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

[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.


[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, who was later commissioned into 8th Battalion Devonshire Regiment, and was killed in action, 16 June 1917, aged 20.




[14]     Information from: ‘Frogsmile’, Great War Forum, 29 January 2008,…


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


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