Mollie’s story, ‘My father was a conscientious objector’

When I wrote about conscientious objectors in Sevenoaks earlier this year, I tried to convey a sense of how the men who objected and their families were viewed and treated in the town but any personal testimony was difficult to find. In the last week, I have been extremely lucky to find exactly what I was looking for in a book of reminiscences from Somerset.

Mollie Wren was born Ivy Florence Tester in 1912 in Sevenoaks to George Tester (1883-1962) and Emma nee Banfield (18881-1960). Known as Mollie, she married Philip Wren and later in life moved to Somerset. In the early 1990’s, Mollie, along with several other elderly women living in the Winsham area, talked about her childhood memories in an initiative run by the South Somerset Reminiscence Project, the results of which were published, with several of Mollie’s family photos included. Mollie died in 1996 and the couple do not appear to have had any children. Fortunately, her memories are clear and evocative of the challenges her family faced as a result of her father’s stance, as the family were abused, ignored and faced financial hardship.


George Tester and Emma Banfield on their wedding day

The 1911 census shows Mollie’s parents, George and Emma, living at 13, St Botolph’s Road with their son, George Albert (1906-1994) with George recorded as a builder. The family were active members of the Vine Baptist Church. By 1916 the family had moved to Cedar Villa, Cedar Terrace and, that June, George was mentioned in the Sevenoaks Chronicle in its report on the proceedings of the  local Military Tribunal. The paper noted that George

wanted to save life rather than take it, but did not object to non-combatant service, to which he was referred.

George’s military records show that he was thirty three and a half, five feet tall, and working as a painter when he subsequently  enrolled with the Non Combatant Corps in July 1916. That December, George was working at Newhaven when he was charged with disobeying a lawful command given to him by an officer while on active service. He was tried by court martial and sentenced to be detained at Wormwood Scrubs.


The family at Seaford Cliffs

Mollie recalled this these events in a number of interviews that were edited and published in 1995.

Father said no, he wasn’t going to fight. He just simply believed Thou Shalt Not Kill. He was sent with a lot of others to Seaford Cliffs to load food ships for the troops. He continued with that until they wanted him to load firearms. They all refused. So then we was sent to Lewes gaol and court-martialled. He was tried by Lord Salisbury, who was sympathetic to conscientious objectors. Even so, he sent my father to Wandsworth prison for a year in solitary confinement, and then to Dartmoor Prison for two years and seven months.


George (third right) in the workshop at Wormwood Scrubs

As a family, we were ostracised. I remember walking hand in hand with mother along St John’s Road. Two men, up ladders, shouted something abusive at my mother. She gripped my hand tightly and hurried me away. Father had said mother must continue to go to the Baptist church, although no-one spoke to her. I remember walking up the aisle to our pew, which was halfway up the church. My mother held my hand tightly.

A couple of teachers at Sevenoaks Council School were horrible to me because my dad had been a conscientious objector. They felt very strongly.

As my father was a conscientious objector, my mother had no government pay, and in the end she was virtually penniless. One night she knelt at the armchair by the cold grate in the kitchen, and prayed to God to help her. Even as she prayed the front door rattled, and she heard something put through the letterbox. She went through the passage and there was an envelope on the mat. No letter in it, but a five pound note, which in those days was a great deal of money. Mother never forgot this, and she always used to quote me afterwards: The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail. And it never did. Finally, kind people came to their senses and brought Mother sewing. She was extremely able. People would bring their sewing on the quiet to start with, but at least it came.

Lord Mons (actually Robert Mond of Combe Bank), who lived at Sundridge Place, gave Home Farm over as a convalescent home for wounded officers and their batmen. Mother became the sewing woman here. Her eldest sister, Fanny, became cook-housekeeper, and my uncle became head cowman.

There was no shortage of food there, despite the war. My aunt was a typical cook of that generation: a large lady in a blue-print dress and snow-white apron, with her lovely hair brushed back. I can see her now, standing at the kitchen table with enormous tin plates covered in pastry, and a gallipot of jam clasped to her bosom, ladling jam onto these plates. Then they were cut in six for the wounded soldiers. They loved her pastry.

