Posts Tagged ‘Kew Guild’

Remembering Munro Briggs Scott of Kew Gardens Herbarium killed 12 April 2017 WW1

April 13, 2017

Munro Briggs Scott of Kew Gardens Herbarium Staff was killed in action  in the Battle for Arras on 12 April 1917.

Munro Briggs Scott, 12 April 1917
2nd Lt. Munro Briggs Scott, 12th Battalion, Royal Scots, died 12 April 1917. Scott is commemorated on Panel Reference Bay 1 and 2 of the Arras Memorial.

 

R Jones Faubourg

Scott’s name is one of the first panels on The Arras Memorial at the back here. (Image Source: CWGC)

 

M.B. Scott was  killed in the major Battle of Arras offensive planned for April-May 1917. The Arras Memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and August 1918 and have no known grave.

http://blog.cwgc.org/arras

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Munro Briggs Scott of  Kew Botanic Gardens Remembered on the WW1 section Kew Gardens staff memorial (Image Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

Born in 1889 at East Wemyss, Fife, Scotland, Munro Briggs Scott was on the Herbarium staff at Kew around the outbreak of war.

He joined Kew ‘s local regiment, the East Surrey regiment in February 1916, then the Suffolk Regiment before joining the 13th Royal Scots, later attached to the 12th Battalion Royal Scots as an officer.

m b scott medal card crop

Serving first as a Private 18094 in the East Surreys, then Lance Corporal 25909 in the Suffolk Regiment, Munro Briggs Scott was finally gazetted to become an officer on 22 November 1916.

Married in late 1916, he was posted to France on January 9, 1917 and killed by a high explosive HE shell three months later on 12 April 1917 at the Battle of Arras.

The University of Edinburgh alumni site has him listed as:

Buckhaven School. Student of Arts and Science, 1907-14; M.A. 1910; B.Sc. Botanical Expert at Kew Gardens. Royal Scots, Lieut. France. Killed at Arras on 12th April 1917. PI. LXXIII.

http://collections.ed.ac.uk/alumni/record/94755

 

m b scott probate crop2

AN OFFICER’S DEATH.—News has been received with feelings of the deepest regret of the death in action of Lieutenant Munro Briggs Scott, of the Royal Scots, who was married in November last to Miss Flora M. Forbes, M.A., daughter Mr John Forbes.

Lieutenant Scott had been wounded and while being attended to by the RAMC was shot dead – presumably by a sniper. Lieutenant Scott, who was a BSc of Edinburgh University and belonged to East Wemyss, had a brilliant scholastic career and thereafter received an important appointment as a botanical expert  at Kew Gardens which he held prior to enlistment.

Printed in the 25 April 1917 edition of  Perthshire Advertiser , Scotland

A slightly different story is told here, relating to how he was wounded, printed in 28 April 1917 – Fife Free Press, & Kirkcaldy Guardian – Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland:
east wemyss officer mbscott

You can read more about Kew Gardeners lost in WW1 on our blogpost here:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/such-is-the-price-of-empire-the-lost-gardeners-of-kew-in-the-first-world-war/

Munro Briggs Scott remembered 100 years on.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo.

Remembering Kew’s Sydney Cobbold died Somme 3rd October 1916

October 3, 2016

Sydney Cobbold (Kew Guild photo)

Sydney Cobbold of the 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade died 3rd October 1916, Somme area (Kew Guild photo)

Remembering along with  Kew Gardens staff, the Cobbold family and The Rifle Brigade  /  Rifles, the 100th anniversary of the death on 3rd October 2016 on the Somme of  Sergeant Sydney George Cobbold, 8th Battalion Rifle Brigade. He was a  Kewite on the Gardens staff of Kew Gardens from 1906 to 1908.

His CWGC  entry lists his headstone inscription from his father Maurice as “His Country Called / He Answered” and a TWGPP photo exists of his headstone. Sidney / Sydney was the son of Maurice and Anna Cobbold, of Woolpit, Suffolk where he was born.

