Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Ninety Years On. Remembering the First World War (11)

Extract from ‘Notes For A Parish History’ (ERO T/P 188/3) written by Revd. E. H. L Reeve of Stondon Massey (Essex).

30th September 1918

Great Victories’ have been persistently won by the Allies in France and Flanders during the past week, all along the line from the coast, from Dixmude to Roulers to Lille and Cambrai and thus on to St Quentin and Reims to Verdun and the Mense. British, French and American have all shared in the wonderful progress, and among our own forces honours are shared by the Home and Colonial troops.

Next entry: 12th October 1918

Blackmore: Remembering ... Ian Miller

Lieutenant Arthur Ian Miller of the 6th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles was either killed or died of wounds in Gallipoli on 30th September 1916, aged 19. He was buried at Menes, but later his body was removed to Struma Military Cemetery, Salonika, Greece.

The ‘Commonwealth War Graves Commission’ includes the following citation:

Monday, 29 September 2008

Stondon Massey: Remembering ... Robert Ellis

Robert Ellis was the elder brother of Harry who came through the war. Revd Reeve visited him on 23rd December 1918. He wrote: “I have today seen Pte. Robert Ellis, the eldest son of our village servant of the same name. He was formerly page-boy at Stondon Place, then a carpenter in the employ of Mr J T Gann. He went to France in a live Regiment in 1915, but being slightly wounded and suffering from trench fever was sent to the base. On his recovery he was employed in the aerodrome sheds and being a clever tradesman he rapidly acquired the necessary mechanical knowledge. He liked the work, and describes graphically the minute details which had to be dealt with in refitting injured “planes” in the repairing sheds: each case having of course to be sent out “perfect to the last nut”. Sometimes from 10 to 20 aeroplanes would have to be repaired in a day, and sent out for further service. Ellis was up at the fighting line when he was badly “gassed”. The Germans had been shelling the station for some hours, but suddenly the shells were changed for gas bearers, and as none of the workers were ready with their anti-gas helmets many were instantly suffocated. He himself remembers nothing till he found himself in hospital at Boulogne. His heart and lungs had been badly affected, and he can only walk a short distance, and cannot sleep except when propped up in a sitting posture.

“Ellis speaks of the variety and deadly character of the poisonous gasses. Almost every day changes were made to the chemicals provided as the antiseptics in the gas-helmets. The baneful influence of the gas extended to 12 or 14 miles and could be detected on the brighter parts of rifle or bayonet or regimental buttons. Within a closer radius the poisonous effect was visible upon the vegetable crops, which would turn yellow, and upon rats and mice which could be found in fields and hedgerows”.

Robert James Ellis died of his injuries, aged 45, and was buried in Stondon Churchyard, on 15th February 1919. His brother, Harry, returned from France, following the funeral.

The ‘Commonwealth War Graves Commission’ includes the following citation:

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Doddinghurst: War Memorial

The War Memorial Tablet for Doddinghurst can be found inside the village church on the south wall.

It reads:

Dulce Est Pro Patria Mori
To the Glory of God and in ever honoured memory
Of the following officers and men
Who laid down their lives for their country
In the Great War, 1914 – 1918

2nd Lieut. Gerald Pigott RFA
Lieut. S St George Swaine Showers Essex Regt.
Pte. Arthur Benton Essex Regt.
Pte James Roast Essex Regt.
Pte Arthur Hammond Essex Regt.
Pte. Harry Benton Middlesex Regt.
Pte. George Everett Suffolk Regt
Pte. Harry Riglin Suffolk Regt.
Pte. George Hammond Suffolk Regt.
Pte. Herbert Miller E. Surrey Regt.

“Their Name Liveth For Evermore”

The War Memorial tablet includes the names of men also commemorated on the War memorial at Blackmore: Gerald Pigott (see entry 18.9.08), James Roast (see entry 2.10.08), Harry Riglin (see entry 1.10.08) and Herbert Miller (see entry 21.10.08).

St George Swaine Showers’ name also appears on the War Memorial tablet at Theydon Garnon. I do not know of his connection with Doddinghurst. There must have been only one person in the area of that name and rank. Revd. Reeve of Stondon Massey wrote: “Nephew of Mr Swaine Chisenhale Marsh of Gaynes Park Epping. He often visited a relative, Mr Cleave, as a lad who for a while rented the Soap-house [Farm]. He was wounded in July 1916, and for some time in the Military Hospital at Chatham. On Aug 9 1917 he was killed at Bapeausme” [T/P 188/3 f747].

This leads me to believe that there are several errors of omission and commission on memorials across the area, of Essex and probably the country as a whole.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Ninety Years On. Remembering the First World War (10)

Extract from ‘Notes For A Parish History’ (ERO T/P 188/3) written by Revd. E. H. L Reeve of Stondon Massey (Essex).

