Stanley Frederick Gill, like David Gill and William Jack Gill, is my second cousin four times removed. We are all descended from John Gill and Elizabeth Munns, but where David, William and their brother Ezekiel (who I will profile at a later date) are descended from John and Elizabeth’s son Jack, and I am descended from their daughter Sarah, Stanley and his brother Herbert Arthur, who I will profile next week, are descended from their daughter Alice Gill.
Alice Gill had two children before she was married, a daughter, Elizabeth, presumably named for her mother, who died at the age of two, and William John. William was six years old when his mother married Stephen Farrington in 1869. Alice and Stephen went on to have five more children together. By the 1891 census, William is listed as living with his wife, Emily, and their daughter Nellie on Bury Street in Edmonton, North London. Interestingly, he didn’t stray far from home as his mother and step father lived on the same street, as did his aunt (and my 4th Great Grandmother) Sarah and her family. By 1901, William and his family had moved to Osman Road, still in Edmonton with their growing family. William and Emily had a total of twelve children between 1889 and 1910, five of whom did not survive past infancy. William died in early 1914, just before the world descended into total war.
Stanley Frederick Gill was 15 when his father, William, died, and only 17 years and 10 months old when he attested to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps on December 16, 1916, one hundred and one years ago today. He was listed as the “head” of his household at the time. In March 1917, roughly a month after his 18th birthday, he reported for his medical inspection and spent the first part of his service in a King’s Royal Rifles Corps training battalion located in Canterbury.
In the fall of 1917 he was hospitalized twice for scabies, a parasitic skin condition that afflicted thousands of men in the close quarters of military camps and training. He found himself in a spot of trouble in early 1918 as he was discovered absent from the morning of January 10, 1918 to the next morning, and was confined to barracks for three days as a punishment. Whatever his reason for being absent, given what was to come for him over the following months, I hope it was for something that gave him a pleasant memory to look back on. He was hospitalized once more for scabies from the 26th to 28th of January.
He embarked for France February 3, 1918, one day after his nineteenth birthday, being deployed to the 7th King’s Royal Rifles in the 14th Division. He had only been with the battalion for a short while, when, at 4:45 am on the morning of March 21, everyone was awoken by the sound of what was described in the war journal as “a very heavy enemy barrage.” This barrage cut communications between headquarters and the front line, then, morning greeted them with a dense fog with visibility down to 50 yards. These were less than ideal conditions for a coordinated response to what would be one of largest German offensive efforts of these later days of the war. This battle, known as the Battle of St. Quentin, was the beginning of the First Battles of the Somme, 1918.
The war diary reported that 250 “ordinary ranks” from the 7th King’s Royal Rifles were killed, wounded, or went missing on March 21. One of these men was Stanley. Throughout April of 1918, his mother, concerned after not hearing from him for several weeks, was trying to get information on his location.
Stanley was one of several men who had been taken prisoner that day at St. Quentin. The International Committee of the Red Cross’ archive of Prisoners of War places Stanley first at the Stendal POW camp, then at the Neuhammer POW camp. By all accounts, life in these camps was, at best, cramped and uncomfortable with days filled with hard labour, at worst, cruel and humiliating including being paraded in public at cinemas and train stations in order to underscore the strength of the captors. But this said, there was massive infrastructure at these camps including a camp-specific currency that could be used to purchase items at a commissary.
The repatriation of Prisoners of War was one of the items covered in the armistice. Generally, British prisoners were re-patriated very quickly. By March 1919, Stanley was back in Canterbury. He was hospitalized again, this time for diarrhea–another very common complaint among soldiers. He was then posted to the Rifle Depot at Winchester.
Stanley was demobilized in February 1920. He was barely 21 years old.
He married Ada Goulding in 1926 and they went on to have three children. Stanley passed away in 1961 at the age of 62.