A Canadian WW1 Knight of the Air, and his son an Arctic Circle Knight of the Road


You never know in life where chance meetings are going to take you.  How meeting someone on a lonely road near the Arctic Circle would give the clues for Time Detectives to uncover a near forgotten hero’s story, from an incredible source.

In my other life, when I used to have a proper job, I was part of a small entrepreneurial team who put together a very successful software company and sold it to a big American corporation.  This meant that a number of us could do our own thing once the deal was done.  Amongst my other ventures I took the Time Detectives Genealogy Business to new heights, whilst my friend and ex-boss, Steve Jones (Jonesie), went off to travel the world in various adventurous ways by Land Rover and sailing boat.

During one of Steve’s sojourns, driving up from Denver Colorado to the Arctic Circle, he met a fellow traveller on the Alaskan/Canadian border of the Arctic.  Steve takes up the story from his blog at the time here:_mg_0142_edit_edit.6vye6d1ydcw0s4sggosggkckk.ae6egtt2xvk0sowk84g4ock8k.th

“Today I met a homeless chap who was cycling the 400 or so miles from Anchorage to the Canadian border and claimed to be the son of World War 1 pilot Alfred Atkey… He told me he makes this trip on a regular basis and although he is Canadian he never crosses because he doesn’t carry ID. Anyway he had stopped to make some coffee but ran out of water so having supplied him with some and chatting about the exploits of his famous father I took this snap. I’ll let you decide if you agree his story to be true – .”

You can see Steve’s blog here, it’s got some cracking photos on it:

http://www.taxidialogue.com/

and the parts relevant to this story here:

http://www.taxidialogue.com/?p=62&cpage=1#comment-6545

Once I spoke with Jonesie, I knew I’d have to take up the challenge of testing the story from the enigmatic traveller he had met, and so another Time Detectives investigation was kicked off.

 

The Atkey Family Origins

The Atkey name comes from a nickname for someone who dwelled “At the Quay” so was a waterside name for a dockworker or sailor. The name is very rare, and seems to have originated in the Hampshire/Sussex coastal area of southern England.

 

Our Atkeys started in the Isle of Wight, which I can actually see from the beach near my home, as the name implies, it’s a large Island off the middle of the South Coast of Hampshire in England, forming the Solent waterway between Southampton and Portsmouth, one of the busiest waterways in the world.

The earliest valid ancestors we found were from the early 1700s in Shalfleet, a rural area on the Isle of Wight. By the 1770s they had moved to Carisbrooke nearer to the main town of Newport, which had started to grow from its connections to the Royal Naval base at Portsmouth just across the Solent.  The Atkeys at this time were leather workers and shoemakers.

During the Napoleonic Wars, in 1805, James Atkey was born, he followed his family as a Leatherworker and Shoemaker, and married a local girl, the wonderfully named Jane Trafalgar Grapes.  She derived her middle name from the Sea Battle Admiral Lord Nelson had won against the French and their Spanish allies, that destroyed all hope of Napoleon being able to mount a seaborne invasion of England.  In the euphoria that followed, proud parents would name children born in that year “Trafalgar”, Britannia really did rule the waves at the time.

Canada

Euphoria or not,  in 1855 James Atkey’s, a Methodist lay preacher, followed his religious calling and travelled to Canada  to take up the position of  missionary and teacher for the Anishnaube and their children in the Colpoy’s Bay area with his family.  He and his family lived in a Log cabin and would farm the land to support James’s missionary work.  James would live until 1868.

The Atkeys would carry on as Methodist Farmers in Keppel Ontario and in the Toronto area.  They also served in the Canadian Militia, ever ready to repel incursions from their potential enemy to the south, the USA, and incursions from Fenian rebels stirring up trouble along the USA/Canadian border.  And after two generations of “Alfred” Atkeys we arrive at Alfred Clayton Atkey.

War Hero

ALFRED CLAYBURN ATKEY was born 16 Aug 1894 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and diedalfredatkey 10 Feb 1971. He married IRENE E MARSHALL 1919 in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England. She was born 1900 in London, England.

Alfred Clayburn Atkey MC & Bar (August 16, 1894 – February 10, 1971) was a Canadian First World War pilot.

Alfred was born in Toronto, Ontario. His family headed west to a town called Minebow, Saskatchewan in 1906. When he was old enough Alfred returned to Toronto to work at the Toronto Evening Telegram as a journalist. In 1916 he joined the Royal Flying Corps as a probationary Second Lieutenant. By September 1917, he was a bomber pilot flying Airco DH.4 with 18 Squadron. May 1918, he was flying a Bristol F 2B fighter/reconnaissance aircraft with “A flight”, 22 Squadron.   Along with Lt CG Gass who was his gunner/observer, he claimed 29 aircraft shot down within a month.

In terms of number of claims, Atkey was the top Allied two-seater pilot of the war. His total number of aircraft claimed shot down was 38 (comprising 13 and 1 shared claimed destroyed, 23 and 1 shared ‘Out of Control’). Gass is rear gunner contributed some 13 of these claims (himself the most successful gunner in the RFC/RAF).

plane

Atkey’s rank was Captain upon leaving the Royal Air Force at the end of the war.

Alfred Atkey received the Military Cross with Bar. The following was written in the London Gazette:

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When engaged on reconnaissance and bombing work, he attacked four scouts, one of which he shot down in flames. Shortly afterwards he attacked four two-seater planes, one of which he brought down out of control. On two previous occasions his formation was attacked by superior numbers of the enemy, three of whom in all were shot down out of control. He has shown exceptional ability and initiative on all occasions.”

MC citation, Supplement to the London Gazette, 22 June 1918

The following was written when he received the MC Bar:

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During recent operations he destroyed seven enemy machines. When engaged with enemy aircraft, often far superior in numbers, he proved himself a brilliant fighting pilot, and displayed dash and gallantry of a high order.”

MC Bar citation, Supplement to the London Gazette, 16 September 1918.

Alfred married Irene Marshall in 1919 at Portsmouth in Hampshire, more or less within sight of the Isle of Wight where his ancestors had emigrated from 64 years before.

The couple then migrated to the USA, were ion the New York area in 1920, and Alfred took the first steps to naturalisation in California in 1924.

naturalisation.

Whatever the reasons, the marriage didn’t last, and in 1942 Alfred remarried to Dulcie May Boadway, they would have four children, the oldest of whom was to be Alfred (Al)Atkey.