Not only was  I spoiled by my aunt, but by the soldiers, I walked out with them in the country lanes and into Sundridge village, where they bought me sweets. A lot of them were married and had children of their own.

There was a great bronze gong hanging on a stand and a stick with a leather ball at the top, I loved sloshing this gong. The soldiers tried to teach me how to work up a real crescendo, but I was too little. I just loved banging it! On Sundays we went to Chevening church in a horse brake, which had seats on either side. There was I, in the middle of all these soldiers, going off to church!

There was one ward for the batmen, and the officers were in another. I remember the long rows of beds and red blankets. One particular officer was very fond of me, and when he was he dying asked to see me. Mother carried me upstairs and told me to be good. We went in with the Matron. I remember being sat on the bed. He held my hand, and his hand was very hot. I remember that clearly but no more. 


Mollie and her ‘particular officer’ at Combe Bank

In 1916, my mother took in a lodger, a Miss Bunting. This lady was a brilliant dressmaker. She’d been very adventurous and gone off to Russia and become one of the Tsarina’s court dressmakers. When the Revolution was boiling up, she fled home quickly. One night she tapped at the bedroom door and said, ‘Mrs Tester, you must come quickly! You must see this!’. My mother picked me up out of the cot, wrapped a shawl round me and carried me into her bedroom, which had a wonderful view over the North Downs. And there was this airship going along, a German airship. It had caught fire: it was blazing as it went along. I remember my mother murmuring over my head, ‘Poor souls, poor souls!’.

Father wasn’t released from Dartmoor until 1919. I was seven. Mother couldn’t go to the station to meet him after that separation, so my brother and I went. I remember running round the garden picking a bunch of flowers. It was perfectly ridiculous: I was going to meet this unknown ‘Dad’. I remember getting to the station, and a cloud of steam; and out of it came this man whom my brother rushed to, because he remembered him. Then I remember being crushed, flowers and all, against this man. When we got to the garden gate, Mother, who had been standing watching in the sitting-room window, came to the front door. Father went in, and I was going to prance in after, but my brother hung on to the back of my frock and took me round the garden. He was more sensitive that for just a little while they wanted to be alone.


George senior, George and Mollie after the war

George Tester lived on until 1962, surviving his wife, Emma, by two years. His own mother, Martha Tester nee Letchford (1845-1946) lived to see her 101st birthday. Interestingly, she had been born at Chatham Barracks where her own father, Frederick Letchford (1806-1887) was Colour Sergeant with (according to the Sevenoaks Chronicle) ‘the old 50th regiment, known as the Blind Half Hundred’. He had been born in Sevenoaks in the house which eventually became a pub, The Halfway House, and at one point, home to Charlie Draper the subject of a recent post.

Mollie and Philip do not appear to have had children but I would be very interested to hear from anyone who remembers her or any family members who may be able to share more of her and her father’s story. Thanks to Mollie and the oral history team in Somerset, we have this insight into the life of a conscientious objector and his family in Sevenoaks during the war.


Remembering Private Hope

Today, on the hundredth anniversary of his death, we are remembering Private Alfred Hope G/11209, 10th Battalion, The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment.

This morning, together with fellow local historian and author, Ian Walker, I went to the church of St Lawrence, Seal Chart just outside of Sevenoaks where Alfred is buried, to pay our respects.


Private Alfred Hope

Alfred Hope was born in 1890, in Sissinghurst, to Mark, a farm bailiff and his wife, Alice, at Lower Fawke farm, where Alfred later worked as a gardener. He grew up with his siblings, Charles Mark, Harry Benjamin, Emily Louisa and Mary.

By the time of his enlistment on 17th November 1915, Alfred and family were living at Stone Street Farm. He served with the Royal West Kents and records show that he was 5’9 and weighed 142lbs.