27th September 1918

School Children are everywhere employed gathering the blackberries in School Hours under the control of their Teachers. The fruit is packed in baskets provided of regulation size an sent by rail to the Army jam factories, while cheques are sent to the teachers and payment authorized to the children of threepence per pound, a strict account having to be returned to the Authorities of money expended and weight received and despatched.

Next entry: 30th September 1918

Epping: Remembering ... Peter Goodey

Today we remember Peter Goodey, born Stondon Massey, but remembered on the War Memorial at Epping.

GOODEY, Peter J. (29347) Private 1st/8th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
Died 27th September 1917 Age 19
Born in Stondon Massey. Son of Francis and Emily Goodey of Magdalen Laver, he enlisted in Epping and initially joined the Suffolk Regiment. He was transferred to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and died of wounds in September 1917.
Taken for the following site:

Friday, 26 September 2008

Ninety Years On. Remembering the First World War (9)

Extract from ‘Notes For A Parish History’ (ERO T/P 188/3) written by Revd. E. H. L Reeve of Stondon Massey (Essex).

26th September 1918

There are now some 25 aeroplanes at North Weald aerodrome. About 40 men are attached to each ‘plane for refitting etc: and some 1500 will probably be eventually at the station if it becomes a Flying School.

Over 400 Officers have passed through the Convalescent Hospital at Blake Hall since its inauguration in 1916 – 18 months ago.

Blackmore: Remembering ... Edwin Alexander

Able Seaman Edwin James Alexander served on Submarine E.36 No. J12975 and was killed in the North Sea, aged 23, on 17th January 1917. He is commemorated at Chatham.

The ‘Commonwealth War Graves Commission’ includes the following citation:http://www.cwgc.org/search/certificate.aspx?casualty=3052018

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Ninety Years On. Remembering the First World War (8)

Extract from ‘Notes For A Parish History’ (ERO T/P 188/3) written by Revd. E. H. L Reeve of Stondon Massey (Essex).

25th September 1918

No raids have been made during the full moon the enemy apparently having too much to think of elsewhere. Our aeroplanes are very active, and the droning of a number of them round the house through the night hours have lulled us to sleep with a feeling of security.

I have had a letter from Pte A Watts whose parents live in the village. He is in the Royal Herbert Hospital in Woolwich having been wounded in the right hand and thigh on the Arras front in France.

Blackmore: Remembering ... Ernest Martin

Ernest C Martin (known as ‘Nib’) of the 2nd Battalion Essex Regiment was killed in action in the Battle of the Somme on 25th September 1916. He was buried near Crones Wood.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Blackmore: Remembering ... William Rudling

William Edward Rudling of the 2nd Suffolk Regiment No. 27046 “Y” Co. was killed in action in the Battle of the Somme. August 1916.

The ‘Commonwealth War Graves Commission’ includes the following citation:

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Blackmore: Remembering ... Herbert Game

Private Herbert Charles Game served in the East Surrey Regiment No. 1040 “D” Co. He was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme, France on 16th August 1916 aged 25.

The ‘Commonwealth War Graves Commission’ includes the following citation:

Monday, 22 September 2008

Stondon Massey: Remembering ... William Chantry

William Chantry died in the final months of the War from sickness contracted. He had served in France where “much depended on the initiative and courage of individuals”. (An account of his return home on leave was recorded by Revd. Reeve on 8th August 1918).

Unusually, I can find no record of him on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Sad Shires and Bugles

The Essex Record Office is holding a one-day conference on 1 November 2008 entitled ‘Sad Shires and Bugles’, which will cover the impact of the Great War on Essex. Speakers will include Dr Paul Rusiecki, author of the soon to be published book, ‘The Impact of Catastrophe: the People of Essex and the First World War (1914-1920); Ken Crowe (Southend Museum); Stuart Halifax (University of Oxford) and Grahame Harris (Essex Record Office). Tickets which cost £12 for the day (10.00am to 4.30pm) are available from the ERO.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Moreton: Aircraft Hangar

In the pretty village of Moreton, near Ongar, there is a tatty shed probably due for demolition soon. It is an old aircraft hangar from North Weald Airfield.

Friday, 19 September 2008

North Weald Airfield Museum

North Weald Airfield Museum is based at Ad Astra House, the former station office of RAF North Weald. The Flight Station was opened in 1916, two years before the designation of the Royal Air Force, and closed in 1964.

The Museum has five rooms. Room 1 covers the period 1916 to 1939; Room 2, the Battle of Britain; Room 3, the civilians at war; Room 4 is dedicated to the allies who were based at North Weald and Room 5, events post World War II including the Cold War.