Al Atkey; Knight of the Road

…and so we come to Al Atkey who Jonesie took up with on the edge of the Artic Circle.  His stories were indeed true, and in his own way he had s lived a life full of adventure, just as his father did, albeit in peacetime rather than war

Although Jonesie isn’t adding to this particular page on his blog site at the moment, other people are, and Al Atkey keeps popping up in various meetings with other travellers out on the road, here are some edited samples of the updates:

David Hoekje July 14th, 2009 at 8:44 am
Well now a year later I met Alfred just a week ago, at this time he explained that he was an amateur musicologist traveling Canada (yes, he’s in the Yukon) collecting money for female composers of violin concerti. He feels it is a lost art.

Let it be said that he’s not only in fine condition,  but that his clothing is only more delightful than when you found him. He is wearing one rubber boot and one tennis show. He is also wearing every item of clothing that he owns such that he appears like a cartoon character with his little head popping out of a mound of clothes; I’m not sure how he can move.

I gave him $20 on general principles, and a cup of ice since it was a hot day. A bit up the road I stopped in at Jakes Corner in Yukon (Jakes crossing) and spoke with a couple waitresses at this must see gallery / restaurant / ?  After visiting with the eccentrics at the lunch table I asked on a whim if any of them knew Alfred. They burst into laughter and said he’d spent the afternoon at their place a few days before. Apparently he’s using the bicycle more as a luggage carrier than for himself. They agreed that he was a delight, remarkably clean and alert for a man living outdoors, and somehow seemed to avoid the numerous human predators such a man might fall victim to.

Susan Hoefner July 19th, 2009 at 8:30 am
Al Atkey was part of our lives from 1980 until he was deported.

Linda M November 23rd, 2009 at 4:44 pm
re: Alfred Atkey: I’m a school teacher in a small community in the Yukon whose husband works in Whitehorse and lives near Marsh Lake. Ron got to know Alfred last spring and he hired Alfred come to do odd jobs around the place. In early September, after having to cancel his plans to travel on his bike all the way to Edmonton he showed up at our place and my husband took him in for the winter. He is warm, cozy, well fed, and happy. So, all of you out there who might have been wondering about his safety and well-being for the winter, worry no more. Of course, I can’t say where he might be as soon as the highways are free of snow in the spring.

David Hoekje April 29th, 2010 at 8:18 am
I just heard from a man who saw Al last Sunday. I’ll post his message below without his email address or name.
“Hi Just a quick update on Alfred. As of Sunday April 25th he was in Fort St John. I saw him on the road side making little to no progress so I stopped and asked him if he was alright. What a delightful experience that turned out to be. He was fine, as it was evening and he had no place to stay I put him into a motel for the night. He said he was headed to Red Deer to stay with a brother. I told him if I could talk to his brother I would put him on the Grey Hound. Haven’t heard from him so I imagine he’s on the road south. What a character.”

Donna Atkey May 14th, 2010 at 2:55 pm
Hi All,
I just read about my brother, Alfie, known in the north as Alcan Al. I am his younger sister, he also has a younger brother George and a little sister, Susan, who just passed away.

Just wanted to set the record straight that my father’s first wife was not our mother.   She ran off on my father and when he didn’t hear from her for many years, he went back to the homestead near Lone Rock and worked on his music career.

He enlisted in the second war, was assigned to Downsview, Ontario as a link trainer for new pilots. It was in Toronto that he met our mother, Dulcie May Boadway. They married in August of 1942 and had five children. The second child, George Vaughn only lived two weeks. They lived in Toronto, Edmonton, Yellowknife, Whitehorse, Lloydminster, and finally Toronto again where my father passed away at the age of 76 in 1971. Mom followed at the age of 59 in 1975. They are greatly missed.

Ken Atkey December 15th, 2010 at 10:08 pm
Alfred Atkey also worked at a creamery in Didsbury Alberta where he met my wife’s uncle Bob Dunkley. I believe he was based near Calgary for a while during the war.
My father who was injured in a plane crash in July 1918 met Alfred and his first wife in Toronto. According to the stories I heard from my mother she became restless and went on tour as “Billie Atkey” with a rollerskating act. She invited my father to a performance in the mid or late twenties at the Orpheum or Strand theatre. He went and took his oldest son who was three or four years old with him.

Chuck-Mary Clarke November 14th, 2012 at 4:19 pm
We met Al Atkey biking thru Fruitvale in the snow last night. We brought him home for the night and dropped him off in Salmo this morning to continue his trip home to Ft St John. He is healthy and in good spirits, anxious to get home to his camper in FSJ. We enjoyed his company and tales of his travels and dreams. We’re praying he makes it there safely.

Paul November 23rd, 2012 at 12:58 am
Hi everyone, Met Al last night at the Petro-Canada on Hwy 1 west of Calgary. We talked for a while in the restaurant there. As I am truck driver now, and a bike courier from a long time ago, we shared a few stories of cycling and life on the road. He told me of his father, and I shared some of my west coast pilot stories.  He seemed very interested in the history of Blatchford Field(City Centre Airport -Edmonton)I worked there for a while at the Edmonton Flying Club. I told him he should write a book of his life and adventures, he seemed to smile at the idea.  Who knows…………..you might see Al some night on lonely highway…….safe travels Al.

Jon Levesque October 15th, 2015 at 8:57 am
Hello. Just shooting everyone an update that I’ve had the great opportunity to meet Al here in Fernie. He’s staying with us until he decides where the open road will take him.
He sends his greetings to everyone.

Pat Ferris February 20th, 2016 at 9:56 am
Alfred was living in Fort St. John, BC, up to a couple of months ago.(as of Jan 2016) He does go on journeys on his bike to Alaska or Edmonton but has been here for the past 3 years or so. He was in good spirit and health. Cheers.

Ramada Hotel November 6th, 2016 at 10:07 am
Hello everyone,
We have Mr. Atkey staying with us here at the Ramada Hotel in Penticton, BC. He is in good spirits and seems to be doing well in his travels.

Monica Mikolas November 24th, 2016 at 5:28 pm
I just met Alfred Atkey tonight walking in Stony Plain, Alberta. He is a plesent man to talk with and he is very proud of his father and has such a beautiful demenor … November 24, 2016!

