When A Hundred Years isn’t Linear



The above picture published today by Geoff Hallum on the Hamble River & Its Villages Facebook Page raised an interesting perspective on progress over time.

Exactly one hundred years ago today the children of Hamble-le-Rice, a Village on the Hampshire Coast in England marched up the hill from the Quayside to the Village Square wearing their Sunday Best.  Although the Armistice wasn’t signed for another couple of weeks the people of the UK celebrated on the 19th.

In 1919 most houses in the village did not have electricity, or inside toilets, or bathrooms.  Measles and Flu were killer diseases.  Motor Cars were just starting to more widely available to the better off, with echoes of modern days with Joseph John Sedgewick of the Parish of Hound being fined for “Driving a Motor Car in a manner dangerous to the Public” on Hamble Lane, at the outrageous and lunatic speed of 25 mph (!), he was fined £1.

20 years later the boys in this picture would be Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen fighting in WW2 and many of the girls were tilling the land as Land Girls and working in the Spitfire factories in Southampton, as German Bombers roared up the Hamble and Solent to attack the Spitfire airfield at Hamble and the Factories in Southampton, taking fire from the gun batteries along the Hamble Peninsula and Solent Shores.


25 Years and one day after the Children marched, WW2 was unexpectedly almost ended when a group of German Officers lead by Claus von Stauffenberg planted a bomb that would injure Hitler without killing him, meaning the war would carry on into another year. Claus von Stauffenberg was executed by the Nazis for the attempted assassination.

Exactly 25 years after the attempt on Hitler, and 50 years and one day after the Children processed through the Village Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon.  In only 50 years the world had gone from sailing ships and steamers moving crabs and strawberries along the Hamble River, and drivers being arrested for travelling at 25 mph to the Apollo Moon Rockets.


So the Moon Landing is exactly midway between today and the Children’s March in Hamble. How staggering that relative progress has slowed in the period between 1969 to 2019 compared to 1919 and 1969.  Just think if we’d progressed at the same rate, we could have had colonies on Mars.

Happily some things remain the same, the houses visible in the Children’s picture are still there, one is a bed and breakfast, and the other a small shop, and the Hamble River still flows down to the Solent.


Published in: on July 19, 2019 at 6:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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London Bridge on the Hamble





Having been born and bred near “The River” in London (there is only “The River” as far as Cockneys are concerned), and having a Dad who worked on Tower Bridge in London for much of his later life,  I’ve always been attracted to the life and history of Rivers.

So you can imagine my surprise and delight when I saw that our local Maritime Artist in Hamble-le-Rice, Barry Lester, had brought London to Hamble in one unique beautiful drawing.

Just in case you can’t imagine it, I have included the picture below, where I am displaying both surprise and delight to save you from having to actually imagine it.  I’m on the left of the picture, Barry the artist is on the right.


Barry loves to spend time drawing with his Grandchildren in London, and having drawn London Bridge “Falling Down” to reflect the children’s’ nursery rhyme, complete with London eye and a modern London Bridge, he was surprised by the amount of interest in the picture by other children and their parents.  Developing the theme Barry decided to draw London Bridge in one of its older incarnations in a more commercial way.

Put which period in history to choose?  The Roman wooden Bridge reinforced and defended by Danish Vikings that was pulled down by rival Norwegian Vikings fighting as mercenaries for the English?  Or perhaps the Mediaeval Bridge over which stormed Watt Tyler’s peasant army?  But no, there was one era of London Bridge’s life that showed it in all its architectural complexity, and one day when London changed from Mediaeval to modern.  That day was Saturday 1st September 1666, the day before the Great Fire of London.

Barry researched the artistic history of the Bridge and found that it had never been drawn in its entirety from that period.  The result is a unique and fascinating view of a London icon as it hasn’t been seen in nearly half a millennium.   That stretches for x feet and draws you in to the hustler and bustle of life in Renaissance London.

Most importantly prints of this fantastic artwork are available for purchase from Barry just in time for Christmas, if you are interested please drop a line to paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk.


If you would like to know a little more about the history of London Bridge read on…

When did London Bridge Fall down?

“London Bridge is falling down,
falling down,
falling down,
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair Lady!”

It fell down twice, both times it was pulled down by the hands of men.

The tune and words of the nursery rhyme above had been adapted and formalised in the 1600s, but the song and the “playing at arches” a children’s game where by the players held each others’ hands above their heads to form an arch, whilst their friends held hands and travelled underneath,  had roots going back into mediaeval times, and beyond to the Viking period.