The Flight Station opened in August 1916 and was manned by a wing of the 39 Squadron, part of the operation at Suttons Farm and Hainault. The Commanding Officer was Major T C R Higgins. Their objective was to prevent Zeppelin attacks on London by means of two hour patrols with small 80hp biplanes called BE2c’s. With no radio signal and rudimentary cockpit instruments this was dangerous work. (Remember that manned flight began only in 1903). It was in this craft that W Leefe Robinson, F Sowtrey and W J Tempest shot down three Zeppelins in flames (see entry, ‘Zeppelins Over Essex’, 29.8.08). Room 1 tells us that Tempest crash landed his plane at North Weald after shooting down the Zeppelin over Potters Bar.

Having lost air supremacy, the Germans responded the following summer with a more formidable force: the Gotha bi-planes attacked London in June and July 1917 (see entry, ‘First Blitz’, 12.9.08). The Gothas were able to fly at a much greater altitude which meant that the ‘planes North Weald had could not engage with the enemy. In September 1917 the airfield was equipped with Bristol Fighters but saw no action until the attack by Gothas on the night of 19 May 1918. Lieutenant Arkell flying a Bristol Fighter, and a Sopwith Camel flown by the 78 Squadron, engaged with a Gotha which was brought down at East Ham. That Whitsunday was the last air raid of the war over London. The Squadron moved to France that summer and was disbanded on 16 November 1918 following the Armistice.

The North Weald Airfield Memorial, is a Debt of Honour to the 250 people who died while stationed on the airfield. Visitors to the Museum are given a folded A3 card containing their names. Eight personnel died during the First World War.

The Museum is run by volunteers and is open at weekends during the summer. Follow this link for more information.

F W G Hitchcock. The History of the RAF at North Weald.

Blackmore: Remembering ... Alfred Ellis

Private Alfred Ellis of Hook End served in the 1st Essex Regiment. He was killed in action at Gallipoli in June 1916. His name is remembered on the church window but not the War Memorial.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Blackmore: Remembering ... Gerald Wellesley Piggott

2nd Lieutenant Gerald Wellesley Pigott lived at Blackmore House, Hook End. He served in the 127th Battery, Royal Field Artillery and was killed in action in the second battle for Ypres. 14th May 1915, Aged 18. His father, Wellesley G Pigott, related in a letter to Revd. Reeve that the War Office could not allow his body to be brought home and laid to rest in Doddinghurst churchyard. A memorial service was held instead on 21st May 1915 with Rev. Adams (Doddinghurst rector) and Reeve taking part.

His name heads the list on the War Memorials at both Blackmore and Doddinghurst. He is also commemorated on Blackmore’s War Memorial window.

The ‘Commonwealth War Graves Commission’ includes the following citation:

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Blackmore: Remembering ... Walter Brazier

Walter Brazier, Stoker. 1st Class, served on the Royal Navy. H.M.S. "Laertes." He was killed at the Bight of Heligoland, 28th August 1914 and was buried at Shotley Cemetery.

The ‘Commonwealth War Graves Commission’ includes the following citation:

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Blackmore: War Memorial Window

Situated in what is now the Vestry of the Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore, is a memorial window to those who died in the First World War. From 1907 to 1988 this was the window to the Lady Chapel. It depicts St Michael and St George and bears the inscription: “To the Greater Glory of God and in memory of those connected with this parish who fell in the great war 1914 – 19. 2nd Lt. Gerald W Piggott, 2nd Lt. Ian Miller, Alfred Ellis, Herbert C Game, William E Rudling, Ernest C Martin, Arthur J Nash, Edwin Alexander, Harry Riglin, James Roast, Alfred Godding, Alfred Wheal, Ernest A Maynard, George W White, Herbert Miller, Edward Barker, Walter Herbert Wash RN, W H Scudder, Walter Brazier”.

The following is recorded in the Vestry Minute Book [ERO D/P 266/11]:

A meeting of Parishioners was held in the Church Hall in Tuesday February 25th 1919 with respect to the erection of a painted window in Blackmore Church in memory of those connected with the parish who had fallen during the War … [was] adopted unanimously.

The window lists all casualties except for Charles Wash (the brother of Walter Herbert Wash who was included) and brothers, David and Ted (Edward) Sutton. The deaths of Frank Monk (who died in 1921) and Jacob Wiltshire (who died in 1923) post-date the installation of the memorial.

Alfred Ellis’ name appears on the window but not on the War Memorial.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Stondon Massey: War Memorial

Stone or wooden pillars, crosses etc are common features in parishes across the country. They were erected because, in the vast majority of cases, those who died in World War One were buried near to where they fell and their bodies not brought back to ‘blighty’. This was their lasting memorial.

The War Memorial for Stondon Massey is on the north wall of the church. In the following passage, written by the then Rector, Revd. Edward Reeve, we learn of the possibly arbitrary nature in which the names of those who died in the Great War are commemorated.