Alfred joined his regiment, the 10th battalion Royal West Kents, in France in May 1916 and suffered a severe gunshot wound to his leg early that June. He was transferred to England on the SS Brighton to Graylingwell War Hospital, Chichester, where he later died of blood poisoning, surrounded by his family. His body was bought back to Stone Street and buried on the west side of the churchyard at St Lawrence.

The Kent Messenger carried a report of his funeral, recording that he had worked as a gardener. He was also a successful exhibitor at the Sevenoaks Horticultural Society’s Show and a member of the local Gardeners’ Society, and of the St Lawrence Cricket Club. Alfred was also a bell ringer at the church.

During the course of research for my book on the Sevenoaks War Memorial,  I was able to purchase Alfred’s British War and Victory medals, as well as the memorial plaque awarded posthumously. I had already visited his grave two years ago and this morning was a chance to visit again and remember him on the centenary of his death.


The church of St Lawrence at Seal Chart

We were met by the Reverend Carol Kitchener and Gretel Wakeham, Lay Reader at the church, who showed us the fine carved memorial to Alfred and the rest of the fallen of the parish (including William Miles, also named on the Sevenoaks War Memorial) inside the church.


The parish memorial inside the church


Alfred’s grave at St Lawrence

The four of us then went to Alfred’s grave, where Gretel read Psalm 106 and Reverend Kitchener led prayers for Alfred, his family and all those affected by the conflict. We then stood, in that peaceful churchyard in the Kent countryside, on a fine summer’s morning, in silent remembrance.


Alfred’s entry in the burial register

Afterwards, Gretel was able to show us the entry for Alfred in the burial register and we discovered that we were not the only ones to visit the church recently to remember one of the war dead of the parish. The family of Stephen Phyall MM, Private G/386 6th Battalion of the Royal West Kents , who is remembered on the church memorial visited in July to mark the anniversary of his death and rang the 1296 Cambridge Surprise Minor, letting the church bells that he would have been so familiar with, ring out in his memory.


Stephen Phyall’s family recorded their tribute to him in the visitors’ book

According to the CWGC, there are two other first world war burials at St Lawrence’s. Hugh Herbert Hodder, died 16th January 1918 and F A Wickham who died of his wounds on 28th September 1915.

My thanks to the Reverend Kitchener and Gretel Wakeham for welcoming us to the church this morning and remembering Alfred with us.


‘For gallantry and leadership’ – the story of Jack Whyntie MC

Cyril John ‘Jack’ Whyntie was an early recruit to Kitchener’s Army and had a successful career throughout the war. Clearly earmarked as a promising recruit, his bravery was to win him the Military Cross in the last year of the war.

Cyril was born on 5th October 1894 in Kentish Town, London, to William Whyntie (1860-1948) a draper originally from Scotland, and his wife, Annie Frances (1867-1938).

imageA young Cyril John ‘Jack’ Whyntie

By 1901 the family were living in Sevenoaks at 118, High Street. That year’s census shows William working as a draper’s manager and living with his wife, sons Jack and Fred, and daughter, Olive. Thirteen servants were also listed as residing at the premises.

By 1911, Jack was listed as an apprentice draper and the family now included two other daughters, Doris and Kathleen. Including servants and a companion to his wife, William Whyntie’s sizeable home of fourteen rooms housed fifteen people, including the appropriately named Bertha Draper, sister of Frank Draper who was killed in 1917 and is remembered on the Sevenoaks War Memorial.


imageViews of Whyntie & Co. in the High Street, Sevenoaks

The family were Wesleyans and William Whyntie often preached and involved himself in church business. Cyril had been educated at Avenue House School, Sevenoaks, followed by the Judd School in Tonbridge. After leaving he had been apprenticed as a draper to Frank East of Tonbridge. Like many Sevenoaks men, shortly after the outbreak of war he enlisted at Tunbridge Wells on 4th September 1914 where he was assigned to 7th Battalion The Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment, one of the new regiments composed of recruits who answered Lord Kitchener’s appeal for volunteers. His papers show that he was 5 10 & 3/4 tall with grey eyes, brown hair and a fresh complexion.