Cam Todd February 7th, 2017 at 9:16 pm
Fri. Jan 27 , 2017 6:30am. Intrigued by the orange bicycle helmet my buddy Wordie and I stopped on the roadside in Crow’s Nest Pass to aid a fellow traveller . Fortunately for us the gent regaled with tale after tale for miles on end ! The last we saw of him he was in a Walmart Parking lot heading for a CIBC.  Some days later we discovered we had been in the company of a truely unique Canadian !

Geminy Hansen June 21st, 2017 at 1:59 pm
we recently encountered Mr Atkey in Grimshaw Alberta! Today we were having a staff lunch and he was in the cafe! Intuition told me to ask him his name. My co workers bought him lunch and gave him some cash.

Kory Kopf July 10th, 2017 at 3:58 pm
Just dropped Al off in Mayerthorpe Alberta. He was the highlight of my day!

..and lastly a message sent directly to me I received recently:

Just wanted to let you know that this morning I had the privilege of meeting Alfred Atkey as he passed the small town of Devon, Alberta, Canada on one of his many treks (this time on an old bike with numerous bags of stuff tied to the handelbars) on his way “south” for the winter (south means southern Alberta and B.C.).

I bought Alfred a coffee and breakfast at the local A&W, which is apparently his favourite haunt when he is on the road.

What an interesting guy! I spent several hours with him and gave him a few things that he needed for the road, namely a can opener, a pair of winter gloves and a few other items that he needed to replace. The best thing that I gave though was a copy of his family tree from your website (I found it online and printed it off when I went home to get the can opener and gloves).

He was so excited to see the names of all of his ancestors and to read a bit of their histories! Just thought you might get a kick out of this. Alfred is now 74 years old and shows no sign of slowing up as he continues to move from homeless shelter to homeless shelter and to rely on the kindness of strangers. Alfred told me that someone he met on his travellers had created a Facebook page for him, but I have not yet attempted to find it.

Alfred is very inspiring and very humble. He mentioned several times that he could never be as great a man as his war hero father. I disagree.
Humbled and Sincere,
Sheryl Watson

Bon Voyage Al!

 

 

 

 

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:

http://www3.hants.gov.uk/countryside/countryside-service/country-parks/rvcp/rvcp-improvements.htm

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.”

CHkrayheadstone

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

 

 

Submarine E15


Gallipoli, James Bond 1915 style, from Peckham to a Turkish Prison Camp

Chimney Sweeps and The Workhouse

On 12th March 1887 Henry William Trimmer was born to a family of Chimney Sweeps, he was my Grandmother’s brother.  He was the 4th Henry William in a direct line of henry Williams. His Father, Henry William the 3rd had been born in Leytonstone workhouse, one of the most notorious in England.  Official reports told stories of children so malnourished that they drank from soapy puddles in the laundry to try to get by.  His itinerant Chimney Sweep Father, Henry William 2nd had rescued him, his half Brothers and Mother, and the boys had gone to South London where they were apprenticed to the harsh world of boy chimney sweeps.  Henry William 2nd had enough of this and in the 1880s joined the Royal Marines at Chatham, it isn’t clear if he saw action, and his records seem to have gone missing, but he managed to get Eliza Sanders, the sister of one of his friends in the Royal Marines pregnant in 1883, her baby would be my Grandmother.  A year after she was born the couple married, and Henry William 2nd left the Marines, and set up home, itinerantly moving from lettings to lettings in Peckham, Camberwell and Lambeth.   They had eight children but it is their first son, and second child Henry William 4th whom we are concerned with here.

Hard Times, but The Royal Navy to the Rescue

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Destitute Boys’ Royal Navy Training Ship Arethusa at Greenhithe

Times were hard, the family were constantly on the move from rented digs to rented digs, doing a “midnight flit” every time the rent money ran out, they possessed hardly anything, so loading up and moving on didn’t take long.  Henry William had been apprenticed to a Fishmonger at 14, but that had not come to anything, and he ended up destitute but had the good fortune to be taken on to the TS Arethusa (Royal Navy Training Ship Arethusa), moored at Greenhithe on the South Bank of the Thames, and known as refuge for homeless and destitute Boys.  It is most likely that his Father and Uncle’s service as Royal Marines had opened the way for him to be accepted.

Henry William’s time on Arethusa served him well, as in 1905 as a man, on his 18th birthday, he signed up for the Royal Navy at his Father’s old depot of Chatham, just further downriver fromGreenhithe, and worked his way up from Boy, to Ordinary Seaman, to Able Seaman, to Leading Seaman.  And what a career he had in 1905 aged 18 he sailed to China on HMS Hogue, and spent a year at sea, coming home with a tatoo of a Japanese “Lady” on his right bicep!

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HMS Hogue Henry William Trimmer’s trip to China

On his return, after some retraining, he started his career as a submariner, first posted to HMS Thames, a Submarine support ship, then Vulcan and Hebe, similar ships.  With the birth of his first daughter, Irene Florence in 1911, Henry purchased his exit from the Navy moved back to South East London, but joined the Royal Fleet Reserves, ready for call up if required, and sure enough, come the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 Henry William was back in the Navy aboard Submarine E15.  His family followed him to the Royal Naval Dockyards at Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, and his last daughter Dorothy was born there in 1914.

Submarines

Henry William was bright and able and experienced.  He was posted directly to a brand new Submarine E15 looked after by the Dolphin depot ship.

The Commanding Officer of Submarine E15 was Lieutenant Commander Theodore Stuart Brodie whose twin brother Lieutenant Commander Charles G Brodie commanded another Submarine. The twins were nicknamed ‘Dummy Head’ and ‘War Head’ respectively by their men and fellow officers. Unfortunately for Henry he got Dummy Head as his Captain.  Despite his career commanding submarine’s  C36, C33, and D8, Dummy Head did not get his nickname without reason. Submarine E15 would have one of the shortest careers of the 56 E Class Submarines in action during WWI.

Initially Henry served aboard her with the North Sea Fleet based out of Harwich.  Dummy Head’s lack of luck lead to Able Seaman George Morris being lost overboard in November 1914, losing a man overboard from a submarine certainly takes some doing.  In 1915 E15 was sent with a flotilla of submarines to the Mediterranean, including AE2 an Australian Sub of the same class, they were serviced by HMS Adamant.  At the Island of Lemnos, they were joined by Lieutenant Clarence Edward Stanhope Palmer RNVR.  he had previously been with the diplomatic corps at Chanak in Turkey, and to all intents and purposes was a Government Special Agent, gathering knowledge of the entrance to the Dardanelles, the location of Turkish Sea Mines, and fluent in the Turkish language, he was an early James Bond type figure, brought in for what appears to be a secret mission on E15, it being remarked on how insistent he was with Dummy Head to make sure he got on board as “an extra hand”.  That night they sailed for the Dardanelles.

