When you enter Wandsworth Town Hall Civic Suite, the first thing that you see is an impressive marble war memorial. Beneath the council’s crest, it states that 333 members of its staff served in the First World War. It then lists the names of 31 of those ‘who made the supreme sacrifice’. Two of these are known to us – David Baldwin from Tooting and Frank Tutty from Earlsfield. Three on the list are librarians, most worked for the Borough Engineer’s Department’ – roadsweepers, dustmen, gardeners, caretakers, general labourers, fixing and repairing, keeping the wheels of Wandsworth turning.
Sandwiched between Battersea and Vauxhall ‘Nine Elms’ is tucked away in the north-eastern corner of the borough of Wandsworth. Huge amounts of foreign money have poured into the development here currently marketing itself as London’s ‘greatest ever transformational story’. The area is home to Battersea Power Station, slowly disappearing behind a cloak of glass and steel. New Covent Garden Market will be re-invented as a gastronomic food hub and the moated fortress that is the new American Embassy, braces itself for the visit of Donald Trump in a couple of months. The family of Wandsworth’s most famous soldier and another council employee, Tooting dustman Ted Foster originally came from this area. Currently its a world of cranes, towers, construction trucks, high-security and homes that are way beyond the reach of dustmen, librarians, council workers and pretty much everybody else.
One of 28 of the Summerstown182 whose remains lie on Belgian soil, Frank is buried in Nine Elms British Cemetery, to the west of the town of Poperinghe, about 45 minutes drive from Calais. There were a number of casualty clearing stations based in this locality dating from 1917. It is the final resting place of a notable New Zealander, born in Co Donegal, who was killed in the Battle of Passchendaele on 4th October 1917. Dave Gallaher was the first captain of the touring All Blacks rugby team who played in Ireland in 1905. When we visited the cemetery in 2015, I didn’t know anything about him but unwittingly spotted a grave that was festooned with kiwi tributes so I took a photo. There is a story that my Grandfather played against the touring in All Blacks in 1905 in which case he might have come up against Big Dave.
John Tutty, born in Hackbridge in 1851 was a proper Wandle dweller, working the river as a printer and labourer. On 13th November 1870 in Croydon he married Emma Manning and they had seven children, one of whom was Frank Ernest Tutty. A year later the census picks them up at Dixon’s Cottage, Mitcham and a son Alfred had been born. Ten years on, they were in Martin’s Cottages with two more children, Harriet and Albert. John’s occupation is listed as a ‘journeyman silk printer’. Three other sons followed; Sidney in 1882, Frederick in 1885 and Frank in 1887. The 1901 census finds them still in Mitcham, at 4 Lock’s Lane, just to the south of Figges Marsh. Emma was working as a laundress and Albert like his Dad was a silk printer. Four sons were present, Alfred had joined the navy in 1890 having settled with his wife in Portsmouth. Harriet had married a Thomas Weller and lived next door. Very sadly she died, quite possibly in childbirth.
Frank meanwhile went to work for Wandsworth Council and in 1907 married Edith Emily Smith from Kandahar Road in Battersea. She was born in 1885, so was two years older than Frank. Edith’s family, originally from Norfolk, edged along Garratt Lane towards Summerstown via Inman Road and Aslett Street. In the 1911 census, Frank and Edith were living with the in-laws at 11 Franche Court Road. One of a nest of houses at the Garratt Lane end of the road with Summerstown182 connections. The stories come thick and fast whenever we pass this stretch on our guided walk; Tickner, Kirkland, McMullan, Chapman, Danzanvilliers.
Fred was just round the corner living at 833 Garratt Lane, then No3 Squarey Street (above) where he would have been a neighbour of Reginald Knight. Sidney married a girl from Rostella Road but appears to have emigrated to California shortly afterwards. Also present was four year old Frank Ernest, other children followed, Arthur in 1912, then Mabel. At some stage the Tutty family moved to No10 Squarey Street (below), before alighting at 81 Summerstown. This would have been at the Wimbledon Road end of the street, close to the White Lion pub. Their home was one of a stretch of twelve small houses known as Sadler’s Cottages. These are long gone and soon the area will be completely transformed with the building of the new AFC Wimbledon stadium. X marks the spot where the Tutty homestead was once located.
Frank and Fred, both married with children, were conscripted under the Derby Scheme in 1916. Frank attested in Wandsworth on 5th June 1916 into the 3rd Battalion of the Royal West Surrey Regiment. He was just short of his thirtieth birthday and gave his occupation as a labourer. Fred, also married with children joined the 15th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. At some stage Frank transfered to the 1st Battalion of the West Surreys. They were in the Ypres sector in the early months of 1918, so avoided the main thrust of the German Spring Offensive at the end of March. At 7am on the morning of 12th March, whilst inspecting the line, their commanding officer was killed by a shell. The splendidly named Lt-Colonel St Barbe Russell Sladen had only assumed command of the battalion at the beginning of February. A partner in a law firm and from a notable family, his death prompted a telegram from Buckingham Palace.
It is likely that Frank was killed or wounded and subsequently died in one of the retaliatory raids in the days after Lt-Colonel Sladen’s death. These were organised by a 2nd Lieutenant Morgan, who lead a fighting patrol of 15 men in an attack on a machine gun post near the village of St Jean. On the 13th they withdrew with two men wounded. The following night a smaller group of nine went out again at midnight but upon seeing a large party of Germans they assumed an attack was imminent and withdrew. They held their line in the following skirmish but in doing so two men were wounded and one killed. Its very likely one of those was Frank Tutty, possibly taken to one of the casualty clearing stations near Poperinghe where he died of his wounds.
News of his death came through fairly quickly and was reported in the July issue of the St Mary’s Church parish magazine. Mentioned in the same paragraph was the death of Mark Archer and also Albert Ball, whose name curiously does not appear on the war memorial. Terrible news for eleven year old Frank and his younger siblings, Arthur and Mabel. Edith was 32 and faced an uncertain future. She is listed as living at 81 Summerstown the year Frank died. Between 1923 and 1933 she appears to have moved back to 11 Franche Court Road, probably to be with her parents. After a brief spell at Lidiard Road she then went to 48 Burntwood Lane.
After nearly six decades of widowhood, Edith died aged 91 in June 1977. Frank junior married Emily Bailey and they lived in Bellew Street before settling at 46 Freshford Street. He passed away in 1980, his wife in 1999. Fred Tutty survived the war and died in 1953 aged 68. When I called by to take the photo of the house on Burntwood Lane I bumped into a long-term resident who remembered ‘old Mrs Tutty’ and also recalled other family living in the next street. One of Frank’s grandsons, Colin has been on a number of our walks. Such encounters make the world of one hundred years ago feel so much closer.
Thanks to Chris Burge for kindly researching Frank’s story. Please look at his website dedicated to the memory of the 587 individuals named on the Mitcham War Memorial.