Alfred Edward Perring

Alfred Edward Perring was the older brother of Richard John Perring, though it seems that the two probably barely knew each other. Alfred and Richard’s parents, Annie Bester and Walter Perring, immigrated to Canada in 1907.  Alfred, who was 18 at the time, did not make the trip, while Richard, only 10, did.  It is likely that this was the last time they saw each other, as Richard died serving with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the war.

At some point before 1910, Alfred joined the military, and was stationed in India.  There he met Amelia Edith Adshead who had been born to a British family in Kolkata, West Bengal. At some point, he also dropped the “g” from his last name, as he is known as “Alfred Perrin” in all documents throughout his adult life. He and Amelia married in 1910 in Rangoon, and their first three children were born in India before the war. He served in the war in both France and Gallipoli as a Sergeant in the Alexandra, Princess of Wales’ own Yorkshire Regiment, and with the Corps of Military Staff Clerks. He and Amelia had three more children between 1915 and 1920, all born in India.  At some point before 1939, Alfred and his family moved to Edmonton, UK which is where Alfred later passed away in 1950 at the age of 60.

 

 

Bertram George Moody

Bertram George Moody was my 2nd cousin four times removed.  We are both descended from John Gill and Elizabeth Munns, my 5th Great Grandparents and his Great Grandparents.  While I am descended from John and Elizabeth’s daughter Sarah, Bertram is descended from her sister Alice.  Bertram and his brother Ernest were 2 of four grandchildren of Alice Gill  who served in the war. Stanley and Herbert Gill, who I have already profiled, were sons of Alice’s son William Gill who was born before she was married, and the Moody brothers were the children of her daughter with her husband Stephen Farrington, Harriet Amelia Farrington.

Harriet was born in 1870 in Edmonton, and married James John Moody, house decorator, when she was 19. Together, they had six children.  In the 1911 census, fifteen-year old Bertram was recorded as being in training to be a house decorator like his father and his brother Ernest who was a paper hanger.

James Moody

James Moody and Family circa 1917.  
Enfield, Middlesex, England
back row -L/R Ernest Stephen Moody snr., James Moody, Bertram Moody. seated – Elizabeth Mary Moody (nee Fitzer), Harriet Amelia Moody (nee Farrington), Elsie Alice Moody. seated front – Ernest Stephen Moody jnr, Gladys Jessie Moody. Lillian Evelyn Moody

I do not have his service record, but I know from the national roll of honour as well as from correspondence with his great-niece that he served in the 4th Leicester Battalion  as a signaller. According to the National Roll of Honour, he served at battles of Lens in 1917 and Bethune in 1918.

Honor Roll

Excerpt from National Roll of Honour on Bertram’s service.

I would like to thank Bertram’s great niece for giving me permission to use the amazing photo of her family, above.

Joseph Perring

Joseph Perring was my fourth great-uncle and the father of Edmund Alfred Perring and Alfred Charles Perring. One hundred and three years ago today, he attested to the British Expeditionary force in the Army Service Corps.

Attestation Papers

Excerpt from attestation papers of Joseph Perring.

By the time he attested, his son Alfred had already been overseas with the 1st Welch Regiment for over two months.  He claimed on his attestation papers to be 45 years of age.

Age claim

Excerpt from attestation papers of Joseph Perring.

This, it would become clear before too long, was a lie.  Joseph was born in Rickling, Essex in 1862, the second youngest child of  James Perring and Emma Law, who were also my 4th Great Grandparents.  By the time he was 21, he had moved to Edmonton (London), and he married Sarah Elizabeth Oliphant, a domestic servant. Together, they would go onto have thirteen children, Edmund and Alfred being the 5th and 6th respectively.  What possessed him to volunteer is difficult to say.  He was under no obligation.  Even once conscription arrived in Britain, it only applied to men under 41 years old.

