Whether he had an entry into France as dramatic as Private Ryan’s, in the early summer of 1944, 26 year old Ted Pavitt from Sutton, of the 2nd Battalion, Monmouthshire Regiment was bound for the Normandy beaches. He was part of the allied invasion known as D-Day which would turn the course of the Second World War. As he came across the channel that day, did he give a thought I wonder to two uncles he had never met. They were both killed in the First World War, 27 years before. One of them, William Pavitt perished in the sea close to Le Havre, not far from where Ted probably landed. Another, George Nation was killed in fighting near Ypres in the build up to the Battle of Messines. Very sadly, just a few months after D-Day, as the allies pushed towards the Seine, Ted would become a third member of the Pavitt family to lose their life in war. He was killed on 15th August 1944 in the fierce fighting near Bayeux. This was the first French town of importance to be liberated and Bayeux War Cemetery is the largest Commonwealth cemetery of the Second World War in France. Ted is one of 4,144 Commonwealth burials there.
Teddy’s grandfather, George Pavitt was born in Battersea in 1857, son of Henry who worked as a Thames lighterman. On 5th April 1885 he married Marian Smith at St Peter’s Church, Battersea and they lived in Grant Road, just to the north of Clapham Junction. Its still there today bordering the Winstanley estate. Just a few years later they appear to have moved into a nearby nest of streets tucked in between Falcon Road and Battersea Park Road. Curiously the names of these roads all have Afghan associations, no doubt as a result of the Second Afghan War, 1878-1880. This has always been of interest to me as a Great Great Uncle Samuel died in Kandahar in 1879. There is a plaque commemorating him in the church in Ballinamallard, County Fermanagh.
Known bizarrely as ‘Little India’ the streets in this corner of Battersea were designed by Alfred Heaver who has his own estate named after him in Balham. Incredibly these roads have survived immense changes literally on all sides and two of the Pavitt homes look like they are still in their original form. In 1891 they were living at 29 Patience Road with three children. George, now aged 34 was a coal merchant and the family consisted of Emily 4, George 2 and William six months. He had been born on 20th September 1890 and baptised at Christ Church, Battersea on 8th October. A rocket bomb on 21st November 1944 destroyed both the church and the vicarage, though a new current one was built in the fifties. In the adjoining Christchurch Gardens in Cabul Road is the ‘Citizens of Battersea War Memorial’, unveiled in 1952 and recently awarded Grade II listed status by English Heritage.
George and Marian had another child, Violet, born in 1894. The family then lived at 33 Candahar Road. This house also still exists, though rather precariously on a corner where a lot of hard hats and hi-viz jackets are currently in evidence. Rather defiantly it has its own Banksy style mural on the wall facing the developers, which looks a bit like a bird holding up its wing in a dismissive ‘STOP right there’ gesture. The Pavitts would also appear to have lived for a time in nearby Mantua Road before crossing the tracks in to Wandsworth and heading for Lydden Grove, Earlsfield where Albert may have been born in 1900.
George Pavitt senior must have died some time before 1908 as by the time of the 1911 census, Marian was listed as being widowed. She was living then at 21 Kingston Road, Wimbledon with four of the children. George now 22 was working as a photographer and Emily 26 was an ironer in a laundry. Albert was now 11 and the youngest Harry was 3. George Pavitt junior married Violet three years later and they had three children, one of whom was Teddy, killed in Normandy in 1944. The house near South Wimbledon tube station has now joined forces with No23 to form the Spiceway supermarket. Tragedy would also strike another Pavitt sibling, Emily. She had married a George Nation in St Andrew’s Church, Earlsfield in 1911. He was killed in France on 28 February 1917. What a bad year for her, a husband and then a brother lost in the space of three months. She lived at 12 Steerforth Street with her three children for a long time. Its about half way down the road, not far from the doctor’s surgery. Emily died aged 61 in 1947.