He is buried at Grave Reference II. B. 7, Le Fermont Military Cemetery, Rivière, a front line cemetery of 80 burials begun by the 55th (West Lancashire) Division in March 1916 and closed in March 1917.

Looking at the Graves Registration GRU documents, it appears that on the same day that Sgt Cobbold was killed, 4 other 8th Rifle Brigade were killed and buried in the same plot 2 Row B of this front line cemetery alongside him – Rifleman L.J. Farr, W.G. Kittle, Benjamin Gordon (Jewish star in place of a cross) and fellow sergeant J.R. Aspden, Military Medal. Cobbold lies among his comrades and his men.

Read more about him and the other Kew WW1 casualties on their staff war memorial:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/such-is-the-price-of-empire-the-lost-gardeners-of-kew-in-the-first-world-war/

It was partly  thanks to Sarah, one of his Cobbold relatives, that I first became aware of the Kew Gardens staff war memorial.

James Wearn at Kew has written an article on Sydney Cobbold with help form Sarah and myself for the Rifle Brigade regimental magazine.

So he is not forgotten by his regiment, his family or his workplace.

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Sergeant Cobbold and Rifles comrades lie buried in the small Le Fermont Cemetery, Somme. (Image: CWGC)

Remembering Allan Beard of Kew WW2 died 1946

August 6, 2016

Kew Gardens lost 14 staff on active service in WW2 including a postwar casualty Allan Beard who died around 6 August 1946, 70 years ago today.

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Kew Gardens WW2 staff War memorial part 3  (photo:  Mark Norris)  

The 14th and last name on the Kew Gardens staff war memorial is Allan Beard, who served as a despatch rider with the Middlesex Regiment and died aged 31 a “tragic death” just after the war, possibly from injury related to war service.

His obituary http://www.kewguild.org.uk/articles/1855/ appeared in the 1946 Kew Guild Journal.

Beard had been a gardener on the Parks Staff at Stamford Park, Ashton Under Lyne until he joined up in 1939. http://www.tameside.gov.uk/parks/stamford/history

Along with several garden colleagues, he had joined Hyde Company, Territorial Army section of the 6th Cheshire Regiment in early 1939; this would see him very quickly called into service three days before war broke out. By October 1939, he was serving with the Middlesex Regiment and fought through the campaigns of 1940 in Northern France and Belgium, eventually being evacuated from Dunkirk.

Back in Britain, instead of promotion Allan Beard chose to train as a despatch rider partly from a love of motorbikes.

Sadly he was the victim of a wartime traffic accident (not surprising with blackout etc), being struck by an army lorry in Canterbury in 1943.

By June 1944 he had been discharged from the army on medical grounds and returned to his previous garden job. Stamford Park by then had lost its railings in wartime, collected as salvage metal for the war effort, but had been maintained as a public park, popular like Kew Gardens with people encouraged in wartime to “holiday at home”.

Allan Beard entered Kew in August 1946 under a Government assisted training scheme. His obituary is reported in the 1946 Kew Guild Journal but not listed on the CWGC website as his death occurred as a civilian after military service. It may have been linked to his earlier accident.

To read more about Kew Gardens in WW2:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/the-lost-gardeners-of-kew-in-world-war-two/

Allan Beard of Kew Gardens, remembered 70 years on.

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project, Newquay Zoo.

Remembering Robert Hurst Cowley RAFVR died 2 September 1940

September 2, 2015

2 September 1940 is the 75th anniversary of the death of Robert Hurst Cowley, RAFVR on air operations in Scotland.

Robert was the  son of garden writer, former Kewite and WW1 veteran Herbert Cowley about whom more can be read on our Wikipedia entry for him:  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Cowley

Herbert Cowley (1885-1967) from his Kew Guil journal obituary 1968

Herbert Cowley (1885-1967) from his Kew Guild journal obituary 1968.