Regardless, join he did, as part of the Army Service Corps which provided provisions and supplies to the troops at the front. It is unclear what part of the corps he served in, but he was in France from April to October of 1915 which included the timeframe when his son, Alfred, was wounded and eventually died of his wounds.

In October of 1915, Joseph’s lie about his age began to unravel.  He ended up in hospital in France that month due to “muscular rheumatism,” and was invalided back to England.  For the following several weeks he was able to perform occasional light duty, but by January of 1916, his medical status was being evaluated by the medical board.  He then revealed that his true age was in fact 55, and that he had suffered from rheumatic symptoms off and on since 1902.  He was discharged in February of 1916 as being no longer physically fit for war service.

He went on to live a long life, even living through the entirety of yet another world war, before passing away in Edmonton, UK in late 1949 at the age of 87.

Walter Francis Bester

This week we move to a different branch of my maternal line with my 2nd cousin, 3 times removed, Walter Francis Bester.  We are both descended from Charles Bester and Sarah Gill who were my 4th Great Grandparents, and Walter’s Great Grandparents.

Charles Bester was born in 1833 to an agricultural labourer father in Little Eversden, Cambridgeshire about 11 kilometres south of Cambridge. Sarah Gill was born in 1837 in Orwell, Cambridgeshire to John Gill and Elizabeth Munns, whose history I detailed in a previous post. This makes her a great aunt to several of the Gill soldiers I have already written about.  Charles and Sarah married on 30 November 1856 when Charles was 23 and Sarah was 19. Together, they had at least 10 children, 9 of whom survived to adulthood. I am descended from their third child, Annie, who was my 3rd Great Grandmother, while Walter is descended from their first child, Charles, who was born in May 1856 (six months before Charles and Sarah were married). The first five Bester children were all baptized together in 1861.

In the 1871 census, when Charles was 14, he was listed as living at home with his parents in Little Eversden and working as a labourer. By 1877, he had relocated, and was working as a labourer in Edmonton, North London (the perennial spot for my ancestors, it seems!), and in January 1878 at the age of 21, he married 19-year old Fanny Adams. Charles and Fanny had nine children between 1878 and 1896, the two youngest of whom, Frank Harold Bester and Sydney Smith Bester both served in the Great War and will be profiled here later this year.

Charles and Fanny’s oldest son, Walter Beaumont Bester, began working at a young age like his father, and is listed in the 1891 census at the age of 13 as a “Milk Boy.” He married Alice Louisa Goodchild in 1898, and their son, Walter Francis (or “Frank” as he went by later in life), was born in Hackney, a more central area in London, in January 1899. It seems that Walter Sr. had stayed with his early occupation, as in the 1901 census he is listed as a Milk Carrier. In 1910, Walter, Alice, and 11 yr-old Frank sailed from Liverpool to Quebec City with the intention of farming in Canada. They settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Whether the family every did attempt to farm in Manitoba is unclear, but by the 1916 Western Canadian census, Walter was once again listed as a Milk Carrier, with 17-year old Frank listed as a farm labourer.

On the 6th of April, 1917, Frank enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force.  As an aside, one of the most interesting things to me about his attestation papers is that his trade or occupation is listed as a “moving picture operator.” There is a lot of scope for the imagination in this–he would have been consistently exposed to the jingoistic and propaganda-filled newsreels that accompanied the films, and I have to wonder what kind of impact this had on his impression of the war. He enlisted and served in Lord Strathcona’s Horse, one of the most decorated Canadian regiments in the War, and a regiment still in existence today with its home base being in my home town, Edmonton, Alberta.

Frank embarked for England on April 29, 1917, and arrived on May 7 at which time he was sent to the Canadian Reserve Cavalry Regiment in Shorncliffe for training and to await posting. He was mobilized to France and sent to join the Lord Strathcona’s Horse nearly a year later in April 1918.  Frank joined the regiment at a time of significant rebuilding.  In fact, the war diary of the regiment stated on April 6 that “every effort [was being] made to collect reinforcements from various parts of the country.” From mid to late April, the regiment was making good on those efforts and working to train the men they collected. May and June were largely spent engaged in training rides and grazing parades keeping both men and horses ready for action.