Stealthily E15 inched through the straits to get into Turkish waters in the Sea of Marmora, as the spearhead of an allied invasion force.  However despite having Clarence Palmer  on board to help with the approach to the channel, Dummy Head and the ship’s navigator, managed to have the E15 steered into a strong current which its silently operating electric engines were not strong enough to counter, at 07.00 on 17th April 1915 the Ship’s Telegraphist recorded :

“Everything going well until about 7am when we struck and, despite all that could be done, we were soon high and dry. The Turkish batteries then opened fire on us one large shell entering our conning tower and killing the captain as he was going on the bridge. Several shells came through the boat, one entering the engines and bursting several oil pipes, thick smoke began to come from aft, but we could not see what had happened there.

The men then began to go up the conning tower and through the shell hole and take to the water. The boat was about three-quarters of a mile from the shore and this distance we had to swim. Several men would not attempt it and I think it was because of this that so many were injured.”

E15 had run aground at Kephez Point, directly under the Guns of the Turkish Fort Dardanus, Electric Engines labouring vainly against the current.  The Turkish shelling took out the unlucky Dummy Head Brodie as he climbed the conning tower to assess the situation, and five more crew were killed and  seven injured by shelling and asphyxiation by smoke and chlorine gas released from the damaged electrical drive batteries onboard.

Captivity

Henry was no slouch, he, with Clarence Palmer and most of the rest of the crew who were still in one piece, climbed up the conning tower and slipped out underwater through the shell hole before swimming the best part of a mile to shore, fortunately for them the same current that Dummy Head had lead them to, took pity on them, and helped them make it to shore, where the Turks quickly surrounded them and took them prisoner.  Their dead mates were buried on the beach.  The Telegraphist writes again:

“After their capture the survivors were marched to Chenak (Chanak) and were kept in a cowshed overnight. The following day they were placed in better conditions. On Wednesday 21st April the survivors were put on a Gunboat at Chenak and were taken to Constantinople arriving on 22nd April and being taken to the Stamboul Prison.

Four days later, on Monday 26th April, the crew were taken to Haidar Pasha by ferry and then on to Ess Kicheher by train – where they stayed overnight. On the 27th April the train journey continued on to Afion Kara Hissar in the Asia mainland of Turkey and, on Wednesday 28th April they were moved into the Bermin Mosque School Camp.”

Henry spent the rest of the war in Turkish Prison camps, and would be joined by the crew of an Australian submarine that had been part of their original flotilla.  Their treatment was generally OK by the Turkish soldiers, and they were regularly visited by the Red Cross, received food and provision parcels, some of which they traded with their Turkish guards to get information and News Papers to find out what was happening in the War.  The men were fortunate to have Clarence Palmer with them, the secret service agent, who, being fluent in Turkish could speak with the guards and read the Turkish papers.  Despite this, conditions were harsh, and one officer and seven men died during their captivity.  But Leading Seaman Trimmer was a man from Peckham who had grown up with deprivation and hardship, he would get through the whole thing and return relatively unscathed considering what he’d been through.

Although the Turks treated the men and officers equally, it seems that the British Authorities didn’t.  For at the end of the war our Secret Service Agent Clarence Palmer is decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for the part he played in the action, simply because he took on the mission knowing the dangers, which is funny really, as no such medals went to Henry Trimmer or his mates, it’s an indication of not only friends in high places, but perhaps a reward for a more covert mission?  One Catholic Officer, Geoffrey Joseph Frederick Fitzgerald, the E15’s navigator had an intervention from the Pope that got him released early, with further decorations and cushy jobs after the war.  Henry and his shipmates came home to no cushy jobs or outstanding decorations, they were just de-mobbed and set back on the streets.  Even Dummy Head, who had got them wrecked and captured with about a dozen dead, was eulogised like a hero despite his incompetence.  So the secret service agent who was onboard to give intelligence on the entrance to the Dardanelles, in terms of access and minefields, the Navigator who was meant to steer them through, and the Captain who was meant to use his judgement to keep them out of harm, i.e. the three men who effectively failed in their duties were eulogised while the men who suffered for their Officers’ joint failures got nothing. In the words of the music hall song that the men would have been aware of:

“It’s the same the whole world over,

It’s the poor what gets the blame,

It’s the rich what gets the pleasure,

Isn’t it a blooming shame!”

 

The picture below shows the crew after their capture.  From what I can make out, Henry William Trimmer, my Great Uncle is the man standing with a face like thunder in the centre of the photo third from the right, behind and just to the side of the seated officer.

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While the men were being marched into captivity the British Navy set about destroying the evidence before the Turks and their German advisors could get too much intelligence about the E15.  They had already boarded the stranded E15 as can be seen from the picture below.

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Wreck of Submarine E15 inspected by the Turks and a German Officer

The reason was given as being to stop the Turks salvaging, repairing, and re-commissioning the E15, which is definitely true, but the efforts the Navy went to were extreme, including shelling by warships, attacks with Torpedoes by other subs (including one with Dummy Head’s more competent brother “War Head” along for the ride), a bombing raid by aircraft, and finally a successful attack from small picket boats with torpedoes. A gigantic effort, and one where the submarine used to attack the wreck got stuck on the same bank that the E15 had, but managed to get itself free, so the risks were extreme.  It begs the question;  was this really just to keep E15 out of the Turk’s hands?  Or perhaps there were other secrets onboard, associated with the mission of the Secret Service Agent?  Perhaps Geoffrey Fitzgerald’s release at the request of the Pope was more than just compassion based for a fellow Catholic in hard times, perhaps he brought information with him from Clarence Palmer?

