The Auld Triangle

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There have been many wonderful Summerstown182 moments but 25th March 2015 was hard to beat. That was when we welcomed Len Jewell to St Mary’s Church, just a few days short of his 100th birthday. He reckoned that it was his first visit since being dipped in the font in 1915. Dave Mauger from Tooting PRSS and Rud from Wandsworth Radio were there to meet him, also Maureen Pitts the only current parishioner with a relative on the First World War memorial – it was a very special occasion. As if that wasn’t enough, we had a surprise visit from a woman called Doreen, all the way from Dartford in Kent. Her Grandfather, Francis Raymond is on the memorial and she showed us her mother’s birth certificate and some lovely photos of her own wedding to Brian at St Mary’s in 1965. We sent her over to Franche Court Road where she had a cuppa with her old mate Alan Gardner.

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Francis himself was also hitched in St Mary’s. He was 26 when he stepped down the aisle with Emma Elizabeth Wickens from Foss Road on 25th April 1915. That was the day of the Gallipoli landings and also a period in the wake of the sinking of The Lusitania when Peter Jung’s bakery at Tooting Broadway was coming under attack. Lets hope he hadn’t been tasked with the catering.  Emma was the eldest girl in a large family at 92 Foss Road. Twelve children are noted on the 1911 census but four had died. They lived in just three rooms. Frank gave his profession as a newsagent. Above then in the St Mary’s marriage register were a couple who had tied the knot just a week earlier; Hilda Mullinger Mace and the jockey, Dick Durham. Hilda was a sister of the Mace brothers and her two children Ivor and Joan attended our Remembrance in Streatham Cemetery a few weeks ago.  Almost a year to the day later, a daughter Mary Ann was born. In 1937 she married Doreen’s Dad and the rest is history.

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Francis’ father was a John Robert Raymond, born in 1860 and whose roots lay in the Mile End and Stepney part of east London. The family relocated to south London and were in Penge by the time of the 1871 census. On the 14th May 1882, at the age of 22 and working as a blacksmith, John married Mary Ann Sophia Willis at All Saints Church in Upper Norwood. In 1891 they were living with three children at 11 Triangle Place, Clapham. Francis, three months old, only just makes it onto the census. Robert Thomas was eight and Lily was two. They were still there in 1901 and John had now become a tram driver, very timely with trams about to come all the way out to Tooting. Frank also now had a younger brother called Alfred. Very sadly John Raymond became sick with consumption and died in a Fulham hospital in 1903 aged just 43. He is buried in Norwood Cemetery.  Frank appears as a visitor in the 1911 census, at the home of his brother Robert at Carfax Square, Clapham. Now aged 20, the census tells us he was a newspaper cyclist. Robert had followed his father’s calling and was an LCC ‘electric tram driver.’ Carfax Place is just the other side of the main road so they were literally next door and Frank was probably still living in this area. Booth visited in 1899 and described it as ‘rather poor and dirty’.

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The old houses are long gone but Triangle Place still exists, off Clapham Park Road, just behind the big Sainsburys store near Clapham Common tube station. Its part of a large 1930’s development called the William Bonney Estate. He wasn’t Billy the Kid or even a pirate, but the Mayor of Wandsworth from 1938-1944. I have recollections from about twenty years ago of the pub at the end of the road being called The Auld Triangle. Then for a long time it was a nightclub called The White House. Its now a French restaurant, Le Petite Bretagne, rather appropriate given whats happened this week.

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Francis enlisted in the army in Tooting on 10th December 1915 joining a training battalion, the 27th Middlesex. He was posted to France with the 16th battalion sometime in 1916. His daughter Mary Alice Louisa was born on the 15th April 1916 and the certificate indicates he was a private in the Middlesex Regiment, so his promotion to Corporal must have come some time after then. He gave his profession as a ‘carman, selling mineral waters’, a good step up in a few years from delivering papers on his bike. Frank and Emma gave their address as 21 Foss Road. His regiment was rather grandly known as 16th (Public Schools) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge’s Own). It was raised in London on the 1st September 1914 and trained initially at Kempton Park racecourse. In July 1916 they went into action on the Somme and the following year were extensively involved in the The First, Second and Third Battles of the Scarpe during the Arras Offensive. It was here that Francis Henry Raymond was killed on the last day of May 1917 near Monchy-le-Preux.

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The 16th Middlesex war diary at this time is very matter-of-fact but gives a few pointers as to what happened in those last months. In April 1917 the battalion moved from the Somme to Arras and from 15th-18th were ‘engaged in making new defences at Monchy’. This was clearly dangerous territory and in the process of this they suffered 72 casualties. At Arras on 22nd, one of their Lewis guns brought down an aeroplane. Between 24th and 25th they endured another 104 casualties in the assault on Monchy. After a few days recovery at Souastre they were back near Monchy digging strong points on 10th April. By the 20th they were in the front line trenches and up to their neck in defending the village. On 30th, ‘under intense artillery barrage’ a contingent of 11 officers and 230 men joined the Lancashire Fusiliers in an attack on Hook Trench. ‘All were driven back by counter-attacks, with the exception, as far as can be ascertained of two officers and some 30 to 40 men’. Whether Frank made it through in these few days the battalion sustained almost 250 casulaties with 32 killed. The following day they were relieved and moved back to Arras, on that day Frank Raymond must have succumbed to his wounds. His name is inscribed on Bay 7 of the Arras Memorial.

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Back in south London Emma was left with a child just over a year old. There was no mention of Frank Raymond in the parish magazines over the war years and his name never appeared in the roll of honour, nor was his death announced. Emma may have had to wait some time before hearing the bad news. She remained in Foss Road and in September 1919 in Croydon she married John Raymond Wyeth from Colliers Wood. From at least 1924 the couple lived in Foss Road at No39, her parents just up the road, still at No92. She would have been there when the V2 rocket landed on the next street in November 1944. A number of homes would have been badly damaged by the blast but No39 was at the southern end of Foss Road, not too far from the back of the Keeleys at No44 Hazelhurst Road. She was there until her death aged 67 in 1959. So many familiar names surrounded her; the Hammonds, the Warmans, the Byatts, the Duttons, the Steers, the Sandys, the parents of Maureen Pitts who were at No22. Next door at No41 were the Paskells and it was Brian Paskell who stepped down the aisle with Frank Raymond’s grandaughter Doreen in 1965.

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Another of the fifteen Summerstown182 soldiers killed in the Battle of Arras was twenty year old Henry Edward Wilton of the Royal Marine Light Infantry. He died in the ferocious fighting at the village of Arleux on 28th April 1917.  The son of a farm labourer from Sussex, the roots of his family lie tucked into the gentle folds of the South Downs in the tiny village of West Dean. His father Henry was born in 1871, the son of Samuel, an agricultural labourer and Eliza Wilton from Woolbeding who worked as a washerwoman. Henry was doing the same line of work in 1891 when the family lived at Cottage No93, West Dean in 1891. West Dean is a historic estate recorded in the Domesday Book, nestling in the valley of the Lavant, north of Chichester. 1891 was a big year for the village as the hugely wealthy William James took over the estate, and set out on a great plan to embellish the house and gardens. Also that year, according to a brass plaque in the church, his brother Frank was killed by an elephant on the west coast of Africa. The Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII was apparently a regular visitor to his lavish house parties. Who would believe that he would one day follow the Wiltons to Tooting.

