In Proud and Grateful Memory

 

 

 

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a short history of the Museum Street

Methodist Church war memorial and

the people connected with the church who

gave their lives in World War One

 

Alastair Macartney

 

INTRODUCTION

 

On a wall at the back of Museum Street Methodist Church in Ipswich is a bronze plaque which has gone relatively unnoticed for the best part of ninety years. On the plaque are inscribed the following words:-

 

To the Glory of God

and

In proud and grateful memory

of the following men associated

with this church who made the supreme sacrifice

in

The Great War – 1914-1918

 

Fenton Charles Banthorpe

Albert Henry Brunning

Alfred Charles Gidney

Philip Ernest Pell

Herbert Stephen Popplewell

Reginald Nicholas Trott

 

Donald Pretty

Harold Pretty

Rowland Rees

Leslie Haydn Reeve

Arthur Sidney Strugnell

William Wisby

 

 

Twelve names. Twelve lives. Twelve histories - all linked by Museum Street Church. I’d passed the memorial many times and wondered what was behind the names. Where were they born? What were their stories? Where did they die?

 

I decided to go about trying to answer some of these questions. This was partly out of my increasing curiosity and partly because of the 150th anniversary of Museum Street in 2010/11.

 

When I began this research, I had no idea what I’d find. Looking back on it now, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the stories of these twelve men encompass poverty, wealth, happiness, sadness, extreme heroism and, ultimately, tragedy.

 

This is for the twelve.

Alastair Macartney

July 2010

 

 

OUT OF THE FOG

ALFRED CHARLES GIDNEY (1894 – 1914)

 

Charles Alfred Gidney (known as Alfred Charles) was born on February 13th 1894 at 8 Carr Street in Ipswich. Alfred’s father Edric was the manager of Eastern Counties Dairies and had moved to Ipswich from Norfolk.

 

Alfred’s mother Georgina died when Alfred was four and by this time the family were resident at 53 St Matthews Street in Ipswich. Alfred’s father remarried; to Beatrice Haydock from Manningtree in 1901. In the census of 1901, the seven year old Alfred is shown as being a visitor of the Brame family in Trimley St Martin near Felixstowe.

 

Alfred joined the Royal Horse Artillery in 1914 and was part of the first British Expeditionary Force (BEF) that travelled to France to defend the German attack through Belgium.

 

Alfred was part of “L” Battery of the Royal Horse Artillery and it is highly likely that he died a hero as part of one of the most famous battles of the War, The Battle of Nery, in September 1914. Around five hundred BEF troops defeated and pushed back four thousand German troops in a battle which started in extraordinary circumstances. Such was the bravery of “L” Battery on September 1st 1914  that no fewer than three Victoria Crosses were earned by them on this day alone.

 

The British were retreating. The Germans had scored a victory at Mons in Belgium and were pushing through northern France towards Paris. By August 31st 1914 the British had reached the village of Nery in north-eastern France and decided to rest for the night. A thick fog has descended and it was decided to wait until the fog lifted before moving again. Of course, the British thought that the Germans were miles away…..

 

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. By just after 4am on September 1st, the Germans too had arrived just east of Nery. Around four thousand Germans were less than half a mile from where the British were camped for the night.

 

A British scouting party went out to recce the area, on the remote chance that there may be some Germans around. They spotted the Germans but were unable to raise the alarm before disturbing them. Within seconds, the whole place erupted. German guns began to get their range on the British, who had been caught completely off-guard. The only gun Battery in the area was “L” Battery (of which Alfred was a Gunner) and they now found themselves almost surrounded and massively outnumbered by the Germans.

 

Half of the men at the guns were killed almost immediately by German shells. In no time at all, “L” Battery was down to its last gun with only four men to man it. Incredibly, the Battery had held the British position and reinforcements arrived just as the last shell was being fired from the last gun.

 

Twenty three men from “L” Battery were killed immediately and 31 wounded.

 

It is likely that Alfred Charles Gidney was one of the 31 wounded that day and may have subsequently died of his wounds a few days later. His date of death is recorded as September 8th. On 12th November 1918, the day after Armistice Day, Alfred’s step-mother applied for the 1914 Star decoration on behalf of her stepson. It was awarded posthumously.