imageSergeant Jack Whyntie, Royal West Kents

By the time Jack was sent to France with his battalion in July 1915 he had been promoted from lance corporal to corporal,  lance sergeant and then sergeant. As a sergeant in 7th Royal West Kents, Jack saw action in the early days of the Somme and was present at the capture of  Trones Wood, where three other Sevenoaks men, Fred Gilks, Lawrence Bowles and James Pettitt, all in Jack’s battalion, lost their lives on 13th July 1916.

imageJack Whyntie, taken at the Essenhigh Corke Studio, Sevenoaks

Jack Whyntie’s records show that he remained at the front until February 1917 when he returned home for four months. Perhaps it was during this period of leave that he sat for local photographer, Charles Essenhigh Corke, whose firm was situated on the London Road. The Essenhigh Corke studio had offered free photographs to serving men, and many locals, as well as men who were stationed in the town, took advantage of the offer. In 2008, five hundred glass plate negatives were found in the former studio. These, including Jack’s portrait, were digitised and put on public display before being housed at the Kent County Archives in Maidstone.

In 1917 while still a serving sergeant in B Company of the 7th Royal West Kents, Jack applied for a temporary commission, which he received in the June, being gazetted as a temporary Second Lieutenant in 8th Battalion East Surrey Regiment.

A few months later in October 1917, the Sevenoaks Chronicle reported that Jack had been wounded

‘in the big advance, last Friday, October 12th. Going over the top – during which operation all his senior officers were hit – it fell to Lieut. Whyntie’s lot to lead his company on in the advance until he, too, was hit by shrapnel some distance on. Lt. Whyntie is now lying in a hospital at the Base, suffering from shrapnel wounds in the thigh’.

The incident was mentioned in the battalion war diary

The barrage started at Zero mins four minutes by Brigade time, and appeared fairly intense, but machine gun fire was immediately opened from guns posted close to our tape, which was not touched by the barrage at all. Second Lieutenant C Whyntie, the sole remaining Officer of ‘D’ Company, was wounded at once…

In its November 23rd edition the Chronicle was able to report that Jack had sufficiently recovered to be able to rejoin his regiment.

On 4th April 1918, Jack was again injured, this time at Villers-Bretonneux on the Somme. Once again the Sevenoaks Chronicle reported news of his injury, stating that on this occasion he had been wounded by a bullet in the arm. Jack was sent back to England where he was treated at the 5th Southern General Hospital before being transferred to a convalescent home for officers. By June 1918 a Medical Board concluded that he had regained perfect movement in his shoulder and was fit for general service.


Jack Whyntie’s Military Cross, still in family ownership

Later that year, by now serving as Acting Captain, he was awarded the Military Cross, according to the citation

For conspicuous gallantry and leadership near Ronssoy on the 18th September, 1918. He held his company well together in the dense mist and kept them straight on their objective. Owing to the failure of troops in front to take the Green Line the company soon found itself in the front line and met with heavy machine-gun fire. He at once extended his company and pushed on, thereby gaining two thousand yards of ground and reaching the Green Line.

imageJack as a captain in the East Surrey Regiment

After the armistice, Jack continued to serve, for a time in the army of occupation, before he returned to the family business where he became a director and settled in Sevenoaks with his wife, Helen, and two children, Barbara (born 1923) and Brian (born 1925). A popular businessman, local resident and a keen follower of cricket, he was often seen watching a match at the Vine ground which overlooks the war memorial.

imageAn advert for Whyntie & Co, Sevenoaks Chronicle, 1922

Jack Whyntie was taken ill suddenly when preparing to close the shop one Thursday evening in 1935 and died of meningitis on his forty first birthday on the following Saturday 5th October. He was buried in Greatness Cemetery. His brother Fred, who had served as an Air Mechanic during the war, survived him by only two years, dying in 1937, followed the year after by their mother, aged seventy one. William Whyntie, the patriarch of the family, lived on until 1948 when he died aged eighty eight and was survived by his daughters and grandchildren.

imageThe family grave at Greatness Cemetery

I am grateful to Jack Whyntie’s Great Nephew, Adrian, for sharing information and some splendid photos of his Great Uncle.