Herbert Cowley had survived the trenches of a previous war, but lost many friends, family and colleagues. We wrote about him in a previous blogpost: https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/dig-for-victory-1917-world-war-1-style-the-lost-gardeners-of-kew-and-the-fortunate-herbert-cowley-1885-1967/

Herbert’s unexpected move to the West Country and retirement from garden journalism may be explained by a sad wartime event in late 1940.

It appears that one of his sons, RAF Sergeant Observer Robert Hurst Cowley, 580643, died aged 22 on 2 September 1940 flying with 57 Squadron on Blenheim bombers on anti-shipping patrols over the North Sea from its base in Elgin in Scotland.

Robert is listed on the CWGC website as the “son of Herbert & Elsie Mabel Cowley of East Grinstead, Sussex”.

Runnymede memorial to missing aircrew (Image source: CWGC)

Runnymede memorial to missing aircrew (Image source: CWGC)

Robert Hurst Cowley has no known grave and is commemorated on panel 13 of the Runnymede Memorial to missing aircrew.

Robert is also listed on the St. Thomas a Becket church, Framfield on the War Memorial as ‘of this parish’. http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Sussex/Framfield.html

Remembering Robert Hurst Cowley RAFVR, his grieving father Herbert Cowley and mother Elsie.

“Such is the Price of Empire”: The Lost Gardeners of Kew in the First World War

July 19, 2013

Updated with recently released CWGC records and photos, October 2014 and February 2015.

If I had the chance to name a rose, one of my choices would be “Walter Henry Morland“. The reason?

For a war where flowers have become  so symbolic from  Flanders or Somme poppies to the Roses Of Picardy, it is not surprising to find the answer in a garden.

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh search for Walter Morland's relatives, Maidstone Downs Mail September 2014

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh search for Walter Morland’s relatives, Maidstone Downs Mail September 2014

Tucked away in a corner of Kew Gardens  inside the Temple of Arethusa  is the war memorial of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. On it are listed 37 names of the Kew Gardens staff and also of Old Kewites who died on active service in the 1914-18 war including Walter Henry Morland.To misquote Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier poem of that war, there are many  a “corner of a foreign field that is forever England” (and Scotland, Canada …)

A stylised poppy forms the new logo for the First World War Centenary events at www.1914.org

RBG Kew's war memorial, Temple of Arethusa, Kew (Image copyright : Kew website)

RBG Kew’s war memorial, Temple of Arethusa, Kew
(Image copyright : Kew website)

Recently all the surviving issues of the Kew Guild Journal since 1893 have been scanned and made available free online, so that people can trace the exploits of Old Kewites, as past staff and students are known wherever they may be in the world.

WW1 Header section, Kew Gardens staff war memorial Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (Image source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

WW1 Header section, Kew Gardens staff war memorial Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (Image source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

Kew have recently blogposted about their war memorial as part of their Ww1 exhibition.  

I came across the Kew Guild Journal online whilst researching the effects of wartime on zoos and their associated botanic gardens. Using the ‘additional information’ keyword search function (botanist, gardener etc) on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, I came across Private Walter Henry Morland, “on staff at Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh as a Rose Specialist” his CWGC listing said. This small detail may have been chosen by his widow Annie or grieving parents. This soon led to me finding a link to the basic list of names on Rootschat of the 37 Kew staff lost in the Great War.

Looking at this list as part of the World War Zoo Gardens project is an interesting parallel to the few war memorials to zoo staff such as London Zoo that I have uncovered and posted about, investigating   how the war affected different zoos and other related institutions. There is an equally interesting list on the memorial at the Natural History Museum in London, which I will blog post about in future.

Some botanic gardens like Birmingham added a zoological collection to enhance their interest and finances. Ray Desmond the Kew historian calls this the ‘Zoological procilivities’ of many botanic gardens.

Kew Gardens had its own exotic animal collection in Edwardian times, mainly exotic birds such as storks in 1890, apparently first breeding in this country at Kew in 1902.   The first pelican was presented to Kew in 1896, the same year as the first women gardeners who would expand in numbers during the First World War. Penguins were presented by former Kew staff from the Falklands in 1899. Two  pairs of grey squirrels  were presented as exotic rarities (later to be regretted) by the Duke of Bedford, patron of London Zoo.

