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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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.

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