1915, arriving at Mudros port on the Greek island of Lemnos on 8th October. Insult was added to injury when the men of the Welsh Horse discovered they had effectively swapped horses for shovels. They were given the task of digging trenches, saps, and mines under the Turkish positions – dangerous and strenuous work. Although there were to be no major attacks at this time, the Welsh Horse lost men who were either killed or wounded in the daily attrition of trench warfare, picked off by the Turks. But in the awful conditions in Gallipoli sickness was rife, especially dysentery, and this accounted for many more. Less than two weeks after arriving at Gallipoli, Arthur Mace became so ill that he had to be evacuated on 19th October 1915 via Mudros to Malta, and finally to England by 19th November 1915.
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Mace, Arthur J M, MICArthur Mace was posted to the third line reserve of the Welsh Horse and remained in the UK. But it become clear that Arthur was not regaining full fitness and by July 1916 he had a serious health problem. Arthur appeared before a medical board on 11th September 1916 where he was diagnosed with TB of the lung, ‘aggravated by exposure and hardship on active service’.  Arthur was discharged with a pension that was to be reviewed after one year. Arthur’s case and pension award were reviewed in both March and August of 1917, by which time he was in the ‘Downs Sanatorium’, Sutton. The final review took place in early May 1918.  Arthur never recovered from TB, and passed away on the 1st October 1918, almost exactly three years after he had landed at Gallipoli. His death was registered in Greenwich and on 7th October 1918 he was buried in Streatham Cemetery, just a short walk from the family home on Thurso Street.

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William had gone off in the other direction, the previous year. He went to Brecon in Wales, home of the SAS, and on 14th November 1914 had joined the Brecknock Reserve Battalion of the South Wales Borderers. He was born on 2nd April 1898, so in his sixteenth year, but gave his age as 18 years and 8 months. On 12th May 1916 he was discharged from the Army as ‘no longer fit for war service’ with TB and spent his last days in the Hostel of God on Clapham Common where he died on 13th March 1917. His service records state that he had contracted pulmanory phistisis which had originated four years previously as a result of working as a pawnbrokers assistant. Due to ‘exposure to chills and unhealthy life in pawnbrokers’. He would not be eligible for a pension. He gave 18 months of his young life to the service of the British Army but they were careful on his discharge notes to state that his condition was ‘not result of or aggravated by service’. In 2014 those words were used by the War Graves Adjudicator at the National Army Museum to decline our petition for William Mace’s official Commonwealth War Graves Commission commemoration. Is it that important? Well, there exists no public record of this young man’s sacrifice. Future generations will not be able to search a database and find his details. He may never have served overseas, dug a trench or advanced on the enemy but he gave a year and a half of his life to the service of this country in its darkest hour. That must count for something. It is just fortunate that his name was placed by Reverend John Robinson on our St Mary’s memorial so we know about him. One hundred years ago he was prepared to fight for us and now we will fight for him.

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Many thanks to Chris Burge for helping put together this post. Sheila Hill and Dorothy Williams for their research work and Anne Wood and the Mace family for sharing their memories and photographs. A very special thank you is also due to Terry Denham and ‘In from the Cold’, Arthur Mace being just one of many servicemen and women whose memory is now preserved due to their efforts. Streatham Cemetery on Garratt Lane is a delightful place to visit and great work is being done there by The Friends of Streatham Cemetery who host regular open days, walks and events.

http://www.friendsofstreathamcemetery.co.uk
http://www.infromthecold.org