 

Alfred Charles Gidney is buried at the Baron Communal Cemetery, around 5 miles from Nery – he was 20 years old.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 


SOLDIER ON HORSEBACK

ARTHUR SIDNEY STRUGNELL (1883 - 1915)

 

 

Arthur Strugnell was born near Petersfield in Hampshire in September 1883. The family were local to the area and lived in the nearby village of Buriton.

 

By the age of 17, Arthur had joined the Royal Horse Artillery becoming a member of “Y” Battery based at Aldershot. Records show that Arthur may have served for at least 12 years in India prior to the start of the War with “F” battery of the Royal Field Artillery.

 

Little is known about Arthur in these intervening years, but in the late summer of 1913 he married Ipswich girl Lily Wisby at Holly Lodge Baptist Church in Bramford Lane. Lily was the sister of William Wisby (another member of Museum Street also mentioned on the war memorial). Arthur and Lily had  a daughter, Muriel Strugnell (1914-2004) who married Ernest Field.

 

When war broke out, a number of Batteries and Battalions were called to arms from all over the British Empire. “F” Battery became part of the 7th Division and took part in a number of battles throughout 1914 and early 1915. In June 1915 another attack was planned and Arthur’s “F” Battery was re-armed with new 18-pounder guns.

 

The attack was to take place around Givenchy in north eastern France and on June 13th 1915, the British started bombarding the Germans with heavy artillery fire. In addition, miners’ units were digging tunnels under “No Man’s Land” to plant mines in an attempt to destroy German tunnels and defences.

 

At 5.58pm on June 15th 1915, the British detonated a 3,000 pound bomb which marked the start of the attack. However, the Germans were well prepared; their defences were deep and thick barbed wire had been laid.  The Germans mowed down many of the advancing British troops immediately and casualties were high. Nearly 400 British men were killed or listed as missing with over 600 injured.

 

It is likely that Arthur died either in the pre-attack bombardment at Givenchy or during the battle itself. Arthur is buried in Row B, Grave 23 of the Hinges Military Cemetery, near Bethune in France – he was 33 years old.

 

Arthur’s wife Lily never got over the death of her husband in war and sadly in 1928 she died “at her own hand”, leaving her daughter Muriel an orphan at the age of thirteen.


 


THE SOLDIER AND THE WIMBLEDON CHAMPION

DONALD PRETTY (1892 - 1915)

 

Donald Pretty was born in March 1892 into the well known Pretty family of Ipswich. His grandfather was William Pretty, owner of the drapery business based at Waterloo House (where the Debenhams store now stands). The family were staunch Methodists – William Pretty was a lay preacher and helped found both Alan Road and Museum Street churches.

 

Donald  was educated at the prestigious Rugby School and in France before attending Wye College in Kent. He returned to Suffolk to study agriculture at Felixstowe and Brantham and was known as a gifted lawn tennis player. It’s likely that through his tennis connections, he became friends with Tony Wilding, the New Zealand tennis player and Wimbledon Singles Champion in 1910, 1911, 1912 and 1913.

 

At the outbreak of war, Donald volunteered for the army and joined the 4th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment. In May 1915, the battalion was in the trenches near Neuve Chapelle, north of Arras in France. The Battle has since become known as the Battle of Aubers Ridge.

 

Captain Tony Wilding was also with the 4th Suffolks (despite being a member of the Royal Marines Armoured Car Division).  Wilding travelled around in an armoured car towing a large Hotchkiss gun and would set up an emplacement near trenches as needed.

 

At around 4.45pm on May 9th 1915, Donald Pretty and Tony Wilding were talking at the entrance to a dug-out, Suddenly a heavy shell exploded on the roof of the dug-out. Wilding was killed instantly and colleagues quickly brought out Donald Pretty, who was still breathing.

 

It’s likely that Donald Pretty died of his wounds soon after – his death was recorded as May 11th 1915 . Donald is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery in northern France – he was 23 years old.