Fundraising and friendship – Belgian refugees in Sevenoaks

How we respond to a refugee crisis is one of the biggest questions of our own time and so I have been curious as to how Sevenoaks responded the last time the country saw a significant influx of refugees – how did the town cope, what did the refugees do, how was life altered?

The presence of significant numbers of Belgian refugees from 1914 onwards is a lesser known fact of the war in the public consciousness but there is plenty of evidence available to help answer these questions.

In 1914, the Sevenoaks Chronicle reported, in its Friday 16 October edition that

Since the fall on Antwerp, the Belgian refugee has really begun to make himself felt as part and parcel of London’s population; we may fairly add, of Sevenoaks population too.

Over the next few weeks and months, the paper highlighted how local people were  engaged in raising money and collecting clothes for the refugees already in their midst. On 23 October, the Chronicle reported a whist drive being held in the Weald for the destitute Belgians Fund, while Mr Frank Robinson let it be known that the cinema was admitting Belgian refugees and soldiers in to the mid-week and Saturday matinee for free, to see such films as A Sporting Chance and the patriotic Your County Needs You.

The same edition of the paper carried names of some of the first refugees to arrive as well as those Sevenoaks residents who had opened up their homes to receive them. Madame de Chauvaux-Marlier, together with her four children and two other adults were staying at Bulimba, the grand residence of the Hemmant family, Mdme Chainage-Rooms of Liege was staying at Ashgrove with her children, and Mrs Hawkes, an English refugee from Insterburg, was staying at 10, Eardley Road, her husband being interned at Spandau fortress.


List of refugees published 23 October 1914

J S Richardson, Secretary of the Working Committee of the Sevenoaks War Relief Fund (who was later to be killed on active service and is remembered on the town war memorial) wrote to the paper asking for those hosting or otherwise responsible for any refugees in the town, to register them by completing a form to aid in the compilation of a national register.

A letter also appeared in the paper from Mr Swanzy, Chairman of the Urban District Council.He appealed for more means to deal with the “present and future needs of the Belgian Refugees in Sevenoaks”. Swanzy noted that

Were it not for the brave resistance of the countrymen of these exiles France would probably now be completely over-run by the common enemy and the prospects of the Allies very different to what they are to-day. Try to imagine what we would feel, if, like these people, we were fugitives with no means of livelihood for the future. In most cases they have the terrible certainty that their homes are wrecked and they stand stripped of practically everything.

We cannot exploit the sorrows of our guests. They are here in our midst, representative of every class, members of the aristocracy, tradesmen, artisans and country people. All alike in having lost everything.

The paper also recorded the number of wounded Belgian servicemen who had arrived in Sevenoaks and the surrounding district, noting that “some of them are really in an awful state of depression, through the loss of the greater part of their families and homes”.

Belgian soldiers were accommodated at the local VAD hospitals, including Cornwall Hall and St John’s and the names of many were listed.Thanks to the Cornwall Hall archive, we know what some of these men looked like, however, although a handful were named in the albums, no surname was given.



List of wounded Belgian soldiers in St John’s VAD hospital, published 23 October 1914

According to the Chronicle

At the Cornwall Hall, one soldier was of a regiment which went out 1,400 strong and got cut up by the Germans, only 300 managing to get back to the Belgian lines. He was one of the 300, and he tells how he went over the German trenches in which it was estimated there lay between nine and ten thousand dead Germans. Another tells of how he fell into German hands but managed to escape. He had a terrible wound in his hip and a broken arm.





Photos from the Cornwall Hall archive

At St John’s Hall, there were 33 Belgian patients under the Commandant, Miss Lambarde

The Chronicle again

The patients at this excellent hospital are all Belgians and, in spite of their great troubles, they can be heard happily singing to the tune of a gramophone. Some of them are playing cards, while others eagerly scan the contents of a French journal. The nurses…are doing excellent work, and are very grateful for all the gifts that have been sent, but we understand that all types of dried grocery and perhaps meat would be most acceptable. At this hospital it has been necessary for three operations to be performed, but the patients are progressing favourably.

