29th Jan 1916. Compulsion Passed – Five weeks for Unattested Young Single Men



The House of Lords passed the Compulsion Bill on Wednesday night.

This means that within five weeks from Thursday young single men for whom there is no excuse will be in khaki. Eight groups are already called up—ages 19 to 26 inclusive.


The Labour Party Conference was resumed on Thursday at Bristol. A resolution was moved in these terms :-

This the National Labour Party protests emphatically against the adoption of Conscription in any form, as it is against the spirit of British democracy and full of danger to the liberties of the people.

The voting was:

For the resolution …… 1,796,000

Against …………….. 219,000

The resolution was declared carried amidst cheers.


Lord Derby stated in the House of Lords on Tuesday night that married men were enlisting in large numbers day by day under the group system. Single men, too, were coming in in bigger proportion than the married, but not to such an extent as yet as to justify the statement that the number still left was a “ negligible quantity.”

Lord Derby mentioned that since his report was issued four lists of reserved occupations had been published, and in four days last week 100,000 badges were distributed. He appealed to the Government to stay their hand in this matter.

It is understood that a farther set of groups will be called up during next month, and a hint to “ Derby ” recruits may, therefore, prove of use. An important point in the scheme was a promise to men who attested that they would be allowed to join the regiments of their choice on being summoned to the colours, as far as this was practicable. A large number of those who responded to the call last week, however, when the first groups were instructed to present themselves, found, it is freely said, that no attention was paid to their wishes, and that they were drafted to corps in which they had no interest. If a man wishes to enter a particular regiment because of personal or local associations, or the presence of friends in the ranks, he will find it advisable, therefore, to enlist in that unit in the ordinary way a few hours before the time fixed for his appearance at a depot under the group system.


Lieut. G. T. Hilton, of the Motor Transport Section, has been gazetted captain, the promotion to date from December 1st.

The members of the Rugby Co-operative Women’s Guild recently sent a consignment of socks, and handkerchiefs to the Rugby men in the Oxon and Bucks Light Infantry, and Mrs. Busby, the secretary, has received a letter of thanks from Sergt.-Major Percival Thistlewood, in which he says it gives the Rugby men great satisfaction to know “ that they are still in the memory of their native town.”

On Page 3 of this issue [Not included in this Blog] will be found an account of how the gallant 9th Warwickshires were decimated and lost, all their officers in Gallipoli. There was one officer, however, Lieut. G. H. D. Coates, formerly manager of Lloyds Bank at Rugby, who was not in the fighting. Being seriously ill, he was in hospital at Cairo at the time. Subsequently he was placed in command of the Turkish Officers Prisoners of War Hospital at Cairo, till illness again compelled another stay in hospital. We are glad to learn that he is now convalescent, and is going to Luxor for a month, and after another spell at the T.O.P.W. Hospital hopes to rejoin his regiment.

We learn that Sergt. J, Menelly, of the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was killed on the Gallipoli Peninsula on January 1st. His parents resided at Downing Street, Belfast, and when the 89th Brigade was stationed in Rugby, he was billeted at 178 Cambridge Street. He was one of the first soldiers to interest himself in the Cambridge Street Wesleyan Soldiers’ Home, and he was subsequently appointed to take charge of the club. He was very popular with all the frequenters of the rooms, by whom he was known as “ Corporal Jim ” and, possessing a rich voice, his services as a singer were in much request. When his regiment was ordered to the front, he was appointed a range finder. The news of his death was received from Corpl Black, who was also billeted with him, and who has been invalided home with the loss of a lung through shrapnel.


News has been received by Mrs. E. A. Farndon, of Poplar Grove, that her husband, Gunner Farndon, of the Rugby Howitzer Battery, has been rather badly wounded in the face by shrapnel. He is at present in a hospital in France, where he has been attended by Dr. Hoskyn, of Rugby, and is getting on well.


George Renshaw, the captain of the Rugby Football Club, who, after ten months’ service in France, is now with the Army Service Corps in Salonica, has, according to a letter he has sent to his brother, recently had a very narrow escape. A German aeroplane flew over the corps and dropped a bomb outside the tent in which the Rugby captain was sitting. The orderly outside was seriously wounded, but those inside the tent fortunately escaped injury,. The writer also states that he met George Cave, a well-known Rugby forward who has assisted the local club, at Salonica.



To the Editor of the Advertiser.

DEAR SIR,—As announced in your columns last week a committee has been formed to arrange for sending small comforts from the town to all Rugby and New Bilton men serving with the colours.

It is extremely desirable, in the first place, that a complete record should be compiled of all who joined His Majesty’s Forces, and in order to obtain this we are very anxious to secure the co-operation of any who will undertake to go round and get the names in the various parts of the town, and at the same time secure subscriptions towards the fund.

It is not anticipated that many visits will be necessary, and if those ladies and gentlemen who so kindly gave their services to the Prince of Wales’ Fund will undertake their old districts, it will be a great help towards attaining the desired end. I earnestly hope, therefore, that all who can possibly spare time will send their names in to me at 27 Sheep Street.

Yours very truly,

SIR,—Would it be out of place to suggest that the Urban Council of Rugby should set aside a piece of ground in Rugby Cemetery as a Heroes’ Portion, in which free interment could be made of soldiers who died on returning from active service or Home defence to their native town. It seems rather grim to suggest this, but the fact has to be faced that many soldiers may return broken in war and perhaps so injured that their enfeebled constitution will hardly enable them long to survive. I understand that several places have already done this, and I read that Northampton Council has set aside a portion of the civic cemetery for this purpose. The town should surely relieve the relatives and parents of the dead heroes of the necessity of paying for graves; indeed, the town should deem it an honour to grant them a last resting-place, upon which future generations could not look unmoved. I would go so far as to suggest that all Rugby men serving with the colours should be able to claim a last resting-place in this portion, no matter how long they live after the war, for they are all heroes, and should be remembered as such to the end of their days, and after.

On Active Service.


DEAR SIR,—I read Mr. Twyford’s letter in last Saturday’s issue of the Rugby Advertiser on the reception of soldiers home on leave with great interest. The City of London National Guard Volunteers have members of their corps stationed at every London terminus day and night to assist and direct soldiers from the front coming home on leave by giving advice as to train routes, etc. I am sure that if the Rugby Volunteer Corps could arrange to have one or two of their members in turn at Rugby Station to meet soldiers and could arrange for conveyances for them, those of the National Guard on duty at Euston would warn soldiers travelling to Rugby to look out at Rugby Station for similar assistance.-I am, Sir, etc.

The Paddock House, Gerrards Gross, Bucks.
January 23rd, 1916.
The Secretary, War Office, London, has sent to all Masters of Foxhounds a copy of the following, showing that their decision to continue to hunt the country is right and fully approved of :—

“ The Director of Remounts has urged upon the Director General of Recruiting that he is seriously concerned in the maintenance of hunts, as the preservation of hunting is necessary for the continuance of breeding and raising of light horses suitable for cavalry work. Lord Derby accordingly trusts that every effort will be made to carry on the hunts in the United Kingdom, but he hopes that as far as possible men ineligible for military service will be employed. But in cases where any men of military age are indispensable for the maintenance of the hunt, an appeal should be made to the Local Tribunal.”

ENCOURAGING THE POULTRY INDUSTRY.—With the increased attention being given to the poultry industry of this country, especially on account of the egg shortage due to the war, it is not surprising that efforts should be made towards the spread of knowledge on this subject in Warwickshire. At the meeting last week of the Warwickshire Education Committee a report was submitted stating that the Elementary Sub-committee had received three applications for permission to establish a poultry class, and they had instructed the Assistant Director of Higher Education to report with regard to these and also concerning poultry instruction in elementary schools in the county. There is no doubt that a great deal of good could be accomplished by the dissemination of facts bearing upon the most modern methods of feeding and rearing of birds both as regards egg, yield and flesh formation, and that having regard to the great demand there is for both eggs and table birds, the more information of a practical kind that can be circulated upon the subject in an agricultural county like Warwickshire the better.



The motor could, if properly developed, do any work on the farm except make a hen lay eggs, was the opinion expressed by Mr W J Malden, in an address to the members of the Farmers’ Club at the Whitehall Rooms on Tuesday. It was capable of tearing up deep soil or picking up a pin. He looked forward to the time when a large proportion of our crops would be cut and threshed in one operation. He also considered a motor-driven spade, to be handled by disabled soldiers, could be invented.

The horse, Mr Madden thought, would not disappear from the farm, but it was, inevitable that much of the work hitherto done by horses and men would be done by motor. The most useful form of motor for farm work had, however, yet to be determined.




An announcement of far-reaching importance was made by Mr Runciman, President of the Board of Trade, before the prorogation of Parliament on Thursday.

Replying to a question to the House of Committee, he stated that the Government had decided to relieve the pressure on shipping by cutting down some of the imports which are less essential for national existence than others, and which prevent vessels coming to our ports from being used for more urgent purposes, Paper pulp and grass for making paper have been chosen as the first subjects of the operation of this policy because of their great bulk and influence on tonnage. The annual quantity now imported is 1,000,000 tons, and the importation of a large percentage of this total will shortly be prohibited.

