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.



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!

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