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How this new dawn for West Dean affected the farm workers on the estate is hard to say, but Henry’s thoughts were on other matters. He had met Chelsea girl, Ellen Wilkins and their first child Arthur Felix was born in 1893. Elizabeth was born in 1894 and Henry Edward on 11th January 1897. All three births are registered in Brighton. Its unclear if the family moved there from West Dean or this was simply where the paperwork was housed. In any case at some stage around the turn of the century, they must have decided to try their luck in the big city, because in 1901 they  was at 31 Haydons Road, South Wimbledon and Henry was working as a plasterer. With houses now popping up all over this corner of Wandsworth his new skills would have been in demand. He and Ellen were there with three children, Arthur, Elizabeth and Henry aged four. His mother-in-law Elizabeth was also present that day.

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Haydons Road, which follows the course of the Wandle, connects Merton High Street to the Plough Lane junction. It passes many roads with Nelson or Battle of Trafalgar references and has had a turbulent history itself. An odd assortment of rather tired shops and cafes, recently closed pubs, houses old and new and a train station that it is very easy to forget about. It has a scruffy reputation and feels somehow that it could be something so much better than it actually is. The Wilton home at Number 31 still stands, the final southern stretch approaching the High Street is populated by Victorian terraces, flush with the street on the west side, a tiny garden fronting those on the east.

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Here stands No31, a short walk from the Nelson Arms and just a bit further along Merton High Street, possibly the greatest bicycle repair shop in south London, the legendary AW Cycles. This probably didn’t start trading long after the Wiltons were living around here. Up at its northern end, AFC Wimbledon will be very soon relocating to their spiritual home. In 1901 they were still called Old Centrals and had moved from Clapham Common to a new ground at Worple Road West. They were on their Plough Lane site at the junction of Haydons Road by 1912 and thats where they remained until 1991. Their mascot is of course the legendary Haydon the Womble. Thanks for your ‘Quid for Sid’ endorsement last year, mate.

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The Wiltons took the big plunge from Merton to Wandsworth some time around 1906 as their fifth child Dorothy was born in Tooting, possibly at 115 Smallwood Road. This house also still stands in all its original glory. It would have shuddered and shook as the V2 rocket landed just a stone’s throw away in 1944. It now looks out on the foreshortened Foss Road and the Twin Towers of the Hazelhurst estate. Look out for our historic guided walks there, just one of many attractions which will be part of the Wandsworth Fringe ‘Hazelfest’ on Saturday 20th May organised by the brilliant ‘Scrapstore’.

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By 1911 they were at 42 Blackshaw Road. Arthur was a typewriter mechanic, Elizabeth was in service and Henry worked as a warehouse boy. The census indicates that Henry and Ellen had seven children in total, three of whom had died. This extraordinary road which separates the Fairlight streets from Lambeth Cemetery has seen a lot of changes. On one side very little has moved since the cemetery opened for business in 1854. Though having said that, many original Victorian monuments were lost in a ‘lawn conversion’ carried out between 1969 and 1991. The other side has gone from Bells Farm and its exotic nurseries to an extensive house building programme and the massive St George’s Hospital complex.

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No42 is at the top end of Blackshaw Road, directly opposite the entrance to St George’s with a very handy 493 bus stop just outside the front door. In fact its actually Clare House that’s across the road, the original nurses home and one of the oldest parts of the hospital. The Wiltons would have been present to see the Grove Fever Hospital become the Grove Military Hospital and the site of so many wounded servicemen coming and going would have been a constant reminder of the peril their son was in. 15,000 officers and men were treated here between November 1916 and September 1919. Now its still a frantic location with ambulances flying into A&E twenty four hours a day. I had heard a rumour that Clare House was earmarked for demolition but all seemed intact when I inspected it a few days ago.

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Henry enlisted on 9th October 1914. He was seventeen and gave his occupation as a painter. His underage status must have soon come to light as the records state that he forfeited 94 days service. He was in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Marine Light Infantry, alongside Ernest Pelling from Burmester Road, another of the Summerstown182 to have served in this prestigious regiment. Unfortunately Henry was with them on what was to become their darkest day, the 28th April 1917, the Battle of Arleux. A town now best known for its smoked garlic and its annual festival in September.

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Royal Marine deployment to Gallipoli started in February 1915. Records indicate that Henry got there in August but soon became sick with dysentry and was invalided back home on 26th August. One of their number was Rupert Brooke who died on a hospital ship two days before the invasion. The following year the Royal Naval Division was sent to France and fought at the Somme. In November 1916 the 1st Royal Marine Light Infantry took part in the Battle of Ancre, the last large British attack of the Battle of the Somme. They incurred over 50% casualties and after being withdrawn from the line, had to be completely rebuilt with new recruits. One of those killed on the Ancre was Ernest Pelling. Having come through that, the spring of 1917 saw them in the front row for the Battle of Arras. On 23rd April they were in action at the Second Battle of the Scarpe and amidst the sleet and the snow captured the village of Gavrelle. This strategically important site would not be given up easily and immediately came under intense artillery bombardment. On 28th an attack to the north was launched in support of the Canadians. Henry and the 1st Royal Marine Light infantry began their assault at 425am only to find the wire uncut. There was no option but to seek cover in shell holes where they were cut to pieces. A few got through the wire but the battalion was virtually wiped out. The cost to the Royal Marines that day was appalling and remains the largest casualty list for one single day’s fighting in their history. Out of nearly two thousand officers and men of the two battalions who attacked that morning, over a thousand had become casualties. The Second Battalion had incurred six hundred all ranks killed, wounded and missing, whilst the First Battalion had lost over five hundred officers and men killed, wounded and missing.

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Henry’s name is inscribed on the Arras Memorial, its on a section where unfortunately age has taken its toll and the names are starting to fade and it was difficult to read. A monument to the Royal Naval Division at Gavrelle stands on a busy road outside the village. The memorial was inaugurated in 1991, and consists of an anchor, weighing three tons, the emblem of the division, surrounded by a broken wall of red bricks which symbolises the ruins of the village of Gavrelle which was mainly built out of red bricks at that time. In March 1918, at a trench, not yet cleared, a soldier from the British 56th Division reported: ‘That was a terrible part of the line, in front of Oppy Wood and Gavrelle. The Royal Naval Division had attacked there the year before, and their bodies were still hanging on the wire where they’d been caught up’.