Mr Runciman expressed confidence that the Government could rely on the loyal co-operation of paper makers and newspaper proprietors in a step which must of necessity interfere with their business. He appealed to householders, as well as those engaged in every business and industry in which paper is used, to render assistance by exercising rigid economy in the use of paper.

The export from this country of rags and waste-paper is about to be prohibited.

The importation of other articles and materials of a bulky nature will shortly be prohibited, including the following :

Raw tobacco.
Many building materials.
Furniture woods and veneers.
Some fruits.

If necessary this list may be extended until the tonnage pressure is eased.



Prime Minister, in a written Parliamentary answer to-day, states that up to January 9th the total casualties in all fields of operations were:—

Officers, killed, wounded, and missing, 24,122.

Other ranks, 525,345.

Grand total, 549,467.


“ Tell me what you think a full pack weighs,” said the Adjutant to one of the new men.—“ Two hundred pounds, sir.”—The Adjutant gasped. “ What ! he cried, “ Haven’t you been told that it never weighs more than sixty ?”-“ Yes, sir.” said the recruit. “ But asked me what I thought it weighed, and I was thinking of the last time I had one on.”



Walduck, Ernest. Died 28th Jan 1916

Ernest WALDUCK – d. 28 January 1916

Ernest Walduck’s birth was registered in Rugby in late 1893.   He was the son of Joseph Walduck, born about 1865, in Drayton Parslow, Buckinghamshire and his wife, Kate, née Hogg, Walduck, born about 1867, in Little Horwood, also in Buckinghamshire. Their marriage was registered in early 1891 in Northampton [Q1, 3b, 121]. They moved to Rugby before the birth of their eldest, Polly, whose birth was registered in early 1892.

In 1901 the family was living at 784 New Station – in one of the ‘railway cottages’. The family moved to Hillmorton in about 1908 and in 1911 were enumerated in Upper Street, and were probably at Hill Cottage, which was their address in 1916.

By 1911, Ernest’s father, Joseph Walduck, was 46, and a ‘Foreman, Platelayer, LNWR’; his wife, Kate, was 44.   By 1911 they had had eight children, but two had died. Their surviving six children were all still living at home: Pollie Walduck, was 19, a ‘Cigar Maker’; Ernest Walduck, 17, was a ‘Carriage Cleaner, LNWR’ – and like his father, and indeed his grandfather, worked on the Railway. Florence Jennie Walduck, 16, was a ‘Tungsten Lamp Arcer, Electrical Engineering Works’; Roland George Walduck, was 11; Isabella Walduck, 9; and Philip Walduck, 3 years old.

Two children, Ethel Eliza, b.1896 and Joseph, b.1898, had died in infancy. An Ethel Ada R Walduck, also registered in Rugby in 1901, was a member of another, seemingly unrelated, family.

As was the case for a number of local men, Ernest enlisted at Rugby as Private, No.10467 in the 5th Battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

The surviving Service Records for the Ox. and Bucks. suggest that there was a rapid response to the recruitment drive and the service numbers can be used to make an estimate of the place and date of attestation for other soldiers. With the number 10467, it is likely that Ernest joined up in Rugby very early in the war and indeed, a later article suggests that his enlistment was in August 1914,[1] and certainly well before 12 September 1914 as he was listed under Hillmorton in an article, ‘Villages Answer the Call’.[2]

The 5th Bn. Ox. and Bucks. was formed at Oxford in August 1914 as part of Kitchener’s new army and was placed under the orders of the 42nd Brigade in the 14th (Light) Division. However, Ernest did not go to France until 20 May 1915, which suggests he was with the draft that landed in Boulogne on 21 May 1915.

Some background to his likely service can be found in the report on the actions of the 5th Ox & Bucks in the second Battle of Bellewaarde Farm, 25 September 1915. Then on 16 and 17 October there were heavy losses in the mine explosion and subsequent actions in that area [see the biography of Walter Davis, who died on 17 October 1915].

At some date Ernest had been promoted to Corporal. The Newspaper report stated that ‘… He had seen much fighting, and also acted as a stretcher bearer. … His parents had expected him home on leave any day.[3]

Before Christmas there had been rumour that the Battalion was to be posted to Egypt – but this was cancelled and ‘… During January we had three tours of the trenches not always in exactly the same part, and we generally had four days in the line, four days at B Huts, near Vlamertinghe, and four days at Elverdinghe, the period out of the line being devoted, as usual, to training and providing working parties. There was a certain amount of excitement at different times in the trenches, and a good deal of shelling and sniping went on, but as a rule things were pretty quiet, and we had few casualties.[4]

At some date in later January, when things were ‘pretty quiet’, he was wounded and evacuated to the Hospital area around Lijssenthoek to the west of Poperinge, where he died on 28 January 1916.

‘In a kind and sympathetic letter from the sister in charge of M.C.C. Station[5] to which Corpl. Walduck was conveyed, it stated that he was going on comfortably till a sudden and unexpected change set in, and he died shortly afterwards without being able to give a message for home.   He was laid to rest in the soldiers’ cemetery.’[6]

He was buried adjacent to the hospital area in the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Plot: IV. C. 39.

He was awarded the British and Victory Medals and the 1915 Star, and is remembered on the Hillmorton War Memorial and on the Rugby Memorial Gates.



= = = =


This article was written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, January 2016.


[1]       Rugby Advertiser, February 1916.

[2]       Rugby Advertiser, 12 September 1914.

[3]       Rugby Advertiser, February 1916.

[4]       http://www.lightbobs.com/5-oxf–bucks-li-1915-1916.html, Record of the 5th (Service) Battalion, 1st August 1915 to 30th June 1916.

[5]       Probably Medical Casualty Clearing Station – more commonly CCS; a large number of CCSs were established at Remy Farm, Lijssenthoek, on the railway to the west of Poperinge, in the rear area of the Ypres sector.

[6]       Rugby Advertiser, February 1916.

Pepperday, Gerald Alfred George. Died 28th Jan 1916

 Gerald Alfred George Pepperday – d. 28 January 1916

‘One of the Pepperday brothers’

The Pepperday Family

Pepperday G - Redding - Rugby Mem IIITwo Pepperday brothers are remembered on the pillars of the Rugby Memorial Gates. Leslie John Deacon Pepperday was born in Rugby in late 1893 and died in 1915. The subject of this article is his younger brother, Gerald Alfred George Pepperday (left[1]), in 1896.

The brothers’ father was John Hinds Pepperday, born in Rugby in 1849 and a well established bookseller in the High Street. Their mother was Eliza [Elizabeth] Mary née Deacon Pepperday who was some 13 years younger than her husband and born in Surrey. Their marriage was registered in Camberwell in the third quarter of 1889, and before 1891 they were living at 24 High Street, Rugby, where he was listed as a ‘Bookseller, Stationer, Printer and Bookbinder’. Their eldest child was a daughter, Elsie May Pepperday who was born in 1892 and by 1911 was helping her father in the business. The baby of the family was Lennard Williams Pepperday, who was born in 1904.

24 High Street, Rugby was both the family home and their shop, ‘Pepperday – Bookseller, Stationer and Printer’.   ‘This family firm appears in trade directories from 1850 (William Pepperday) through to 1928 (John Pepperday).’[2]

Among the books that he published was material for Rugby School: for example, the 14 page book of poetry, Book of Words by ‘J. H. E.’ [Juliana Horatia née Gatty Ewing], in 1893 and issued with a programme for an ‘Entertainment to be given in New Big School’ at Rugby. Also   The Phœnix, June 1904, and The Vulture, July 1904 and January and June 1905, which were papers edited by members of Rugby School – and which included some of the first early work by Rupert Brooke. He also published items as diverse as the Polo Players Guide and Almanack, 1905 [… 1910 etc.] by Captain E.D. Miller; and the Amateur’s Guide to Gardening in Cairo, by K. and M. Marsham, 1912. He also produced postcards of Rugby scenes.

John Hinds Pepperday, and his two sisters Emma and Lucy, who lived at 69 Murray Road, Rugby, were Wesleyan Methodists and had each donated a guinea to the Wesleyan Methodist Twentieth Century Fund between January 1st 1899 and September 1909.[3]

Gerald Alfred George Pepperday

Gerald Alfred George Pepperday, the middle Pepperday brother, was born in Rugby in late 1896. He attended Lawrence Sheriff School[4] and then moved on to Rugby School, where his father had been in Town House from 1 December 1861, at age ten, until 1864.[5]

Whilst at Rugby School Gerald probably served in the Rugby Contingent OTC [Officer Training Corps] and would have received some basic military training, however, he was anticipating a career in Lloyds Bank, and was posted to their Northampton branch.   He joined up in November 1914 into the University and Public Schools Battalion, which was one of the ‘Pals Battalions’ the first of which had started recruiting privately ‘by application only’ on 1 September 1914.