Home

When Henry William Trimmer came home, his story took further twists.  He was obviously wily and resourceful, and managed to get himself made a Police Constable in Margate, no doubt using his Naval contacts as references.  In  1921 he manages to use his contacts to finagle his way into the local Free Mason’s Lodge, causing a minor scandal at the time, and a letter was written from the Provincial Grand Lodge to the Local Lodge complaining about the initiation of “Brother Trimmer”, as it was done despite permission having been previously refused by the Chief Constable.  This was put down to an “error” and Henry was allowed to retain his position, but was not allowed to be promoted to further positions without express permission from the Chief Constable.  Why the Chief Constable refused him permission to become a Free Mason in the first place is unclear, but as much as you can take the boy out of Peckham, you can’t take Peckham out of the boy, and with a total lack of regard for the middle class rules, Henry gets in any way, and not only that but keeps his position in both Police and Free Masons.  Well done Henry.  Did he still have contacts people in high and dark places like Clarence Palmer?

In 1924 Henry has had enough of England, and moves with his family to Australia, to join his Mother and siblings who had gone out there in 1908, and where his Father had died whilst Henry was a POW in Turkey.  Having spent time with the Australian prisoners in Turkey, perhaps Henry once again used his contacts help get out to the Antipodes? Henry would eventually die in Australia in 1969, having spent more than half of his life there.

There are obviously unanswered questions concerning the role of the E15, Clarence Palmer, and Henry’s relationship with him, perhaps one day Time Detectives will get to the bottom of it?

….oh, and just to top it off, one of the Stokers on E15 was called…..James Bond…what a happy coincidence!

Australian Family History


The majority of Australians have family roots in the UK, and it is always interesting to trace them back from hot southern sun to rainy fileds in Britain where their ancestors may have toiled since before the Norman Conquest.   To get an idea of the kind of things that can be discovered, take a look at the excerpts from an Australian Family Tree below.   Although not the complete Family Story, it will give you an idea of what can be achieved.  I hope you enjoy the story.

The Godding Family From England to Australia

The research of the name Godding itself showed that it is derived from an Old English name “Goding” meaning Goda’s child.   The original “Goding” spelling of the name coincides with the early family distribution around the Gloucestershire/Somerset borders.   Given that the name is not associated with a particular profession or craft, and we discovered through research that the family worked the land for many generations at the humblest level of society in future centuries, we can be confident that in the 11th  Century we would have found Goding (Goda’s son) also working the land but as a serf for the lord of the Manor.    

From the Norman Conquest to the 14th century Goding and his descendants would have toiled the land never leaving ploughtheir home Parish except for the occasional Market Day or Saints Day celebration.   Even during the 14th century with the upheavals of the Black Death which wiped out nearly half the population of England, and the subsequent Peasants’ Revolt which almost overthrew the king in London, made little difference to the lives of the Godings.   Perhaps they gained a little more mobility, and slightly better wages due to the shortage of able bodied workers due to the plague, but it is unlikely that they moved more than a few miles from their home Parishes, given that they were still there some centuries later.   One thing is sure, this part of the family actually survived the Plague and lived to pass on their genes to future generations.

Centuries passed, Civil Wars came and went, as did Kings Queens, Catholicism, and a Cromwellian Republic, but still the Godings toiled in the earth for the Lord of their Manor, scraping a living and living long enough to produce the next generation.   Eventually we find them in the 1700s having gained an extra “d” in their name, courtesy of the local Vicar’s whim, given that most of his flock were unable to read and write, he decided on the spelling of their names, and these became set, and so we find William Godding born in 1793 in the Gloucestershire market town of Thornbury.  

This was the age of enclosures, landowners now started to turn their land back to cereal cultivation, which required more man power.   In order to meet the higher demand for grain crops the big landowners would seek permissions from Parliament to carry out “Enclosures”, not just the taking of uncultivated waste land, but also land that was communally farmed by the agricultural population for each person to keep a cow, or for raising of vegetable crops.   The peasant farmers who previously had rights to this land,   lost their opportunity to make a living from farming, so, having robbed them of their livelihood, the Lord would take them on as paid labourers to work the land they previously had rights over.   The Lord would also decide what he would pay them.   If they didn’t like the wages, they could always decide not to work for the Lord, in which case they would loose their cottage, would have to leave the village to look for work elsewhere as they would not be entitled to poor relief from the Parish, or, of course they could choose to starve to death in a ditch.     The landowners had worked out how to control their local populations via wages and rents rather than through the sword and gibbet.   In the words of one MP who railed against the plight of the rural poor;

“The poor in these Parishes may say; Parliament may be tender of property; all I know is I had a cow, and an act of Parliament has taken it from me.”

So this is how William Godding came to be working for wages on local farms dependant on large tenant farmers and the Lord of the Manor, rather than owning a small holding of his own.  Then surprisingly when in his twenties around 1816 William takes the bold step of moving, not just from his home town of Thornbury, but out of the County of Gloucestershire to Keynsham in Somerset where he meets and marries a local girl called Isabella.   Such a move was a major decision for an unskilled Agricultural Labourer, so we needed to see if we could find the cause of it. 

 

Trouble at Thornbury 

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The enclosure acts had caused resentment between the Lords who took the land and the Peasants who lost it.   But the lords had the law on their side and penalties could be harsh for Agricultural Labourers who weren’t prepared to cow tail to the local Lords.

To take back some of their lost assets, and as an act of defiance local people would poach animals for the pot from the Lords’ lands, which was illegal and violently resented by the Gentry.   The penalties were drastic, one member of the Godding family being transported in a prison ship to Australia for offences in 1810.    

At Thornbury in 1815, a man called Thomas Till had been legally killed on the Estate of Lord Ducie by a Spring Gun,   a firearm booby trap left in the woods by game keepers,   Thomas Till had tripped one such wire and been shot and killed by the device when out looking for a rabbit for the pot. This legally sanctioned killing heightened tensions between the common people and the Gentry in Thornbury which would eventually spilled over into an act of defiance.    

On a cold and frosty moonlit night on 18th January 1816 a group of young labourers gathered at a house in Thornbury, with blacked faces to aid camouflage and avoid recognition, they set out on an act of civil disobedience to poach on the lands of Colonel Berkeley at Berkeley Castle.   Undoubtedly this was a political move, rather than a pure poaching for the pot exercise, as the leaders of the participants were from middleclass backgrounds, indeed one of the organisers was a lawyer, and guns had been provided, something no peasant would have owned.