“We did not move away very quickly at Stondon, but the matter was brought forward at the Parish Meeting in the spring of 1921, and a special meeting of Parishioners was in consequence summoned on Saturday evening April 16th. It was decided to erect an oaken Tablet … in keeping with the old oak screen and Jacobean pulpit and reading desk.

“The Suffragan Bishop of Barking (Dr. Inskip) most kindly agreed to come and dedicate the memorial when it should be ready for the unveiling, and the ceremony was finally arranged for Tuesday Dec 13th.

“The cost of the Memorial … was provided by voluntary subscriptions, practically every house in the village contributing something.

“The six names are all that we could fairly include, though Ernest Maynard, a Blackmore lad who worked in the Rectory garden here up to the time of enlisting, was well known, and almost eligible; and Fred Garnham, who fell in the Mons retreat, had been brought up in the village, but had married and joined from Radley Green, Writtle. R J Ellis was living at Norton [Mandeville] when he died, but was included as being a true Stondon lad, and with his old parents still in the parish” [ERO T/P 188/3 f860-863].

The inscription reads:

William Chantry Sapper RE
Robert James Ellis RAF
Herbert Walter Gann Sapper RE
Herbert Hasler Pte Middlesex Regt
Leonard Hasler Pte East Surrey Regt
William Hasler Pte Ryl Innskg Fusrs

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Researching First World War Ancestors

Sound advice has been shared on the web this week by members of the ‘Great War Forum’ to a query from Ian P which ran … “I am trying to research the men from my village (Farnham in Essex) that are named on the war memorial, because I think this should be done before everyone forgets who they were”.

Jay Dubaya referred the enquirer to ‘Soldiers who died in the Great War’:
In 1921 His Majesty's Stationery Office published, on behalf of and by authority of the War Office, two lists of those who died during the First World War. More than 703,000 names are included in this database. A search takes just seconds

Ian Turner added that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (http://www.cwgc.org/) is a further site.

“Another course is to look through the local newspaper archive (usually the local library) for the 1914-early 20's period. They often carried weekly casualty lists, including write-ups on some servicemen and even photographs (perhaps the 'Jewel in the Crown' for such research).

“Posting an advert in the local shops and post office, asking for any information on the names can be productive - I even wrote a letter to anyone with the same surname as those on the memorial and living in my village, asking if they were relatives and knew any history of the men named. It drew some very useful replies.

“Whilst looking at the newspaper archives keep an eye out for the planning, construction and unveiling of the memorial itself. That often produced newspaper articles containing useful info, and it can be an add-on to the history of the men in your book. If you know who is responsible for the memorial (more often the church or local/parish council) it might be worth asking if they have any files on the memorial which can contain interesting background info.

“You might hit 'brick walls' with some names - you might need to draw on family research facilities such as the 1901 census, Free Births, Marriages & Deaths, etc. They can often hold pointers for your searches.”

Jon 6640 then added: “This is a fabulous site: http://www.hut-six.co.uk/cgi-bin/search14-21.php. Put 'farnham in the 'including' box then search”.

For any further information, follow this thread. Well done chaps!! Hope you don’t mind me pinching your expertise and passing it on.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Book Review: First Blitz

Someone once said that “the first casualty of war is truth”. Neil Hanson is criticised by some reviewers of his new book ‘First Blitz’ for the claim that the Germans intended to raze London to the ground in 1918. The truth that the enemy never bombed Tower Bridge and the British side suppressed the reporting of the events of war in the newspapers illustrates the case well. But the German development of the ‘Elektron’ high incendiary bomb in the summer of 1918 never tested the resolve of Londoners because bad weather, the need for ‘planes elsewhere, the fear of British reprisals and the losses of the enemy on the Western Front caused attacks to be countermanded at short notice.

The First Blitz covered the period 25 May 1917 to 19 May 1918. Neil Hanson explains the raids in graphic detail told in the words of the German bombers in the Gotha aeroplanes and survivors on the ground who witnessed the bombs dropped and carnage caused. The first raid, in daylight over Folkestone, on the Friday before the Whitsun bank holiday, tells how shoppers marvelled at the sight of circling aeroplanes above only to become victim moments later. The planned attack on London had been aborted due to cloud.

Daylight air raids on London followed on 13 June and 7 July 1917 (witnessed by Revd Reeve: see entry ‘Chronicler of the Great War’, 15.8.08). Hanson describes how the Gothas were operating at the very limit of their capability in order to reach London, drop their cargo and return safely to base before the reserve supply of fuel ran out. Quite a number did not make it, either on the onward or return journey. Perfect weather conditions were required. The ‘planes took the shortest route over land to London over Foulness in Essex before turning over Epping Forest towards London. Blackmore and Stondon Massey lie underneath this course. Moonlight raids followed over an almost consecutive period from 24 September to 1 October caused the frightened public to demand for counter-attack. Had the ‘Blitz of the Harvest Moon’ been sustained, unrest and the fall of Government could have been possible.