The 19th (2nd Public Schools) Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)[6] was raised in at Epsom on 11 September 1914 by the Public Schools and University Men’s Force. Following initial training near home, on 26 June 1915 they joined 98th Brigade, 33rd Division. The 33rd Division, which was formed in April, 1915, and included five public schools battalions. The Division concentrated at Clipstone camp near Mansfield in Nottinghamshire in July 1915. In August they moved to Salisbury Plain for final training and firing practice.[7]

Pepperday G - medal

There was a problem that the members of these public schools battalions were needed by the army as potential officers.   Soon after the Division crossed to France in November 1915 it was reorganised, with three of the Battalions, including the 19th, disbanded and their members persuaded to accept commissions. The army obtained 3,000 new officers who were sent to other regiments and battalions[8].

At some stage Gerald was promoted Lance Corporal, No.765. His Battalion went to France in November 1915, with Gerald in ‘B’ Company,[9] and landing in that ‘theatre’ on the 14 November 1915. By 21 November, 33rd Division had concentrated near Morbecque and the Battalion was engaged in various actions. A more detailed chronology can be found in the 19th Battalion Diary,[10] although this shows the Battalion leaving on 14 December rather than 14 November on the medal card and Gerald’s obituary. The reason for the discrepancy has still to be established but different Companies, or advanced parties, may have left on different dates.

The battalion left Tidworth on 14 December at 4.30am for a four hour journey by train to Folkstone, arriving at 8.40 for embarkation. Numbering 1024 all ranks, the battalion left Folkstone at 9.30am with a destroyer escort and reached Calais at 12.55pm. They then left Calais at 3.00pm and finally reached Boulogne at 5.45, marching up to camp where their long day ended at 7.00pm. After a day’s rest the battalion left Boulogne at 10.00am by train to Steenbecque, reached at 6.10pm, and marched from there to Thiennes, arriving at 7.30. The battalion was lucky, spared the rigorous training programme soon to be established in the dreaded ‘bull ring’ at Etaples.

Destined for a very quiet sector of the front at Givenchy, the battalion left Thiennes on 19 December, and arrived at La Miquellerie near Busnes, north-west of Bethune. No time was lost: the following day 1 and 2 Companies were taken up to the forward trenches at Windy Corner, Givenchy. The following day 3 and 4 Companies were given a similar experience. It was all too much for one man in No.1 Company who gave himself a self-inflicted wound in camp in fear of what was to come. A longer spell of trench experience for 1 and 2 Company began on 23rd. Very ‘raw’, one man was wounded on 23rd and two more on 24th. On Christmas day 3 and 4 Company had a day in the line while 1 and 2 moved to billets in Hinges. After every man had now had three days baptism in the line, the battalion moved to Avelette for 3 days’ rest on 26th. The war-diary comments: ‘For a newly arrived battalion, the test was a pretty severe one on the whole as there were frequent moves and long marches to be carried out’.

The Battalion was already at Cuinchy when Aubrey Cecil James Coombes, also of 19th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, was killed there on 28 December 1915.[11]

On 30 December the Battalion moved to Essars, where they went into a very quiet part of the line at the Brickstacks. Apart from mining and counter-mining, it was an area of ‘live and let live’. Gaps in the German wire were unattended, and apart from a German plane spotting a relief in progress on 2 January which brought down a few shells, nothing much happened. A rumour was passed round that a woman and two men living above an estaminet at the corner of the La Bassee and Bethune road were spies, which brought a little excitement. To the right of the battalion, a mine was sprung on 2nd, wounding a number of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.   Sadly, a second mine opposite No.4 Company was also sprung, killing one 2nd/Lt., wounding the Company Commander, killing 8 ORs and wounding 18 more, but no attack followed. The Battalion were then relieved back to Bethune and billeted in the Girls’ School in the Rue de Lille, a very dirty place. During the period of rest there was musketry practice between 4th and 7th, and on January 8th the Battalion moved into reserve lines at Beuvry with billets at Annequin South, also very dirty.

Continuing this war of mining, the Battalion was now engaged in providing fatigue parties for the Royal Engineers digging under the German lines.   The trenches around the slag heaps were shelled by both sides. On 11th a lorry was hit, killing the driver as well as a woman and 2 children.   The Battalion was pleased to move to the Cambrin trenches on January 15th, another ‘live and let live’ area, though with occasional shelling (3 wounded on 17th) and active sniping.   Days of complete inactivity were much more restful than mining fatigues, and the only real danger came in reliefs over open ground – one man killed and one wounded moving back to billets at Michelet on 24th. After baths at the Ecoles de Jeunes Filles, a further move back to Annequin Fosse was made on 26th. Here 2 men were killed and 5 wounded by shrapnel shells on 28th. On 29th it was back to the Brickstacks trenches between Cambrin and Cuinchy: the only comment was that our artillery was sending over mainly duds![12]

Pepperday G - Cuinchy-Givenchy-Auchy-Dec-1915

Most casualties in the battalion in early January 1916 were caused by artillery fire as they were near Cuinchy at that time. British ‘Trench Map’ extract from December 1915 (above[13]) shows the trench lines around Cuinchy and Auchy, and the Brickstacks.

Cuinchy is a village between Bethune and La Bassee and was, for most of the war, within range of German guns and there are several cemeteries there.[14] Cuinchy is bisected by the Canal d’Aire, a wide canal with a lock located within the village. During the war the front lines ran to the east of the village, and the lock was perhaps half a mile behind the British lines.

Robert Graves, author of Goodbye To All That, described the area:

Cuinchy bred rats. They came up from the canal, fed on the plentiful corpses, and multiplied exceedingly.[15]

Gerald was ‘Killed in Action’ on 28 January 1916. His death was reported in the Rugby Advertiser on 3 February 1916.[16]

The keenest sympathy will be extended to Mr and Mrs J H Pepperday, of High Street, in the further loss they have sustained by their second son, Lance-Corpl G A G Pepperday, being killed in action in France.

Lance-Corpl Pepperday, who was in his 21st year, was educated at Rugby School, and was in Lloyds Bank at Northampton. In September, 1914, he joined the University and Public Schools Battalion, now the 19th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, and went out to France on the 14th of November last year. He had been doing trench duty most of the time, and on January 27th he came out of the trenches after being on duty for eight days. But they had only a few hours rest when they were again called up to act in reserve, and on the 28th, during a German attack, he was killed by the bursting of a shell. The sad news was conveyed to his parents in a letter from Capt Euxton, in command of his company, in which he writes: ‘I can only say how great is the loss of your son to all in this company – officers and men. One of our oldest members, he had as many friends as he had comrades, and inspired confidence and devotion to duty alike in the trenches and in billets. It may perhaps lesson your burden if I tell you that your son, who lived a loyal soldier, died a brave one. He was buried by the Brigade Chaplain in —- Churchyard in the evening.’ And so Mr and Mrs Pepperday have given their two eldest sons in the service of their King and country.

He was one of only six WWI burials in a plot to the left (S.W.) of the central path at Annequin Communal Cemetery, Annequin, Departement du Pas-de-Calais. This is about 2kms. South-West of Cuinchy. The others are of different units and buried earlier. It may be he was one of the two men killed at Annequin and this was the most convenient cemetery.

Gerald Alfred George Pepperday is commemorated on the War Memorial Gates in Hillmorton Road, Rugby and also on the ‘Old Laurentians’ Memorial. He is also remembered in the Rugby School Memorial Chapel and in the Lloyds Bank Book of Rememberance.



– – – – – –


This article on Gerald Alfred George Pepperday was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, July 2014.



[1]       Portrait by George E. L. Redding in Memorials of Rugbeians who Fell in the Great War, vol.III, August 1917; a similar photograph appeared in Lloyd’s Bank Memorial Album 1914-1918, available from http://ww1photos.com/.

[2]       From research by Anne Langley, volunteer at Warwick County Record Office and reported in the Rugby Advertiser, ‘Looking Back’, 19 January 2014 on-line edition.

[3]       Wesleyan Methodist Twentieth Century Fund, Wesleyan Methodist Historic Roll, vol.22. p.330, 1899-1909.

[4]       Lawrence Sheriff School was a lower school for local boys, with Foundation Scholarships to Rugby School. It opened in 1878 on the present site with a curriculum to meet the needs of a commercial education and preparation for Rugby School.

[5]       Rugby School Register: August 1842 to January 1874; also Memorial notes on L J DPepperday.

[6]       The Royal Fusiliers were also known as the City of London Regiment, and raised 47 battalions for service in the Great War. On 27 February 1916, soon after Gerald’s death, the 19th Battalion was transferred to GHQ. It was disbanded on 24 April 1916 with many of the men being commissioned as officers.

[7]       http://www.wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/royalfusiliers19-gw.php

[8]       Based upon information from Tom Morgan at RootsWeb GREATWAR-L Archives

[9]       Graves registration form, 19 October 1920.

[10]     This has been abstracted from a study of the life of a fellow member of 19th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, Lawrence Johnson, of Winkleigh at http://www.winkleighheroes.co.uk/soldiers/johnsonl.htm, who was later commissioned into 8th Battalion Devonshire Regiment, and was killed in action, 16 June 1917, aged 20.