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Back in Tooting, it was some time before official news of Henry’.s death could be verified. The parish magazine of January 1919 finally reported ‘We have heard with great regret that Henry Wilton, Royal Marines, was killed in action in May 1917’.  This was a year and eight months after the event. It would appear that his family were on the move again shortly afterwards, to 162 Markerfield Road Tottenham. Perhaps the pain was too much to bear and they needed to forget. We went to West Dean Gardens last weekend on a most glorious spring afternoon. It was Mother’s Day and the gardens were ablaze with daffodils, primroses and assorted blossoms. The greenhouses hummed with the expectation of seedlings jostling furiously in the race to sprout. It is truly the best time of year to be alive and our thoughts went out to Ellen Wilton who had to wait so long for news of her son, lost that spring, one hundred years ago in the garlic fields of France.

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Guns of Brixton

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Smallwood Road is one of the main arteries of the Fairlight area, traversing east to west, it joins up Streatham and Lambeth cemeteries, but has none of the congestion of Wimbledon Road or the transience of Fountain Road. Its still pretty busy, but the presence of the school knits it together and stabilises things, giving it more of a community feel. It is though an odd mix of old and new. There is one ‘shop’ with an unknowingly retro sign that was picked up recently by the BBC in its ‘Further back in Time for Dinner’ series. It hasn’t done any business for about ten years. The original houses on the northern side, in which many of the Summerstown once lived are all gone. Francis Halliday’s Schoolkeeper’s Cottage being the exception. Many of the older houses on the southern side still stand. The sixties saw quite a bit of redevelopment, and more if Sid Sporle had had his way. The western end seems to be the one we know most about thanks to Iris and Neil and their photos of street parties, the Higgs and Johnson families. This section connecting to Foss and Hazelhurst Roads was definitely a hub of many of the families connected to St Mary’s Church. The other end facing Streatham Cemetery is more elusive. On the southern side the original houses disappear between numbers 27 and 65 and the street dips into a close of new build. Opposite this stretch lived a number of 182 families and at No56 were the Woods. Two brothers, part of a family of nine have their names on our memorial. At this time we remember Robert, of the 7th Northamptonshire Regiment who died almost one hundred years ago on the 28th March 1917 in the buld up to the great Battle of Arras.

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Along the same stretch were Francis Baker at No66 and Henry Brigden at No98 next to the school. Across the road were Sunday School Three member, James Jenner Crozier at No37, Frank Townsend at No65 and Arthur Hutton at No85, opposite the Schoolkeeper’s Cottage. Quite a gathering really. Frederick William Wood, a labourer and his wife Mary Ann had their roots in the Lambeth area, most specifically Kennington and Brixton. They had nine children, five boys and four girls. Frederick their eldest was born in 1881 and John two years later. Three of their boys were definitely in uniform and its very likely that all five were. Their third child, Elizabeth Jane was born in August 1884 when the family lived at 9 Clark’s Row, north Brixton, part of a small enclave of streets off the Brixton Road near St Michael’s Church. They were still there when William was born in May 1886. Their fifth child, Phoebe Martha was born on 1st November 1891 when they lived at 43 Halstead Street, just two roads along. In 1944 a V1 destroyed a number of houses on the corner of Stockwell Park Road and Lorn Road, killing 11 people. Clark’s Row and Halstead Street were demolished in the fifties and are now submerged beneath the Slade Gardens Adventure Playground.

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This area does have some ‘purple’ on the Charles Booth map. He visited in 1899 and described this location as ‘very poor and rough; children dirty’. In 1893 when Fanny was born they were at 44 Halstead Street. Robert is noted as having been born in Kennington in 1897 so they were probably still in this area. He was the second youngest child. The 1901 census indicates they had moved a little bit further north and were at 70 Smith Street, off Camberwell Road, not too far from the Oval Cricket Ground. This venue had been hosting the FA Cup Final until just a few years before. The 1892 final saw West Bromwich Albion beat Aston Villa 3-1 in front of 33,000 people. Close to Kennington Park this was a crowded area but probably a bit more pleasant, Booth noted nearby Kennington Terrace as being ‘very respectable, all with servants’.

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Child mortality was of course rife at this time but all nine Wood children appear to have survived. Only the four youngest were still at home in 1911 when the family pitched up in Summerstown, at 56 Smallwood Road. Fred and Mary had now been married for 32 years. Phoebe and Frances, aged 21 and 19 were working as domestic servants, 15 year old Robert was an errand boy for a chemist and the youngest George was 12 and still at school. William Wood was the fourth oldest child born in 1886. It would seem that he was also killed in the First World War and is on the St Mary’s memorial. A note in the parish magazine from August 1917 states ‘We have heard this month that Robert Wood of the Northamptonshire Regiment and his brother William Wood of the Royal Fusiliers have been killed in action’. With no date to go on, identifying William was not easy but we are almost certain that he was killed on 7th November 1915 and is buried at Fricourt, near Albert. Indications are that he lived in Brixton and there is a William Wood on the lost St Michael’s Church ‘War Shrine’ in Stockwell Park Road. We’ll come back to him later.

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Robert was first with the Suffolk Regiment before joining the 7th Battalion of the Northamptonshires. They were based in the Souchez sector near Vimy Ridge and Arras in late March 1917 and Robert was killed in preliminary skirmishes before the main battle. One of the most famous landmarks in this area and after which the cemetery is named, was a popular cafe called Cabaret Rouge. It was destroyed by shellfire about two years before Robert Wood got here. Another of the 182, David Baldwin, who was killed in April 1916 is buried in the Cabaret Rouge Cemetery which we visited the day before the Somme Commemoration last year. It was a beautiful golden evening. Robert is buried in the nearby Aix-Noulette Communal Cemetery Extension, close to Lens. We’ll be over to visit him sometime this year.

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The 7th Northamptonshire’s war diary seems unusally keen on its weather reports. The 20th March finds them at Sains-en-Gohelle, a cold day with snow showers. There is though a concert in the canteen and ‘bathing in the brewery’ which hopefully raised spirits. On the 22nd they relieved the 2nd Leinster Regiment in the trenches and mention is made of Robert’s ‘A Company’ being in the front line. Over the next few days there was sporadic shelling and the rain and snow continued to fall. On 27th the diary reports showers and hail and that the enemy shelled ‘Headquarters Trench’ at intervals during the day but did no damage. This was where ‘A Company’ were. On 28th it states ‘Bright at first, changing to dull and rain later. About 530 pm a heavy bombardment on our lines and on Vimy Ridge opened and our Artillery retaliated. This lasted about an hour. The enemy opened again about 915pm but all went quiet again by 10pm. 2nd Lieutenant G P Rathbone was wounded. Casualties, O.R. killed 3, wounded 13 (including 2 slightly, still at duty)’. One of these was 21 year old Robert Wood. The following day the diary reported that ‘a whizz bang knocked out seven men at Souchez Post, 2 being killed’. It was very wet.

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The youngest of the Woods, George Charles Wood, a Lance Corporal in the Hertfordshire Regiment is on the absent voters list at 56 Smallwood Road in 1918. He would appear to have joined the Bedfordshire Regiment in September 1916 when he was working as a carman. It seems like he survived the war unlike his two brothers. The last trace of the Woods appears to have been sister Phoebe who was living at 58 Smallwood Road in 1946.