Good Vikings and bad Vikings

In 1014 Ethelred The Un-Read (un-read = badly advised, rather than “Unready”) hired a mercenary Norwegian Viking force to sail up the Thames and attack London, held at that time by King Cnut’s father Sweyn and his Danish Vikings.  The Norwegians tied ropes around the stanchions of the fortified wooden London Bridge, hurled grappling hooks onto its fortifications, turned their longships around, hoisted sail to catch a westerly breeze, and rowed hard with the downstream tide to wreck the fortified bridge, allowing them to bring their own and Ethelred’s English ships and troops up the Thames and outflank the Danes, forcing the Danish garrison to give up control of London and Southwark back to Ethelred and the English.

This was celebrated in a Viking Saga in a poem that went;

“Yet you broke the Bridge of London,
Stout hearted warrior,
You conquered the land
Iron swords made headway
Strongly urged to fight;
ancient shields were broken,
Battle’s fury mounted”


The Rhyme obviously would have scanned better in Old Norse, but it tells the tale, and Grappling hooks and Viking axes and swords have been found in the Thames at the site to reinforce the romance of the story with archaeology.   The Viking who pulled London Bridge down,  Olaf Haraldsson, later became ruler of Norway, and on his death was hailed as a very popular Saint in England becoming St Olaf, with a Church in Southwark by the side of the rebuilt London Bridge, which you can visit today, now known as St Olave’s.  This was typical of robust British paganism lightly dressed as Christianity, a Norwegian Viking General hailed as a saint by the people of London, for helping to recapture their City, by slaughtering the Danes.

An Act of Royal Penance

The mediaeval bridge that Barry has drawn was built to by Henry II as part of his penance for causing the murder of his former friend Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket, the bridge facilitated pilgrimage from London to Canterbury where Becket’s Tomb was situated.  More importantly the Bridge served London from Southwark and the Kent Coast and surrounding countryside, and with commerce, travel, and trade.

The bridge would be affected by the Great Fire of London with many buildings damaged, but the structure survived.


London Bridge saved Southwark from the Great Fire, as despite many of the buildings on its North side being destroyed in the fire, there was a natural firebreak in the Bridge’s structure towards the south side.  This had saved Southwark twice, once in a fire of 1632, but now more importantly from the Great Fire.

The bridge never fully recovered in architectural terms from the Great Fire and by 1762 the stone mediaeval bridge was 600 years old.  It once stood full of brick and stone buildings along its length, some several stories high, a spectacular site in mediaeval times, as portrayed by Barry, but these had been demolished in that year of 1762, to improve the flow of foot and horse traffic across the bridge.

London Bridge still presented a hazard to navigation, and even with a widened mid-span was unnavigable for large ships.  This blockage to large ships meant that the building of bigger ships could only be carried on down stream in and around the Poplar area.  So London Bridge inadvertently gave rise to the shipwrights of the Port of London in what is nowadays called “Docklands”.  As with many aspects of London, the River Thames and its history decided the trade and future of the lives of its working class inhabitants.


Falling down again

Times were changing, in 1810 Locks were put in up River from London at Teddington, bringing the tidal reach of the Thames back 16 miles down river from its former reach at Staines, taming and controlling the River’s ebb and flow upstream.

A few years later London Bridge finally did fall down, this happened when the “new” London Bridge was built between 1825 and 1831, the old bridge was torn down once the new bridge was completed, and the new bridge had a major impact on the Thames transport.


Much wider spans meant  that progress for boats was much safer than it had been, people could be transported with much less risk, and this was taken advantage of by unlicensed watermen, swarming like unlicensed mini-cabs to transport travellers up and down the river.  Worse still from the traditional Waterman’s point of view, steamboats came onto the river scene in large numbers from the 1830s and by 1835 it was estimated that around 3.5 million passengers travelled each year between The City and Blackwall, virtually all by steamboat.

The age of the Old London Bridge, as drawn by Barry, was finally over, but you can still own a fantastic work of art depicting it by contacting:

Time Detectives on paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk

You can also ask for me to research and write a factual novel of your family History, usually up to 100 pages of your own unique Family Story drawn out of actual historical records.  You can have your Family Story and a full Surname Line Family Tree for £600.  Great for Christmas, Birthdays, and Weddings.




The Russians are Coming!

(To Build you a nice Orangery)

I’m a professional Genealogist and writer, and I make a point of “collecting” interesting names, whether it’s on a commission to draw up a Family Tree, or just to set myself the odd challenge, and keep my Time Detective skills sharp.

A constant source of joy to me is meeting a complete stranger, hearing a name, and within a couple of weeks coming up with their Family Story, hopefully to their delight and amazement.

