Hylands Military Hospital

 Linda Knock, volunteer and Friend of Hylands House, tells us a little about the history of Hylands House in Chelmsford during the First World War. I wonder if V Festival participants will appreciate the rich history of the house and its inhabitants.

Our research comes under two headings – ‘Hylands Military hospital and the people who were there’ and ‘The Men of Hylands who served in the Great War’. Our task was to find ‘the stories’ of these men.   For both lots of research the Widford Choir books in the Essex Record Office and the local newspapers in the British Newspaper Archive proved invaluable.  We have also been helped by the families of the men we have found.  By building trees on Ancestry and putting a post there, I am in contact with the descendants of three men, and have been helped by a member of the Family History Society of Queensland [Australia] – I posted a request on their Facebook page and the following day one of their members went for a walk in the cemetery in Brisbane and found the family’s grave, including a mention of the soldier who died at Hylands.  The emails to the local papers unfortunately did not produce any results, but the piece in the Friends of Hylands House newsletter found the descendant of one local soldier.  Information from Luckings, the funeral directors, was very useful.

An Australian war grave for Samuel Barrow, a patient in the hospital who was presented with his Military medal on the ward, and then was sent home to Australia.

An Australian war grave for Samuel Barrow, a patient in the hospital who was presented with his Military medal on the ward, and then was sent home to Australia.

We were pleased to discover that Sir Daniel Gooch made the bedside lockers for the wards when the ground floor of his house was made into a hospital; first used by the 2nd and 3rd South Midland Field Ambulance Corps, then for Belgian soldiers and British soldiers.  Many of the latter were from Scottish regiments and the local newspaper at the time of their arrival at the Hylands Halt on the railway said  “Several Scottish regiments were represented, but as they were all in khaki it was difficult to distinguish their regiments.”  There were also soldiers from Canadian and Australian regiments and I have to admit it was easier to access their records than those over here [and at no cost].  From over 1500 men who were treated at Hylands we have only 9 names from the local newspapers.  But from those names we have found their families and their stories. One success already was the cleaning of the war graves in St Mary’s Churchyard in Widford.  I was very upset when I visited the graves in November last year to find they were green, so I emailed the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and was pleased to find that when I returned in April that they are in their original condition.

The grave of Private Gough, Canadian Infantry, in Widford churchyard

The grave of Private Gough, Canadian Infantry, in Widford churchyard

At the time of the Great War the Hylands Estate was not the park as we know it now, but a huge estate including many of the farms around – Widford Hall, Skeggs, Montpeliers, Webbs, Elms and many others, so the task was huge.  We decided to find out as many names as possible from the 1911 census and the 1918 voters list [ERO].  There were many men who were the right age, so we have a list of names, but are concentrating on producing the stories of a few.  We decided to include Widford as it was so close to Hylands and many of the men attended, or were choristers at St Mary’s Widford. The stories we have chosen so far are those of Lancelot Gooch of Hylands House, two brothers who went into the Army and the Navy at 16, a soldier and his wife who both died of influenza just after Peace was declared, a gamekeeper who lived in one of the Estate lodges, and a soldier who lived in one of the Causeway Cottages that belonged to the estate.

Eric Robinson of Widford on the Naval Memorial in Portsmouth

Eric Robinson of Widford on the Naval Memorial in Portsmouth

If anyone reading this has information about soldiers who were treated at Hylands Military Hospital, or those who were from the Estate, please get in touch.

The results of our research will be displayed in the House at the event on 14th and 15th September.

Why not visit Hylands House on Sunday 14th September to see the research presented and also to get the first glimpse of the Last Poppy touring exhibition. The official launch will be at 12:45 that day! Watch this space…


Herbert Columbine VC

The statue to Herbert Columbine VC will be unveiled by Field Marshal Lord Guthrie on Friday August 1st 2014 on the seafront on Walton on the Naze. In attendance will be  the Bishop of Chelmsford who will be dedicating the statue. There will be a military quartet from RAF Albrighton. The Walton on the Naze Sea Cadets will also be there as will Lord Petre and the High Sheriff of Essex. It is a public event and all are invited to attend.


Carole's book which tells the story of Herbert Colombine in greater detail.

Carole’s book which tells the story of Herbert Colombine in greater detail.