Many thanks to Friends of Slade Gardens many of whose photos are used in this story
http://www.sladegardens.org.uk/

Cousin Herbert

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connection
There are three Tibbenhams on the First World War memorial in St Mary’s Church. Identifying the ‘H Tibbenham’ has caused us more than a few headaches. Surely it had to be a brother of Spencer and Eric from Thurso Street. The finger initially pointed at Horace. We then made contact with family in Australia who confirmed it most certainly wasn’t Horace who passed away in 1958. Not long after that we found out about a cousin Herbert, killed at Arras, whose connections were very much based in the Tibbenham family Suffolk homelands. A quick google shows there are still plenty of them in this area so hopefully one of them will read this. All three Tibbenhams died in 1917 in different battles; Spencer at Messines, Herbert at Arras, Eric at Cambrai. The Bignell family in Melbourne descended from Ethel (Annie) Tibbenham very kindly supplied us with photos of Spencer and Eric and now its time to have a closer look at their cousin. His name is on the Arras Memorial, St Peter and St Paul Church in Hoxne in Suffolk and St Mary’s Church in Summerstown.

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Herbert’s father, Pleys Robert Tibbenham seems to have spent all his life in East Anglia. A farmer, born in Weybread in Suffolk in 1862, he died in the same county, in Hartismere in 1948. William Tibbenham and his wife Maryann had ten children and Pleys was the second oldest of eight brothers. The connection with Summerstown in south London appears to be the eldest, William who worked as a draper, a trade  his son Spencer followed him into. He went to London in the 1870s and eventually settled at 12 Thurso Street, Tooting. He died there in 1936.

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Back in Suffolk, Pleys married Rosa Alice Buckingham in Depwade, Norfolk in 1895. He was 33 so he’d left it quite late by the standards of the day. The following year their first child, Mary Doris was born. She died in 1988 at the age of 92. Herbert was born on 2nd September 1897 in the village of Brockdish in Norfolk. Right on the Suffolk border on the River Waveney and apparently a great spot for a wild swim. There were two more girls, Ruth was born in 1899 and Kathleen in 1907. Both also lived to a ripe old age, Ruth died in Chichester in 1996 aged 97 and Kathleen passed away in Norwich in 1993 at the age of 86.

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In 1901 the family lived at New Farm, Sotterley Road, Ellough in Suffolk. Used to looking at old maps of Earlsfield and Summerstown, when they were mostly fields and farmland and contrasting to today, by comparison, very little seems to have changed in Ellough. They seemed to move address quite frequently, perhaps depending on what work Pleys could find and were subsequently in Dickleburgh and Syleham, dipping in and out of the neighbouring counties. By the 1911 census they were back in Suffolk, at Hoxne. Herbert was fourteen, Ruth aged twelve and Kathleen three. Mary was elsewhere that day, she later moved to London and was married in Wandsworth in 1930. Pleys was now according to the records a farm manager working for his brother. Brockdish, Syleham, Weybread and Hoxne are all still tiny settlements just a few miles to the east of Diss in the River Waveney valley. It all sounds very lovely and I can feel this surely calls for a ‘Tibbenham Suffolk Sunset’ Guided Walk.

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What Herbert was up to in the pre-war years is a mystery. Did he move to London? Perhaps he stayed with his uncle in Tooting. His cousin Spencer emigrated to Gloucester, New South Wales, Australia in 1912 so there would have been a spare bed at Thurso Street. Though given the size of the Tibbenham family it was more likely to be part of one. All we know for sure is that he joined the army in 1915. Herbert’s service records have survived to give a few clues about the course of his war. It appears that he had a medical at Holborn on 20th November 1915 . He was not long past his eighteenth birthday but he declared he was nineteen and working as a warehouseman. At five foot eight and a quarter inches he was taller than average, though still a good few inches smaller than his cousin Spencer. On another section he gives a very comprehensive list of dependents. His parents are listed and his three sisters. The family all appear to be living in Syleham, but Doris is now in Stockwell, just a few stops up the Northern Line from Tooting. Also listed are eight uncles including William in Thurso Street. Its odd given his large extended family that Herbert’s name ended up on the St Mary’s Church memorial. Its just possible that as well as his uncle’s family his sister Doris had some sway.

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He officially joined 19th Battalion of Kings Royal Rifle Corps on 27th November 1915. On 23rd August 1916 Herbert embarked for France at Southampton and landed at Le Havre. Now with 16th KRRC on 7th September he was in the field and the field in question was the Somme. On 10th September he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. 16th (Church Lads Brigade) Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps was raised at Denham, Buckinghamshire in September 1914 by Field-Marshal Lord Grenfell. Losses were extensive at the Somme in the fighting at High Wood and Herbert’s transfer was perhaps simply because they required additional manpower rather than his being a good christian soldier.

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Herbert was killed in what became known as the Second Battle of the Scarpe in the spring of 1917. The focus was on Arras and attacking the German’s Hindenburg Line, a heavily-fortified line of defence on the Western Front which they had built up over the winter months. The 16th King’s Royal Rifle Corps battalion war diary indicates the build-up to this as they moved north in the preceeding month. On 1st April they were at Corbie on the Somme and on 3rd April they marched ten miles to Beauval. On the following day they went on another ten miles to Barly and onn 5th they covered a further 12 miles to Mondicourt. After a day of rest they moved on to Souastre and were billeted in huts. Here they were given iron rations and extra ammunition and were warned that only six hours notice would be given about the next move. On 11th there was a heavy fall of snow. On 13th they move to Mercatel and then to Moyenville, north of Croisilles where they made themselves as comfortable as possible in the ruined villlage. Many of the men worked with the Royal Engineers on ‘road fatigue’ duty which on occasion had to be cancelled because of the bad weather.

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On 21st April the diary gives its first clue as to what is going on ‘a general attack on HINDENBURG LINE’. On the evening of 22nd they moved into position at Croisilles. The following morning, St George’s Day at 445am the attack began, with the 16th King’s Royal Rifle Corps playing a leading role in the 98th Brigade assault. In this action, Herbert Pleys Tibbenham would lose his life. It appeared that the first line of defence that morning was taken fairly easily and 300 prisoners were taken. But German defences were much sterner than anticipated and there was a shortage of bombs and ammunition to breech them. C E Crutchley in his book ‘Machine Gunner 1914-1918’ recalled the scene in the Sensée River valley that day ‘The 16th King’s Royal Rifle Corps who were in support, with great gallantry and despite heavy losses repeatedly made their way up and down the valley carrying bombs and ammunition to the Queens’. At 1pm the diary noted ‘retirement took place owing to lack of bombs and failure of tanks to get up’. At 9pm it was ascertained that 1 officer was killed, 9 officers were wounded and missing and there were 260 casualties among the ranks. On the following day the 16th recuperated at St Leger and the Divisional Commander thanked the battalion for their ‘splendid work during the attack’. This events of the day are featured in an episode of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ The Grandfather of actor Hugh Dennis was involved, by coincidence serving with the Suffolk Regiment.