Training and conditioning continued through July, but, fortunately for the men, the month is marked more by sporting events more than by military action. On July 1, Dominion Day, the troops played baseball throughout the afternoon and evening. Later in the month, there is also reference to a basketball game that roused “great enthusiasm.” On July 19th it was reported that the regimental baseball team was defeated by the Royal Canadian Dragoons team, 4 to 3.

No one would grudge the regiment their leisure considering what was to come.  On August 8, 1918, the Lord Strathcona’s Horse was part of what would be a tremendous 9-day effort to push the German Forces east: away from the key railway junctions at Amiens. From 4:20 AM onwards, the regiment was monitoring the advance of infantry and tank brigades, and following behind to clear areas of remaining opposing forces as advances were made.  Eventually, rather than wait for the slower advancing tanks and risk being caught in the crossfire, leadership decided to advance without the tanks and run ahead at a gallop.  This resulted in a significant amount of prisoners taken and equipment captured. General Ludendorff would refer to this first day of the Battle of Amiens as “the black day of the German army.” Though there were many successes that day, there were also several casualties, one of whom was Walter Francis Bester who had received a gun shot wound to his right calf and a large shrapnel wound to his left buttock.

amiensphoto1

German prisoners are escorted by Canadian cavalrymen near Amiens. Library and Archives Canada Photo.

Frank was evacuated to Britain: first to the 4th Southern General Hospital in Plymouth on August 11, 1918, then transferred on Aug 22 to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Bear Wood, Wokingham, Berkshire where he recovered until discharged on October 4. At this point he was posted to the Canadian Reserve Cavalry Regiment in Shorncliffe where he stayed until the end of the war. On December 4, 1918 he was sent to Kinmel Park where he embarked for Canada on December 10. He was discharged January 23, 1919 in Winnipeg, where his wounds were assessed as well-healed, with no impairment or disability.  He was 20 years old.

Later that same year, Frank married Nellie Alice Hollingsworth who he must have met while stationed in England.  She arrived in Canada on July 2, 1919 with the words “to be married” stamped on the passenger manifest beside her name.  Frank and Nellie were married on July 29. In the 1921 Canadian census, Frank is listed as a farmer living just outside Winnipeg with his wife, his 1-year old daughter Joyce, his mother, and his maternal grandmother.  Although his mother is not listed as a widow, I could find no trace of Walter Beaumont Bester in the Canadian census from that year. As it seems that Alice passed away in England, it is possible that he had returned there as well.

Frank and Nellie had one more daughter, Jaqueline, in 1922.  In 1937, Frank, Nellie, and Jaqueline moved back to Britain, with Joyce following in 1939 all indicating that they would be residing in Essex. Jaqueline eventually returned to Canada to live, while Frank and Nellie both lived out the rest of their lives in England.  Nellie passed away in 1954 at the age of 58, and Frank in 1964 at the age of 65.

 

 

 

 

Ezekiel Gill

Ezekiel Gill, with his brothers David and William, formed a trio of Gill brothers that were in the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium. The second son of David and Louisa Gill, he was born on the 27th of December, 1894, just over 123 years ago, in the post-Christmas and pre-New Year’s period, just as we are in right now. In the 1911 census he is listed as still living with his parents, and working as a bottle packer at a glassworks.

On August 3, 1913, at the age of 18, he married Rosa Charlotte Kitchener, and very soon afterwards, they were expecting their first child. Their son, Ezekiel, was born in the spring of 1914, but sadly did not see his first birthday, passing away in early 1915.