Hanson puts the loss of life from the air raids into perspective: the attacks killed 836 and injured 1965. By comparison the losses on the Western Front exceeded that figure in a day. The fact that war was waged on civilians though crossed the boundary of acceptability.

British defences were ineffective against air raid attack. Indeed, looking at the Great War as a whole, it seems clear that Germany was equipped for war in the air whereas Britain regarded flying as a gentleman’s leisurely pursuit. Searchlights and gunfire from the ground were a futile and expensive attempt to bring down these aircraft from high altitude; indeed people were killed on the ground as a result of ‘friendly fire’ from flying shrapnel (See entry, ‘Blitz of the Harvest Moon’, 3.10.08). Until the development of the Sopwith Camel by the Allies, the Gothas (and later ‘Giants’) were no match.

In the enemy’s final raid of Whitsunday, 19 May 1918, aeroplanes capable of attack were scrambled from Sutton’s Farm (Hornchurch), Hainault, North Weald, Stow Maries and other airfields around the City’s perimeter.

At 436 pages, and containing almost 90 pages of notes and references, ‘First Blitz’ is a detailed but not heavy read of these times. It is a book for grown ups not the young or faint hearted.

Links to other reviews

From The Telegraph: “The first sorties were mounted over eight successive nights in 1917. The following summer, as the war on the Western Front reached its climax, the bombers were back - this time armed with a fearsome new weapon - the Elektron bomb, an incendiary deliberately designed to create a city-consuming firestorm to rival Pepys's conflagration in 1666.
“Fortunately for London, the bombs were too unreliable, the bombers too few in number, and the London air defences - belatedly set up after the Zeppelin raids of 1916 - too effective, for the 'Fire Plan', as the Germans called their raid, to have the desired effect.”

‘First Blitz’ by Neil Hanson (Doubleday, 2008) is available in hardback. £17.99 (but can be found cheaper elsewhere – e.g. Amazon)

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Ninety Years On. Remembering the First World War (7)

Extract from ‘Notes For A Parish History’ written by Revd. E. H. L Reeve of Stondon Massey (Essex).

11th September 1918

The Harvest has been everywhere especially bountiful and the weather unusually favourable for gathering it in.

It is said that the supply of corn is sufficient. Ploughing is begun again already, and the importance of the grain crop seems to have established itself at last in the national mind.

Coal Rationing is being rapidly arranged as foreshadowed. The scheme will work out for the benefit of the poor who will be entitled to an amount fully equal to their usual pre-War consumption.

The larger houses will undoubtedly find their supply much curtailed, the year’s allowance for the Rectory being only 11 tons, three tons of coke being allowed to be substituted for two tons of coal.

Next entry: 25th September 1918

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Ninety Years On. Remembering the First World War (6)

Extract from ‘Notes For A Parish History’ written by Revd. E. H. L Reeve of Stondon Massey (Essex).

10th September 1918

I visited the Convalescent House for Officers at Blake Hall today for the special purpose of calling on a Lieut Eyre commended to me by a mutual friend at Hampstead. I found the patient a bright young man of 23 or 24 years slowly recovering from a spinal wound received at Passchendaele in July 1917 which has partially paralysed his lower limbs and necessitated crutches. He had great hopes of the war being brought to a conclusion in 1919, but believed that in any case the weight of America would tell by 1920.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Ninety Years On. Remembering the First World War (5)

Extract from ‘Notes For A Parish History’ (ERO T/P 188/3) written by Revd. E. H. L Reeve of Stondon Massey (Essex).

9th September 1918

It seems wonderful indeed to think that such a great change can have come over the world since July 18th when General Fock’s counter-attack commenced.

Every day is brought news of an extended retreat on the part of the enemy.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Highwood: Remembering ... Fred Garnham

Frederick Garnham was killed on 8th September 1914 in the retreat from Mons. His name appears on the War Memorial at Highwood.

Revd Reeve wrote on 30th October 1914: “We hear of the death of Private Fred Garnham, killed in action in France, early in September. Now living at Radley Green near Writtle, his father for some years held the Soap house Farm in Stondon. (His widow afterwards received on his behalf the 1914 Star and Riband issued in commemoration of the Gallantry shown by our “contemptible little Army”)”.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Bobbingworth: War Memorial

The War Memorial Tablet for Bobbingworth (also known as Bovinger) can be found inside St Germain’s Church. I spotted it when visiting the parish’s Bank Holiday Monday “At Home” fete.