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At this point in the Hindenburg Line, the main defensive advantage the Germans had was their highly fortified Tunnel Trench. An impressive piece of engineering, the tunnel was 30 or 40 feet below ground along its whole length, with staircase access from the upper level every 25 yards. The entire tunnel had electric lighting, and side chambers provided storage space for bunks, food, and ammunition. It was in a major assualt on this, on 20th November that our Great Uncle, Captain Alan Lendrum, then with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers was awarded the Military Cross. We visited the area a few years ago and found the fields near Fontaine-les-Croisillies still littered with shells. Some of which might have been directed one hundred years earlier at Alan and Herbert Pleys Tibbenham. Much of the tunnel is still there, apparently intact and out of sight but every so often it caves in to reveal itself.

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Back in Tooting, William Tibbenham and his wife Louise had eleven children, a nice split of six boys and five girls. Ethel Annie Tibbenham married a postman from Battersea called Frederick Alfred Arnold in 1910. He was killed in action in 1915. She married again on 26th July 1919 in Wandsworth to Alfred Charles Bignell. Born in Ballarat, Victoria and a resident of Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road. He was a farmer who had joined the Australian Infantry in 1914 and served at Gallipoli, Egypt and in France. His address was 171 Tooting High Street on the corner of Sellincourt Road. That’s directly opposite The Trafalgar where the lively Alf would undoubtedly have enjoyed a jar or two.

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Mention is made on the certificate that William, Annie’s father was a clerk in the Royal Army Clothing Department. It seems like Annie and Alf headed to Australia soon after and settled in Surrey Hills, Victoria. In May the following year a son William was born. Alf died in 1965 and two years later, Annie then aged 77 wrote to the authorities enquiring about Alf and her brother Spencer’s medals. This letter was preserved in Spencer’s service records, easily accessible online and the address lead me to the Lone Pine Dairy, Balwyn Historical Society and contact with the Bignell family. Curiously, just the day before Annie married her Aussie, sister Ena also tied the knot with an Aussie soldier in Lewes. He was John Paton, a butcher from Allansford, not too far up the road from Apollo Bay. Whether Alf and John knew each other, this happy couple also headed for Melbourne just six days later. Ena lived to be 90 and Annie was 84 when she passed away. Quite why the two sisters didn’t organise joint nuptuals and save on the catering is interesting. Connecting with Balwyn set this project alight a few years ago and we are so pleased to be able to have the photos of Spencer and Eric. Be lovely if we could get one of Herbert as well.

Paton
In the meantime, its great to be in contact with Graham of Hoxne Heritage Group and we’ll be sharing our findings on Herbert. A plaque there, inside the St Peter and St Paul Church, commemorates the names of nineteen people from the parish who were killed or missing in the First World War and seven from the Second. We do hope to visit. Meanwhile, back in New South Wales, my cousin and her husband are going to take a trip to Gloucester some time to see if they can find any trace of Spencer. Not too far away from there John will be playing the Bugle at the ANZAC Day service at a place called Krambach on the 25th April. Two days after the centenary of Herbert Pleys Tibbenham’s death.

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http://www.hoxnehistory.org.uk/Military.php

http://www.clcgb.org.uk/documents/historical-group/194-brigade-factsheet-13-the-16th-battalion-krrc/file

http://jeremybanning.co.uk/tag/fontaine-les-croisilles/

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It is ‘Women’s History Month’ and we’ve just done a special ‘Women of Summerstown’ Guided Walk. We have celebrated the stories of the wives, sweethearts, mothers and sisters of the Summerstown182 and those of other significant local women who made a mark in this area one hundred years ago. Why did we do that, well it had became apparent that though the 182 are all male, when we try and explain their experiences, it is very often the women who in one way or another glue their stories together. They deserved for once to be the main focus of our attention. Such a case is Violet Collins, the younger sister of Albert Stewart. We know very little about her, but two traumatic experiences, half a century apart, shine some light into the history of our area and help us understand how it has been shaped.

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Albert is one of fifteen of the Summerstown182 who died this spring, one hundred years ago in the Battle of Arras. He was wounded in an attack on a place called Oppy Wood, east of Arras. It is best known for the huge losses of soldiers from the Hull Pals on May 3rd – part of the same Third Battle of the Scarpe that killed Summerstown182 William Brown and William Pitts. One of the Humbersiders, 2nd Lieutenant Jack Harrison VC was a well-known rugby league player and in 2004 a plaque was unveiled after him at the KC Stadium. On it he is described as ‘husband, father, citizen, soldier, sportsman, hero’. Arras was a bloody affair with a daily casualty rate of 4,076. Compare that to 2,943 for the Somme and 2,323 for Passchendaele. It was in an earlier assault a few days before this that Lance Corporal Albert Stewart of the 7th Royal Fusiliers from Maskell Road was wounded. He made it back to south London but died of his injuries some three weeks later on 22nd May 1917. He is buried in one of the city’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ Nunhead (All Saints) Cemetery, just a few miles along the south circular.

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He was the son of John and Hannah Stewart. Born in St Pancras in 1856, his father was a timber bender involved with coach building. In 1881 he and Hannah were at 5 Luard Street, Islington with two children Florence and John. By the next census in 1891 the family had moved out west and were at 22 Peter Street, Bedminster in Somerset, not far from Bristol. There were three more children and it was here in 1893 that a seventh, Albert would be born in 1893. Two more would follow and in 1901 they had a family of nine.

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Their youngest Violet was born in Somerset in 1901 and it was some time around then that they moved back to London and were at Cumberland Villas off the Wandsworth Road. In spite of her large family, a new baby and three children under ten including Albert, Hannah  is listed as working as a wood frame sawyer, perhaps helping her husband with his coach building. Charlie worked in a mantle factory of which there were several in the Garratt Lane area. In 1911 they were firmly in the Earlsfield/Summerstown orbit and living at 10 Maskell Road, surrounded by many Summerstown182 families. It was a bad time for the area and just a few weeks before Albert was wounded, William Baron also in the Royal Fusiliers and living just a little bit further up the road was killed on 11th April. Albert, now eighteen is listed on the census as an errand boy. Four of the their children are present and three of them are in employment. The notes indicate that John and Hannah had now been married 37 years and had ten children, seven still alive, and were living in five rooms.

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John Stewart died aged 79 in 1933, Hannah was aged 61 when she passed away a year after her son in 1918. Ernest Stewart was four years older than Albert and in 1911 was a press worker. He married Edith Mancey in 1911 and they are living at 26 Skelbrook Street in the 1939 register. Youngest child Violet married Thomas Collins in 1920 and they were still at 10 Maskell Road in 1939 when he was working as a garage hand machinist. Almost thirty years later, an extraordinary newspaper account in September 1968 records Thomas and Violet being rescued from their home in Maskell Road by a fork-lift truck on the occasion that the Wandle burst its banks. An estimated 500 people in seven roads in the area were affected with up to five feet of water flooding the ground floor of over 100 houses. Thomas passed away in 1971 and Violet died in 1980. Its unlikely Albert married as his soldiers effects record shows he left everything to his father.