The paper also carried the story of how one young Belgian soldier had not seen his brother since the start of the war and had thought him missing or injured, but discovered that he was also in Sevenoaks and was able to be reunited with him.

The generosity of the people of Sevenoaks even came from abroad. Bessie Styles, a young woman, formerly of Seal near Sevenoaks, who had emigrated to America, wrote to the vicar of St Mary, Kippington, asking for him to publicise the fact that together with her sister, Florence, she had collected £9 10s 4d from American donors, including one German who undertook to aid her collection. She asked that the generosity of her donors be publicised locally to reassure them that funds raised had reached the intended recipients and so the Rev Thompson had her letter published in the Chronicle in December 1914.


Bessie Styles wrote home about the fundraising for Belgian refugees amongst her American friends

A few weeks earlier the Chronicle sent an undercover reporter to chat informally to some of the wounded soldiers and refugees, who, he noted had begun to have “picked up quite a serviceable smattering of English and are now able to make themselves understood”.

Taking into account the many fundraising events, appeals for food and clothing, all of which were well responded to by local people, the paper concluded

Neither in the hospitals nor in the circles of private families throughout the land do we believe that the brave Belgians are being better treated than here in our own town.

This certainly seemed to echo the sentiments of many of the new Belgian residents. On Christmas Day 1914 at the Cornwall Hall hospital, Dr Mansfield was presented with a framed drawing by the Belgian soldiers, which had been drawn by one of the patients, George Dubois. Mrs Mansfield received a small silver stamp box and Mr Fred Keisen addressed the assembled, first in French, then English

For the first time in our lives and in consequence of the grave events which are taking place at the present moment in our beloved country, we are on this holy day which commemorates the birth of our Saviour, far from our homes and families. Although this festival has not in Belgium the significance which characterises it in England, it is for us a day of great joy, for we are always at this season of the year in the bosom of our family. Our grief is great but great is your kindness, for it is in these cruel moments that you have done for us all that was humanly possible to soften our exile, and we thank you very sincerely.

Belgian refugees remained in the town for the duration of the war. They were found homes, supported with food and clothing, helped, where possible, into employment and the people of Sevenoaks maintained the generosity of spirit and fundraising that had welcomed the very first arrivals.

In July 1916 the Sevenoaks Belgian Refugees’ Fund (which had been set up to coordinate relief) published its regular report. The report stated that since its foundation the Fund had “entirely supported or partially assisted over 80 persons” – and individuals had been assisted in a variety of ways, including one disabled soldier, crippled with rheumatism for whom electrical baths had been prescribed. The man had been sent, together with his young family, to Tunbridge Wells to receive this treatment for two months, in the hope that he would be able to work as a chauffeur.

There were some discordant notes. The same report noted King Albert’s request that his countrymen should be found employment rather than forced onto charity and the Fund recorded that

…we have attempted to comply with His Majesty’s request. In this, to our great regret, we have found ourselves hampered by the refusal of several Sevenoaks workmen to permit a Belgian among them.

Though in general, the evidence points to the respect and welcome that Belgian refugees received in Sevenoaks. As ever, news was anxiously awaited of local men serving with the forces and one report from a local soldier highlighted the reciprocal nature of care between the two nations. The Chronicle reported that Percy Ellman, nephew of local resident, Alfred Ellman, had written home to say

My battery was gassed and we lost temporarily a 47 gun. I got lost after the ‘scrap’ for two days but I found a real good Belgian Samaritan, who gave me rest and food and told me he was only returning the kindness shown to Belgian refugees in England.

Support for the refugees in the town continued unabated until the Armistice. The Chronicle reported that many Belgians joined with townspeople in services at the Catholic church to mark the end of the warThere is little evidence to suggest how and when the refugees and wounded servicemen left the town after the end of hostilities. Possibly some kept in touch with their host families and friends they had made. The arrival of so many refugees in the town in the early days of the war was perhaps a stark reminder of the reality of war and how communities are easily displaced, forced to flee with what they could carry. The people of Sevenoaks rose to the occasion, welcoming those who had fled their country and supporting them throughout their stay.