However by the time they reached the Berkeley Estate word had leaked, and ten gamekeepers lay in ambush for them.   The poachers were challenged by the keepers, and realising that they had been betrayed, decided to make a fight of it, at least some among them were ex-soldiers, and they formed up in a double line, advanced on the keepers and   fired a volley killing one keeper, William Ingram, instantly and wounding several others. It then seems that after some confused fighting the poachers made their escape.thornburycropbuff

Over the following weeks Two of the group lost their nerve, gave themselves up and turned King’s Evidence in return for a dropping of charges, the less well off were apprehended over the following weeks, their fates were mixed; two were hanged for the murder of Ingram, nine were transported to Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania) for life, and probably another eight (who had the money and connections to facilitate it) fled to America, Ireland, and the Caribbean. No doubt there were many other men involved in the fight that night, but not important enough to warrant a prolonged pursuit.  Adding up the facts and timing of William Godding’s move, it does look like he may well have decided to flee as a result the Thornbury Poacher’s Battle.  

It seems that fleeing one county away was enough as William and Isabella set up home in Keynsham and raise a family there.

We followed William and his family through the archives decade upon decade from 1841, we find them in Keynsham with six of their children, five sons and a daughter, William eventually gives   up work on the land when in his fifties to work as a Labourer on the newly arrived Railway, his daughter Elizabeth found work as a domestic servant at the tender age of fourteen with a Railway Contractor, times were hard, the children left home and William continues to work as a labourer into his eighties after the death of his wife.williamcensusbuff

Vines Godding and the move to Australia

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Vines was often misrepresented as “Fines” due to his West Country accent, and the name would stick.   The son of William and Isabella Godding born in Keynsham Somerset. Like his father and brothers he was a Labourer at a time in England when life was very tough for the working man and his family.   He had married Sophia Palmer in 1854, and by 1861 they were living in a working class area of Bristol with three children under of five years and under, so life was   hard for them with five mouths to feed on a labourer’s income.

During the middle years of the nineteenth century in England there was a big drive to “assist” paupers and the working poor to emigrate to Australia, some times this was a wholely voluntary process, and sometimes there was something close to coercion involved.   In the case of Vines, given how adventurous the family was prepared to be in order to find work; it seems likely that a mixture of poverty and daring fuelled their move.  

What we do know is that their move was “assisted” i.e. the costs were   covered by a local emigration scheme.     We found that they left in 1862 aboard the ship the Lady Milton.   With Vines and Sophia were their daughters Elizabeth five and Emily three, plus their one year old son Charles. They must have been fairly desperate, because Sophia was also pregnant when they undertook the trip, and gave birth during the voyage to Louisa.     But times could be hard in Australia as well, and both Bessy and Louisa died in 1868, with Elizabeth following in 1888.   The rest of the children survived to adulthood. Sophia lived till 1896, and Vines till 1901, they both lived out their lives in Australia.

Charles James Godding    

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Times may have been hard, but with Imperial Wars to fight Vines’ eldest son Charles James, joined the Army as a Gunner in the Artillery on 26th January 1881, he was listed as a Baptist, the first confirmation we have of the Godding family’s religious beliefs. By 3rd of March 1885 he was shipped out to the Sudan during the war with the Mahdi, and General Gordan’s siege at Khartoum. The force left Sydney amid much fanfare, generated in part by the holiday declared to allow the public to bid farewell to the troops; the send-off was described as the most festive occasion in the colony’s history.

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The NSW contingent arrived and anchored at Sudan’s Red Sea port Suakin on 29th March 1885, and were attached to a brigade composed of Scots, Grenadier and Coldstream Guards. Shortly after their arrival they marched as part of a large “square” formation – on this occasion made up of 10,000 men – for Tamai, a village some 30 kilometres inland. Although the march was marked only by minor skirmishing, the men saw something of the reality of war as they halted among the dead from a battle which had taken place eleven days before. Further minor skirmishing took place on the next day’s march, but the Australians, now at the rear of the square, sustained only three casualties, none fatal. The infantry reached Tamai, burned whatever huts were standing and returned to Suakin.

After Tamai, the NSW contingent worked on the railway line which was being laid across the desert to the Nile.     Far from the excitement they had imagined, the Australians suffered mostly from the enforced idleness of guard duties. When a camel corps was raised, fifty men volunteered immediately. On 6 May they rode on a reconnaissance to Takdul, 28 kilometres from Suakin, again hoping for an encounter with the Sudanese, but the only action that day involved two newspaper correspondents who had accompanied the patrol before leaving the cameleers to file their stories in Suakin. They soon found themselves surrounded by enemy forces, and one was wounded as they fled. The camel corps made only one more sortie – on 15 May, to bury the bodies of men killed in fighting the previous March.

The artillery saw even less action than the infantry. They were posted to Handoub where, having no enemy close enough to engage, they drilled for a month. On 15 May they rejoined the camp at Suakin. Not having participated in any battles, Australian casualties were few: those who died fell to disease rather than enemy action.   By May 1885 the British government had decided to abandon the campaign and left only a garrison in Suakin. The Australian contingent sailed for home on 17 May 1885 arriving in Sydney on 19 June. They were expecting to land at Port Jackson and were surprised to disembark at the quarantine station on North Head near Manly as a precaution against disease. One man died of typhoid there before the contingent was released.

Five days after their arrival in Sydney the contingent, dressed in their khaki uniforms, marched through the city to a reception at Victoria Barracks where they stood in pouring rain as a number of public figures, including the Governor, the Premier, and Colonel Richardson the commandant of the contingent, gave speeches. It was generally agreed at the time that, no matter how small the military significance of the Australian contribution to the adventure, it marked an important stage in the development of colonial self-confidence and was proof of the enduring link with Britain.

The Grandsons of Vines Godding

 The family having seen action in the Sudan, their then settled down to civilian life until the next generation were called upon to serve the Empire in The Great War.

 

Clarence Sydney Godding 1898 – 1917

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Clarence was working as a Farm hand on a Dairy Farm, before joining the 19th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in 1916 as a Private, and had been living with his parents.   On his shipping papers his religion is stated as C of E, but his brother was a Baptist, perhaps he didn’t consider it an important detail.  In any case he was shipped out probably initially to Egypt where the Battalion was reorganised and new recruits were trained, before being shipped to France. The first major action for the Battalion was Pozieres, where the German shelling was the most intense ever experienced by the AIF during the war and was accompanied by nearly continuous German counter attacks to recover their vital ground.   In this battle 19th Battalion created a record by holding its sector for a period of 12 days. The most notable action that Clarence would have taken part in was the capture and defence of the notorious ‘Maze’ defence system at Flers on 14th November 1916. Clarence and his mates captured and held a salient deep within the German Lines, but their support battalions failed to reach their objectives on the flanks of the 19th, and so the 18 year old Clarence and his unit were cut off deep inside the German lines.