I have a terrible habit of engaging people to do work on my home, and to the horror of my wife, spend a couple of weeks distracting them from painting the window frames, or building the Orangery with wonderful insights into stories from their tree, that shows how they came to be where they are and who they are, bringing to life the people who gave them both their DNA (genes) and family mythology (memes) in the process.

The latest encounter happened when we bought our house down on the soft and sunny Hampshire coast in the village of Hamble-le-Rice on the peninsula between Southampton and Portsmouth. wp_20161126_11_57_20_pro The old conservatory had seen better days, and after checking out check-a-trade to find a builder with a good reputation in the area, we brought in The Swede brothers from Platinum Windows and Conservatories (there’s a plug for you Dan) to build us an Orangery.platlogo

Dan and Mark turned up in the cold December one with a woolly hat, the other with a Russian fur hat and set to work with their varied electricians, plasterers, builders, and floor screed layers (Dan’s father in law as it turned out), and builder’s apprentice Reece.

Hearing the brother’s really unusual surname of “Swede” and seeing Dan in his Russian hat, on a frosty morning, for all the world looking and the brothers had just got off a Russian widow-maker class nuclear submarine parked at Hamble Quay, got my mind working.  My wife spotted this, and I got the usual lecture on “…and don’t you start giving them loads of cups of tea and stopping them from working!”  I assured her I wouldn’t, then of course, did the opposite, I am a bloke after all, as soon as she was out the door and off to Pilates class, I put the kettle on, and started asking them about their family.

To cut a long story short, the “Swedes” were from Liverpool, put the name obviously wasn’t so the search began, and I gradually unfolded their forgotten story.


In 1821 the Greek Orthodox Church’s Patriarch Gregory V was summarily executed in Constantinople by the order of the Turkish Ottoman Sultan Mahmud.  The Sultan held Gregory responsible for failing to do enough to repress the Greek uprisings that would lead to eventual Greek Independence from Turkey, backed by such notaries as Lord Byron who travelled to Greece and took an active role in the uprising.  The execution of Gregory was a typical reaction from an evil despot to a man who had failed to deliver his will.


Seizing of Patriarch Gregory of Constantinople By Nikiphoros Lytras

Gregory was dragged from his Cathedral after celebrating Easter, and along with many Greek residents in Constantinople, murdered by the Turks.  To add insult to injury, and possibly to divert the guilt for what he had done, Sultan Mahmud ordered representatives of the Jewish population in Constantinople to drag the Patriarch’s body through the streets and then throw it into the Bosphorus, which they did albeit under some duress and fear for their own lives.


Gregory Thrown into the Bosphorus by Peter Hess

In retaliation to this the large population of Greeks living in the Southern Russian Port of Odessa in the Crimea rose up and murdered fourteen local Jews, there being few Turks available to be murdered, and the Jews made an easier target.  So the murder of Patriarch Gregory falsely identified “Jews” as “enemies” of Orthodox Christians,  and the subsequent Odessa riots by local Greeks showed that the Jewish population made an easier  and more available target to attack than the few and far between Turks in Russia.  Let’s face it, if you’re a bigoted psychopathic religious maniac, you don’t want to be wasting your time searching the docks for Turks, especially when they may be armed seamen capable of fighting back, much better to show your devotion to mother church by killing a few of your placid unarmed neighbours, murder, rape and pillage the easy way.

So, thanks to a psychotic Turkish Sultan, and the frustrated anger of Crimean dwelling Greeks, there began a long tradition of “Pogroms” i.e. murderous riots against Jews in Russia.  Further riots happened in Odessa in 1859, but the real series of Pogroms that had a major effect on the Jewish population of Russia started in 1881.

Assassination of Tsar Alexander II

During the late 1800s there was a rise in a pre-communist revolutionary movement in Europe, these Revolutionaries took the title of “Anarchists” and tended to be a mix of educated middle class leaders fired with a sense of social injustice and a desire to devolve society back to an imaginary simpler time of people all living together in happy communes, and the foot soldiers, usually young men, often from middle class families, or from families that had fallen on hard times, sometimes from the real actual oppressed minorities who had genuine grievances, and quite often either atheists or Jewish.

In 1880 Anarchists had made an attempted to assassinate Tsar Alexander II of Russia, which was a pity as he was one of the few Tsars in the whole of Russia’s history who had actually tried to bring about some reforms of the harsh Russian economic system that kept millions of peasants on the borderline of starvation.  The 1880 attempt was unsuccessful, and the Government took precautions to protect their head of state.