It reads:

GREAT WAR 1914 – 1918

C Bowles DVR RFA
W Broomfield Pte AVC
J T Burling Pte R Suss Rgt
C Dawkins Pte Northants Rgt
G Hudson Pte Middlesex Rgt
A Knight L Cpl R Berks Rgt
W Knight Pte Essex Rgt
O J Lazell GNR RGA
F Millar Pte Worc Rgt
F Shipway Pte Worc Rgt
M I Wright Pte Essex Rgt

Their name liveth for evermore

Friday, 5 September 2008

Book Review: The Last Fighting Tommy

There is nothing singularly remarkable about Harry Patch’s service in the Great War. At 18 he was called up (conscription was compulsory) to serve ‘King and Country’ and spent time on the Western Front in Passchendaele before being wounded in September 1917 and sent home to recuperate. The story of this Somerset man is replicated across millions of his generation. But the fact that at the age of 108 (he is now 110), as one of the oldest surviving veterans of the First World War, he decided to write an autobiography telling of his experience is remarkable. Only in recent years, since the age of 100, has Harry decided to tell his story. Like almost all who served the vivid remembrance of the battles is something which was not talked about. Harry Patch was born in 1898. In his training for military service, this plumber by trade, learned to use a Lewis Gun and be a second team member of six. He describes the closeness of this small group, the sharing of the cigarettes, pipe tobacco and cake sent from home, the mutual support in times of trouble, and the sadness afterwards learning that three of his comrades were blown up by a shell which injured Harry in the stomach with a two inch piece of shrapnel, removed without anaesthetic because there was none available. Life in the trenches is talked about and the fear that the men had of not surviving perhaps the next day. He mentions going ‘over the top’, those wounded and those shell shocked by the experience. This is not a book lurid in detail but oral history at its best.

‘The Last Fighting Tommy’ by Harry Patch with Richard Van Emden (Bloomsbury, 2008) is available in paperback. £7.99

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Book Review: Essex And Its Race For The Skies 1900-1939

Graham Smith charts the history of aviation, pre- and post World War One, from a local perspective devoting a chapter (entitled ‘When Death Rained From The Skies’) to the air raids by Zeppelins, and aeroplanes (the Gothas and Giants, otherwise known as ‘R-planes’).

Aviation was the hobby of gentlemen who became personalities. Britain lagged seriously behind the Germans in the development of craft and defence of the air. The opening of Flight Stations at Goldhanger, Suttons Farm (Hornchurch), North Weald, and Stow Maries came as a response to the fearful attacks by Zeppelins. Initially these airfields held a flight of six aeroplanes.

The book is illustrated with pictures of the aeroplanes, a Zeppelin, bomb damage at Braintree and reproduction postcard of Lieut. W Leefe Robinson, who brought down the Zeppelin at Cuffley.

‘Essex And Its Race For The Skies’ by Graham Smith (Countryside Books, 2007) is available in paperback. £10.99.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Zeppelins Over Essex (2)

3 September.1916 2.22am.

There were scenes of jubilation when the ‘baby killer’ was shot down on this day in 1916.

But perhaps today we should spare a thought for those who were our enemies and died not only in the air raids but in the theatre of battle.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Stondon Massey: Revd. Raymond Audley Dunbar-Heath (1884 to 1962)

Revd. Dunbar-Heath was Rector of Stondon Massey from 1940 to 1945. He saw active service as a stretcher bearer on the Somme, where he got hit and suffered deafness through ‘shell concussion’. “The shell killed three of our squad, one of whom was carrying a stretcher with me, and wounded two besides myself.” Follow this link to read the full account plus his son’s visit to Stondon.

Monday, 1 September 2008

High Ongar: War Memorial

Large parish with a large number of names remembered.


Welcome to this month’s round-up of local history and heritage in and around Blackmore, Essex.

Manufactured History

Some residents in Blackmore were agog to see new stocks erected on the village green over the past few weeks (see photo). Clearly this is not a new anti-social behaviour measure so why replace the old ones? Local people can be reassured that ancient stocks have not been swept away. The truth is that these new ones – with locks! – are replacing those put there about 30 years ago. These are merely a decorative embellishment to the surroundings and not anything of historical importance. It’s fake or manufactured heritage.

School still for sale

The former school, which went up for sale in January 2008, remains unsold. Someone must want this historic property!

On The Buses

From today, 1 September, Imperial is taking over the 261 bus route between Blackmore and Brentwood from Clintona. Imperial has the 32 route from Chelmsford to Ongar via the village. I note this for the record.

Church Faces Bill For Woodpecker Damage

Urgent work is necessary to repair damage caused by woodpeckers to Blackmore’s famous bell tower (pictured at top of blog). A recent five-yearly inspection of the church fabric tells the Parochial Church Council (PCC) that this work needs to be done. The PCC, whose responsibility it is to commission the work, is considering the repair of the worst weatherboards and replacement of missing shingles (wooden tiles) to the spire. Work was last carried out in autumn 2002, again due to woodpecker damage.