For two days and nights Clarence held his position against counter attacks and intense shelling, almost running out ofcartoondiggerbuff ammunition Charles and his mates picked up the rifles and ammo of the Germans they had killed and used them, so that their own ammunition could be saved for their Lewis machine guns to stop the German Infantry counter attacks. Of the 451 all ranks who went into the attack, 381 became casualties.

Clarence survived, and his next big battle was at Lagincourt in 1917 where his battalion was involved in the follow-up of German forces after their retreat to the Hindenburg Line.   The Germans counter attacked to try to halt their pursuit by the Australians, and Clarence was faced with an attack by a German force that outnumbered them five to one, they made their stand at Lagincourt and managed to defeat the German advance.  

On the 3rd of May 1917 Clarence and his friends were thrown into “The Blood Tub” as the second battle of Bullecourt would be called by the Aussies.   General Gough had sent his troops to assault the fortress village of Bullecourt using the new wonder ‘tank’ and the Anzacs, it ended in disaster.   This was the first battle of Bullecourt, on the 3rd of May Gough launched a second attack on Bullecourt which dominated the British action on the Western Front for two weeks, and was the battle that Clarence fought in.     It was the excessive brutality and ferocity of the hand-to-hand fighting that earned Bullecourt the name ‘The Blood Tub’.

At a quarter to four in the morning of 3rd of May 1917 two Australian and one British Brigade went over the top to attack Bullecourt.   The Australians penetrated the German line but met determined opposition which stop the force surrounding and cutting off the Germans.   It was during this fighting on the first day of the battle in fierce hand to hand combat in the German trenches that Clarence, at the tender age of nineteen was killed.     By the end of the battle the village was held by the Allies; the locality turned out to be of little or no strategic importance, and cost the Australians 7,482 in dead and wounded.

Below you have the Roll of Honour application made out by Charles James Godding, Clarence’s father, to have his son’s name added to the memorial and list.   It is a very sad document filled out by a proud but grieving father, the careful but inexpert nature of the writing in a time of grief, contrasts starkly with the bureaucratic and clinical nature of the form; it highlights the gulf in attitude between a statistic and a young man’s life.  

Sadly Clarence’s body was never found, but he did not return from the battle, and he was not taken prisonner, so it was beyond doubt that   he was   killed in action alongside hundreds of others from his Battalion, and by   July 1918 his status was changed from missing to killed in action.   To the credit of the Australian authorities, they were still investigating right up till October 1919, when they checked to see if he was among Australian prisoners of war released in Germany at the end of the war, but there was no trace of him.   All of this was recorded in the archives that we researched.

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The Poppy marks the spot where his name is engraved on the Australian National War Memorial in Sydney.  

Although it is not known what happened to his body, he is remembered on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial in France.

 

 

Fines Henry Godding 1896 – 1918

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 Fines had worked as a labourer until 26th February 1915, aged 19, Fines joined the Australian Imperial Force as a Private in the Infantry.  He shipped out with the 17th Battalion on the troop ship Themistocles in May 1915. He trained in Egypt from June until mid-August 1915, and on 20 August landed at ANZAC Cove.

At Gallipoli Fines fought in the last action of the August Offensive; the attack on Hill 60, before settling into defensive routine in the trenches. For the rest of his time in Turkey Fines was part of the garrison of Quinn’s Post, one of the most contested positions along the entire ANZAC front.   Eventually he was evacuated from Gallipoli in December 1915.

After further training in Egypt, Fines   was sent to France, landing on 22 March 1916.   He took part in his first major battle at Pozières between 25 July and 5 August.   After a spell in a quieter sector of the front in Belgium, he was sent back into France again in October, where he spent the freezing winter of 1916-17 rotating in and out of trenches in the Somme Valley but was spared from attacking across the quagmire the Somme.   It was during this winter that his battalion earned the nickname “the Whale Oil Guards” after their Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Oswald Croshaw, ordered the troops to polish their helmets with the whale oil that had been issued to them as a foot rub to prevent Trench Foot.  Trench Foot is caused by prolonged exposure of the feet to damp and cold, it can occur with only twelve hours of exposure, the first signs are numbness in the feet followed by a change in color to red or blue. As the condition worsens, the feet swell, followed by blisters open sores which lead to fungal infections. If not treated it results in gangrene and requires amputation of the foot. Unfortunately for Fines, Croshaw considered a smart turn out on parade more important than his mens’   health.   They were Lions lead by Donkeys.

In 1917 Fines took part in the pursuit of German forces after their retreat to the Hindenburg Line, and fought in the battle of Lagincourt where a counter stroke by a German force, almost four times as strong, was defeated. Fate then bequeathed that he would fight in the blood bowl at the second battle of Bullecourt (3-4 May), he would have known that Clarence his brother was fighting in the same battle, and no doubt would have had that on his mind during the action.   At the end of the Battle, he heard that his brother was missing, and tried desperately to find out what had happened to him sending letters to the authorities to try to find out as the excerpt   below show.

  “…his name was in the list of missing last evening, and now it has upset me a great deal.   I don’t know how my parents at home will take it when they hear the news, it will be a great blow to them, but still we must of hope for the best.   I am giving you his address and if you hear anything different please communicate with me as soon as possible.”

This letter was written from Perham Down, Andover, which was a Convalescent Depot. These were half way houses for casualties returning to the front – men who no longer required hospitalisation but were not yet fit to rejoin their units.  Fines had also been wounded at Bullecourt, seriously enough to have been shipped back to England for treatment.  At the end of his treatment in July 1917 he wrote another letter to make sure the Department of Wounded and Missing Soldiers would know where to contact him should they get news, as he had been temporarily moved out of the front lines. On the 3rd of September he was still trying to find out the fate of his brother, writing again to the authorities on his return to his battalion.  Not knowing his brother’s fate he was shipped back to Belgium, where he fought at the battles of the Menin Road 20th – 22nd September, and Poelcappelle 9th – 10th October. In October his father wrote to the authorities about his missing son Clarence, but also mentioned   poignant words about Fines, pleading with the authroities to let his shell shocked son come home, we discovered these heart rending letters in the archives:

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The father didn’t get his wish, instead, Fines was shipped out for another winter of trench duty. Fines then took part in   stopping   the German Spring Offensive of 1918. With this last desperate offensive defeated, the Allied armies turned to the offensive.   But Fines found himself   back in hospital in England. This time he had Trench Fever, a disease spread by body lice in the unhygenic environment of the trenches. Fines was treated in the hospial for just over three weeks, then given two weeks furlough before being shipped back to the front line. 