The

The “Zoological proclivities” that Ray Desmond notes of the animal collections at Kew and other Botanic Gardens in Victorian and Edwardian times survive still at Birmingham Botanic Gardens in their old and new aviaries (sign photographed by Mark Norris, 2011)

I’ve previously posted about Birmingham Botanic Gardens which survived both wars with its plant and animal collections intact. The exotic birds are still there.  You can trace through the individually scanned articles in the Kew Guild Journal online the movements of former staff like Private Albert Wright who moved to Kew from Birmingham Botanic Gardens in May 1912 as Assistant 1st Class and returned there to Birmingham by 1915. Private Albert Wright is the last named of Kew’s casualties on the memorial and one of the last to die from his war injuries, on 25 February 1919.

Albert Wright of Birmingham and Kew Botanic Gardens Remembered on the WW1 section Kew Gardens staff memorial (Image Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

Albert Wright of Birmingham and Kew Botanic Gardens Remembered on the WW1 section Kew Gardens staff memorial (Image Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

War affected the staff and families of Kew very quickly, the director David Prain losing his only son Theodore, a 26 year old lieutenant in the Leicestershire Regiment in action on 21 October 1914.

The bronze memorial plaque inside the Temple of Arethusa was erected at Kew on 25 May 1921, designed by Sir Robert Lorimer, a noted Scottish architect who designed several other war memorials. There is a good photograph of the plaque and temple building on the Geograph website by David Hawgood.

The 37 names are recorded in the 4th issue for 1921 of the Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information (Royal Gardens, Kew) which mentions:

“some of whom left Kew direct to join the Forces, whilst others returned home from abroad or joined up in their adopted countries … The men belonged to all ranks from the scientific to the labourer staff, but the percentage of the advanced Student Gardener is singularly heavy. Of this class, ten were Subforemen; all joined the Colours but five only lived to return.”

I hope this enriched list that follows (developed from the first list by helpful Rootschatters) is a useful first step for researchers and family historians. I will continue to add further details as available. Best of all, it should encourage you to visit the riches of the Kew Guild Journal online.

” The chief object of the Guild is to ‘ watch ‘ and record the careers of its members.”  W. J. Bean.

Lawrence Binyon’s poem For The Fallen , familiar from many Remembrance services (and written on North Cornish cliffs not far from where I work), reminds us appropriately for gardeners working hard outdoors by the rhythm of daylight and season: “At the going down of the sun and in the morning / we shall remember them…”

Appropriately for gardeners, I have included photographs of each casualty’s cemetery gardens from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website to show the range of landscape and planting chosen for each locality. Kew Gardens staff helped advise the Imperial (later Commonwealth) War Graves Commission on suitable planting and other Kew staff worked as Grave Registration Unit (GRU) Officers to record and organise the growing number of burials and cemeteries as the war went on.

Whilst news is given in the Kew Guild Journal about some other European members of the Kew Guild, little is recorded of the past German and Austrian gardeners who trained at Kew until after the First World War when a note of reconciliation is attempted in some obituary notices.

Header panel, Kew Gardens War memorial. Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project

Header panel, Kew Gardens War memorial.
Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew wartime casualties 1914-1919

1. Charles Henry Anderson, Albert Medal, 29 November 1916
Lance (or Lance Corporal) Charles Henry Anderson died on 29/11/1916 aged 26, Service no. 2326, 1st/14th Bn. London Regiment (London Scottish). His medal record card states that in addition to the standard Victory and British war medals, he was also awarded the Albert Medal (citation below). Anderson is buried amongst 253 WW1 Commonwealth soldier burials at Grave Reference II. K. 3, St. Venant Communal Cemetery in France. From 1915 to 1917 this cemetery was linked to British and Indian forces Casualty Clearing Stations in the area. In the Kew Guild Journal staff records he is listed around 1914/15 as a ‘Present Kewite’ (still employed actually at Kew) as a ‘Gardener’.