[11]     http://www.yorkshireindexers.info/wiki/index.php?title=Harrogate_St._Peter’s_Church_War_Memorials.

[12]     http://www.winkleighheroes.co.uk/soldiers/johnsonl.htm.

[13]     http://jeremybanning.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Cuinchy-Givenchy-Auchy-Dec-19151.jpg.

[14]     Information from: ‘Frogsmile’, Great War Forum, 29 January 2008, http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/…

[15]     http://www.ww1battlefields.co.uk/others/cuinchy.html.

[16]     Rugby Advertiser, 3 February 1916; also in ‘Look Back’, Rugby Advertiser, on-line edition, 16 January 2014.

22nd Jan 1916. Local Soldier’s Experiences at the Dardanelles



Corpl H Berwick, of the King’s Own Royal Lancashire Regiment, has forwarded us his diary from the Europa Hospital, Gibraltar, recording his experiences with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. He is a native of Rugby, and has served seventeen years in the Army, during which time he has seen service in India and Burmah. He was present at the retreat from Mons, and the battles of the Aisne and Marne, and has since seen fighting in the Gallipoli Peninsula. He states that he kept the diary on small scraps of paper, and he has often had to write it under very heavy shell fire. On one occasion, while he was marching with his battalion to relieve some troops, he remembered, after they had covered several miles, that he had left his diary in his dug-out. Although it was raining very hard, he went back for the papers, which he rescued just in time, as his dug-out was flooded.

The first part of the diary is confined to incidents occurring on the outward journey, and the latter part to the return from the Peninsula to Gibraltar. The middle portion deals with incidents in the fighting on the Peninsula, and a few interesting extracts are appended :—

The writer states that early in October they landed at Suvla Bay, and adds: “ From what I saw of it, it must have been a very hot place where they made their landing.” On the following day he was posted to a company in the first line trenches. On one occasion a party of men were ordered to dig a well within the range of the Turks’ guns, and when they had taken their coats off for this operation the enemy opened a heavy fire on them. It was like hell for an hour, the troops rushing about to find cover, as there was none near the well; and as a result 12 men were killed and 19 wounded.

Turkish Attacks Repulsed.

“ On November 6th, at 9.20 p.m, the Turks made a very stubborn attack on our first line; they came three times, and on the third occasion they gained part of our trench ; at 3 a.m we counter attacked and retook the lost trench, with heavy casualties, and rain and hail stopped further heavy fighting. On the 7th they made an early morning attack under the star shells, but they did not get much further than our wire entanglements; our machine guns mowed the wire down as well as the Turks. On the 10th they made another stubborn attack on our trenches, and they were very plucky, as we out-numbered them by five to one. But still on they came, and we had orders not to fire until they were on the wire; then the Captain said “ Fire like hell !” and we did. They went down like skittles; we had about 16 machine guns in nice positions, and all through the day they were doing nothing but sniping. On the 11th the Turks attacked in large numbers, but our heavy naval guns surprised them, and very few of them got away.

“ On the 13th November, as I was passing through a traverse to get into a communication trench, I felt a nasty sting in the left hip. I did not attach much importance to it till the next morning, when I found I could hardly walk. I then discovered a large bruise on my hip, and found that a piece of a Turkish 11-inch shell had penetrated my haversack, gone through a pack of cards and a comb, eventually stopping at a large nickle spoon, which was badly bent. These I shall always keep as curios. I had a few narrow squeaks at Mons and on the Aisne, but not to compare with this incident.

“ On November 26th we had a large mail from home, with hundreds of parcels. When they were served out there was one for nearly every man. That was a glorious day, and the troops laid in their dug-outs all day, blowing big clouds of smoke from the Woodbines they had received from home.

A Hospital Shelled.

“ On the 27th a Battalion order was issued that all men who had only been inoculated once were to parade at the hospital. I was inoculated for the second time just before I left the boat, so I was lucky, because, although the Turks had never been known to fire on hospitals, as soon as these men were lined up outside they sent over eight shells from two guns about 900 yards away. These fell right in the centre of the group, and legs and arms were flying in all directions. You could not recognise some of the men. We buried seventeen of them that night, and there were also twelve severely wounded.”

The writer describes a combined bombardment by the British artillery and the ships off the coast, and says: “ It was like a living hell. You could not hear yourself speak, and after they had had an hour of it, it was some time before we could hear what one another wad talking about. It seemed as if the drums of our ears had gone. But it was a fine sight; the sky was lit up beautifully, and I think it accounted for a few. In the morning, on December 2nd, the Turks made an attack upon our left section of trenches, but, thanks to our machine guns, they were mown down like grass.”

“ Some ” Storm.

A terrible storm occurred on the 3rd December, and the writer says : “ After about two hours we were all standing in about three feet of water, with everything we possessed drifting down the trenches, just like a strong tide. Some of the boys lost their rifles, and at about 12, midnight, the parapets of almost every regiment caved in, and then there was nothing for it but to get out of the trenches and walk upon the top to keep oneself warm ; we had to chance whether the Turks fired or not. When it got a little light we could see that the Turks were doing exactly the same as we were. They must have been worse off than we were, as their position was in the centre of a very large hill, and we could plainly see that their trenches were overflowing, and that the water was running into our trenches. They did not fire on us, and some of our commanders gave the order to us not to fire upon them unless they fired upon us. Both parties were in this position for about five hours.” He adds that shortly afterwards it commenced to freeze very hard, and many of the men, who were suffering with frost-bite, were ordered to the field hospitals. He himself was taken on a stretcher to the hospital, suffering from rheumatic fever. On the way to the hospital they passed many men who had died from exposure.

22nd Jan 1916. A Splendid Family Record


There are very few families in the country who can show such a good record as that which attaches to the family of the late Mr T J Neville, of Dunchurch. Of seven sons, four are now on active service, and the other three have been through the ordeal of battle. The four now serving King and country are :-

Second-Lieut G H Neville, of the Somerset Light Infantry, who has been mentioned in despatches and awarded the Military Cross for Valour.

Lieut S L Neville, now serving as second lieutenant in the 2nd Royal Bucks Hussars, served in the Rhodesian Volunteers and Warwickshire Yeomanry during the Boar War and South African Campaign, and more recently in German West Africa.

Capt F L Neville, of the 6th Northamptons, “ somewhere in France.”

Trooper John Neville, of the Rhodesian Rifles, now fighting in German East Africa after going through the German West Campaign.

The sons who have done their bit and are now non-combatant are :-

Tom Neville, who went out to the Boar War with the Warwickshire Yeomanry and received wounds in the arm which incapacitated him from further military service. He is now in Pretoria.

Richard (the eldest son), also served in the same campaign, and Benjamin, a corporal in the Imperial Light Horse, has just received his discharge after going through the German West African operations.

Lieut S L Neville has just been home to pay a visit to his mother, who now resides in Rugby.


In the official list of wounded under date January 8th, the names of Pte M Philpot (3202), Lance-Corporal Robotham (1480), Pte E Blower, and Segt A Oldbury, of the 1/7th Warwickshires, appear.


Mr C F E Dean, of the firm of Messrs Pulman & Dean, solicitors Rugby, who joined the 9th Public Schools Battalion as a private, in now in hospital at Eastbourne. While in the trenches he was hit by a gas bomb, and in addition to being gassed was wounded in the leg. The effects of the poison gas have left him somewhat deaf and very weak, but he hopes to recover in course of time.


We regret to announce that Second-Corpl H E Govett, of the 67th Field Company Royal Engineers, was killed in action on the Gallipoli Peninsula on December 19th. Corpl Govett, who had been employed at the B.T.H. several years, was well-known locally, and was very popular both in the works and the town generally. An Australian by birth, Corpl Govett was educated at Geelong College, Australia, and came to England in 1907 and studied engineering at the Crystal Palace Engineering School. He came to the B.T.H. at the end of 1910 as a special course apprentice, and went through all the departments, including the Drawing Office, and when War broke out he was in the Testing Department. He joined the Royal Engineers as a sapper in September, 1914, and quickly rose to the rank of second corporal. He was a member of the Rugby Club, Rugby Lawn Tennis Club, and the Rugby Golf Club, an enthusiastic motor cyclist and all-round good sportsman, and during his stay in the town he made many friends.

[He is remembered on the BTH Memorial]


News has been received in Rugby from an authentic source that the W E Edgcombe, who was amongst those who went down on the S.S. Persia, which was torpedoed in the Mediterranean recently, was Mr William Edward Edgcombe, who was formerly assistant to Mr G W Walton, locomotive foreman at Rugby. Mr Edgcombe, it appears, held a post in India after he left Rugby, but he paid a visit to England about two months ago. The news of his death, in such tragic circumstances, will be deplored by those who knew him in the town, and sympathy will be felt with the bereaved relatives.


Rugbeians will learn with pleasure that two members of the old E Company, 7th R.W.R, have been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for brave conduct in the field. The men thus honoured are Sergt W T Bromage, who, at the commencement of the war, was employed at Nuneaton Railway Station, and Pte L G Eaton, son of Mr. Eaton, of 93 South Street, Rugby.