Only 21 year old William was missing from the household in Kingston Road. According to the 1911 census records he was on board a ship called HMS Triumph. He had joined the Royal Navy on his 18th birthday in 1908 for 12 years, perhaps around the same time that his father died. It states on his records that he had a tattoo of a man on his right forearm, a snake on his left. On 2nd April 1911 he was in the Mediterranean on HMS Triumph. Among the ships he sailed in were HMS Ganges, HMS Impregnable, HMS Illustrious, HMS Undaunted and HMS Eclipse. There was a good deal of shore-based activity when he was progressing his career as a signalman and he doesn’t appear to have participated in the Battle of Jutland. He attained the rank of Leading Signaller in 1913. Throughout his career his conduct is indicated largely as ‘very good’ though in October 1915 it would seem that whilst on HMS Undaunted there was a hiccup. He received 42 days imprisonment for ‘deserting watch’ and returned to the rank of Signaller. In April 1915 HMS Undaunted was damaged in a collision with the British destroyer HMS Landrail. Perhaps this precipitated his move to HMS Derwent from 24th November 1915. In any case, on 1st April 1917 his rank was restored.
That year had started very positively for William. On 2nd February 1917 he married Louisa Elizabeth Collis at St Mary’s Church in Summerstown. They lived at 41 Burtop Road and her parents William and Louisa were in the neighbouring street at 32 Headworth Road. Hopefully he was able to enjoy a brief period of leave with his new wife, though their happiness must have been overshadowed by the sad news at the end of the month that his brother-in-law George Nation had been killed. He was in the 20th London Regiment and is buried at Chester Farm Cemetery just south of Ypres.
Sadly, a little over a month after he had been reinstated as a Leading Signaller, on 2nd May 1917, William Pavitt lost his life when HMS Derwent struck a mine off Le Havre. She was a 550 ton destroyer with a complement of 70 officers and men, 58 of whom were lost that day. As the country started to experience acute food shortages as a result of the submarine menace, her job that spring was to escort merchant ships across the English Channel and defend the Dover Barrage. HMS Derwent hit a contact mine laid by German submarine UC-26. In nine patrols UC-26 was credited with sinking 39 ships, either by torpedo or by mines she had laid. UC-26 was rammed and sunk by HMS Milne off Calais six days after the sinking of HMS Derwent, on 8 May 1917.
Quoting a relative, who was a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve, a member of the Great War Forum posted quite a graphic account of the incident in 2006 ‘It was during this, my re-qualifying, that I was lent the Derwent, one of the same class as the Swale, that we were blown up in Havre Roads and only myself and four ERAs (Engine Room Artificers) were saved. I had only just seen the transports safely in through the Boom Defence at Havre, and turned around to return to base, when the fore part of the destroyer was blown clean off. All the crew live in the fore part of a destroyer and there was not one man saved. The Gunner, who had relieved me a few minutes before, and the CO, who were both on the bridge, were both killed and some 80 of the crew. We had struck a mine. The rest of us, five in all, put the boat out and were picked up by another of our destroyers, the Exe of the same class’.
Louisa Pavitt, widowed after less than three months, married again in 1921, to Victor Samuel Barnes, a boot repairer. They had two children, Edwin and Mabel and lived in Sutton. The son of a bookbinder and also a previous resident of Burtop Road, Victor was was the brother of Fred Barnes from Keble Street, a member of the Summerstown182, killed in the First Battle of Ypres in 1914, buried in Poperinghe. Alongside his brothers Albert and William, Victor serving with the Queens’ Royal West Surreys was one of three Barnes brothers listed in the 1918 Keble Street absent voters list. Louisa passed away in 1969 aged 87. William’s body was not recovered for burial and he is remembered on the Chatham Naval Memorial, high on a hill overlooking the Medway, on which are inscribed the names of over 18,000 seamen killed in both wars. We visited a few years ago and found his name amongst the Signallers who had lost their lives in 1917. His death was not posted in the St Mary’s parish magazine until October when notification of it was in the same passage as that of another seaman, Charles Blight, the wireless operator from Franche Court Road.