For more details go to http://www.carolemctbooks.info/herbert-columbine-vc/


Benfleet’s War 1914 -1920

Tuesday 1st July to Wednesday 16th July

To commemorate the start of the First World War, Benfleet Community Archive in association with Essex Libraries are holding a two week show at Benfleet Library. The show covers aspects of life from 1914 to 1920 that affected people in Benfleet.

Benfleet memorial

The heart of the show is the personal stories behind all 37 names on Benfleet War Memorial: where and when they were born, their parents, where they lived, where they served and how they died. We have some information for every name, but it could still be enhanced. At the March Show, where we showed a smaller version of this exhibition, we were given a photograph of one of the men who died. So we are hoping this will spur more memories and documents from people.

As well as this we are covering issues of how women and children were affected in the war as well as displaying a number of posters from the war.

The team will be there on some days to show artefacts, show facsimile and real documents, run movies from the period and answer questions.

The days the display is open are:

  • Tuesday 1st July 9 am to 5.30 pm. From 10 am to 1 pm the members of the archive will be there and there will be an official opening by The Mayor of Castle Point.
  • Wednesday 2nd July 9 am to 5.30 pm.
  • Friday 4th July 9 am to 5.30 pm.
  • Saturday 5th  July 9 am to 5.30 pm. From 10 am to 1 pm the members of the archive will be there.
  • Tuesday 8th July 9 am, to 5.30 pm.
  • Wednesday 9th July 9 am to 5.30 pm. From 10 am to 1 pm the members of the archive will be there. Also it is Schools Day.
  • Friday 11th July Library is Closed.
  • Saturday 12th July 9 am to 5.30 pm. From 10am to 1 pm the members of the archive will be there.
  • Tuesday 15th July 9 am to 5.30pm.
  • Wednesday 16th July 9 am to 5.30pm. From 2 pm to 5 pm the members of the archive will be there to close down the show.

Please come along.

See Benfleet’s War Exhibition Poster

Wickford at War, Part 2

Guest blog writer, James Nason, continues his story of his family in Wickford and their experience of the First World War.

I have been tracing my family tree now for 5 or 6 years.  I’ve managed to trace my ancestors back to the 1500’s.  On my Dad’s side most of them are from Essex, Wickford and Colchester, which explains why I’ve always felt overjoyed to see the ‘Welcome to Essex’ signs on the occasions I’ve left the county.

I have found 8 relatives, from both sides of my tree, who were killed during the First World War.  The first of them to die was a second cousin, George Neville, who is one of 4 relatives I have listed on the Wickford & Runwell War Memorial.

George was born in Wickford on Tuesday 22 October 1889, the second of 7 children born to George and Laura Ann Neville.

Laura Ann Neville, nee Carter

Laura Ann Neville, nee Carter

By 1911 the family were living in the Railway Cottages in Wickford and, like his father, George was employed by Great Eastern Railways.

Annie is nearest the camera.  George and Percy are standing at the back.  Elsie is holding Annie's hand, Frederick is dressed as a sailor and Mabel is behind him. This is taken by the crossing at Wickford Train Station around 1906.

Annie is nearest the camera. George and Percy are standing at the back. Elsie is holding Annie’s hand, Frederick is dressed as a sailor and Mabel is behind him.
This is taken by the crossing at Wickford Train Station around 1906.

Cousin George enlisted in Stratford during October 1914 and joined the 4th (Reserve Battalion) Coldstream Guards.  Before his regiment were to go to the front George went home for a few days leave.  On Sunday 2nd May 1915 George felt unwell, the following day he had a sore throat and a doctor was sent for.  Scarlet Fever was diagnosed and on Wednesday George was taken to Billericay Hospital.  On Friday 7 May 1915 George died whilst in hospital.

George Neville

George Neville

Less than a year later, in February 1916, George’s father was killed whilst working on the tracks at Wickford train station. I’m always pleased that George’s family could bury him as so many families didn’t get that opportunity.

George Neville's war grave in St. Catherine’s Churchyward, Wickford.

George Neville’s war grave in St. Catherine’s Churchyard, Wickford.


Colne Engaine War Memorial Project

Written by Spike Townsend, CEWM Chairman

The village of Colne Engaine in North Essex have commenced a community based project to build a War Memorial within in the village to be completed in time for the 100th Anniversary of the First World War.

Designed by local architect, Philip Morphy, the memorial will include the original war memorial.

Designed by local architect, Philip Morphy, the memorial will include the original war memorial.