In 1881, in St Petersburg, an anarchist, a young man named Nikolai Rysakov, a member of the Narodnaya Volya (Peoples’ Will) Movement, threw a bomb under the carriage of the Tsar, it exploded killing one of his cossack outriders and injuring a number of bystanders.  The Tsar was fortunate to be travelling in a bullet proof carriage, a present from the Emperor Napoleon III of France, and was to all intents and purposes unhurt.  The carriage had done what it was meant to, and completely protected him from harm.


The Tsar’s guards rushed in, captured Rysakov, and at that point the Emperor made the mistake of stepping out of his carriage to inspect the place where the explosion had happened.  As Rysakov was being dragged away he saw one of his fellow terrorists in the crowd, Ignacy Hryniewiecki , and called out to him.  Hryniewiecki shouted “it is too early to thank God!” a threw a bomb at the feet of the Tsar.  The Tsar looked down in disbelief before the bomb exploded mortally wounding him and killing and maiming twenty other bystanders and members of his retinue.  An eye witness described the white of the snow covered street littered with pieces of clothing, severed limbs, broken sabres from the Tsar’s guard, and bloody lumps of human flesh.


The assassination of Alexander II, drawing by G. Broling, 1881

The Tsar died the same day.  This assassination brought a wave of repression from the authorities, police brutality, ironically held in check by Tsar Alexander, was now used as a tool of state, and thousands of political activists and peasant leaders were rounded up and imprisoned, exiled, executed, or simply “disappeared”.

One of the Anarchist conspirators, who hadn’t actually taken part in the assassination happened to be Jewish, and despite the fact that all the others were atheists, the Newspapers whipped up anti-Jewish feeling.  Opportunists grasped on this to use it as a weapon to take down the businesses of their business rivals, and this quickly turned into an all out anti-Jewish pogrom, most notably in the South and Western provinces of the Russian Empire.

The Swede Family

The Swede family described themselves in the records as coming from Poland, then part of the Russian Empire, which was a hot bed of anti-Jewish feeling.  They also claimed to have travelled from St Petersburg where Tsar Alexander was assassinated.  Given these locations and the fact that they arrived in the UK sometime between 1881 and 1891, the Swede Family were fleeing the anti-Jewish violence of the Pogroms.  So a bomb thrown on a winter’s day in St Petersburg gave rise to a mass exodus of Jewish citizens from the Russian Empire, some to Germany, some to the USA, and many to the UK.  A pair of terrorists set in motion a chain of events that would kick-off one of the greatest peacetime diasporas in modern history, for it is estimated that up to 2 million people, fled the pogroms in Russia from 1881 onwards.

Escape to Paradise – Liverpool!

During the 19th century, Liverpool was a magnet for migrants from Europe, and indeed Liverpool accounted for more migrants passing through to leave Europe than all other ports in the UK combined.  The largest number were Irish fleeing famine, followed by Jews from the Russian Empire fleeing the pogroms.

The Swede family arrived in Liverpool with little more than the clothes they stood up in.  Their original name may have been different from “Swede” but many Jewish families shortened or changed their surnames to fit in more easily with the native British population.  They had the additional complication of not speaking any English, but were lucky in as much as the local Jewish population in Great Britain could at least converse with them in Hebrew, or more likely the “Yiddish” dialect of Hebrew.

Most of the Jewish immigrants to Liverpool transferred almost straight away to American ships and headed for the USA.  The Swedes decided to stay in Liverpool.  The reasons for this are not known, but there was a huge philanthropic movement backed by the already present and prosperous Jewish community in Great Britain, and it may have been that the Swedes decided that given the help they had been given on arrival by the local Jewish community, Great Britain was a surer bet than a long transatlantic journey for an uncertain future in America.

So, The Swede Family consisting of Reuben the Father and Bertha the Mother along with their four children Annie, Martha, Samuel also called Nathan, and Israel Asher, all born in St Petersburg or possibly Poland depending on which records we are to believe, between 1869 and 1881, settled for a life in England.


Jewish Refugees in Liverpool


Determination and Business sense

Reuben was obviously a very resourceful man, as by 1891, from a penniless position on a Liverpool Dockside in the 1880s with a wife and four children in tow, he sets himself up as a Draper and General Dealer , living with his family in Gregson Street Everton.  Reuben and Bertha are in their fifties, eldest daughter Annie twenty two was working as a tailoress, and eldest son Nathan, fifteen, was working as a Hawker most likely selling his father’s drapery output.

In the coming years Reuben would become a Draper’s Hawker perhaps a downturn in hisscotlandroad business, or maybe just an easier way to use his skills to make a living.  The  girls Annie and Martha marry Jewish immigrant men and settle in the Liverpool area.  Bertha Swede died in 1895, leaving her husband Reuben to live with his younger daughter Martha and her husband and son Israel Asher Swede at 103 Scotland Road Liverpool, known locally as (Scottie Road).  Israel Asher becomes a shopkeeper, a Grocer, but after 1901 drops out of the records, and it’s not clear if he died or emigrated. Which brings us to our Builder’s line with Samuel/Nathan.