Charles Anderson's grave lies here within St. Venant Cemetery (CWGC Copyright image)

Charles Anderson’s grave lies here within St. Venant Cemetery (CWGC Copyright image)

Additional Information on the CWGC website mentions that he was the “Son of Charles and Lizzie Anderson, of The Nest, North Stoke, Oxon.” This snippet of information is enough to start tapping into extensive family trees and other genealogical information on websites like ancestry.co.uk. Like his father Charles (b. 1856), Charles Henry was born in North Stoke, Oxfordshire. His mother Lizzie Bradshaw was born in Bensington, Oxfordshire in 1868. Anderson’s father was listed as a (domestic) Gardener on the 1891 census, so clearly something of family trade, his father later by 1916 being listed as a bailiff at Spinnys, North Stoke. His 1917 Kew Guild Journal obituary lists him as born on North Stoke on 19 October 1890.

His mother Mrs L. Anderson  chose the inscription on his headstone: “I Will Give Unto Every One of You According to His Works” (Revelation 2.23)

Family research reveals that Charles left several surviving sisters to mourn his loss and those of many young men of his generation. Florence M. Anderson (born 18 Dec 1886, died 1971, Oxford) was a domestic sewing maid / servant at 25 Palace Gate, Kensington (1911 census) and married a William J Fulbrook. His other sisters and brothers were Dora Mary (b. 1895), Bertie George Glover (b. ?), Lily Olive (b. 1893), Lizzie Anderson (b.1888, died 1946, Swindon) who appropriately married a Mr. Gardner.

The citation for his Albert Medal reads: Extract from “The London Gazette,” No. 30156, dated 29th June, 1917, –

” The King has been graciously pleased to award the Decoration of the Albert Medal of the First Class in recognition of the gallantry of Lce. Cpl. Charles Henry Anderson, late of the 1st/14th Bn. of the London Regt., who lost his life in France in November last in saving the lives of others. On the 28th Nov., 1916, Lce. Cpl. Anderson was in a hut in France with eleven other men when, accidentally, the safety pin was withdrawn from a bomb.

In the semi-darkness he shouted a warning to the men, rushed to the door, and endeavoured to open it so as to throw the bomb into a field. Failing to do this, when he judged that the five seconds during which the fuse was timed to burn had elapsed, he held the bomb as close to his body as possible with both hands in order to screen the other men in the hut. Anderson himself and one other man were mortally wounded by the explosion, and five men were injured. The remaining five escaped unhurt. Anderson sacrificed his life to save his comrades.”

In research for our joint article in the Kew Guild Journal 2015, Kew and the First World War – 100 years on by James Wearn and Mark Norris, James discovered that:

This feat was remarkable, even in wartime, and was reported as far afield as Singapore.  Quite unceremoniously, his death was recorded in Kew’s ledger (Men on Active Service volume, p.6) as ‘accidental death’ rather than heroism! He was posthumously awarded the Albert Medal 1st Class for a grand act of heroism and selflessness in war.

2. Arthur Edwin Baggs, 1st March 1917
Private Arthur Edwin Baggs, service number 129662, 72nd Battalion Canadian Infantry (Canadian Seaforth Highlanders), died on 1st March 1917, aged 28. He is recorded on the Vimy Memorial to the 60,000 Canadians who died in the First World War. Baggs appears to be one of 11,000 Canadians who have no known grave. Many of them died in the fight for Vimy Ridge during the Battle of Arras the month after Baggs died. Arthur was the son of Edwin and Louisa Mary Baggs, of 3605, Knight Road, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He entered Kew in 1909. Listed as an Old Kewite on active service, Baggs returned to Canada when he left Kew in April 1911.