The deed for which they have received the decoration took place on May 28th, 1915, and the facts of the case were reported at the time in the Rugby Advertiser, as under : “ On Friday night, May 28th, there was an exciting episode in which the Rugby lads came through with flying colours, but with further loss. The following are, as far as I could gather, the details :—A party, including Corpl W Bromage, Ptes L Hill, L Eaton, and P Hall, were out on the listening post, when a party of Germans came out and tried to surprise them. The enemy opened fire, killing L (Bleb) Hill, a Newbold lad, and wounding L Eaton. The latter stuck to his post, and continued to fire until help arrived, consisting of a party under Sergt Ward. I expect the enemy gave it up for a bad job, and upon examination by our chaps we found they had left one dead. Our men brought him in, and he proved to be an iron cross man. His rifle has been despatched to England, and will some day repose in the Rugby Drill Hall as a war trophy. The Company has been congratulated by the Colonel, as undoubtedly by their watchfulness and presence of mind they saved an awkward situation. Corpl Bromage has since been promoted Lance-Sergeant.”

Rugby may well be proud of such men, who have added lustre to the fame of the old “ E ” Company, and all will join with us in congratulating them.

Pte Eaton, who is only nineteen years of age, has also been awarded the “ Croix de Guerre ” by the President of the French Republic in recognition of his service. He has resided with his parents in Rugby for eight years, and has been a member of the battalion for nearly three years, being formerly in the Leamington Company. When the war broke out he was employed as a cleaner in the L & N W Railway Company loco department.


About fifty men have attested under the Group System at Rugby during the past week, the proportion between married and single being about equal. The cavalry and several other units are now open, and men whose groups have not yet been called up can join these if they come up to the standard by signing up for immediate service. During the past week a number of men have availed themselves of this privilege.

All men wishing to join under the Group System must take their registration cards to the Drill Hall.

In future the Drill Hall will be closed at 4.30 p.m. on Saturdays.

The Rugby Fortress Company—now designated the 220th Army Troops Company—have now gone out of the country. A portion of the company has been sent to the East.


At a special quarterly meeting of the Rugby No 2 Branch of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, held on Friday evening last week, a discussion took place on the Government’s Compulsion Bill. A vote was taken, and it was unanimously decided to oppose conscription under all considerations in view of the fact that, in the opinion of those present, a case had not yet been made out to justify such a measure.

Another resolution, calling upon the Rugby Trades and Labour Council to summon a meeting of the rank and file of the unions, to be held in the largest hall available, was also passed, as it was thought that the ordinary members, as well as the delegates to the Council, should have an opportunity of debating and deciding on the matter.


Absent Without Leave.

W Burton, Hillmorton ; S Fisher, Chester Street, Rugby; Joseph Lane, Harborough Magna ; and E Lima, 52 Pennington Street, Rugby, were summoned by the B.T.H, Rugby.

It was alleged that Burton absented himself at Christmas time, and he replied that he was ill. He was told that for not sending in a medical certificate to the firm he would be fined 5s.

The complaint against Fisher was adjourned to see how the defendant went on, the Chairman advising him to give up the drink.

Lane was stated to have absented himself from work, and was said not to have returned to his employment yet. The defendant, a boy, said that he gave notice to the firm that he was going to leave, and the Chairman pointed out that leaving after giving notice was not an offence. The firm stated that the youth had started work elsewhere. The Chairman said he was not entitled to do that, but must wait six weeks. The case was dismissed without penalty, the Chairman remarking that defendant had probably got his new master into trouble by getting work with him, and it would be for the B.T.H to take what steps they wished against the firm.

Lima was fined 15s for absenting himself without leave.


A short time ago an article appeared in a Sunday paper which conveyed the inference that the B.T.H, Rugby, was included in the ramifications of the great German Trust known as the A.E.G. The B.T.H Company at once took steps to deny that they had anything to do with the German Trust, and commenced an action for libel against the newspaper and the writer, “ John Briton,” of the article.

In the same Journal on Sunday last the following retraction from John Briton appeared:—

When I wrote last on the German influence in the electrical industry, some two months ago, I gave an account of the extraordinary ramifications of the great German Trust, called briefly the A.E.G of Berlin, and in this connection, before I go further, I desire to clear up an unfortunate misunderstanding. Among the “ Allied and subordinate ” companies of which I gave a list, I mentioned the British Thomson-Houston Company of Rugby. I did not say that this company was owned or controlled by the A.E.G, but this inference has been drawn from my article, and I therefore desire to say that it is unfounded.

The truth is that the B.T.H of Rugby is mainly controlled by the General Electric Company of Schenectady, which in its turn is a descendant of the Thomson-Houston Company of America. The Thomson-Houston Company in its day sold its European patents to a number of companies on this side of the Atlantic, some of which in due course were absorbed by the A.E.G and some by the G.E Company.

The British Thomson-Houston Company belongs, as I have said, to the latter category. It is true that the A.E.G purchased the German rights under the patents of the G.E Co and B.T.H Co in exchange for the American and British rights under its patents, but I am glad to be able to state that the German company has no control over, or interest in, either the American or British company, and I regret if any other meaning has been read into my article, and if any harm has been done to the B.T.H Co thereby. I am also able to state that the A.E.G has no control over the electric lamp business in this country, but, on the contrary, by reason of British patents, it was obliged to purchase from British companies all such lamps as it sold here.


Mr B Morris, of the Empire, has received the following letter from Q.M.S. Tomlinson, from which it will be seen that our local Territorials are still in the fighting :—

Dear Mr Morris,—At last I am able to acknowledge receipt of your kind gift of 6,000 cigarettes to the Rugby boys of old E Company.

They arrived on the 11th, so must have been delayed considerably in transit.

I was able to distribute them very quickly, as both the Transport and Maxim gunners were within easy reach.

All the boys wish me to express their grateful thanks to you for your kindness, and many, I know, are writing to thank you personally. When your gift arrived we were on the last day of a week’s rest in a little French village some three miles from the firing line. It was an exceedingly enjoyable week, and greatly appreciated by all. Duties were as light as possible. The weather was fairly fine, football matches were arranged and played, and in the evenings concerts were promoted. All these, with the relief from fatigue and tension which is ever present in trench warfare, helped to make us a happy crowd. I think it was the most enjoyable week we have spent out here.

The following day we returned to the music of the guns and the one hundred and one trench duties.

This morning our artillery opened a heavy fire on the German trenches and barbed wire, which soon drew a spirited reply from the Boches, and for an hour and a half the ground and air vibrated from the roar of cannon and bursting shells. A four-inch shell fell on one of our company dug-outs; fortunately it did not burst, otherwise I am afraid eight of our men, would have had a bad chance.

Before I close I should like once again to thank you and also all our good friends of Rugby for their kindness, and for all they have done for our welfare and comfort.—With kind regards,

I am yours sincerely,




Hitherto there has been no organised effort to raise funds for sending parcels to all soldiers and sailors belonging to Rugby who are serving their country. Only those in the Territorial units have been provided for, the others being left to the solicitude of their friends, but a representative committee has now been formed to make the public effort more comprehensive by looking after all the men from Rugby, and we have pleasure in publishing the following letter from the Chairman of the Rugby Urban Council:

DEAR SIR.—It has been suggested that the men from Rugby who have enlisted in units other than local Territorial ones should be included in a scheme to send them tobacco and other small comforts which they may need from time to time. For some months past Mrs West and Mrs C P Nickalls have been sending parcels to the men of the Rugby Howitzer Battery and the Rugby men of E Company, 7th Royal Warwicks, and many appeals have been received from men in other units with which they have been unable to deal owing to the lack of funds. A representative committee has now been formed to deal with the matter, and subscriptions, which are urgently needed, may be sent to the treasurer, Captain Thomas, United Counties Bank Ltd, Market Place, Rugby, or to myself addressed to the Benn Buildings, Rugby.

The neighbouring towns and villages have all been looking after their fighting men for some time past, and it is felt that Rugby should not be behind.

It is a fact that the men most keenly appreciate not only the little comforts sent to them, but more particularly the kind thought of their fellow-townsmen which prompts the sending of the parcels.

Yours truly,

J. J. McKinnell,
Benn Buildings, Chairman Of Council
High Street, Rugby,
January 19th, 1916.

The committee has been made as representative as possible, and includes nominations from all the large works and trading institutions, the Trades and Labour Council, and the School (two, house masters).

From this committee an executive has been formed, consisting of Mr J J McKinnell, chairman ; Capt Thomas, United Counties Bank, hon , treasurer; Mrs West, Bawnmore, Bilton, hon secretary; Mrs Cecil Nickalls, Mrs Thomas, Messrs A Adnitt, W Flint, F E Hands, G Gauntley, and W F Wood.

The Women’s Volunteer Reserve are acting as the hon secretary’s clerical staff.

The methods under consideration for raising funds are :- A flag day, special entertainments, collection funds at all the large works and by employers of labour, subscription lists at the banks, and a house-to-house collection, for which, if possible, use will be made of the organisation which was set going for the Prince of Wales’s Fund.