Once back in the lines, Fines received the official   letter from the authorities concerning his brother, his worst fears were realised.  We can only guess at the pain he carried in his heart as he fought in the battles that pushed the German Army ever closer to defeat: Amiens on 8 August, the legendary attack on Mont St Quentin on 31st August. Then came the last major battle fought by his Battalion which started on 29th September 1918. Two Australian Divisions in co-operation with American forces, attacked the formidable German defences along the St Quentin Canal, and on to the Hindenburg Line. 

Unlike his brother Clarence, Fines fate was well documented by his comrades, and we were able to discover in our research   many tetimonials from them describing what they saw:   Private Quantrill went over the top with him at 06.10 on the morning of 30th September 1918 and saw him fall; Sergeant Callaghan saw him lying dead in a trench with machine gun wounds; Private Simmons wrapped his body for burial and noted that he had been hit in the neck and head by machine gun bullets; Private Green carried his body back for burial after Simmons had wrapped it; and   Sergeant Wilkinson oversaw Fines’s burial at Tincourt Cemetary.   The actions of his friends who had cared for him and provided some dignity after death must have given some comfort to his grieving parents. 

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A number of these men were obviously hisfinesmemorialbuff friends, and refer to him as Merry Godding (the strong Australian accent being mishearing “Merry”  as “Mary” by the officer typing one of the letters) because of  his happy disposition.  He was 21 years old carrried the grief of his younger brother’s death, had been wounded and   sufferred Trench Fever from body lice, he   fought in some of the bloodiest battles of WW1, but despite all of this he still managed to lift the spirits of his comrades.   What greater praise could a man be given?  

James Keith Godding 1905 – 1943

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James Keith survived the First World War because he was too young to join up.   In 1920 he married Catherine Zada Thomson at Woolahra, and they had a daughter named after her mother, Catherine Zada Godding. 

But when World War Two broke out he followed the path of his elder brothers and father, and volunteered for the Australian Army, and after a brief initial spell in the infantry James joined the   artillery as his father had done a generation before him.   It also   looks like he either gave a false birth date on when he joined to make himself look younger.jameskeithmemorialbuff

But tradgedy would stalk the Godding boys again, but James did not succome to the enemy, he sadly died whilst a serving soldier od Tuberculosis, and was cremated in Sidney, attended by his parents and his wife.   The poppy in the picture shows the location of his name on the Australian National Memorial.

 

Roy William Godding

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Roy Wiliam   born in Newton NSW Australia, the son of Thomas Sydney Godding, and the grandson of Vines Godding.   The records we found showed that he was 5ft 8ins tall had dark hair a dark complexion, no doubt tanned from his work shearing in the tropics, and had grey eyes.   He had a 34 inch Chest and weighed just over 1“Goding” stone, so he was quite heavy for his height, but wasn’t particularly broad in the chest.

He was a sheep shearer by occupation, and was working in Queensland when he joined the Australian Imperial Force.   He was shipped out as a member of the 15th Battalionon HMAT Wandilla on 31st January 1916 from Brisbane.

He joined the regiment in Egypt where it had been sent after leaving Gallipoli.   the records show that Roy proved to be a bit of a tearaway, finding himself in hospital on two separate occasions   for treatment for the result   of some “leisure activities” in Cairo, and he subsequently turns up in Rollestone, Wiltshire, UK in September 1916, where he goes AWL (Absent Without Leave), and is given 16 days confinement to Camp, and docked   16 days pay.

His battalion had been in France and had fought in the battle of Pozières in August 1916, so it was possible that he was wounded and shipped back to England.

By November 1916 he is shipped back to France, and must have started showing his worth as by April 1917 he is promoted to Lance Corporal. This probably happened at the first Battle of Bullecourt, the prelude to the Battle in which his cousins fought.   Roy’s battalion suffered heavy losses at Bullecourt when the brigade attacked strong German positions without the promised tank support. During July Roy spent another three weeks in hospital, probably through wounds.   Roy   spent much of the remainder of 1917 in Belgium, advancing to the Hindenburg Line, where again he no doubt proved himself being promoted to Corporal and then to Sergeant.   His greatest moment came in September 1917 in the battle of Polygon Wood, in the larger battle of Passchendale.

The attack on Polygon Wood was the 5th Division’s first major battle since it was savaged at the disastrous attack at Fromelles in July 1916 (although parts of the Division had been present at Bullecourt in April 1917). It would attack with the Australian 4th Division on its left and five British Divisions also taking part.

The troops advanced in the early hours of September 26, close behind a creeping artillery barrage. The barrage was, in the words of C. E. W. Bean, Australia’s Official War Historian, “the most perfect that ever protected Australian troops”. Under the protection of this barrage, the Australians advanced in several stages. The concrete pillboxes were manned by German machine gun teams who resisted fiercely and almost all had to be captured by acts of individual bravery. The Australians captured the pillboxes in what later became the classic style: a Lewis gun would fire on the pillbox, supported by fire from rifle grenades, while an assault team would manoeuvre around to the back of the pillbox, rather than attacking it head on. The technique worked effectively in most cases, but attacking pillboxes was never an easy task and casualties were high.

It was during this engagement that Roy won The Military Medal.   The Military Medal was a military decoration awarded to personnel of the British and Commonwealth Armies, below Officer rank, for bravery in battle on land.   The medal was established on 25th March 1916. It was the other rank’s equivalent to the Military Cross.

The official records said:

“During the attack near Zokkebake on 26th September 1917 he displayed splendid courage and gallantry in leading his men against a party of the enemy who were holding up the advance.

During the consolidation of the captured position he dispalyed great coolness and skill in rallying his men and beating off a counter attack.

During a very heavy bombardment he inspired great confidence in those around him by his coloness and disregard for danger.” 

He survived the war and returned to Australia in 1918 and was demobilised in 1919.

This is just an extract from what was discovered during the research, which also included the the parts of the family that stayed in England, and contained details of births, Deaths, and Marriages, as well as addresses and occupations.  If you are interested in having your own family tree researched you can find more details here; Time Detectives Services.

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