Kenrid Davey – An ANZAC from Sevenoaks

Following my appeal for information relating to any of the Sevenoaks Anzacs, I was pleased to hear from Keith Davey, a great nephew of Kenrid Davey, who was one of six men I had listed from the Sevenoaks area who had emigrated to New Zealand before the outbreak of war.

image003Kenrid Horace Davey

Kenrid Horace Davey was born in Riverhead in late 1888, the son of David Davey and his wife, Elizabeth, known as Lizzie. The 1891 census shows the family living on Chipstead Lane with David working as a plumber and painter; Kenrid was one of six children then living at home. By 1901, the family were living at The Old School House in Chipstead.

Leaving for New Zealand

There is a Horace Davey, aged 24 listed on the passenger list for the Ionie, which departed on 23 May 1912 for New Zealand. It’s possible that this is Kenrid and interesting to note that both George Marshall and Arnold Jarvis were also on board. Like Kenrid, both George and Arnold emigrated and later fought, serving with the AIF, but unlike Kenrid who survived, they are remembered on the Sevenoaks war memorial. It is interesting to speculate that they knew each other and were making the trip together.

Kenrid’s service records show that was working as a butcher when he enlisted and was 5’4″ tall, weighing 155 pounds. He gave his next of kin as his father who by then was living at Saint William’s Villa, Dunton Green, while his nearest relative in New Zealand was his older sister, Phyllis.

He embarked from Wellington on 9 October 1915 as a Rifleman in 1st Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade bound for Suez and served in Egypt for the remainder of 1915 before leaving for the Western Front the following year. He was wounded in his left arm by a shell on 10 September 1917 at Ypres and was invalided to England two weeks later.

His papers show a largely exemplary service record with just three disciplinary incidents: being AWOL for 2 hours in November 1916 (lost 14 days pay), trotting a horse on a cobbled road in January 1917 (lost 7 days pay) and for being without his helmet in March 1917 (lost 8 days pay).

Kenrid returned to New Zealand and died in 1968. His brother, Keith Davey’s grandfather, Sidney Charles Davey, also served having enlisted on 29 August 1914 and joined the Royal Engineers, eventually being promoted to Lieutenant.

image002Sidney Charles Davey

Keith also mentioned that several cousins of Kenrid and Sidney had also lived in the Sevenoaks area and fought during the war, including Horace James Taylor, a cousin through their mother Lizzie’s sister, Emma, who had married Alfred Taylor.

A Cricketing Cousin

Horace Taylor was born in Sevenoaks on the 26 December 1895 and his father, Alfred, would have been well known in the town as a harness and saddle maker. The 1911 census shows the family living at 50-52 London Road (which was also known as Belgrave House) with Horace and his younger brother Alfred listed as being at school and their older sister, Millicent, recorded as an assistant school teacher.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 14.54.50Horace James Taylor

Both boys attended Sevenoaks School as day boys; Horace could have attended any time between 1904 – 1912  and according to the Sennockian (1922) he left the school in 1912 and became a bank clerk.

Horace enlisted in late August 1914 when he was nineteen, joining the West Kent Yeomanry and saw service with them at Gallipoli and in Egypt before going on to serve in Palestine and France. He served as a Private, albeit holding the rank of corporal for two brief periods. By June 1918 Horace had returned to England to attend a cadet course, and he spent the remainder of the war working at the Larkhill Reception Camp in Wiltshire.

He is named on the Sevenoaks School’s Honour Board, in the 1914 Roll of Honour and on the roll of local serving men in St Nicholas’ Parish Church. His brother, Alfred, also saw service having joined the London Regiment (2nd Battalion) on the outbreak of war, but in 1916 was transferred to the West Riding Regiment (13th Battalion). Both brothers survived the war.

Horace was known for his interest in and talent for cricket, first displayed at School when he played in the First XI 1910 – 1912. He was later a member of the Kent County side between 1922 – 1928. Horace married Doris Austin in Tonbridge in 1935 and lived on until 1961.