Thank God ! arrived at last. A deep sigh, a fleeting glance up and down as the weary, mud-stained soldier in his bearskin jacket, his knapsack, carbine, and full active service kit, steps on the platform, but as he sees the old familiar objects his face lights up with a smile. He knows full well it is home, dear old home. It does not dismay him that he has to trudge nine or ten miles to seek that sacred spot, “ home,” which has been ever in his mind during the 14 weary months of hardship and danger spent at Ypres, Loos, and Neuve Chapelle.

In answer to a question : “ Why don’t you stay the night at Rugby ?” comes the answer : “ Nay, lad, if it was twice the distance I would gladly foot it, for our leave is so short and every hour appears a day to us.”

And so they trudge cheerfully off, although no friends are there to meet them with a welcome at the station.

I am sure there are scores of kindly disposed persons in Rugby owning motor cars who would gladly meet those war-worn soldiers who have been fighting so gallantly the fierce and callous enemy. I am sure such an influential body as the Chamber of Trade might well take the matter up and add considerably to their laurels. I have met local soldiers arriving at Rugby between 10 and 11 p.m. who have had to trudge to Marton, Long Itchington, Swinford, and some have even walked to Nuneaton in their anxiety to lose a minute in seeing their dear ones at home.

It would not be a difficult matter to post a list of those sympathetic people owning motors or tri-cars at the L. and N.-W. Station, who are willing to give our brave lads a lift. There is a public telephone at the station with which to communicate to the town quickly, and, could this be accomplished, I am sure it would earn the heartfelt gratitude of the mud-stained lads from the trenches.

Thanking you, Sir, in anticipation, yours sincerely, J. TWYFORD.


Jesson, Robert Weston. Died 20th Jan 1916

Robert Weston JESSON D.C.M. – d. 20 January 1916


Robert Weston JESSON was born about 1895, the son of James and Sarah Jane Barratt Jesson of Spring House, East Langton, Market Harborough, Leicestershire. In 1911, James Jesson, who was born in Gumby, in about 1859, was a butcher and grazier. There were then six children at home in East Langton: Thomas Jesson, 27, ‘working on the land’; Mary Elizabeth Jesson, 21; William Hedley Jesson, 20, ‘assistant butcher’; Alfred Neal Jesson, 18; Robert Weston Jesson, 16, still at school; and Margaret Ellen Jesson, 15. The eldest brother James J B Jesson, who should by now have been 28, has not been found in the 1911 census, and an elder sister, Evelin J Jesson, now 25, had married Adam Reid in 1908.

At some date between leaving school after 1911, and 1913, Robert stared work at BTH, and before the war he was working in the BTH Wiring Department and joined the territorial ‘Rugby Battery’ at Rugby on 19 June 1913, when he reached the age of 18 years.

He became Gunner, No.251, 5th Warwick ‘Rugby’ Battery, which was part of the 4th South Midland Brigade, Royal Field Artillery [RFA].

When formed in 1908, the Rugby Battery had a temporary headquarters at Messrs Willans and Robinson’s Engineering Works in Newbold Road, Rugby.   The Battery went on annual training in the summers. In 1910 a new headquarters was opened at 72 Victoria Avenue, Rugby, known locally as the Rowland Street Drill Hall.

‘The 4th South Midland Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery was composed of the 4th Warwickshire Howitzer Battery (based in Coventry), the 5th Warwickshire Howitzer Battery (based in Rugby) and its ammunition column. The men and horses of the 4th South Midland Brigade, from Rugby and Coventry, … trained together in the Territorial Force prior to 1914 and after the outbreak of war in August 1914 they served together until their Brigade was dispersed in … 1916.’[1]

Jesson, R W, Rugby, Warwickshire, Photo in Church Langton Church, Leicestershire 6 crop

Robert Jesson’s military records survived the WWII fire, as part of the ‘burnt records’, and his brief military career can be followed in some detail and can be correlated with the movements of the Brigade which are also recorded on-line and provide some guidance as to where Robert would have been serving at any time.[2]

His Service Record showed that he attended the 1913 fortnight’s Annual Training Camp on Salisbury Plain, probably at Rolleston Camp, from 3 to 17 August 1913, which included field manoeuvres.

Robert was promoted to Bombardier [equivalent of Corporal] on 15 July 1914, just before going to the Annual Training Summer Camp at Lydd, Norfolk on 2 August 1914, however, they returned to Rugby, on 4 August, after being in camp for only 2 days.

Robert would become ‘One of Lord Kitchener’s first hundred thousand’.[3] On 6 August 1914, the Brigade went to Swindon to join the 1st South Midland Division (infantry); and then moved, on 24 August 1914, by road from Swindon to Great Baddow, Essex, where they stayed till 30 March 1915. During this period, on 14 October 1914, they were inspected by King George V at Hylands Park, Chelmsford, and during January 1915 went to Salisbury Plain for training with infantry, returning to Great Baddow in February.

On 30 March 1915, the Brigade, and Robert, embarked at Southampton for Le Havre, France, and travelled by train to Abbeville, and then to Steenwerck, near Bailleul, reaching Menegatte on 3 April and marching to Nieppe.

On 5 April 1915 they went into action for the first time at Petit Point, near Ploegsteert. They served in the Ploegsteert area; then on 18 April 1915 at La Menegatte; and by 15 May 1915 back at Ploegsteert.

During this period at Ploegsteert, Robert, who had already been a Bombardier in the Territorials, was promoted to acting Corporal on 18 May 1915, to replace ‘Bromwich’ who was admitted to hospital. He was confirmed in the rank on the same day.

On 26 June 1915 they came out of action and moved to Ferfay, near Lilliers, 25 miles south west of Ploegstreert, and then moved in stages toward the Somme area: 27 June 1915 at Bailleul; 28 June 1915, Vieux Berquin; 29 June, Robecq; 30 June, Ferfay; 20 July 1915, Thievres; 22 July 1915, Authie. This was a distance of some 80 miles. The Division took over a sector of the line from the French, and by 27 July were at Hebuterne, just north of Beaumont-Hamel and some 10 miles north of Albert, where they remained until the Somme offensive later that year on 1 July 1916.

On 5 August 1915, Robert was ‘Granted Class II Proficiency Pay, A.F.O. 1614 A to Home Paymaster. Then, ‘In the field’ he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal [DSM] vide Supplement to “London Gazette” of 11/1/16.’ That publication stated:


‘251 Corporal R. W. Jesson, l/4th South Midland (Howitzer) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.’[4]

His ‘Military History Sheet’ stated that this was ‘… for conspicuous gallantry and good work, often under heavy fire’.

The award of the DCM to men of the ‘Warwickshire Regiment’ was included in the Coventry paper four days later, ‘Lce.-Corpl. R W Jesson 1/4th South Midland (Howitzer) Battery.’[5] It was also noted in the Western Daily Press: ‘2511 Corporal R. W. Jesson, 1/4th South Midland (Howitzer) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, T.F. – ‘For conspicuous gallantry and good work, in laying and maintaining telephone wires, often under heavy fire’; and also in the Cheltenham Chronicle.[6]

A later letter from Major Cecil P Nickalls, Major O.C. 5th Warwickshire Howitzer Battery, R.F.A on 20 January 1916 stated that ‘… He was in charge of the telephone system of the Battery. This duty called for much very hard work; he was always ready at any hour of the day or night to go out cheerfully at great personal risk to attend to any defect or breakage of the telephone wires, and his fearless devotion to duty set a grand example to all ranks.’[7]

Although the other South Midland Brigades had received the new 18-pounder guns to replace the 15-pounders, which were retired after the Boer war and given to the Territorials in 1906, the new Howitzers for 4th South Midland did not arrive till 6 January 1916 when they were issued with 4.5 inch Howitzers.

It was soon after receiving the new guns at Hebuterne, and the day after being presented with his DSM, that Robert Jesson was ‘Killed in Action’ on 20 January 1916.

‘… Corporal R W Jesson, was killed by a stray bullet, at 7 a.m. today. He was shot through the temple on his way back from Roll Call to his billet – his death was instantaneous. … Your son, whom I had the honour of congratulating only yesterday on parade before the officers, N.C.O.s and men, on gaining the Distinguished Conduct Medal, was universally loved and respected not only in his own Battery, but throughout the Brigade.’[8]

There was also an entry in Colonel West’s diary which noted that on ‘… Thurs 20th. Corporal Jesson shot in the head while walking in the village and buried.’[9]

The next week, another soldier from the battery, Gunner Thomas Spicer, was killed also when off-duty and his billet area was shelled. The Chaplain writing to his parents remarked how he ‘… lies next to a comrade from his own Brigade, Corporal Jesson who was killed last week.   It is a pretty little cemetery, in an orchard, just as carefully and reverently looked after as a churchyard in England.’[10]

No doubt because of the wider recruiting area of the south Midland Brigade, his death was also listed in more distant papers, including the Evening Dispatch and the Gloucester Journal.[11]

He had served for 2 years and 216 days, when he was ‘Killed in Action’. His Record confirmed that he was buried in Hebuterne Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France, and the CWGC confirmed his burial in Plot I. N. 19.