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On the 9th April 1917 the British Third Army launched the Battle of Arras striking towards Cambrai. Albert’s medal roll shows that he was originally in the 23rd Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers from 17th July 1916. But only for a week when he was transfered to the 7th. It indicated that he served with them until 30th April when he must have been wounded and died of his wounds on 22nd May. On April 23rd, the second Battle of the Scarpe began and the 7th Battalion were heavily involved in the attack north of Gavrelle. A few days later on April 29th the attack was continued as four battalions of the Royal Fusiliers made another attempt to conquer the seemingly impregnable Oppy defences which held a key position in their defence of Arras was resisted and in the mayhem the boy from Maskell Road was fatally wounded . It was also at Oppy Wood that the famous 17th Middlesex ‘Footballers Battalion’ suffered its heaviest casualties in a single day’s fighting during the entire war. Among those taken prisoner on 28th were Joe Mercer of Nottingham Forest, father of the legendary Manchester City manager of the same name.

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Nunhead is perhaps the least known, but most attractive of London’s great Victorian cemeteries. Consecrated in 1840, it is one of seven huge cemeteries established in a ring around the outskirts of the city. Left to rot when the company that ran it went bankrupt in 1969, its gates were locked. It was bought by Southwark Council for £1 in 1975 and much of the restoration was done in the late nineties thanks to Lottery funding and the strenuous efforts of the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery. Much of it though is still wild and many of the graves are inaccessible. One of its most moving memorials commemorates nine young boys aged between 11 and 14 who died on a camping and sailing trip at Leysdown on the Isle of Sheppey. They were out in a boat which overturned and all very sadly drowned. Eight of them were from the 2nd Walworth Scouts. The ninth was Frank Masters from the training ship Arethusa, who died trying to help them. By coincidence, a few years later Charles Moss of the Summerstown182 served on a ship called HMS Arethusa.

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On Friday 20th September 1968 ‘The Gazette’ reported that ‘two days of torrential rain at the weekend caused the River Wandle to burst its banks, flooding homes, shops and factories along its borders. Worst hit was Earlsfield where 200 families were evacuated after becoming trapped by muddy, swirling floodwater up to five feet deep’. ‘Willing helpers together with council officials and uniformed police manned thirty rowing boats from Battersea Park Pleasure Gardens and rowed to and fro through the night between the flooded houses and Garratt lane ferrying the stranded families. All the houses in Maskell, Headworth, Burtop, Turtle and Siward Roads, Earlsfield and some in Summerstown were evacuated, except for three families who refused to move out’. ‘Among the stranded people were elderly invalids who could not descend ladders to the boats . They were carried in the scoop of a fork-lift truck and lowered into a car waiting to take them to Brocklebank old people’s home, Swaffield Road’. One of the heroic rowing boat rescuers was none other than Hazelhurst Road V2 survivor, our great pal, John Keeley.

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Mrs Minnie Sharp gave a lucid description of the chaos the floodwater had caused in her home. ‘We’ve had flooding before but never like that. We thought at first that it would subside and gradually disappear but it just rose higher and higher and the smell was awful. About four in the afternoon the water started rushing in. We had a lot of furniture in the front to try and stop it but it was no good. Another couple who have been residents of Maskell Road for 60 years are Mr and Mrs Thomas Collins who were both evacuated by fork-lift truck after they had been stranded in their flooded home all night. Mr Collins is blind and suffered a stroke only a few days ago and Mrs Collins recently underwent a serious hip operation.’ This of course was Albert Stewart’s younger sister Violet.

Soap and Water

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In about a month’s time we will be celebrating the heroics of Wandsworth’s best known First World War soldier, Corporal Edward Foster VC. The six foot two, ‘Tiny Ted’ from Fountain Road, Tooting who stormed a German machine gun battery at Arras and paved the way for the liberation of Villers-Plouich by the 13th Wandsworth Battalion. On the morning of 22nd April, almost one hundred years to the day of his great valour, a VC Commemorative paving stone will be placed outside Wandsworth Town Hall. Later that day, we’ll be honouring him with a Guided Walk around key local locations relevant to Tiny Ted and his East Surrey comrades. The day will also see the unveiling of a green plaque on No92 Fountain Road, the house where he and his family lived for many years. One spot, which sadly we won’t be able to get to on this occasion is Foster’s Way, a stretch of pathway, named after our hero, bordering King George’s Park. Running alongside the Wandle it stretches from Kimber Road to the new development behind the Henry Prince Estate.  A small footbridge on one section of this leads into Lydden Road, a street very much associated with another soldier who fought at the Battle of Arras, but whose fortune was very different from Corporal Foster.

Dustman VC

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Like quite a few of the Summerstown182 that we’ve written about lately, William Baron’s roots lie in the cluster of historic streets off Garratt Lane, about half way between Earlsfield and Wandsworth. It was here that a painter called Robert Baron settled with his wife Annie. He was from Middlesex and she from Dawley Green, Shropshire. They were married at the famous St Anne’s Church, Soho on 5th January 1873. By the time of the 1881 census the family were living at 17 Lydden Road and William Thomas was the youngest of four children. His baptism records indicate he may well have been born in Wardley Street. That took place on 19th December 1880 at another well known St Ann’s, Wandsworth’s ‘Pepperpot’ Church. Robert and Annie had seven children in total and by 1891, they had moved one door along to No15.

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What a place to grow up, these bustling streets so influenced by the presence of the Harrison and Barber slaughterhouse and its attendant industries, would have been alive with the smells and sounds of horses, hawkers, costers, twenty four hour activity. It was a frenzied world fraught with danger and exploitation. In August 1888 three young women were killed in an explosion and a fourth permanently disabled at a firework factory on the site of what is now the Henry Prince Estate. An employee accidentally stood on one of the toy cap guns. A wave of shock ran through the area and emotion was so high at the funerals that according to the Wandsworth Borough News, ‘Many of the weaker sex had to be lead away’. A little bit further down the road in 1885, a huge new workhouse complex was opened on Swaffield Road, keeping everyone on their toes. Only last week our Summerstown182 Walk provided a harrowing account of what could happen when the wheels come off. Betsey Higgs entered this workhouse in 1900 having been abandoned by her husband with two small children and pregnant with a third. Thanks to Neil Kirby for providing the interview notes relating to his great grandmother’s misfortune. They make for painful reading but we were pleased to know she found happiness in later life. Today, two popular Garratt Lane pubs still stand on the corners of Lydden Road and Wardley Street, The Jolly Gardeners and The Grosvenor, what stories they could tell us.