Research has shown a further link with one of the men named on the Sevenoaks war memorial. In January 1916 Horace and Alfred’s sister, Millicent, married their former fellow pupil, Arthur Thompson, son of the Sevenoaks Post Office Superintendent.

imageArthur Herbert Thompson

Arthur was killed later that year in the September during the Battle of the Somme. The Sevenoaks School Quarterly obituary speaks of “his young wife, whose courage under her cruel loss has taught us all a lesson of endurance and faith”. Arthur’s brother,  Sidney Ernest Thompson, had died on 25 September 1915 and is buried at Greatness cemetery, Sevenoaks.

My thanks to Keith Davey and Sally Robbins, Archivist at Sevenoaks School, for their invaluable help with this post. Please do get in touch if you have a link to any of the other Sevenoaks Anzacs or men named on the war memorial.

Herbert Terry DCM: ‘A splendid example of courage’

A letter recently appeared in the Sevenoaks Chronicle from David Terry appealing for information regarding his grandfather, Herbert William Terry. David referred to an article, which I had seen, regarding his grandfather which had been printed in the Chronicle during the war and later reproduced as a ’75 years on’ item in the 1990s. Other than that I knew little about Herbert and so emailed David to see if he had any further information and if I could help him in his research.

Luckily David has family photos and newspaper clippings that helped us reveal Herbert’s story and research revealed that Herbert’s service papers had survived intact and I was able to send these to David.

Herbert was born in Sevenoaks in 1887 to Arthur Jasper Terry (1861 – 1916) and his wife, Margaret Eliza nee Spavins (1857 – 1946). The 1901 census shows the family living on Hartslands Road with Arthur working as a gardener and thirteen year old Herbert described as a ‘cyclists boy’, possibly for the Post Office.

Herbert was twenty seven and working as a gardener when he enlisted shortly after the war began at Maidstone on 7 September 1914. His service papers show that he was 5ft 6 ½ with a dark complexion, blue eyes and black hair. He initially joined the 7th Battalion, Royal West Kents and was later transferred to 9th Battalion in July 1915 and then in August of that year to the 8th. Herbert had married Mary Maria Mercer (1894 – 1966) in early 1914 and his first son and David’s father, Arthur Bertram Mons Terry, was born later that year, to be followed by five other children.

imageHerbert with wife, Mary and eldest son Arthur, who was also given the name of Mons

According to his papers, Herbert did not leave for the Front until 1 October 1915. His papers show an unblemished record (apart from one instance of slightly overstaying his leave which led to his forfeiting one days pay) and that he was promoted to Lance Corporal then Acting Corporal and finally to Corporal in the autumn of 1916.He was promoted to Sergeant the following year and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in early 1918. According to the citation in the London Gazette of 17 April 1918 he received the medal

‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He was one of a party which entered the enemy’s trenches and captured two prisoners. He has continually done excellent patrol work and has set a splendid example of courage and good leadership during a long period’.

Some months before this on 24 July  1917, Herbert sustained a shell wound to his left leg, which was subsequently amputated. Herbert spent some time in a hospital in St Albans recovering from his operation and was honourably discharged in September 1918.

imageHerbert in hospital in 1917

At the time the Chronicle noted that

‘Mrs Terry of Bushes Road (now Prospect Road) received the news that her husband, Sergeant Herbert Terry, had his left leg blown off in the recent fighting’

After the war, Herbert worked at the Sevenoaks Telephone Exchange as male supervising telephonist, for many years being in charge of the night staff. He retired after thirty years’ service, with another profile in the Sevenoaks Chronicle and recalled how the night staff had once consisted of himself and one assistant, having since grown to more than twenty. He also recalled hectic nights during the Second World War

‘with 80 copies of the war communique to write out in between the passing of air-raid warning messages to exchanges and civil defence units throughout the area’.

Herbert enjoyed a long retirement and died in 1976 aged 89 and is buried in Greatness Cemetery. If any reader remembers Herbert or his family, I know that David Terry would be very interested to hear from you.