Wickford at War

Following on from our previous blog post, we return with another guest, writing about his family from Wickford, James Nason.

My family haven’t really got very far.

I can trace them back to my 10th Great Grandfather, Richard Carter, in Wickford thanks to a document from St. Catherine’s Church that is held by The Essex Record Office.  Over 400 years later I live Pitsea, a short journey away from Wickford.

The Carter’s have been a massive influence on Wickford and still are to this day.  One of these was my Grand Aunt, Queenie Thorrington nee Carter.  She was born, in Wickford, on 8 April 1910.

Queenie spoke to author Jim Reeve, who went on to write ‘Wickford Memories’, about her memories of the First World War.  Her father, my Great Grandfather, Halbert John Carter was employed at docks as a carpenter and a joiner, converting ships to troop ships.  He wasn’t healthy enough to join the armed forces and he was kept on as a carpenter at the docks even after hostilities had ended.

Hubert, Pearl and Queenie Carter.  Taken around 1917.

Hubert, Pearl and Queenie Carter. Taken around 1917.

Her mother, Daisy Ethel Carter, nee Bewers, had two older brothers that fought during the Great War.

William John Cornelius Bewers (known as Will), born 5 May 1876, was a career sailor and had joined the Royal Navy before the turn of the 20th Century.

Henry Robert Bewers (known as Bob), born 7 May 1877, joined the army in 1916.

Ada Carter (nee Bewers), William Bewers and William John Cornelius Bewers carrying Queenie Carter, 1911.

Ada Carter (nee Bewers), William Bewers and William John Cornelius Bewers carrying Queenie Carter, 1911.

William was a Chief Stoker on HM Submarine E22.  The submarine was part of a naval experiment.  It carried two Sopwith Seaplanes on its casing that would be floated and then sent to intercept Zeppelins.  The experiment was eventually abandoned.  Whilst on surface manoeuvres, off of Great Yarmouth, on 25 April 1916 his submarine was torpedoed and sunk.  Only two men survived and uncle Will was killed.  Less than a year before this he married Eva Grange.  She wrote to the admiralty asking for information as he was originally just listed as missing.  I can’t imagine she got to spend much time with her new husband and the little news she received after he went missing must have been awful.

Aunt Queenie can remember seeing what she thought was the whole British army marching through Wickford, and up towards Runwell.  I was told a story that one of those soldiers was uncle Bob, that he waved to my aunt and was disappointed that she never recognised him.

Henry Robert Bewers, a Private in the Second Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, was killed 18 August 1916 in Cochrane Alley, Guillemont, France.  He never married.

Henry Robert Bewers

Henry Robert Bewers

Queenie remembered two events that bought the war to the town of Wickford.  Firstly she recalled the Zeppelin that came down and crashed in Burstead.  “There were flames in the sky and by the time it had gone over us, it had come down.”

Later on a German Gotha came down “between the river and London Road” whilst Queenie was at school.  After school the children went to see the wreckage.  “What I remember most” said Queenie “was the terrible smell of the bodies.”

Queenie died, January 2009, aged 98.

If you’d like to tell us about your Essex family and their experience of the First World War then get in touch. We love having guest blog writers!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s