Vimy Memorial (Image: CWGC website)

Vimy Memorial
(Image: CWGC website)

3. Charles Frederick Ball, 13 September 1915
Private Charles Frederick Ball, service number 16445, 7th Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers (Pals Battalion), died on 13/09/1915, aged 36.

C.F. Ball, Dublin Fusiliers, killed at Gallipolli, pictured in The Garden obituary, October 16 1915.

C.F. Ball, Dublin Fusiliers, killed at Gallipolli, pictured in The Garden obituary, October 16 1915.

“A delightful companion, unassuming, sincere and a most lovable man…” quoted from a short and touching obituary and portrait was also published in The Garden (October 16, 1915, p.514) by his friend and fellow soldier , the editor Herbert Cowley (who had been invalided out of the army)

Ball is buried at Grave Reference II. A. 8, Lala Baba Cemetery, Turkey. This cemetery was created from smaller burial grounds after the Armistice on a low hill between the southern side of Suvla Bay and a salt lake. The hill was taken in the fierce fighting of August 1915 during the Gallipolli campaign against the Turks, a doomed amphibious landing which was the brainchild of Winston Churchill.

Lala Baba cemetery, Turkey. Image copyright CWGC

Lala Baba cemetery, Turkey. Image copyright CWGC

Charles was the son of the late Alfred and Mary Ball, of Loughborough and husband of Alice A. Ball, of 15, Percy Place, Dublin, whom he married in Dublin on December 16, 1914. This was one of many such wartime marriages mentioned in the Wedding Bells section of the Kew Guild Journal. Ball had left Kew in August 1903 to work as Assistant and later Foreman at the Royal Botanic Gardens Glasnevin in Dublin. He was also editor of Irish Gardening and a friend and fellow travelling companion to Bulgaria with  Kew collegue and Alpine plant enthusiast Herbert Cowley, injured in the First World World War (see previous Blog post on Cowley).

His wife Alice chose the Biblical inscription on his headstone: “Greater Love Has no Man than This”.

A Life Member of the Kew Guild, there is a lengthy tribute to Charles Ball in the Kew Guild Journal including a final sighting of him just before he died, sheltering behind a rock under fire, digging away at ‘weeds’ with his bayonet to send back home seeds to his botanic garden colleagues. From the tone of the account, this seemingly strange behaviour had happened several times! His obituary notes that:

” Even while on active service in Gallipoli his love of collecting persisted, and numerous seedlings are
growing on at Glasnevin from seeds he sent home, gathered in the vicinity of Suvla Bay.”

Oak seeds were sent back by a Kew officer from Gallipoli for cultivation at Kew (see W.H. Morland’s entry). Later entries in the Kew Guild Journal 1921 are from Old Kewites who had travelled across this area, noting as botanists and gardeners would, what native plants were found there, soil types and climate along with the planting by the then Imperial War Graves Commission (now CWGC). Kew staff and Old Kewites were involved for many years as horticultural advisors to the Commission.

A cultivar of the South American shrub Escallonia is named ‘C.F. Ball’ in his memory, a beautiful shrub with dark green leaves and bright red flowers, excellent for bees. It is available from many nurseries.

This is pictured along with his medal; cards on the Flower of the Dublin Fusiliers message board.

4. John Charles Beswick, 22 or 28 April 1917.
2nd Lt. John Charles Beswick, 11th battalion, Royal Lancaster Regiment (Kings Own) died 22 April 1917. He is buried in plot VII.A.2 at Cambrai East Military Cemetery, Northern France.

Cambrai was in German hands for much of the war and Plot VII contains the graves of Commonwealth prisoners, relecting the fact that Beswick died as a prisoner of war. His Kew Guild Journal 1918 obituary lists his death of wounds in a German Field Hospital at Cambrai on April 28, 1917. Not far away, fellow Kewite George Douglas is remembered on another Cambrai memorial to those with no known grave.

Born on 5 October 1888, Beswick was on the Kew staff in 1913, having entered Kew as a sub-foreman in the Temperate House, Kew, September 1912. He enlisted in 1915, joining the Royal Army Medical Corps, then transferring to the Artists Rifles with whom he embarked for France. He was given his officer commission into the Royal Lancaster Regiment.