 

 

 

 


 


THE IRONMONGER’S APPRENTICE

HERBERT POPPLEWELL (1885 – 1917)

 

Herbert Stephen Popplewell was born on March 13th 1885 in Ipswich, the son of Joseph and Elizabeth Popplewell. Joseph was an engine-maker and turner by trade and the family lived at 61 Lacy Street in Ipswich. The 1901 census shows fifteen year old Herbert working as an ironmongers apprentice.

 

It’s probable that by the time the war started, the family had moved to London. Herbert is shown as having enlisted in the 14th (County of London) Battalion (London Scottish Regiment) based at New Southgate. In February 1916 the battalion became part of the 168th Brigade, itself part of the larger 56th (London) Division. In autumn 1914, the battalion was involved in the Battle of Messines under the command of Sir John French, who wrote in one of his despatches:-

 

“On the 5th November I despatched eleven battalions of the Second Corps, all considerably reduced in strength … the London Scottish and Hertfordshire Battalions of Territorials, and the Somersetshire and Leicestershire Regiments of Yeomanry, were subsequently sent to reinforce the troops fighting to the east of Ypres … I was obliged to despatch them immediately … and, although they gallantly maintained these northern positions until relieved by the French, they were reduced to a condition of extreme exhaustion.”

 

During 1916, Herbert’s battalion was involves in various battles on the Somme and was part of the attacks the led the Germans to retreat to the Hindenburg Line. The unit was involved in the Battles of Le Transloy Ridges in October 1916, In particular the 56th (London Division) was instrumental in capturing the village of Combles from the Germans, who had sheltered many hundreds of soldiers in deep ancient catacombs under the village.

 

During the winter of 1916/17, the division remained in the Somme area and it is likely that Herbert lost his life during this period. Private Herbert Stephen Popplewell died on May 12th 1917  - he was 32 years old.  He is remembered in two different places; in Bay 10 of the Arras Memorial in France and also as part of the Popplewell family grave at New Southgate Cemetery in London.

 


 

 

THE SOMME SURVIVOR

ALBERT HENRY BRUNNING (1891 - 1917)

 

Albert Henry Brunning was born in late 1891 in Ipswich, the son of Phillip Brunning and his wife Anne. Albert’s father was a baker and pastry cook and the 1901 census shows the family living at 39 Rendlesham Road in Ipswich (the family previously having previously lived nearby at 17 Chevallier Street).

 

Albert joined the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, possibly when the battalion was based in Cromer during August 1914. From there the battalion took a train to Wembley and then on to Southampton before embarking for France. The 2nd Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was moved into a number of different divisions of the British Army but in 1915 it became part of the 96th Brigade, which in turn was part of the larger 32nd Division

 

In 1916, Albert’s unit was part of the even larger 4th Army under the command of Sir Henry Rawlinson. The unit was involved in the first Battle of the Somme which began on July 1st 1916 and Albert’s unit were active in the Thiepval area, which suffered huge losses during the first few days of battle.

 

Despite the huge loss of life on the Somme in 1916, during March and April of 1917, Albert’s were involved in pushing the Germans back to the “Hindenburg Line”. The Hindenburg Line was a heavily fortified line of defence that the Germans had built earlier in the war and in 1917 after several lost battles in northern France, the German high command took the decision to retreat to this area.

 

The 2nd Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were still involved close to the Hindenburg line near Ypres and Paschendale in December 1917. It is likely that Albert Henry Brunning died near here on December 3rd 1917. Albert Henry Brunning was 26 years old and he is remembered at Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing in Belgium. The memorial contains the names of nearly 35,000 people with no known grave. A further 11,000 casualties are buried in the cemetery there, making Tyne Cot the biggest war cemetery for Commonwealth forces anywhere in the world.

 



FOREVER TOGETHER

WILLIAM WISBY (1896 - 1917)

 

William Wisby was born in Ipswich in the first part of 1896, the son of Frederick and Caroline Wisby. William had older siblings Annie, Fredrick, Lily and Gertrude and the family lived at 6 Perth Street (now demolished) in the St Matthews area of Ipswich.  By 1917, William’s parents had moved to 7 Kingston Road, situated between Bramford Road and Bramford Lane in Ipswich.

 

William joined the Suffolk Regiment as part of the 7th Battalion, rising to the rank of Serjeant (as the rank was referred to at the time). The 7th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment was formed at the start of the war, based at Bury St Edmunds and was attached to the 35th Brigade of the 12th (Eastern) Division.

 

The division underwent training at Aldershot in February 1915 and crossed to France at Boulogne in late May. William’s battalion was soon involved on the front line in the Battle of Loos in 1915 and on the Somme from July 1916. In April and May 1917, William’s division was involved in the Arras Offensive, in particular as part of the battles at Scarpe and Arieux.

 

From May 1917 onwards, the 12th Division (of which William’s battalion were a part) were based at the village of Monchy Le Preux, southeast of Arras. Fighting had been fierce in April and in the ensuing months the division was mostly involved in manual work such as trench building and the laying of roads. However, as well as this preparation work, the 12th Division also carried out small attacks and raids into German territory.

 

Serjeant William Henry Wisby died on August 9th 1917 at the age of 21 and it is likely that he lost his life during the period when the division were stationed at Monchy Le Preux. William is remembered in Bay 4 of the Arras Memorial, just a few metres away from where the name of Major Harold Pretty is also etched. Although the two men died in different battles nearly six months apart, they are forever linked by two things – they were both members of Museum Street Methodist Church and they are both remembered forever on the Arras Memorial.

 



THE MAJOR’S STORY

HAROLD PRETTY MC (1882 - 1918)

 

Harold Pretty was born in December 1882 to Alfred Pretty and his Australian wife Elizabeth. Harold was part of the successful Pretty family of Ipswich and was a cousin to Donald Pretty, who is also mentioned on the Museum Street War Memorial. Harold and Donald’s grandfather William Pretty had provided much of the original funding to build Museum Street Methodist Church in 1860/61. The 1881 census shows the family as living in Clovelly Villa in Russell Road, Ipswich, close to where the Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Borough Council offices now stand.

 

Harold joined the Suffolk Regiment and was a Captain in the 4th Battalion based at Portman Road Drill Hall in Ipswich at the start of the war. In February 1916, the battalion became part of the larger 98th Brigade, itself part of the bigger 33rd Division. The division was involved in several stages of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 as well as the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917 (known as the Battle of Passchendaele). It’s possible that during this battle Captain Harold Pretty was awarded the Military Cross. The London Gazette noted the fact on December 28th 1917, as well Captain Pretty’s promotion to Acting Major with the 10th Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry as of January 1st 1918.

 

On March 21st 1918, the Germans launched an attack known as Operation Michael, which heralded the start of the Battle of St Quentin. The aim of the operation was for the Germans to split the British and French forces and push the British back to the English Channel.  Fighting was fierce and continued until March 26th.  On the first day of Operation Michael alone, 7,000 British soldiers were killed and 20,000 were taken prisoner.

 

It is likely that Acting Major Harold Pretty MC died during this fighting on March 24th 1918; he was 35 years old.  Although he has no known grave, Harold Pretty is remembered in Bay 4 of the Arras Memorial in north-eastern France.

 

 

 

 



THE PREACHER’S SON

ROWLAND REES MC (1882? - 1918)

 

Rowland was born in 1882, the son of Rev Allen Rees and his wife Eleanor. Rev Rees was the Minister at Museum Street and Circuit Superintendant from 1910 until his death whilst serving as a minister in 1914. Rowland was also the cousin of the author Ivy Compton-Burnett (1884-1969) and nephew of the Australian MP and education minister Rowland Rees (1840-1904).

 

Rowland’s family was steeped in Methodism; his grandfather was a Methodist lay preacher who worked as an architect in Hong Kong and was later Mayor of Dover. Rowland’s father Allen was a Minister at several churches including Wesley’s Chapel at City Road, London, Chelsea Methodist Church and had helped establish a new Methodist Church at Upminster in London.

 

Rowland joined the 6th Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders – possibly when they were stationed at Bedford. During his time with the Seaforth Highlanders, Rowland was awarded the Military Cross for bravery after rescuing stranded colleagues under heavy enemy fire.

 

In March 1918 the 6th Seaforth Highlanders were part of the larger 51st Division (a group of battalions). On March 21st 1918, the Germans launched a massive attack on the British and Rowland’s Division were involved in fierce fighting around Flesquieres, near Arras in France. It is likely that Rowland was killed in this fighting.

 

Rowland is remembered at the Arras memorial in northern France. The memorial contains over 70,000 names. These are not the names of all the men who fell in the area – just the men who have no known grave. Rowland Rees was 35 years old.

 

 



 

 

 

ONE OF THE LAST TO FALL

FENTON BANTHORPE (1892 –1918)

 

I would like to thank both Melissa Banthorpe and Malcolm Banthorpe for valuable information about their relative.

 

Fenton Banthorpe was born in Ipswich in spring 1892 to William Banthorpe and his wife Charlotte; as well as Fenton, William and Charlotte also had another son Peter. Fenton’s ancestors came from the Framlingham and Yoxford areas of Suffolk and the 1901 census lists the family as living in Cobbold Street in the village of Dennington, close to Framlingham.

 

Fenton joined the 6th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment, known as a cyclist battalion. Cyclist regiments were formed mainly as reserve forces, but occasionally, some men were posted to France to support other regiments near the front line (cycles were seen as quieter than horses for getting troops from one place to another quickly). The headquarters for the battalion was the Woodbridge Road Drill hall in Ipswich, which later became the Ipswich Caribbean Centre.

 

Fenton’s battalion remained in England throughout the war and in spring 1917 he married Eva Garnham in Ipswich. This was followed by the birth of a son Donald Fenton Banthorpe in 1918. Donald went on to marry a Doris Parker from Ipswich and they had a son Malcolm, who became a successful videotape editor working in television.

 

Cruelly, Fenton Banthorpe died on Sunday November 10th 1918, the very day before the Armistice was signed that ended the First World War – he was 26 years old. At the time of writing, the circumstances and place of Fenton’s death are not known but we do know that he was living with his wife Eva and infant son Donald at 37 Old Foundry Road in Ipswich around this time. Fenton is buried in Ipswich Old Cemetery but curiously, although he died a serving soldier and is remembered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, his grave is a civilian one and not a Commonwealth War Grave.


 

 


KILLED IN THE FINAL PUSH

REGINALD TROTT (1899? – 1918)

 

Reginald Nicholas Trott was the youngest of the twelve men mentioned on the Museum Street War memorial. He was born in late 1898 or early 1899 in Ipswich to Fred and Emily Trott. Fred Trott was a “man of his own means” and the 1901 census lists him as the keeper of a “refreshment house” (restaurant) in Princes Street, Ipswich; the family later moved to Henley Road on the outskirts of  town.

 

Reginald originally joined the Suffolk Regiment and was issued with the regimental number 3010 but when he joined the 25th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps, he was given the number 133618. Reginald’s battalion was attached to the 25th Division of Lord Kitchener’s Third Army and Reginald was part of the infantry detachment of the battalion.

 

In 1917, the Germans had retreated to the heavily fortified Hindenburg Line and by the autumn of 1918, the British and French were capturing more and more ground. Their aim was to make the “final push”, move the German Army back from the Hindenburg Line and ultimately overwhelm them and win the war.

 

The Machine Gun Battalion was part of a force which pushed the Germans back through the Picardy area of northern France in what proved to be the final decisive action of the war. From September 27th to October 9th 1918, Reginald’s Battalion was part of the Battle of Cambrai, followed closely by the Battle of the Selle from October 17th to October 25th.

 

On October 10th 1918, the Germans had taken up defensive positions by the River Selle near to the small town of Le Cateau.  On October 17th, the British attacked a ten mile stretch south of Le Cateau and Reginald’s battalion was involved in this action; it is likely that Reginald was killed during start of this battle.

 

Reginald Nicholas Trott died on October 17th 1918, less than 4 weeks before the end of the war. He is buried in the Highland Cemetery at Le Cateau alongside 623 other men who died during the final push. Reginald saw neither victory nor his twentieth birthday – he was 19 years old when he died.

 





THE SCHOOLMASTER

LESLIE HAYDN REEVE (1891 - 1919)

 

 

Leslie Haydn Reeve was born on 14 September 1891, the first son and fourth child of Francis Frederick Reeve and his wife Alice Maude Mary (nee Friend).  His parents already had two daughters, Frances Alice Mary, (Lesley Williams’ grandmother – known as “Allie”) born in 1881 and Elsie, born in 1888. A third daughter, Kathleen, had died of jaundice in 1889 at the age of 5.  One can imagine the joy that greeted Leslie’s arrival.  A second son, Robert, was born in 1897.

 

Francis Frederick (known as Fred in the family) was born into a long line of painters and glaziers in Ipswich and he, his father Robert and grandfather Gabriel were all Freemen of the Borough.  Fred qualified as a Certificated Teacher and for 8 years was the Schoolmaster at Barbrook, near Lynton in Devon, where his daughters were born.  However, when they returned to their home town of Ipswich, Fred took a job as a clerk in the local foundry firm of Ransoms Sims and Jeffries.

 

The Reeves were a close and loving family.  They were active Methodists, and both Fred and his father Robert were well-respected Local Preachers and Class Leaders.  As Leslie grew up he was particularly close to his older sister Allie, who always spoke fondly of him.  Allie followed her parents into the teaching profession, training at Southlands College in London, and then returning to take up a teaching post at Ipswich.

 

Leslie also became a teacher, and for a while before the First World War, he taught in Belgium.  Allie visited him there on at least one occasion, and spoke of the time they had spent together in Brussels and Bruges.  When war broke out, Leslie returned to England and took up a teaching post at Woodbridge, near to his family.

 

One day in the school yard, Leslie saw a young boy looking lost and alone, and went to speak to him.  He discovered that the boy was a Belgian refugee, and spoke little or no English.  Leslie was able to draw on the experience of his time in Belgium to communicate with the boy.  He befriended him and taught him English.  In gratitude, the boy’s mother gave him a gift, the only thing she had to give, which were the wooden clogs she had worn on her escape to England.  These clogs are now a treasured heirloom, along with a photograph of Leslie with the Belgian boy. The name of the boy was never known, nor what became of him later.

 

 

 

Leslie enlisted on 6 November 1915. His military record papers show that he was aged 24 years and 3 months and he was described as being 5 foot 5 inches tall. He was assigned firstly to the 10th Battalion Suffolk Regiment, then in April 1916 was transferred to the 2/6 Essex Regiment.  He joined the British Expeditionary Force in France on 29 August 1916 as a member of the 1/6 Battalion, Durham Light Infantry and two weeks later was transferred again, this time to the 14th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry.

 

On 21 September 1916, during fighting at Les Boeufs on the Somme, he received a gunshot wound to his right shoulder. Leslie received treatment at a military hospital in the French town of Etaples.  Etaples was only 4.5km from the Straits of Dover, and wounded soldiers were often sent to there to recover or en route for Britain. Leslie was repatriated to England on 8 October 1916 where he continued to receive hospital treatment, firstly at Southern General Hospital Bristol and then at the Military Hospital Tidworth.

 

On 7 August 1917, Leslie married Elforda Alice Oates at the little village church of Combs in Suffolk.  Sadly, their married life was to be cut short by the influenza epidemic of 1918. 

 

Weakened by his war wounds, Leslie succumbed to the deadly virus. In his last few days, Leslie was delirious, and rambling in his speech.  His nurses told the family that he kept talking about “America”, but the family knew better.  Only 2 weeks earlier, his elder sister Allie had given birth to a baby girl (Lesley Williams’ mother, still alive aged 91 at the time of writing), whom they had named “Mary Erica”.  Leslie was not talking about the USA, but about his baby niece!

 

Leslie died on 18 February 1919.  His father was with him when he died and, for the second time, carried out the sad duty of registering the death of one of his children.  Leslie was buried in the cemetery at Woodbridge.  Leslie’s name is also listed on the war memorial there.

 

Leslie Reeve’s sister Allie married Henry Riches from Ipswich. Both Allie and Henry Riches were local preachers and closely involved in establishing Landseer Road Methodist Church, Ipswich. As well as Mary Erica, Henry and Allie Riches had another daughter Lottie (known as “Tots”). Lottie Riches was well known at Museum Street Methodist Church; she left Ipswich in 1990 and died in 2002.

 

 

 

 

 

A SURVIVOR – BUT NOT FOR LONG

PHILIP PELL (1897 –1920)

 

Philip Ernest Pell was born in June 1897 in the village of Little Bytham in Lincolnshire. His parents, Philip and Sarah were from Bourne near Stamford and by 1901 the family were living in Stamford itself, the census that year showing the family resident at 12a All Saints Road. Philip had two older brothers, John and William.

 

Research has found very little information about Philip’s life from 1901 to the start of the war. However, what is known is that at some point in this period, the family moved to Ipswich.

 

During the war Philip became a Private in the Hampshire Regiment. Again, little is currently known about his war record. It is possible that Philip could have been a member of the 1st Battalion, situated in Colchester in 1914, or he may have been a member of the 52nd (Graduated) Battalion, a training Battalion which was based at Foxhall Heath, just outside Ipswich, from March 1918 onwards.

 

One thing we do know is that Philip was one of only two men mentioned on the Museum Street war memorial to live to see Armistice Day (Leslie Haydn Reeve being the other). Philip died on September 20th 1920 but the circumstances and place of his death have not yet been uncovered, despite much research. However, it is known that at the time of Philip’s death, his parents were living at 43 Blanche Street in Ipswich.

 

Because Philip Pell is remembered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, it is possible that his death after the end of the war (like that of Leslie Reeve) was hastened by the effect of his war wounds. The Ipswich Circuit Obituary Book reference to Philip tends to back this up:-

 

“Sept 20th 1920 – at the age of 23, Bro Philip Ernest Pell, a devoted worker. As local preacher his services were always appreciated. He was an earnest worker in the Bands of Hope & also with the Boy Scouts. He had never recovered from his injuries received in the Great War 1914-1918 which undoubtedly hastened his death. His funeral was very largely attended and the concluding words of a most impressive address by the Rev John Elsworth were “Bro Philip Pell was always abounding in the work of the Lord”. “

 

Philip Ernest Pell is buried in grave BA.2.49 of the World War One memorial garden of Ipswich Old Cemetery – he was 23 years old.

EPILOGUE

AGE SHALL NOT WEARY THEM

 

At their meeting on December 17th 1920, the Museum Street Trustees voted that the memorial tablet should be in “the centre panel under the gallery on the right hand side of the front entrance”, and that the memorial be of brass on an oak background. The cost of the memorial was estimated to be around £20 (approximately equivalent to £750 today).

 

Mr Charles Balhatchet, a member of the Trustees and a silversmith by trade, agreed to provide the tablet at cost price. Despite the Trustees looking into the matter, it took a further two years before a final decision was taken on the precise design and location of the memorial (eventually “on the right hand side of the rostrum” where it is located today). Major Frank Pretty, the brother of Donald Pretty and cousin of Harold Pretty, was asked to unveil the memorial. Mr Whitehead, sometime organist at the church, was asked to produce a Roll of Honour listing all the Museum Street men who served in the Great War. This is also displayed at the back of the church, on the opposite side to the memorial tablet. The Reverend John Elsworth proposed the wording on the memorial.

 

Of the 96 men connected with Museum Street Church listed as having served in the First World War, twelve men died as a result. Some of the men who died, like Fenton Banthorpe, were married with infant children. Others, like Reginald Trott, were still almost children themselves when they perished.

 

Although the men who died were from vastly differing social backgrounds, every name on the memorial is inscribed the same size. No one person’s sacrifice is more or less important than anyone else’s. 

 

The memorial remembers the collective sacrifice of the men from Museum Street Methodist Church – Fenton Banthorpe, Albert Brunning, Alfred Gidney, Philip Pell, Herbert Popplewell, Reginald Trott, Donald Pretty, Harold Pretty, Rowland Rees, Leslie Reeve, Arthur Strugnell and William Wisby.

 

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM



References

 


I am indebted to A. Wallis Masters for their book “Captain Anthony Wilding” (published by Hodder & Stoughton, 1916) for details about the life of Tony Wilding and to www.ashfordsfallen.com for details of Donald Pretty’s education and training.