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Getting married didn’t change William’s circumstances much when he wed Sarah Elizabeth James at St Andrew’s  Earlsfield, Surrey, on 23 October 1899. He gave his age as twenty and his profession as a floor layer. The Barons were now as 21 Lydden Road and it appeared Sarah’s family lived at No6 which would have made them the neighbours of Raymond Briggs’ father Ernest. The aspiring milkman, as featured in the brilliant ‘Ethel and Ernest’ lived at No8.

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Charles Booth believed poverty and slums were spreading along the Wandle Valley and was most uncharitable in his comments about the area. He visited in 1902 describing Wardley Street and Lydden Grove as the worst streets, summarising the former thus; ‘Houses, two storeyed, most of them flush with the pavement, a low common lodging-house on one side and a yard full of wheelless gypsy vans on the other, each inhabited by a family. There is throughout the street a family to almost every room, and a great number of loafers hang about at the corner – men who work either not at all or only on market days’. This provoked an angry response from the local Medical Officer who produced a report which claimed only 25 families in Wardley Street lived in a single room – bad enough surely. The report noted ‘Insanitary conditions sometimes resulted from careless habits – the people themselves seem to have an instinctive dislike to soap and water’. Very sadly he didn’t quite get as far as Wardley Street with his map so we can’t see what colour he would have given it but nearby Iron Mill Place where Betsey Higgs lived was dark blue ‘Very poor, casual, chronic want’. She lived in Wardley Street in 1891 and quite possibly crossed paths with the Barons.

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The 1901 census shows that William and Sarah had one child, Annie Elizabeth, born in March 1900. Also present on that day at 21 Lydden Road were William’s parents. Were they just visiting for tea, or all cosied up together is impossible to say. Lydden Road is now completely changed, a messy hotch-potch of industrial units, builders merchants and lighting suppliers pepper its length. In 1957 the council knocked everything down in Lydden Road and Wardley Street along with some of the older houses in Lydden Grove. No21 is still indicated and is now the location of ‘Mr Resistor, Lighting Specialists’. By 1911 the Baron’s address was 34 Lydden Grove and William is absent. The fact Sarah isn’t working shows he was probably just having a night out. They now had four children; Annie, William born in 1903, Lillie born in 1908 and Reginald in 1910. A fifth child Ivy was born in 1915. Lydden Grove is an odd-shaped street which bends round from the bottom of Lydden Road and emerges on Kimber Road. Much of it still seems intact and it looks like No34 may be the same home where William and Sarah Baron lived over one hundred years ago. Hopefully the door they used was the same shade as the delightful violet that the current one is painted in.

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With five small children and a wife, its almost certain that William was conscripted. He appears to have joined the 8th East Surreys on 13th November 1916, at the start of the last British offensive on the Somme, the Battle of the Ancre. Whether he saw any action there, within ten days he had been transfered to the 13th Royal Fusiliers. In the spring of 1917 he was to be involved in the even bloodier Battle of Arras. He lost his life on 11th April in the attack on Monchy-le-Preux, a small village standing on a hill to the east of Arras whose name constantly recurs in many of our stories. At a place called Broken Mill on the 10th April the 13th Royal Fusiliers attacked before dawn. This continued on the 11th and the village was eventually taken, but at a heavy cost. As H C O’Neill put it in ‘The Royal Fusiliers in The Great War’- ‘It was a memorable day. At one time there was a blinding snowstorm; but the troops ignored such small inconveniences’. Attacking as part of a mounted division in that snowstorm were the Essex Yeomanry. They lost 135 men and most of their horses. Lance-Corporal Harold Mugford from Bermondsey (below), although severely wounded in both legs, which were subsequently amputated, was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Harold
William Baron is buried in the tiny Houdain Lane Cemetery at Tilloy-les-Mofflaines, just about a mile east of Arras. There are only 76 burials here, 67 identified. He has though got plenty of his Summerstown182 pals not too far away to keep him company. Just a few days before William Baron was killed, Charles Barnard Richmond of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps who lived on Wimbledon Road also died. He is buried in the same village but another cemetery, Tilloy British Cemetery. William would have been fighting alongside another of the Summerstown182, William Pater who was killed just twelve days later. Ernest Seager from Thurso Street died on 10th and is buried at Feuchy with William Steers. Herbert Tibbenham was killed on 23rd and Henry Wilton on 28th. Arras claimed a heavy toll of Summerstown casualties.

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In 1997, in the Arras area, the bodies of 27 British soldiers were found, buried together in a shallow mass grave. It transpired that they were members of the 13th Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers, killed in the fighting around Arras between 9th-14th April 1917. It was believed that they most likely lost their lives in the attack on Monchy. The remains of 24 of the soldiers, impossible to identify were buried there in a quiet ceremony in December, 1996. Three of the others, two of whom were identified were buried in another ceremony on 15th April, 1998. They were  Private Frank King from Hampton and Private George Hamilton Anderson from Paddington, comrades of William Baron who died alongside him, now buried with full military honours.

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Sarah Baron died in Wandsworth in 1929 aged 50. At some stage she had moved to 25 Maskell Road and it was there that she gave her next-of-kin details to the War Graves Commission after William died. All of her children married and four of them would appear to have had offspring themselves, so we hope one day, a descendant may read this and know that William Baron has not been forgotten.

The Die-Hard

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If there is one house that I must pass, three, perhaps four times a day, depending on the number of occasions I need to feed my addiction to Tesco AKA The Prince of Wales, it is 684 Garratt Lane. Its pretty much identical to any of the houses on Keble Street, but fronting onto the busy road it definitely sees more of the action. There’s a small cluster of three houses then an entrance to the Hitchcock and King builder’s yard which a few years ago hosted the Summerstown Lido. Only visible on google earth by the way and a dip definitely not advisable. Here I believe was once a bakery frequented by Marc Bolan. Next to that is the garage, then the wonderful Wimbledon Kitchen chinese takeaway and equally splendid Figli Del Vesuvio pizzeria. Cross the road and Nosher Powell’s old pub stands proud at the beating heart of Summerstown. The Prince of Wales may wear the Tesco stripes for now, but one day it will rise again. It has its beady eye directly on Burmester House across the road, eagerly anticipating the placing of a plaque there. This of course will honour the great Robert Sadler and his Victorian running grounds, but just opposite at No684 lived his namesake and someone who was seemingly no relation, George Stanley Sadler. We should celebrate this location, because it brought a brief period of happiness to what must have been a very troubled young life.

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Sadly the First World War ended all that and the husband of Julia and father of two young children was killed 100 years ago this month. George Stanley Sadler was 32 and served in the 2nd Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. He is buried in Heudicourt Communal Cemetery Extension, just ten minutes away from a small village called Villers-Plouich. It was here, about five miles north of Heudicourt, a little over three weeks after George was killed, that someone who lived a few streets away from him was awarded the Victoria Cross. Corporal Edward Foster of the East Surrey Regiment was a dustman from Fountain Road and showed outstanding bravery in the liberation of this village. On 22nd April we will be remembering ‘Tiny Ted’ with a tour of his Tooting haunts and that morning Wandsworth Council will place a commemorative VC paving stone in the Town Hall Gardens.