The memorial project has several aims:

  1. To be a community based project in design and build
  2. To become a focal point for the village to commemorate Remembrance Sunday
  3. To become a community use facility throughout the year
  4. To be built on a theme of Remembrance and Reconciliation
  5. To encourage the participation and support of young people within the aims.
  6. To support a local military covenant by use and participation in local service charities.
  7. Encouraging education and learning of conflict.

The cost of the project is estimated to be in the region of £25,000.

The committee is formed of village representatives from the Parish Council, Parochial Church Council, Youth Club, Historical Society and others, and our Honorary President is Lt Col Paul Morris, CO of 3rd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regt.


A group of residents have formed a Committee with the objective of renovating the old memorial beam that was removed in 1962, and then raising it to be incorporated within the new memorial that is to be located in the Parish Recreation Ground so that residents can use it as a place of quiet contemplation and for general community use.

The memorial has been designed by local architect, Philip Morphy, who has given his services free of charge to the committee.

We would hope that the structure will be used not only by parents and children using the playground, but by the school as an outside classroom when discussing the war and conflict. It could also be used as a small band stand for small concerts.

We have had a great deal of support from local trades people, including bricklayers and carpenters, keen to be involved and give their services free of charge. Skilled artisans are also involved in the creation of the new memorial plaque. The structure will be built using locally sourced materials.

Please follow us on Facebook:


Here you can follow one of our regular features, “The Men of Colne Engaine”  which tells the stories behind the men named on the memorial.

The story made the local press.

Maldon and the Great War

Our next Essex story comes from Deputy Town Mayor of Maldon and Independent Historical Consultant for the Maldon District, Stephen P. Nunn. Stephen is also the author of ‘Maldon, Heybridge and the Great War’.

Book cover

I have been studying the history of my home town of Maldon for the past 40 or so years. Towards the end of 2006, the Maldon Archaeological and Historical Group published my long-term research about the part that the area played during the Second World War; ‘Maldon, the Dengie and Battles in the Skies (1939-1945)’. In many ways that work is a very personal study, for it contains a number of references to the involvement of my own family in events on the home front during that conflict.

However, my ancestors were in Maldon long before the 1940’s and during my own childhood I can remember hearing my maternal grandmother, Agnes Crozier (1907-1986), talking about her life in Church Street during an earlier time – the so-called Great War “to end all wars” of 1914-1918. I even have a picture of her and her friends posing on a 14lb gun which was on display at the Promenade – a tangible relic of that conflict. Her first husband, my grandfather, Charles Lavender, was killed in 1944. Years later, in 1956, Nan went on to re-marry and, although I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, her second husband was a quite remarkable man.

'Uncle Clem' Last who survived the First World War

‘Uncle Clem’, James Clement Last who survived the First World War

He was James Clement Last, the then owner of the Promenade Tea Rooms. I remember “Uncle Clem”, as I was encouraged to call him, as a very kind and loving man, but as a young child I was always intrigued by his strange appearance. His left arm was missing and, to my young eyes at least, it made him look like a pirate! Little did I know the real truth to his story. He had in fact suffered that terrible injury whilst fighting in the bloody, mud and water-filled trenches of France during the First World War.  Each Armistice Day (the Sunday nearest to the 11th November) he used to polish his ammunition boots, don his very best black suit and clip on “Pip, Squeak and Wilfred” (his three general service medals which I still own). Then off he would go to the stark white war memorial outside All Saints church.

Maldon War Memorial

Maldon War Memorial

On at least one occasion I noticed when he returned that he appeared to have been crying. I often wondered why he was so emotional and why he would “pop up the town” to stand and stare at the town’s memorial – it just seemed “silly” to me then. But since his own passing in 1969, I have come to realise what was going on in his mind.

Amongst the 146 Maldonians listed on the town memorial as having made the ultimate sacrifice for their country is one “William E. Last”. Just a name but one that was very special to Clem – it was in fact his younger brother, Ted. Years later and a bit more mature, in November 1977, whilst a Cadet Flight-Sergeant with number 1207 Squadron, Maldon Air Training Corps, I was privileged to lay a wreath at the memorial to Ted and to all his Maldon comrades in arms. It was then that I started to realise that there was nothing “silly” about this at all.