Brush with the Law

Nathan Swede married Leah Rose (actually anglicised from Rosenblum) the daughter of Jewish immigrants to Liverpool from Poland in 1894, and in 1895 their first child Joseph was born in Liverpool, Joseph would be their only son, and would be followed by four sisters.  Times were hard, and Nathan in desperation is caught stealing some cloth from his employer’s shop, and receives a month in prison for his crime. The clip from the Liverpool Mercury of 22nd February 1895 sums it up.  Interestingly the reporter mistakenly mishears Nathan’s accent when he gives his address as “Scotland” rather than “Scotland Road”!

nathanswedecourtThis would have meant lost wages and a struggle for employment once he was released, and in order to find a job he was forced to leave Liverpool, change his name to Samuel, and travel to Birmingham with his family where he finds employment as a Hawker of Hardware.  Two of Nathan/Samuel’s children, Lillian and Iris, were born in Birmingham in 1899 and 1904.


The Great War

There are no records of this part of the family being in the armed forces, which is strange as Joseph and Asher were of the right age to have served

It seems that the War had other implications for the Swede Family.  Golda met a “Doughboy” (an American Soldier) and fell in love.  Alexander Emanual Lovold,  the son of Norwegian immigrant farmers, settlers in the Wild West of South Dakota, her very own Cowboy Doughboy.   Alexander had tried to avoid joining up when War started as he was a Seven Day Adventist, and didn’t join until 1918, but was awarded a Purple Heart Medal so received an injury during his time in the Army.  Golda was young, only 16 when Alexander shipped back to the States, but they corresponded after the war ended and she went by ship to join him in 1922 when she was over 18.  Golda shipped out on her own, quite a trip for the young working class daughter of Russian immigrants to Liverpool.  Off the ship in Philadelphia she married her Doughboy, .Alexander.

It’s quite possible that their love story was frowned upon by Golda’s Family, perhaps she had run away to marry Alex without her parent’s permission, the tickets bought for her by Alex.  In any case the couple settled in Sioux City Iowa, where Alexander worked in the bustling railway goods yard. They would live together relatively quietly, Golda made a number of trips back on her own to Liverpool to visit the Family, between 1925 and 1937 but always alone, maybe it was the cost that stopped Alex accompanying her or maybe her parents hadn’t forgiven him for taking their daughter away from them?  She would stay for 3 months at a time before heading back to the states.


Golda, Iris, and Violet Swede

After the war ended Golda visited again in 1948, and for a last time after Alexander’s death in 1956.

The Family Grows

From a humble start the Swedes grow in size as a family.  Nathan and his wife Leah have seven children between 1895 and 1919, only one child was a boy, Joseph, the eldest born in 1895.  He married a local girl Ivy Ledsham, and like his siblings, it is this post First World War Generation that marries out of the Jewish Faith and into the local English working class Liverpool “Scousers”.  The upheaval of the Great War had given people a different perspective on life, and old barriers were breaking down.  Joseph and Ivy had ten children between 1925 and 1946, giving rise to a large extended family in the Liverpool area.  In 1927 Ronald James Swede was born, he was my builders’ Grandfather.

Ancestors Brought back to life

The brought us back to modern times and a Liverpool family with deep Russian roots, and a family adventure born of persecution and hardship that had culminated in success and a Happy British Family.

Dan and Mark were surprised and happy with their new found Family History, and I was happy with my Orangery!  And perhaps just as importantly, some brave but persecuted ancestors had had their stories brought back to life so that their descendants can have pride in their struggle, and a sense of achievement in how far the family had come from penniless refugees on the Dockside in Liverpool.  Every family deserves to know and honour their ancestors, we wouldn’t be here with out them!

Oh, and the Orangery looks a treat as well.



Like what you’ve read?

This is a summary version of a Family Story researched by Time Detectives. You can have your own Family Tree fully researched, just drop me a line at paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk and I can trace yours for you.  Prices start from £300 for a single surname tree with historical notes.



The Krays on The Hamble Peninsula

The Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley, Hampshire

Royal_Victoria_Military_Hospital,_Netley,_Hampshire;_from_th_Wellcome_V0013983The Royal Victoria Country Park at Netley Abbey is due to undergo a £2.68M restoration of its historic buildings, via the Heritage Lottery Fund, secured by Hampshire County Council.  As part of this the human side of its history is being brought together from memories of the site from locals with family or other links to the site.  In charge of this is Paul Del-A-More, a Hamble local who is Project Manager for the venture.  Paul’s Blog can be seen here:


Being based in the area Timedetectives decided to do some digging of our own, and came up with some interesting connections to the area via the Family History of the Kray Twins.