Jesson, R W, Rugby, Warwickshire, Grave in Hebuterne Military Cemetery crop

Hebuterne Military Cemetery was begun by the 48th (South Midland) Division in August 1915, and used by fighting units and Field Ambulances (particularly those of the 56th (London) Division) until the spring of 1917; it was reopened in 1918. The conditions of burial explain the irregularity of the rows. There are now over 750, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. The village gave its name to a severe action fought by the French on the 10-13 June 1915, in the “Second Battle of Artois”. It was taken over by British troops from the French in the same summer, and it remained subject to shell fire during the Battles of the Somme.[12]

As well as the Distinguished Conduct Medal, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star and the British War and Victory Medals.

Jesson, R W, Rugby, Warwickshire, Memorial in Church Langton Church, Leicestershire 3 crop

Robert Jesson is remembered in his home church at East Langton; on the list of BTH Employees who served in the War 1914 – 1918; on the BTH War Memorial;[13] as well as on the Rugby Memorial Gates.

Robert Jesson had been a chorister and ‘… learned bell ringing at his native village of East Langton, and took the greatest interest in the art. On going to Rugby he joined the Parish Church company, and rang his first peal (on the tenor) on November 24th 1913 – a peal of Stedman Triples in celebration of Mr. James George’s 60th birthday. On the Sunday after the announcement of his death had been received, the bells of Langton Parish Church were rung, muffled, to his memory’.[14]

The Rugby Advertiser likewise reported that he ‘… had been a member of the St. Andrew’s Association of Change Ringers, and before the evening service at the Parish Church … his fellow members rang half-muffled peals.’[15]

It is the intention of the present ‘Rugby Ringers’ at St. Andrews, to commemorate their predecessor.   A ‘Full three hour Peal’ of those same ‘Stedman Triples’ was rung on Sunday, 17 January, at about 5.00p.m., and a ‘Quarter Peal’ on Wednesday, 20 January at 7.30p.m., on the 100th anniversary of his death.  The Ringers noted that ‘… doubtless some beer will be drunk afterwards’.



= = = =


This article was written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, January 2016.

[1]       https://sites.google.com/site/4thsouthmidlandbrigade/Home/dates-and-places-served-1

[2]       https://sites.google.com/site/4thsouthmidlandbrigade/Home/dates-and-places-served-1

[3]       From his Memorial in East Langton church (see above), with many thanks to Alan Regin.

[4]       The London Gazette, 11 January 1916, Supplement 29438, Page 603.

[5]       Coventry Evening Telegraph, Friday, 14 January 1916; also Gloucestershire Chronicle, Saturday, 15 January 1916; and Cheltenham Chronicle, Saturday, 22 January 1916.

[6]       Western Daily Press, Monday, 13 March 1916.

[7]       Letter, Major Cecil P Nickalls to Mr Jesson, 20 January 1916, Rugby Advertiser.

[8]       Letter, Major Cecil P Nickalls to Mr Jesson, Rugby Advertiser, 20 January 1916,.

[9]       Frank West, Diary, 1915-1916. He was in command of the 4th South Midland (Howitzer) Brigade.

[10]     Coventry Evening Telegraph, Monday, 7 February 1916.

[11]     Evening Despatch, Friday, 28 January 1916; Gloucester Journal, Saturday, 12 February 1916.

[12]     http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/33301/HEBUTERNE%20MILITARY%20CEMETERY

[13]     Taken from the list of names on the BTH War Memorial when it was unveiled, published in the Rugby Advertiser, 4 November 1921.

[14]     The Ringing World, 17 March 1916.

[15]     Rugby Advertiser, 20 January 1916.

15th Jan 1916. Christmas Gifts for Local Territorials


Mr A Adnitt, Hon Sec of the committee for sending comforts and Christmas gifts to local Territorials on service, has received a number of letters of acknowledgment and thanks. Among them are the following :—

DEAR MR ADNITT,—Will you please convey to the “ Rugby Comforts Committee ” our very hearty thinks for the splendid gift of puddings, socks, and dainties which we have received this Christmas.

We received two parcels of socks, and these were greatly appreciated, as we have had very wet weather lately, and it has been impossible to keep dry feet. We also received the box of books and dainties. The puddings arrived Christmas Day, so we had them for dinner on Sunday and Monday, and greatly enjoyed them.

We are very grateful to our many friends, who have done so much for our comfort, and we had as enjoyable a time as was possible under existing conditions. We should also like to express to the Committee our keen appreciation of the tremendous amount of hard work which they are doing for our welfare and comfort. With best wishes for the coming year, I beg to remain,

Yours sincerely,
G. Hopewell., B.S.M,
(Rugby Howitzer Battery).

Quartermaster A C Tomlinson, of the Rugby Infantry, writes from France, under date Dec 29, 1915 :-

I am pleased to tell you that the puddings arrived safely on Christmas night, disappointing us by one day. However, they were just as fully enjoyed the following day. All the Rugby boys wish me to express their grateful thanks to the Territorial Comforts Committee and donors of puddings for their kindness. It will perhaps be pleasing for them to know that the puddings were the only reminder of Christmas that we had. Other than that, the day was the same as any other. It could not be otherwise. We were on trench duties, consequently nothing could be relaxed. The day passed quietly on our front, except for artillery fire ; this was about as active as usual, intensifying towards evening.

One of our platoons—many of them Rugby men—had the pleasure of mingling with a gun team of the Rugby Howitzer Battery.

Your letter of the 21st overwhelms one with a sense of what the T.C.C. is doing for our comfort, and it is difficult for me to sufficiently express our thanks. The articles you mention will be most useful and very welcome. I will let you know when they arrive, and will do my best to distribute them so that no one is missed. Of course, I cannot reach men who are in hospital or on detached work away from our near neighbourhood.

I cannot close without asking you to express our thanks to Mrs West for her good wishes and interest—not only to ourselves, but to our friends at home.

In a subsequent letter dated the 10th inst. Q.M.S. Tomlinson acknowledges the receipt of the four bales of “ Tommies ” cookers, shirts, socks, sponges, etc, which had been distributed. He adds: “ Everybody is delighted with the cookers and sponges. Both are most useful. Capt Payton, who is in command of our company, was particularly struck with them, and will shortly convey his thanks to the T.C.C. On behalf of my comrades of the old E Company I cannot sufficiently thank the T.C.C. and our good friends of Rugby. I can but say how deeply we appreciate their kindness.”


DEAR EDITOR,—Just a line or two from a few of the Rugby boys who are doing their bit in France. Although our battalion is not a local regiment, there are a good many boys here from Rugby with us, so you can imagine your paper is well known here. . . . We are having a very rough time of it in the trenches just now, and are experiencing a little of what some of the boys went through last winter. Up to the knees in water and sludge is now getting a common occurrence, but the spirit of the lads in these hard times is wonderful. Small things of this kind cannot help but put a feeling of confidence in one’s mind and foreshadow an optimistic view of what this unconquerable spirit will do when the time for bigger operations comes. However, it is when we are out of the trenches that we need something to take the place of the excitement which we leave behind. The chief thing that appeals to us is, as yon may imagine, music, and never are we so happy as when we are murdering the chorus of some popular song. But what we want most is a few mouth organs, for many of us can play them ; and we should esteem it a favour if you could find room to publish this letter in the good old R.A., in the hope that it will catch the eyes of some kind-hearted readers, who will do their best for us. I am sure that if the good people at home could only see the pleasure that is derived from these generous gifts, they would only be too pleased to grant us this small request,-—Yours truly, Bandsman J GUBBINS, 170, A Co 10th Batt R.B, British Expeditionary Force, France.


The following are extracts from typical letters received from “ old boys ” of St Matthew’s School, by Mr R H Myers, headmaster :—

Writing from Egypt, Lce-Corporal P Labraham, of the Warwickshire Yeomanry, says : “ I dropped across Alfred Baker at Christmas. He had been out on a frontier fight, and had just returned. Our Christmas dinner was reminiscent of old England, consisting of turkey, beef, fruit, etc. Baker and I drank a toast to the memory of our schooldays during the evening. The Museum here is very fine, and redolent of almost everything connected with ancient Egyptian life. There are mummified cats, birds, babies, cows’ heads, and, of course, an infinite number of the ordinary kind. The old Egyptians took an enormous amount of trouble to preserve their dead, some being placed in five coffins, the last of great size, and ornamented with splendid specimens of Egyptian inlaid work. The jewels here are alone worth a day to examine—golden finger-stalls from some mummies, crowns, ear-rings, bracelets, stones, and charms.”

Pte G Favell, 6th Leicestershire Regiment, writes : “ I spent Christmas Day and New Year’s Day in the trenches, and shall never forget the experience. It was pouring with rain, and we were hard at work shovelling mud out of the trenches. There was no kind of truce this year at Christmas. We always remember that the Germans are enemies, and must be treated as such. They have asked for trouble with a capital T, and they will get more than they bargained for before the ‘lads in khaki’ have finished with them. We opened the year. 1916 by presenting them with a few souvenirs in the shape of leaden pills, which may be all right to look at, but are very indigestible. There is no doubt that we have now got the upper hand in . the West, and we are looking forward to the end of the war in the near future.”

