The War Graves of Chevening

I’ve been meaning to visit nearby Chevening for a while. The village is perhaps best known for Chevening House, once home to the Earls Stanhope, now a grace and favour residence for the Foreign Secretary, although it was considered as a country residence for Prince Charles, when originally bequeathed to the nation. I was aware of at least one Great War burial there, that of William Burfoot, who I knew was an Old Boy of Sevenoaks School but there are several of interest.

The churchyard at St Botolph, Chevening

There are six Commonwealth War Graves in the churchyard, four from the Great War and two from the Second. Some of these are the last resting place of local men but, as Chevening was close to the Chipstead Military Hospital, two of the men were from the north west of England.

The grave of Arthur Waite, a native of Lancashire

Sapper Arthur Waite of St Helen’s, Lancs, was buried here in January 1915. Aged 49, two of Waite’s sons were killed after his death. Corporal Richard Waite in 1915 and John Waite in October 1917.

Edward Wright Padgham of the Royal Field Artillery died at Chipstead VAD Hospital in 1916 aged 45. The local paper reported his death and funeral service.

Both Waite and Padgham’s graves are marked by the familiar headstone of the War Graves Commission. William Martin Burfoot was a local man and lies nearby with a more traditional headstone. An Old Boy of Sevenoaks School who first served with The Dorset’s, he was killed in a flying accident in 1918 aged 23 and was the subject of an obituary in the Sevenoaks Chronicle.

Burfoot’s funeral was reported in the local paper, which listed Countess Stanhope among the mourners

Harry Smith of Royal Defence Corps 121st Protection Company was sixty, when he died in 1916. Harry’s funeral wasn’t reported and his story requires more research

The graves of the Dabnor family

Also buried here are father and son Herbert and Gordon Dabnor, of 20th Kent Battalion, Home Guard, killed in December 1940. Gordon Dabnor was just 16.

The Kent and Sussex Courier of Friday, 13 December reported the circumstances of their deaths:

A village which has already experienced the effects of bombing, fortunately on past occasions without casualties, again suffered on Sunday night, when a father and son lost their lives. The father was killed instantly, the son dying some hours later in hospital. Other members of the family were injured.

The deceased man, Mr. Dabnor, with his wife and 16-year-old son, resided in a cottage on a farm, together with a cousin of Mrs. Dabnor’s and her husband. In the evening the little family party were about to leave the farm when a stick of high explosives came crashing down across the fields. One landed near the farm buildings, which were destroyed, and the male members of the party, who were in front of the women, sustained the full force of the blast. The two ladies escaped with shock and, in the case of Mrs. Dabnor, a slight cut on one arm. Mrs. Dabnor attributed their escape to the fact that they were able to throw themselves to the ground just in time for the flying fragments of the bomb to miss them. They called to the others, she said, but got no reply, and then they found them lying on the ground. She tried the telephone to seek help, but the wires had been severed, so she ran down to the farmhouse, from which help was summoned.

The churchyard also includes many graves of the Stanhope family. Pictured is that of Hon Philip Stanhope, Lord Weardale. The inscription describes him as ‘a lifelong friend of peace’. He was a President of the Inter Parliamentary Union and of Save the Children.

Last resting place of Lord Weardale

The Sevenoaks Chronicle of September 17 1915 briefly reported the death of nurse Ivy Maud Pack, who was just eighteen. Ivy was described as a nurse at the nearby VAD Hospital but does not appear in the database of the Red Cross. Possibly she had a more junior role or will appear in other records. We’ll be back to visit this quintessentially English village to find Ivy’s grave, where she lies with a younger cousin who died later in 1915 aged ten.

Mentioned in Dispatches

We were delighted to be interviewed by Dr Tom Thorpe of the Western Front Association for his regular podcast, Mentioned in Dispatches.

The episode looks at all aspects of the Great War in Sevenoaks and can be found here or wherever you normally access your podcasts.

Hope you enjoy listening to it – let us know what you think!

Remembering Private Bailey

Today is the hundredth anniversary of the death of Private Ernest Bailey of Seal Chart near Sevenoaks aged just eighteen. His great nephew, David Lambourne and his family will be visiting the church of St Lawrence where their family once worshipped, to remember their ancestor, who is remembered on the war memorial inside the church.

Ernest was born on the 27th December 1899 and lived at ‘Larchwood’, Seal Chart, Sevenoaks.  He was the youngest child of local carpenter and cabinet maker Thomas Bailey and his wife, Caroline.  He had three brothers and seven sisters.  His sister Emily was David’s Grandmother.


 ‘Larchwood’, the Bailey family home


 Private Ernest Bailey 50987, 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry 

Ernest went to St Lawrence School, Seal Chart and was a member of the congregation at St Lawrence Church next door, where he had been baptised on 11th March 1900.


 Church of St Lawrence, Seal Chart

David started to research the life of his great uncle after inheriting some family photographs and has set out what he discovered:

Ernest was a boy scout before joining the army.  Unfortunately his Army Records have not survived and the National Archives only hold records of his Medals Index and Medal Rolls Book entries.  Therefore I do not know exactly when he joined up and went to France. Trying to calculate from his War Gratuity Payment of £7 it seems that he may have enlisted as early as September 1916 and joined the Highland Light Infantry.

I have found information from War Diary entries for the 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry and the included Operational Order and a subsequent account by D M Murray-Lyon Lt. Colonel Commanding 2nd Bn. Highland Light Infantry.  In April 1918, the Highland Light Infantry were at the front near Hendecourt and Boiry St. Martin.

The diary records on the 20th April “Quiet day. Preparations in progress for a raid on enemy posts opposite the left Company front of the Right Sub Section.  It was decided to have a short shoot on 21st against a suspected post but no artillery preparation or cover for the raiding party was contemplated.

On the 21st April the diary records that the “Raiding party is ready for their work, Lt Thorburn MC,  3 NCO’s and 30 men had been selected. The Orders for the raid are attached as Appendix A.”

On the 22nd April the diary records ”Zero hour for the raid was 3.45am.  The posts visited were found to have been vacated by the enemy, but an identification was obtained.  Our casualties were one killed and two missing.  The narrative of the operation is attached as Appendix B.

In the Operational Order (the Appendix A) it states the men should be divided into three parties and rush enemy posts with the object to kill the enemy and take prisoners.  It goes into some detail about how the operation should be executed. Their dress for the operation would be as follows — “Equipment will not be worn. Every man will carry a rifle and fixed bayonet and 9 rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber.  One bomb per man will be carried in the right hand bottom pocket of the jacket.  Cap conforters – not Steel Helmets – will be worn.  Box respirators will be worn.”  It goes onto say “All identification marks – e.g. identity disc’s, papers, pay books etc will be removed before leaving the Assembly Positions.” 

 The account of the raid (the Appendix B) it states that the 3 groups past through their wire and progressed to the enemy posts and on finding them all but empty, because of British heavy bombardment the previous day, they pressed forward onto further targets as per the Operational Order and came under fire.  As it was getting too light they could not get any further forward and withdrew back to the their lines under heavy fire from enemy guns.  One man was mortally injured and two men went missing, but because it was getting too light, it was decided that they could not be searched for as this would have risked further casualties.  Ernest Bailey is one of those two men missing who were out of sight over the crest on the enemy side of a slope.


The war memorial inside the church of St Lawrence

Ernest is remembered on the church war memorial, alongside other local men, two of whom (Alfred Hope and Herbert Hodder) are buried in the churchyard.