Church Weddings

I include this news item from ‘Church Matters’ the magazine of the parish churches of Blackmore and Stondon Massey because it may be of interest to family historians.

Thousands of couples dreaming of a wedding will find more churches to choose, from 1 October 2008 – the day when the new ‘Church of England Marriage Measure’ comes into effect.

The ‘Marriage Measure’, which has recently completed its parliamentary process, has made it possible for the Bishops to issue guidance to clergy on how the new rules will work. Existing marriage law, dating from 1949, established the right for a couple to marry in the Church of England in the parish church where one or both of them live, whether they are baptised or not, and whether they were churchgoers or not. To marry in any other parish other than the one in which they live requires a special licence or six months regular attendance followed by entry on the local Church Electoral Roll.

The new law, initiated by the Church of England and now approved by Parliament, will add to this right of residency, making it just as easy for couples to marry in a church where they have a family or other special connection, even if they don’t live there.

The General Synod decided that the existing laws were too restrictive in what has become a far more mobile society and took the initiative to change them last July. Synod wanted churches all over England to be free to celebrate more weddings and thereby support more marriages.

The changes will mean an engaged couple are welcome to be married in church in a parish if just one of these applies:

- one of them was baptised or prepared for confirmation in the parish;

- one of them has ever lived in the parish for six months or more;

- one of them has at any time regularly attended public worship in the parish church for six months or more;

- one of their parents has lived in the parish for six months or more in their child’s lifetime;

- one of their parents has regularly attended public worship at the parish church for six months or more in their child’s lifetime;

- their parents or grandparents were married in the parish church.

Vaughan Williams Anniversary

In addition to my item on this site (‘Vaughan Williams and Essex’, 2.8.08), Sylvia Kent, has also written an article about Ralph Vaughan Williams’ connection with this part of Essex. Sylvia Kent – mentioned last month – writes a history and lifestyle blog, says that RVW is her favourite composer. (Mine too.) Follow this link:

Tony Kendall, ‘The Essex Man’, released a fabulous album telling the story of Vaughan Williams’ visit to Ingrave and the surrounding area. The CD is called "A Bicycle Ride with Vaughan Williams". Read more about him here.

Finally, an item from ‘Socialist Worker’ which refers to Vaughan Williams’ service as an ambulance driver in the First World War; his music and his life-long political aspirations.

5 September 1958 – the storm

It has been a particularly nondescript August weather-wise this year with much rain. (The corn harvest is three weeks later this year than usual, the field on the boundary of the village being cut on 27 August). But it is nothing compared to fifty years ago in this area. This was the great storm of Friday 5 September 1958 when a month’s rainfall came down in one evening. It had been a wet summer and the ground was already sodden, my father tells me. Farmers (again) were later than usual getting in the harvest and after work that day the sky turned grey; there was an enormous display of sheet lightning; the clouds opened and a deluge of rain fell. Rivers very quickly burst their banks. Within the space of 2 hours, 2500 flashes of lighting had lit up the skies and, in Chelmsford, 70mm (2¾ inches) of rain fell [Source: Currie et al. The Essex Weather Book p96]

Events in nearby Billericay are recalled in the following link. “… A resident of Australia who lived in Billericay in the late 1950s … remembers the great storm of 5/6 September 1958. This was one of those 'once in a century' freak weather events. I don't know how much rain fell, but my correspondent notes that he discovered next morning 'that our road had been gouged up by the rain water and there were people talking about how the lake [in Lake Meadows Park] had overflowed threatening to flood us.

R Roberts writes “That night, September 5th, 1958 is one I will never forget. There was tremendous lightning and heavy rain before I got on the train at Liverpool Street station for Southend; it was standing room only. We went slowly past several stations and at Ilford we stopped and stayed all night as the line was flooded much of the way to Southend.

“There had been 3.27 inches of rain recorded at Wickford in 90 minutes! I finally arrived at Rochford at 6am, to be met by my father, who said the water was nearly up to the platform at the height of the storm!”

Finally, a website telling of a hail stone which fell that night in Horsham, Sussex, weighing 191g. It was the heaviest hailstone recorded in Britain. There is also an extract from ‘The Times’.
“Chaos on roads and railways, land slips, severe flooding and damage by lightning were caused by storms which broke over southern England last night. … The South bore the brunt of storm. … Southend-on-Sea was cut off by rail from London. Floodwater swamped across a bridge at Pitsea, 10 miles west of Southend, stopping all trains in both directions. On the Liverpool Street line the electric service was stopped because of swirling waters across the line at Brentwood. … blockages of the Eastern Region line at Brentwood, which was flooded, and Chelmsford, where there was a landslide, became total blockages and no trains ran between London and Colchester direct. Early to-day the region called in the Army to provide transport for hundreds of stranded passengers.”