'Ted', William E. Last. Killed in action

‘Ted’, William E. Last. Killed in action

My aim ever since has been to re-tell the stories of Maldon and the Great War. The events on the Home Front and the human sacrifice made by what was in reality 248 Heybridge and Maldon men. It has resulted in a further book; ‘Maldon, Heybridge and the Great War (1914-1918)’ (2009) [ISBN 0 951 1948 8 7], the unveiling of additional plaques to missing names on the war memorial, lectures, newspaper features, radio and television productions, work with schools, battlefield tours and a current campaign to try to get the government to award a posthumous VC to one of our Maldon casualties.

Stephen P. Nunn in Flanders

Stephen P. Nunn in Flanders


You can find out more about the campaign by joining the Facebook group, Forgotten Hero Victoria Cross Medal For Benjamin Cobey

An Unconventional Hero

Our next blog post is from guest writer, Julie Warren from Wickford.

On 14 March 1908 as the result of an ongoing feud between two Wickford families, Edward Taylor broke Harry Carter’s jaw. “I thought he was going to hit me and so I thought I would be first,” Taylor is quoted as saying in an article in the ‘Essex Newsman’. He was sentenced to 14 days hard labour at Chelmsford Prison and as he was a member of the Army Reserve the incident was noted on his Service Record.

Only around 40% of the Service Records for non-commissioned officers and other ranks who served during the First World War survive and of those the majority are either water- or fire-damaged. Add to this the Military’s propensity for using abbreviations and acronyms and Service Records from the period can be quite challenging to read and understand. Thankfully the MOD has produced a comprehensive list of definitions for the more commonly used terms.

Service record showing evidence of damage

Service record showing evidence of damage

Edward Taylor’s records show that he had enlisted in 1904 for 2 years and the time he spent in the Army was a catalogue of misdemeanours including taking a horse from the stables without permission; fighting; constantly breaking out of barracks and refusing to get out of bed. Under normal circumstances he wasn’t the sort of person the British Army would have welcomed back with open arms but when war broke out there was a need for trained soldiers and so he was mobilized to Woolwich on the 6th of August 1914. He arrived in France on the 11th of August with the British Expeditionary Force and just over a month later he was in trouble again! Having been caught “receiving intoxicating liquor contrary to strict orders” he was penalised with 14 days CB (confinement to barracks) and also had to forfeit 14 days’ pay.

As a talented horseman and groom, for much of his war service he was attached to the Cavalry Division driving the horse-drawn field ambulances. This role seems to have made him finally face up to his responsibilities and there is no further record of him needing to be disciplined. It was while driving a 3rd Cavalry Field Ambulance that he was killed, at Caix on the Somme on 9 August 1918 by a bomb dropped by an enemy aircraft.

Harry Carter survived the war and died in 1949 at the age of 68. The Carters are still well known in Wickford and the headquarters of their family firm at Construction House in Runwell Road sit alongside the War Memorial where Edward Taylor is remembered. It is almost as if Edward and Harry still want to keep an eye on each other.

Carter overlooking Taylor today!

Carter overlooking Taylor today!

For more information about Wickford’s War Memorial see http://www.wickfordmemorial.com

Julie Warren, 5 February 2014

War Memorials: Where do you start?

How can you find out more about the men and women mentioned on War Memorials in Essex?

For many of us the search will begin with discussions with family members. If this is not possible then you might go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. You are able to search by name or by the cemetery.

A comprehensive study of those men noted on the Chelmsford War Memorials has been carried out by Andy Begent, and can be found on his website, Chelmsford War Memorial.

Chelmsford War Memorial home page

Chelmsford War Memorial home page

The site includes a detailed biography of each of the 359 men commemorated in Chelmsford. There are also features on The South Primrose Hill Boys and the notable men who are remembered on the memorials, including young men who joined up under age.

There is much information on the internet and a quick search led to an interesting piece from the website Centenary News.

In addition, Paul Ruseicki offers the following advice:

For anyone researching the history of Essex war memorials a good start is the chapter in my book ‘The Impact of Catastrophe: The People of Essex and the First World War.’  It doesn’t deal with individuals who are recorded on memorials but it looks at how the war memorial movement began and developed, the mechanisms involved in producing a town/village war memorial, and the controversies which often arose, sometimes bedevilling the whole process and causing bad feelings.  It should provide you with the context for your study.

Have you visited your local First World War memorial?

Where is it? Is it in your local church or town hall?

We’d be very interested to hear if you have done any research on these men or women, and you’d be welcome to share their stories on this blog. The main aim of the project is to uncover stories of the Essex home-front, however many of these men and women came from Essex and had family and friends at home.