P E .Hughes, Leading Seaman, on one of his Majesty’s ships with the Grand Fleet, writes : “ We are getting it pretty rough at present somewhere in the North Sea, but it does not seem to trouble the boys, who are merry and bright as usual, and still waiting for the Huns. I am afraid there will be nothing doing, as they are getting enough from the boys in the Baltic, who are luckier than we are, though we hope to have the pleasure of meeting them yet.”


Lieut-Colonel F Dugdale, C.V.O., from the Warwickshire Yeomanry, is gazetted lieutenant-colonel in the Territorial Force Reserve.—Mr D L Hutchison has been given a commission in the Yeomanry.

The New Year honours include the conferring of the K.C.B. on Vice-Admiral R H S Bacon, C.V.O., D.S.O.

An artillery officer writes to a friend in Rugby that his battery is peculiarly well off with respect to lighting accommodation. The battery is stationed near a coal mine somewhere in France, and, by tapping a wire which supplies current to work a fan in a mine shaft, electric light is obtained in the dug-out.

Mr C J Bowen Cooke, the chief mechanical engineer for the London, and North-Western Railway, who has been gazetted major in the Engineer and Railway Staff Corps, has been connected with the L. and N.-W. R. for forty years, commencing as an apprentice in the Crewe Works, and he is the author of several works on British locomotives.

Messrs H and R S Sitwell, sons of Mrs Sitwell, of the Manor House, Leamington Hastings, and the late Canon Sitwell, were gazetted to lieutenancies in the Derbyshire Yeomanry. At the outbreak of the war both were farming in South Africa, and they at once left their farms in the care of others and joined the force which conquered German West Africa. The former has also had experience with the Germans as a prisoner, as, a few days before the surrender, while carrying despatches he got behind the German lines. Fortunately the captive period was very short, the surrender bringing his release.


Mr Charles Barnwell, of 56 Manor Road, recently received a letter from his son, who is in the Rugby Howitzer Battery at the front, in which he says :- “ Two mines under the German trenches in — were successfully exploded. Rifle, machine gun, and also artillery fire was opened on the German trenches immediately the explosion took place ; the mountain gun swept the ground behind the crater at a range of 150 to 200 yards. For some time after the explosion nothing could be observed owing to the heavy cloud of dust and smoke. When the atmosphere had cleared it was seen that the corner of the parapet for quite thirty yards was completely demolished. The firing of the Howitzers was particularly effective. They obtained six direct hits on the enemy’s rear parapet, and placed the remaining rounds into the —. Almost immediately after the explosion the enemy replied with rifle grenades from their trenches, and at 10.25 a.m. their guns opened fire upon the edge of a wood, and the paths and roads leading up to our front



The following notice, issued by the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, was posted throughout the country on Saturday :—


Enlistment in groups will reopen on Monday, January 10, and proceed until further notice. All men between 18 and 41, both single and married, who have not attested should do so at once at the nearest recruiting office.

The month’s notice to men whose groups have been called up will commence from the day of their attestation.

Attention is called to the fact that a great deal of labour and inconvenience will be saved to the recruiting authorities if men desiring to attest will, wherever possible, do so in the area in which they have been registered under the National Registration Act. The right to attest in any area is not withdrawn, and attestation will still be accepted in any district irrespective of the area of registration ; but such men as can possibly attest in their own area are asked to assist the recruiting authorities by so doing.

The conscientious objector has already made his appearance. A tall, robust young man walked into the inquiry office at the recruiting headquarters in London on Saturday. “ I have a conscientious objection to fighting,” he began ; “ will you direct me to the proper channel for the utilisation of my services as a non-combatant ?” The young man was passed on so that his request should receive full consideration.

Outside the naval recruiting offices in the Strand chalked on a board is the warning, “ No conscientious objectors need apply.” – on the other side is an exhortation : “ Now then, you single men, don’t let grandpa join first.”



There was a further big batch of cases to be heard before the Coventry Munitions Tribunal on Monday afternoon. Professor F Tillyard presided, and the assessors present were Messrs W C Macartney (employers) and J Roberts (men), together with Messrs P E Wilks (clerk) and D G Bolland (assistant clerk).

Willans and Robinson, Rugby, complained that Frank Hancox, press tool setter, Rugby, had absented himself without leave. Defendant said he was unfit for work, and it was stated that he had not gone back to work yet. Hancox said he was 29 years old, and earned 30s a week. The Chairman : Tool setters seem to be cheap in Rugby.—Defendant: They are.—The Chairman said that, taking into consideration that his wages were not high, defendant would be fined 10s.

Nearly all the others were Coventry cases.



Many industries have been hampered by reason of the war, but it is doubtful whether any trade has faced more difficulties than the paper industry. The outlook is stated to be so serious that if the present condition of affairs continues for long there must be a paper famine in this country. Paper is made principally from three classes of materials—namely, rags, esparto (a strong fibrous grass grown in North Africa and on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea), and wood pulp. Rags are used in the manufacture of the best class of hand-made paper, but that material does not play an important part in the trade difficulties now experienced. Esparto is an important ingredient, and before the war large quantities were imported into Scotland. There is now a great difficulty in obtaining supplies, and this is one cause of the present shortage of paper and the consequent high prices. Shipping freights have increased enormously. The present rate is between 30s and 40s a ton, as compared with the pre-war rate of 2s 6d to 5s. The Scottish manufacturers of paper are considerably handicapped because of the shortage of railway trucks to carry the raw material from the ports of entry to the. districts where the paper mills are situated, while, in addition, there is a great shortage of labour at the manufactories.

Chemical dyes for colouring paper are practically unobtainable. The limited supply available is sold at a very high price ; in some cases the cost is 40s to 50s a pound, as compared with 2s before the war. Bleaching powder is largely used by manufacturers, but the bulk of this material has been commandeered by the Government. Wood pulp is mainly imported from Scandinavia. As the Germans are unable to obtain an adequate supply of cotton for the manufacture of explosives they are large buyers of wood pulp, which is said to be a good substitute for cotton. Consequently the imports of wood pulp to this country are much below the normal ; while, as in the case of other commodities, the price is very high. With the exception of rags, there are no raw materials in this country with which to make paper, and the present shortage of all kinds of paper is due to this fact. “ I have been to Scotland on three recent occasions,” said a Birmingham paper manufacturer to a newspaper representative, “ and I find the word ‘famine’ is in the mouths of all the manufacturers there. Some of the mills are standing idle because supplies of raw material cannot be obtained, and also because of the scarcity of labour.”

Germany used to send considerable quantities of paper to this country, principally vegetable parchment. That supply ceased on the out-break of war. The supply of flint paper from Belgium has also ceased, while grease-proof paper from Scandinavia is sent over in very limited quantities. It may be found necessary shortly to abandon the use of coloured paper for wrapping purposes, and shopkeepers are advised to exercise the greatest economy in the use of paper bags. Thin bank paper and super-calendered papers are very scarce.



In Rugby on Monday night, the inhabitants both in the business and residential parts of the town, showed a general disposition to comply with the new regulations, which require a more drastic reduction of external and internal than hitherto.

The publication of the regulations in the columns of the Rugby Advertiser enabled householders to get a definite idea of the extent to which illumination must be reduced, but the methods by which results entirely satisfactory to the authorities could be obtained, were not so easy to devise. While in some cases lights were not completely shaded and a good deal of illumination found its way on to the roadway, in the main there was little to complain of, and perhaps in many instances people went to the other extreme, and the “ dull and subdued light ” permitted by the regulations was eclipsed altogether.

Many tradesmen, especially in the centre of the town, closed their places of business altogether at six o’clock, being under the impression that the streets would be so dark that customers would not venture out. But the public lamps were lighted as usual almost without modification, and the illumination they gave, combined with the light from the new moon, was sufficient to enable people to walk or ride through the streets with little or no danger of collision.

With regard to street lamps, we understand there are to be further modifications. Superintendent Clarke has commenced a tour of the town, and is ordering the extinction of lamps except at points where he considers, them to be absolutely necessary for the safety of the public, and in a few days the town will probably wear a much more sombre aspect at night than it did on Monday.

In some instances, where shopkeepers had not gone far enough to suit the requirements, further restrictions were ordered.

Speaking generally, there has been an honest attempt on the part of tradespeople to meet the requirements of the Order, but the results on Tuesday night, when police officers made an inspection of some of the principal streets, showed that quite a number of shopkeepers had not shaded their lights sufficiently. When this was pointed out to them they displayed a willingness to meet the wishes of those responsible for the carrying out of the new Order. Isolated cases of obstinacy may have been found, but these proved the exception to the rule, and suggestions to further reduce the light were in nearly every case promptly acted upon. These consisted of advice to extinguish altogether certain lamps, to close doors, to entirely draw down the blinds, or to change the colour of the shading material from red to dark green or blue.

In some: cases electric globes of the required colour have been adopted with good effect.