Richard John Perring

Richard John Perring, my 3rd Great Uncle, was born 122 years ago today. His parents, Annie Bester and Walter Perring, were my 3rd Great Grandparents.  Another way to look at this was that he was my Great-Grandfather’s uncle.  In fact, it is likely that my Great-Grandfather, James Charles Mungham, and his uncle knew each other, as there was only an 8 year age difference between them.  My Great-Grandfather emigrated from Britain to Canada with his family, including his parents Harry Mungham and Ellen Perring in 1908, arriving when he was three and a half years old. Ellen Perring was the eldest child of Annie Bester and Walter Perring, and though I can’t be sure, it is very possible that her and her family’s decision to move to northern Ontario was in part due to her parents’ decision to do the same thing the previous year. So when My 2nd Great Grandparents and their children arrived in Orillia, Ontario in 1908, Ellen’s parents, and her younger siblings, including Richard, who would have then been 11 years old, were there to greet her.

Three years later, in the 1911 census, Richard was listed as working as a labourer at a “wheel works.” Sometime between then and late 1914, he had moved south to Winchester, Ontario, slightly south-east of Ottawa, and began to pursue a career as a baker. It was also in Winchester that he married Mary Elizabeth Lambert in December of 1914 when they were both 19 years old.  Almost exactly a year later, in December of 1915, Richard attested to the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the 87th Battalion (Canadian Grenadier Guards) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

His unit sailed for Britain on the 23rd of April, 1916, one day after his 20th birthday. He spent the rest of the spring and the early part of the summer in training, and then on August 10, 1916, the unit sailed for France. By the fall of 1916, the 87th was fully involved on the 1916 Somme offensive. At some point during the more than month-long battle of the Ancre Heights, Richard went missing.  It was later declared that he had been killed on or before October 22, 1916, exactly 6 months after his birthday.  His remains were never found.

Back in Orillia, Ontario, my 2nd Great Grandmother had lost a brother.  She also had 2 sons of her own “in khaki” at the same time.

My birthday is April 22. I have now had 21 more birthdays that Richard ever experienced. Had he not been killed in France, there is even a possibility that he would have lived to celebrate his 81st birthday on the day I was born. The what-if’s of so many young lives resonate a lot more somehow when one can connect these kinds of clear timelines to them.

Richard is memorialized at the Vimy memorial in France.  I am honoured to post the Commonwealth War Graves Commission commemorative certificate for my uncle here.

 

 

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.

Alfred Charles Perring

Alfred Charles Perring was born in Edmonton, UK in early 1894. Like his brother, Edmund Alfred, he was my first cousin, 4 times removed on my maternal grandmother’s side. Where his brother’s service began with conscription and was drawn out over several years, Alfred was an early recruit and his service was brief: he died in June 1915 of wounds.  I am beginning this post with his death rather than the story of his service because his personnel file is “burnt.” It is one of the 60% of WW1 personnel files that were destroyed in the 1940 bombings on London.

From the medal rolls, listings of war dead, and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) records, we know the date of his death, the unit with which he served, and where he was buried. We are left to piece together and fill in the rest from regimental diaries and general histories of the war.  Unless there are personal family records existing that I do not have, there is very little in the way of record left for this very young man who died at the age of 21.

CWGC cemetary listing

UK Commonwealth War Graves Listing detailing grave location in the Etaples Military Cemetery in France.

Assuming he enlisted in late 1914, as a member of the 1st Battalion of the Welch Regiment which was (part of the 28th Division), he would have sailed for France in January 1915 and made his way with the regiment to Belgium. This Division took part in the Second Battle of Ypres in the spring of 1915, a month-long, deadly battle during which the German forces used poison gas for the first time.

Whether he was wounded as part of this battle and later died of wounds or was wounded in one of the myriad of other ways that a person could be fatally hurt in the month that followed second Ypres is unclear.  But thanks to the meticulous records of the CWGC, we do know that he was buried in Etaples Military Cemetery.