Ezekiel’s military service record was destroyed among the other “burnt” service files, so we are left to piece together his service from other sources. Family documents shared with me by a Great Grand niece of Ezekiel suggest that he, like his brother David, first joined the Royal Field Artillery. At the very least, the family is fairly certain that he was present at the Battle of Loos in the fall of 1915, as his second child, David, born in December 1915 was given the middle name “Loos” presumably after this battle.

At some point after the fall of 1915, Ezekiel was transferred to the 1st Battalion of the Gloucester Regiment in the 1st Division.  His service between late 1915 and the fall of 1918 cannot be ascertained through the military record, although he must have had some time on leave as his wife, Rosa, was again expecting a child that fall.

In September of 1918, the Battles of the Hindenburg Line began in which the allied forces worked to break the defensive position the German forces had held since 1916. On the 28th of September, the men of the 1st Battalion of the Gloucester Regiment had baths in the morning, and by 5pm they had been ordered to move to the front to relieve the 2nd Infantry Brigade. The next morning marked the beginning of the Battle of the St. Quentin Canal.  The 1st Battalion was ordered to take and hold three strategic objectives, some of which were heavily defended by machine guns. The artillery was supporting them, but bad misty weather, heavy hostile shelling, and a great deal of noise made it difficult for officers on the ground to discern whether their artillery support was even there.

By midday, conditions improved, and the 1st began a creeping barrage toward their three objectives.  This was a gruelling series of hours with heavy artillery creating a screen allowing infantry to slowly advance 50 metres at a time. By dark, their targets had been captured, but at a toll of 55 casualties, including 8 men killed.  Among them was Ezekiel Gill.  He was 23 years old.

Ezekiel’s daughter, Rosa Louisa Gill, was born just over three weeks later.

Ezekiel is buried in Vadencourt British Cemetery in Maissemy, France.  I am honoured to share the CWGC commemorative certificate for my cousin here.

 

Herbert Arthur Gill

Herbert Gill, brother of Stanley, is the first Royal Navy serviceman that I will profile in this series.  Four years older than his brother, he first joined the Navy in 1911 at the age of 16 for a 12-year commitment, first at the training establishment HMS Ganges as Boy 2nd Class.  He worked his way through the ranks in his first three years through Boy 1st Class, Ordinary Seaman, then by the autumn of of 1914, Able Seaman at which time he was serving on the HMS Roxburgh. He would have been still serving on Roxburgh in June 1915 when she was struck and severely damaged by a torpedo from a German submarine.

HMS Roxburgh

HMS Roxburgh from naval-history.net

Herbert spent late 1915 and early 1916 at Vivid I, a seamanship, signalling and telegraphy School in Devonport. The rest of the war he was alternately at training and on HMS Colossus and HMS Hindustan.

Herbert was serving on the Hindustan was part of the Zeebrugge and Osten raids of April 23, 1918. The operation was intended to block the access of German shipping and submarines in and out of both ports. German submarines, torpedo boats and ships were based at the inland docks in Bruges and were using the Bruges shipping canal to access the English Channel via the two sea entrances at Zeebrugge and Ostend. The raids were considered successful, and several gallantry awards were presented as a result, including eight men being awarded with the Victoria Cross.

Herbert served with the Royal Navy until January 1925.

From there, I am not certain about the rest of Herbert’s life.  In my research, I have found at least three different Herbert Gills living in Edmonton all born around the same time between 1925 and 1950, and I haven’t found any conclusive enough evidence to identify any of them as this Herbert Gill.

Next week, another Gill–Ezekiel.

In the meantime, all the best to you for a lovely Christmas if that is your tradition! I will have a special post on the Facebook page on Monday, so please make sure that you follow me there as well.

Stanley Frederick Gill

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.

Family tree

Abbreviated family tree showing my relationship to two other branches of the Gill family.

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.

Mother's letter

Excerpt from letter written by Emily Gill on the subject of her son, Rifleman Stanley Gill.

 

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.

Camp

Barracks at Camp Stendal

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.