The Royal Victoria Hospital was a personal project of Queen Victoria, and when built was the largest Hospital in the world.  It served the British armed forces from the time of the Crimean War, through the 19th century and on into the First and Second World Wars, until the demolition of most of the buildings in 1966 during the Philistine demolition boom that destroyed so much British History in the 1960s.

During its time, from the aftermath of the Crimean War to WW2 the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley served generations of soldiers from all over the United Kingdom, its Colonies, and allies.  To understand how such a place could have an effect on generations of British Families I have taken an example of the Kray Twins Family as an extension to other Kray stories in this Blog.

The Kray Twins are of course synonymous with East End Gangsters, but the twins had an enduring connection with this area of Hampshire spreading from Southampton in the West, through Netley and the Hamble Peninsula, out to Waterlooville in the East, even ignoring Reggie Kray’s time in Prison on the Isle of Wight.

The First Kray in Netley Hospital

John William Kray, the Kray twins Great Grandfather’s brother, had left his job hammering rivets all day, to take up a life in the army at 18 years of age and in 1870 when he had joined the 65th Regiment of foot.  His career in the army was a fractious one, with constant bouts of indiscipline and sickness. He came to be in Netley Hospital whilst stationed in England as veteran soldier with seven years under his belt.  He was admitted on 30th April 1877, for a mystery illness, and the doctors scratched their heads whilst John Kray the brawny ex-riveter spent a lovely couple of weeks of bed rest and recuperation chatting to the nurses in the grounds of the large beautiful Hospital bordering the Solent.  Eventually  the Doctors after scratching their heads and listening to his diverse description of his ailments, decided that despite his protests of illness, there was nothing actually wrong with him other than a likely case of malingering by an experienced old lag of a Private.Netley-Pier-01_800

Having failed to prove himself sick, he deserted for six months in 1879, then voluntarily re-joined in the same year having got bored with being on the run.  On his return he was sentenced to a month’s hard labour and stoppages of wages.  Shortly after this the Army decided that he would be better off out of harms way in the Far East, where he spent the next fourteen years serving in the East Indies; India, Aden, and the Soudan (sic).  Having failed to get sick whilst at Netley, John Kray surpassed himself in India where he managed to get six year’s worth of diarrhoea, Malaria, Dysentery, Gonorrhoea, and Syphilis, despite this he continued serving, given his particular ailments he obviously made the most of his time in the tropics.  He no doubt longed to be back in Netley enjoying the sea breezes off the Solent.

In 1884 the regiment was sent to the Sudan to fight the ISIS of their day, The Mahdists, led by the man from whom they derived their name, the “Mahdi” or the “Mad Mullah” as he was nicknamed by the British Troops.  The Mahdi was , who had killed British General Gordon and overrun an Anglo-Egyptian outpost at Khartoum in the Sudan.  John Kray would see some real action in the Sudan for the first time in his military career.  John’s regiment engaged with the Mahdist Army after the Mahdists had destroyed an Egyptian force sent against them, and had captured the Egyptians’ modern British manufactured  firearms in the process, so posed an even greater threat to the British Protectorate.  1884eltebred

The Mahdists had a defended position at El Teb but were overrun by British forces with light casualties (John’s regiment only receiving seven casualties) but killing two thousand Mahdists in the process.  The Mahdists were later re-engaged by John’s regiment at the battle of Tomai where for a loss of just over two hundred the British killed four thousand Mahdists.  1884tamai2red

After the actions in the Sudan John Kray’s regiment is sent home, and in 1889, after nearly twenty years in the Army John went  back to civvie street, where he married, and settled down in Leeds where he worked as a commissionaire.  The only member of the family at this time to move away from the London area.  He would die in Leeds in 1906.

No doubt when John Kray reminisced to the rest of the Kray clan about his adventures in the Army, he would have told stories of his best remembered time during a balmy English Summer malingering in the grounds of Netley Hospital; his two weeks of contented holiday on the Banks of the Solent.

The last Kray at Netley Hospital

Clement Henry Kray, a second cousin of the Kray twins, also ended up in The Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley.  The circumstances of him arriving there were very different from those of his malingering distant cousin John who we heard about above.