I am honoured to share the CWGC commemorative certificate for my cousin here.

 

Edmund Alfred Perring

Edmund Perring was born in July 1892 in the urban district of Edmonton (UK) to Joseph Perring (my 4th Great Uncle) and Sarah Elizabeth Oliphant, making him my first cousin four times removed. Sarah is listed in 1881 census as a servant, specifically a domestic nursemaid to the children of the middle-class Pallett family of Edmonton. She was 16 at the time.  Two years later, she married Joseph Perring who I will write more about in a future post.  Together they had thirteen children, the fifth of which was Edmund.

In the 1911 census, Edmund is listed as living with his family and working as a “carman” or someone who drives goods for a business.  There is no other mention of him in any of the records I have found until his military service papers where his trade or calling is listed as a “bender of sheet metal.”

His military papers also reveal that he had been conscripted into the British Expeditionary Force under the Military Service Act (MSA)  of 1916. Under this legislation, every British male subject (not including those living in the Dominions such as Canada) who, on 15 August 1915, was ordinarily resident in Great Britain,  had attained the age of 19 but was not yet 41, and, on 2 November 1915, was unmarried or a widower without dependent children, was deemed to have enlisted.  This was effective Thursday 2 March 1916.  There were a series of exemptions that applied to this, but none of of these applied to Edmund, and on November 10, 1916, he was “called up” to begin his service.  He was 24 years old.

MSA Calling up

Portion of Edmund Perring’s Service Paper upon being “called up.” 

He was initially assigned to the the Gloucester Regiment, and served the duration of 1916 and all of 1917, and the first part of 1918 on home soil. In January 1917, he was assigned to the 17th Battalion which was formed  1 January 1917 from what had previously been the 82nd Provisional Battalion of the Territorial Force.  It is difficult to say what filled Edmund’s days during this time; the only clear point in his service record was that he was punished for “being asleep whilst on duty” on March 30, 1918.

Whatever was occupying him with the unit, he must have had some time for considering personal matters as on April 28, 1918, he married Amelia Groves in St. Peter’s church in Edmonton.

On June 10, 1918, he was one of 160 men from the 17th Gloucester transferred to the newly formed 33rd Battalion of the London Regiment. They embarked for France on July 3rd. The summer was spent training and working behind the lines before the battalion was moved with the rest of the 14th Division to Belgium in late August to take part in what would be some of the final battles of the war.  That said, for better or worse, Edmund did not take part in these battles. Prior to the battalion being sent to Belgium, Edmund was treated by a field ambulance unit then admitted to hospital with diarrhea on August 24, 1918, four days before his battalion was moved.  He remained in hospital or at convalescent depots for over two months, not returning to his unit until the 29th day of November–18 days after armistice.

The remainder of 1918 and the first part of 1919 were spent in Northern France engaging in ceremonial drills, physical training, recreational games, and educational opportunities for the men as, bit by bit, parts of the battalion were demobilized.  On March 16, 1919 Edmund was one of 120 men who left the unit by train to be transferred to the 2/17 Battalion of the London Regiment in Boulogne on the western coast of France.  In November he returned to England for demobilization.

Edmund and Amelia went on to have two sons, Edmund Henry (born 1924) and Alfred (born 1926). Alfred did not live to see his first birthday, passing away early in 1927.  Although Edmund Henry lived to adulthood, he died in 1953 at the age of 29, with the National Probate calendar stating that the administration of his estate was left to “Edmund Alfred Perring, sports groundsman.” Edmund and Amelia outlived both of their children.  Edmund died three years later, still living in Edmonton, UK.  His wife lived another 14 years, passing away in 1970.

Like many of the men I will profile over this year, Edmund was not the only member of his family to serve. Next week I will profile his brother, Alfred Charles Perring, whose journey in the war was quite different than his brother’s.