I would be glad to hear from anyone who remembers that Friday night.

Weather in Willingale Doe

Search engines do funny things. This link has looked at the index of Blackmore Area Local History and found the words ‘weather’ and ‘Willingale’ to assume that the item about the Ongar Union Workhouse is about that. Well, hailstones damaged the windows in the storm of 24 June 1897 but, other than that, it is a tenuous link. http://united-kingdom.relocate-anyplace.selfip.com/relocate/United%20Kingdom/Essex/Willingale%20Doe

Heritage Weekend

Brentwood Borough Council has issued a leaflet giving details of Heritage Open Day events. The following places therefore in our local area are open to celebrate the nation’s Heritage Weekend:
All Saints Church, Hutton. Thursday 11 September & Friday 12 September, 2-5pm; Saturday 13 September, all day (but there may be a wedding); Sunday 14 September, service times and 2.30 – 4.30pm
All Saints Church, East Horndon. Sat 13 Sep, 10am – 6pm; Sun 14 Sep, 11am – 5pm
Brentwood Museum. Sat 13 Sep & Sun 14 Sep, 2.30 – 4.30pm
Brentwood Roman Catholic Cathedral. Thu 11 Sep, 10am – 4pm; Fri 12 Sep, 12pm – 4pm; Sat 13 Sep, 3pm – 5pm; Sun 14 Sep, 2.30pm – 5pm
Brentwood School. Sat 13 Sep, half hour guided tour at 11am only
Christ Church, Warley. Sat 13 Sep, 10am – 4pm; Sun 14 Sep; 12pm – 4pm
St Thomas’ Church, Navestock. Sat 13 Sep, 11am – 3pm
St Peter’s ‘Church, South Weald. Sun 14 Sep, 2pm – 5pm
Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore. Thu 11 Sep, 2.00pm – 4.30pm; Fri 12 Sep, 1.00pm – 4.00pm; Sat 13 Sep, 10am - 4pm; Sun 14 Sep, 2.30pm – 4.30pm
St George The Martyr Church, Ongar Road, Brentwood. Thu 11 Sep & Fri 12 Sep, 10am – 12noon; Sat 13 Sep, 10am – 5pm; Sun 14 Sep, 12pm – 5pm
St Mary The Virgin Church, Great Warley. Sat 13 Sep, & Sun 14 Sep, 12noon – 4pm
St Thomas A Becket Chapel Ruins, Brentwood. Sat 13 Sep, 10.30am – 3.30pm. Conservation work explained
Warley Place (once belonged to Ellen Willmott, Victorian gardener). Sat 13 Sep & Sun 14 Sep, 10am to 5pm. Tours at 11am, 1pm, 3pm.

House history

One of the objectives of Blackmore Area Local History is to encourage others to research their surroundings, and not be frightened to visit archives such as the Essex Record Office. This month, Ruth has written to me to ask whether a place known as ‘The Old School House’ was ever a school. The property stood where the entrance to Meadow Rise now is off of Blackmore Road (previously named Brentwood Road). Tying up schoolmasters and schoolmistresses who lived in the village through the ages with the schools in which they taught is proving a challenge.

As a more general point, it might be possible to investigate the history of your house in Blackmore, Stondon and the surrounding area at the Essex Record Office. Chris Harvey’s website for Great Baddow contains a link to a presentation given to their Historical Society. I include details and the link below.

“How to dig into the past of your house: “House History in Essex” by Allen Buckroyd & Gloria Harris. (based on a leaflet produced by Essex Records Office) Presentation given at the Great Baddow Historical Society on Friday, 29 September 2006. Please note the Powerpoint download file size is 7.7MB”.

Stondon Church photo

I include this simply because it is an excellent photograph showing the Roman tiles on the west end of St Peter & St Paul Church, Stondon Massey (Essex). http://www.flickr.com/photos/chelmsfordblue/2388518314/

Great War commemoration

Our commemoration of the First World War continues on this site with more contemporary entries from Revd. Reeve of Stondon Massey and the ‘Friday Feature’, covering a topic in more detail. Beginning this month we dedicate a day to one of the lives of those who fell in the war and who are (mostly) remembered on War Memorials: (Stondon Massey will be featured on Mondays and Blackmore from Tuesdays through to Fridays.)

I am especially keen to create a reasonably comprehensive site containing memories and links with World War One in the local area so will be happy to publish any stories for posterity, either on the blog or the new website.

Blackmore History. co. uk

Blackmore Area Local History has a website in test. There are now two pages completed. Firstly, an index of peoples’ names in Blackmore cribbed from various primary sources (original documents) and secondary sources (books etc). Follow this link:
Then there is a complete transcript of the Blackmore Electoral Register for 1910. Predating the First World War, and universal suffrage, one can recognise the family names of those who served. Follow this link: