In Proud and Grateful Memory
short history of the
the people connected with the church who
gave their lives in World War One
wall at the back of
To the Glory of God
In proud and grateful memory
of the following men associated
with this church who made the supreme sacrifice
The Great War – 1914-1918
Fenton Charles Banthorpe
Albert Henry Brunning
Alfred Charles Gidney
Philip Ernest Pell
Herbert Stephen Popplewell
Reginald Nicholas Trott
Leslie Haydn Reeve
Arthur Sidney Strugnell
Twelve lives. Twelve histories - all linked by
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
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.
ALFRED CHARLES GIDNEY (1894 – 1914)
Alfred Gidney (known as
Alfred Charles) was born on
February 13th 1894 at
Alfred’s mother Georgina died when Alfred was four and
by this time the family were resident at
joined the Royal Horse Artillery in 1914 and was part of the first British
Expeditionary Force (BEF) that travelled to
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.
British were retreating. The Germans had scored a victory at
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.
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
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
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.
Charles Gidney is buried at the
SOLDIER ON HORSEBACK
ARTHUR SIDNEY STRUGNELL (1883 - 1915)
Strugnell was born near
Petersfield in Hampshire in September 1883. The family were local to
the area and lived in the nearby
age of 17, Arthur had joined the Royal Horse Artillery becoming a member of
“Y” Battery based at
is known about Arthur in these intervening years, but in the late summer of
1913 he married Ipswich girl Lily Wisby at
war broke out, a number of Batteries and Battalions were called to arms from
all over the
attack was to take place around
Givenchy in north eastern
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.
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
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
DONALD PRETTY (1892 - 1915)
Pretty was born in March 1892 into the well known Pretty family of
educated at the prestigious
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
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.
likely that Donald Pretty died of his wounds soon after – his death was
recorded as May 11th 1915 . Donald is
THE IRONMONGER’S APPRENTICE
HERBERT POPPLEWELL (1885 – 1917)
Stephen Popplewell was born on March 13th
probable that by the time the war started, the family had moved to
“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.”
1916, Herbert’s battalion was involves in various battles on the
the winter of 1916/17, the division remained in the
ALBERT HENRY BRUNNING (1891 - 1917)
Henry Brunning was born in late 1891 in
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
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.
the huge loss of life on the
Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
were still involved close to the Hindenburg line near
WILLIAM WISBY (1896 - 1917)
Wisby was born in
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.
division underwent training at Aldershot in February 1915 and crossed to
May 1917 onwards, the 12th Division (of which William’s battalion
were a part) were based at the
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
THE MAJOR’S STORY
THE MAJOR’S STORY
HAROLD PRETTY MC (1882 - 1918)
Pretty was born in December 1882 to Alfred Pretty and his Australian wife
Elizabeth. Harold was part of the successful Pretty family of
joined the Suffolk Regiment and was a Captain in the 4th
Battalion based at Portman Road Drill Hall in
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
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
THE PREACHER’S SON
ROWLAND REES MC (1882? - 1918)
was born in 1882, the son of Rev Allen Rees and his wife Eleanor. Rev Rees
was the Minister at
Rowland’s family was steeped in Methodism; his grandfather was a Methodist
lay preacher who worked as an architect in
joined the 6th Battalion of the Seaforth
Highlanders – possibly when they were stationed at
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
is remembered at the
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.
Banthorpe was born in Ipswich in spring 1892 to
William Banthorpe and his wife Charlotte; as
well as Fenton, William and
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
Fenton’s battalion remained in
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
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
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.
Machine Gun Battalion was part of a force which pushed the Germans back
through the Picardy area of northern
October 10th 1918, the Germans had taken up defensive positions
by the River Selle near to the small town of
Reginald Nicholas Trott died on October 17th
1918, less than 4 weeks before the end of the war. He is buried in the
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.
Frederick (known as Fred in the family) was born into a long line of
painters and glaziers in
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
also became a teacher, and for a while before the First World War, he taught
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
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
September 1916, during fighting at Les Boeufs on
August 1917, Leslie married Elforda Alice Oates
at the little village
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 “
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
Reeve’s sister Allie married Henry Riches from
A SURVIVOR – BUT NOT FOR LONG
PHILIP PELL (1897 –1920)
Ernest Pell was born in June 1897 in the
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
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.
thing we do know is that Philip was one of only two men mentioned on the
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.
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).
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
96 men connected with
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.
memorial remembers the collective sacrifice of the men from
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM
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.