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George Stanley Sadler had a painful and unsettled upbringing, moving around a variety of south London locations. Throughout the Victorian era, both men and women were often just one step away from the workhouse and those without close family to rely on, were the most affected by the death of a partner. Wives whose husband had died were often at the mercy of the parish. A man that had lost his wife, had none of the help available today to look after children whilst he worked. George Sadler senior was born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk around 1844 into a blacksmith’s family. By the age of 18 according to the 1861 census, he was in Finsbury working as a plumber, a world away from the rural life he was born into. On 12th October 1862 he married Elizabeth Jackson. In 1871 George and Elizabeth were in Marylebone with daughters Lottie Maria and Minnie Florence. Some time after that they moved to Wandsworth and Jessie Louisa was born in 1878. Elizabeth Sadler died in June of that year. In 1881 George Sadler was living at ‘The Retreat’ off Roehampton Lane. Minnie had died aged five, Lottie moved away to work and Jessie was placed with his deceased wife Elizabeth’s family. On Boxing Day 1881 George married again, to a widow called Louisa Ann Jackson. They moved to Battersea and settled at 25 St Andrew’s Street, off the Wandsworth Road. Winifred was born in 1882 and George Stanley on 7th December 1883. Arthur Richard completed the line-up in 1886. Blissful family life didn’t last long though, for in December 1889 when George was just six years old his mother Louisa died.

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On 21st September 1890 in Battersea, George Sadler senior married for a third time, another widow called Charlotte Gulley. They now lived at 62 St Andrew’s Street. The road, which still exists in a much-changed area was later called St Rule Street. My favourite bus journey, the 77 to Waterloo via Earlsfield Road, Clapham Junction and Lavender Hill goes past this. Its about half way along the Wandsworth Road and will be another thing to look our for on what is a route soaked in history. Grab yourself the front seat, off-peak top deck for a real treat. Young George would almost certainly have attended the school on St Andrew’s Street which was established in 1884 and still stands as Heathbrook Primary School. The 1891 census shows George and Charlotte with three children, Winifred, George and Arthur. Tragically George lost his third wife in 14 years when Charlotte passed away in December 1892.

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There was no stopping him though, on 10th January 1897 in Battersea, George Sadler wed for the fourth time, to yet another widow, Susan Ferguson. Once again, marital bliss was short-lived and on 17th July 1897 George Sadler died at the age of 53. He is buried in New Cemetery, Morden. George junior was just fourteen and both his parents and two stepmothers had died. The family started to fall apart. By the time of the 1901 census George’s widow Susan had moved on her own to Marylebone. Winifred Lucy Sadler age 19 was in Battersea working in a laundry. George, now 18 was in Southwark working as a carman for a  licensced victualler. Saddest of all, Arthur Richard Sadler, aged 11 when his father died, was sent to a children’s home, Carter Boy’s Home in Clapham High Street.

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The Carter Boys Home for Destitute Boys was founded in 1870 at 52 and 65 Clapham High Street. In the 1890s, the home had about 100 places for boys between the ages of seven and sixteen and moved to No49. There was no charge for taking in destitute boys but payment was required from ‘depraved parents’  The boys were made to work for their living, shoe and boot making, hamper and chair caning. They were engaged by local businesses and also ran errands and acted as messengers. They could also be hired out for cleaning knives and boots, chopping and ‘delivering firewood free within two miles’. Older boys attended night school on the premises to learn skills. By 1902 with 150 boys, the home was taken over by Barnardo’s and many boys were sent to Canada under an emigration scheme.

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By the time of the 1911 census, the Sadler children were scattered far and wide. Winifred was in Lancashire. Arthur had now left the boys home and was a clerk in lodgings in Hammersmith. George Stanley, now 28,was a lodger at 684 Garratt Lane with the Iddiols family. He was working as a general porter.  The family had five rooms there and Thomas Iddiols was 55 years old and a general labourer, his wife Ellen was three years older. Their daughter Julia is 23 and listed as a general servant and single. Also present is Thomas and Ellen’s two year old grandson, Thomas William Iddols. He was the orphan son of  Julia’s brother Thomas Langford Iddiols, brought up by his grandparents. He had married Elizabeth Annie Grant at St Mary’s Church on 1st April 1906. Very tragically, he died in 1910 and his wife the following year. In the June quarter of 1912, George Stanley Sadler married Julia Eleanor Iddiols.

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George and Julia had two children. George Thomas Langford Sadler was born on 24th February 1913 (George after his father, Thomas after her father, Langford after Julia’s brother who died in 1910). Ellen Louisa Sadler was born on 17th July 1915. She is indicated in the St Mary’s Church parish magazine as having been baptised in the church on 1st September 1915. Curiously the name is spelt ‘Saddler’ with a double D which matches with how it was written on her father’s birth certificate. Two tots who were dangled in the St Mary’s font not long before her that summer are worthy of mention. Leonard Francis Jewell, our old mate who recently passed away at the age of one hundred and one and a half years old. Also the fantastically named Horatio Herbert Kitchener Skelton who lived at 13 Summerstown. Whatever happened to him?

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Just before his 32nd birthday, George joined the 5th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers on 27th November 1915 in Wandsworth under the Derby Scheme. He gave his occupation as chamberman. At some stage he transfered to the 2nd Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, known as the Die-Hards. In the spring of 1917, the Germans were retreating to the Hindenberg Line defence. In a preliminary move in the Battle of Arras, at 445am on 30th March, 2nd Middlesex were part of an attack on the village of Heudicourt. Somehow in this offensive, George Stanley Sadler was killed. He was unlucky, as in his book ‘The Die Hards in the Great War’ Everard Wyrall recounts that ‘the advance had been made at a trifling cost, for between 17th March and 4th April only two officers are reported wounded while in other ranks the losses are given as five killed, fourteen wounded and two missing’. George Sadler is buried in Heudicourt Communal Cemetery Extension. Its a small graveyard with only 85 identified casualties.

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nationalroll

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Julia moved with her family and the children to 3 Burgoyne Road, off Landor Road, not too far from where Brixton Academy is today. They eventually all settled in the Maidstone district of Kent. The National Roll of the Great War is a 14 volume series of short biographical sketches of British soldiers who served, including some who died, in the First World War. The volumes are arranged geographically according to where the soldier was from. Amongst a section covering south London, Private G S Sadler is mentioned. ‘He joined in June 1916, and crossing to France in the following September, took part in various engagements. He fell fighting in the Somme sector on March 30th 1917, and is buried in the Communal Cemetery Extension at Heudicourt. He was entitled to the General Service and Victory Medals’. It ends with a quotation ‘His life for his country, his soul to God’.

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It must have been very hard on George to lose his mother at the age of six and have three stepmothers come and go. His family was broken up and his brother Arthur Richard put into a home. He was fortunate to find comfort in a young family of his own, something to consider when next passing 684 Garratt Lane.

Thanks to Marion Gower for piecing together the details of this very moving story.