While the Kray Twins line of the family had been Lamp Lighters, Clement’s line of the family via his Grandfather had pulled themselves up by the boot straps to open a small tobacconist shop in Bethnal Green, and Clement’s Father, Henry Joseph, had managed to get an education and move into lithographic printing, eventually opening a small printing business for himself.

in 1900 Henry had volunteered for the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC), not actually as implied by its name an artillery unit, but a mixed unit of Infantry and supporting artillery, drawn from Londoners from the area of the City of London, and the oldest volunteer Regiment in the British Army.

Clement Kray, Henry’s eldest son, had been doing well for himself before the War, he was a young commercial traveller from Harlesdon, and no doubt enjoyed life and expected great things to develop, as the Country moved from Victorian seriousness and poverty for the working classes, into a time of opportunity and a developing Middle Class in the Edwardian era.  In 1910 he followed his Father as a part time volunteer soldier in the HAC, so had a good career, some status in a well respected volunteer force, and a bright future.  But the Great War would change all of that.

Clement was shipped over to the French/Belgian border to fight the Germans in 1914.  The HAC took part in the Battle of Ypres, and Clement’s unit was dug in around Kemmel, the highest point on the battlefield, which of course put them up as a prime target for the Germans.  The Kray Twins’ Grandfather “Mad’ Jimmy Kray was in France in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC) another London regiment, at the same time as Clement, and no doubt heard about the action at Kemmel where his second cousin Clement was fighting.

hackemmelThe HAC were soon heavily engaged during the bitter winter of 1914.  On 15th December 1914 the HAC went over the top and charged the German lines after an artillery bombardment, having to run uphill many of the HAC had been cut down by the Germans on the way in.  Despite this they had overrun the German positions and had taken a terrible revenge on the Germans who had surrendered, shooting many of them out of hand in revenge for their fallen comrades. By their own admission many of the men had a blood lust brought on by battle, and such incidences of brutality outside the rules of war were far from uncommon amongst the hard-bitten British professional soldiers, for example in the same battle 300 German prisoners were reported slaughtered after  surrender by the Royal Scots.  Clement was one of the unlucky HAC soldiers who was wounded in the Battle.  The wounds were far too serious to be treated in the field, or even further back from the battle front, bad enough in fact for Clement to be shipped back to England.

Clement was shipped back to Blighty on a hospital steamer, unloaded onto one of the specilaised Hospital Trains at Southampton Docks, which steamed the few miles down the coast to Netley, where he was taken into the care of the volunteer nurses at the Royal Victoria._wsb_360x203_brcsnetley

Netley, after much criticism, had been added to with a large number of huts to accommodate patients in better conditions than were previously available in the wards, and was visited by Sir Frederick Treves in November, just a month before Clement Kray was shipped across from from to it.  Treves was famous as the rescuer of Joseph Merrick (sometimes mistakenly called John Merrick) better known as The Elephant Man.  Treves was now very senior in the Medical Profession, looking after the Royal Family, and had also served in a field hospital in the Boer War, so was keen to make sure that facilities were as good as they could be for wounded soldiers in the Great War.  In his report he describes The Royal Victoria Hospital as:

“It is a ‘Hut Hospital’ of 500 beds, essentially a Field Hospital capable of being readily moved. When completed at the end of the present month, it will be made up of 45 Huts disposed as follows:- 25 for patients, 9 for nurses, 5 for orderlies, 3 as recreation rooms, and 3 for isolation wards.
At present only 25 Huts are occupied, 10 of these being Ward Huts. The Operating Theatre is not yet completed. The staff under Sir Warren Crooke-Lawless consists of 18 medical officers, 65 female nurses, all fully trained, a matron, 20 quartermasters, and 130 N.C.O.’s and men. The Hospital is rationed from Netley. The wounded are brought into Netley by a special ambulance train, thence they are transported by stretcher to the Hospital, a distance covered in some four or five minutes.

The number of patients in the Hospital is at the moment 140; 80 being British soldiers and 60 belonging to Indian troops. In another week the Hospital will be able to accommodate 300 patients. As an illustration of efficient transport it may be said that a large batch of patients now in the wards were wounded on a certain Friday and were in bed at Netley on the following Monday. There has happily been only one death at the Hospital, that of a soldier with a desperate shell wound of the skull exposing the brain. The first major operation performed in the Hospital was not upon a soldier, but upon one of the Hospital orderlies, who was seized with appendicitis and is now a cheery convalescent in his own ward. The cases are practically all gunshot wounds. There has been no tetanus and little gangrene. No cases of typhoid fever have been received. The medical cases have been light, although among them are six cases of Beri-beri.

The Hospital has the general appearance of a toy town made up of grey Huts arranged, with great formality, in a meadow behind Netley. The Huts are the best of the type I have seen. They are light, airy and well ventilated. They are lit by electric light, are warmed by slow-combustion stoves (two to each Hut) and are amply supplied with water. The sanitary arrangements are quite admirable, the many difficulties that presented themselves having been surmounted with complete success. Each Hut contains 20 beds and has a well-arranged annexe. The furniture, beds, bedding and general equipment of the Huts leave nothing to be desired. The Hospital kit, issued to each man by Lady Wolverton is excellent and – if I may venture to say so – is better than that supplied by the Army. It consists of a blue jacket and trousers, both lined with flannel, a vest, shirt, night dress, towel, handkerchief and slippers.

The Red Cross store, managed by Lady Lawless and Mrs. Miller, is a model of efficiency and order. The new Operating Theatre, built under the direction of Mr. Cuthbert Wallace, is admirably arranged and will soon be completed. The nurses’ huts, with 9 cubicles in each, are very comfortable. The kitchen is furnished with every requirement for a hospital of 500 beds, and the sergeant cook is very proud of it. He exhibited a roast fowl and a bowl of beef tea with the confidence of an artist who was displaying finished works of art.

The Medical Officers, under the direction of Mr. Cuthbert Wallace and Dr. Miller, are doing excellent work, and these gentlemen speak in the highest terms of their efficiency. The matron pays a compliment to the Society in its selection of nurses by her assertion that her staff gives the greatest satisfaction and there is not a single nurse she would wish to change. The orderlies are men drawn from various Voluntary Aid Detachments throughout the country. It will be of interest to the Society to know that Sir Warren is not only entirely satisfied with these men and their exemplary behaviour, but also – although the staff is so large – that he has not had occasion to make a complaint of any one of them.

A whole-hearted enthusiasm and a determination to do their best pervade the entire staff of the Hospital from the highest to the humblest. This excellent spirit derives its inspiration partly from the fine example set by Colonel Crooke-Lawless himself and partly from the fact that everyone at work in Netley is proud of the Hospital he serves. In that pride the Society may well participate.”


Clement spent Christmas 1914/15 and New Year in Netley, but sadly died of his wounds on 22nd January 1915.

Clement’s Father had already lost his youngest son Frederick earlier that year, and had the sad task of having Clement’s body shipped back to London by Trainhis Mother and Father buried him at New Southgate Cemetery Enfield, with the following epitaph:

Clement Henry Kray

1st. Battalion Honourable Artillery Company who fell in the Great War.  Wounded at Kemmel, nr. Ypres, 15th. Dec. 1914, Died at Netley Hospital, 22nd. Jan. 1915, aged 22 years

“Duty bravely done is the rising of the Sun of glory”


The Twins

During the Second World War when Reggie and Ronnie Kray were children, their mother took therm away from the Blitz in London to the relative safety of Hampshire, it is not clear where exactly, but the episode did not end well, as the twins’ unruly behavior proved too much for the kindly Doctor who had agreed to take the family in, and very soon they were back to Lopndon, andn then evacuated again to Suffolk, where they saw out much of the War.

This time in the country made a big impression on the twins, although they were Cockney born and bred and the family had been since the 1700s, they had an abiding love of the country, and when things got a bit too intense in the East End, thye twins would come down to Hampshire for a little holiday, here Ronnie coulkd play Lord of the Manor with his silver topped cane and tweeds, while he and his brother Reggie would drink in their favourite Pub outside of London, The Bugle Pub near the waterfront in Hamble.

So taken were the twins with Hamble, that they bought a small house in the village, Hamble Manor Lodge, right next door to Hamble Manor.  The twins didn’t just take it easy while in Hamble, they are rumoured to have had various dealings with the local underworld in nearby Southampton, where the docks were rife with money making opportunities, and there are even stories of a motor launch that was owned by the Twins being abandoned at Southampton Docks when they were finally banged up for murder.  Maybe it was just a pleasure cruiser, or maybe it was used for other purposes?  “Mad Axeman” Frank Mitchell was said to have been wrapped in Chicken wire, weighted down, and dropped in the Sea after he was murdered by the Kray’s associates.

There are also stories of a collection from a Bank Manager in Waterlooville of £85,000 that was taken to Ronnie Kray while he was in Prison.  Maybe there are still some mysteries to be uncovered?

If you’d like to see the Time Detectives interview with Fred Dinenage on ITVMeridian you can find it here   The Kray Twins on The Hamble Peninsula

…and if you have your own Family Stories about servicemen who spent time in The Royal Victoria Hospital Netley in Hampshire let me know and I’ll pass them on in time for its historic restoration.  Please feel free to leave a comment on this page.

If you’d like your own Family History professionally researched, please contact me on paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk



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