He was previously at Fota Island, Queenstown in Ireland, where his father William Beswick was Head Gardener to Lord Barrymore. I last visited Fota about 15 years ago to see Fota Wildlife Park at Cork in Ireland. This is alongside the arboretum and the gardens where Beswick worked. The gardens then felt a little neglected, but the grounds showed a glimpse of past splendour. I ate almost rottingly  ripe  windfall medlars for the first time in what must have been an orchard or productive gardens. It is now run by the Office of Public Works whilst the old Fota House of the Smith-Barry family has recently been renovated by the Irish Heritage Trust and is open to the public (www.fotahouse.com).

A book on Fota’s restored gardens and their history has recently been published. According to an article in The Irish Examiner paper website:http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/features/profiles/the-secret-gardens-195831.html

Irish-Examiner-1-June-2012

“[Charlie Beswick] studied botany in Kew Gardens in London before enlisting with the King’s Own Lancashire Regiment, his two older brothers, William Jr and Arthur, already in service. Among the letters home from the front is the last one Charlie sent as he was about to lead his platoon into action. ‘With God’s help [I] shall return safely,’ he wrote, in a more hurried version of the script of his childhood schoolbooks. ‘… if not, I shall do my duty to the best of my ability.’ Trying to drag a wounded comrade to safety, he was shot and died in a German field hospital in 1917.”

John-Charles-Beswick-last-known-pic-circa-1917-France074

John-Charles-Beswick-last-known-pic-circa-1917-France074, one of the many Fota pictures on the excellent Fota House website (Source: Fota House)

More can be found at the Fota Stories website and in the book Aspects of Fota: Stories from the Garden, by Jennifer McCrea and Laura Murtagh, available from Fota House. A photograph of his grave exists on the TWGPP website and his CWGC entry lists no inscription on his headstone from his family.

5. Charles Hubert Brown, March 26 1918
Private Charles Hubert Brown, Royal Garrison Artillery (and Royal Sussex Regiment) died on the same day as a fellow Kew Gardener and gunner, James William Clark (see below).

Brown entered Kew from the gardens of Court Close, Eckington in September 1914, possibly as result of vacancies created by enlistment of Kew men. He had been rejected as medically unfit for the army owing to heart trouble. He tried to enlist twice more whilst at Kew, finally succeeding at the end of 1916. He died in hospital in France on the 26 March, 1918 as a result of shrapnel wounds to the head, according to his Kew Guild Journal 1919 obituary.

In the Kew Guild Journal it mentions “we had no further news of his movements” – so maybe this is why his regiment varies in listings. Charles Hubert Brown, 290133, 11th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment died on 26 March 1918 and is buried in plot VII.AA. Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension.

Gunner Brown lies in the graves to the left of the cross at Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension. (Image: CWGC website)

Gunner Brown lies in the graves to the left of the cross at Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension. (Image: CWGC website)

Brown appears to have died in hospital just as this hospital and cemetery were being evacuated. The CWGC history of the small cemetery and the larger extension where Brown is buried says that Field ambulances used the Dernancourt Communal Cemetery for127 Commonwealth burials from September 1915 to August 1916, and again during the German advance of March 1918.  The XV Corps Main Dressing Station was formed at Dernancourt in August 1916, when the adjoining Communal Cemetery Extension was opened.  The 3rd Casualty Clearing Station came in March 1918 but on 26 March (when Brown died), Dernancourt was evacuated ahead of the German advance. The cemetery extension remained in German hands until the village was recaptured on 9 August 1918 by the 12th Division and the 33rd American Division.

Looking at the Graves Registration Documents on his CWGC entry (documents which would have been compiled by part of the Graves Registration Unit where several Kew staff worked such as C P Raffill), the list for Plot 7 Row AA of Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension is full of the names of 26 March 1918 casualties, the date dittoed down the page. Charles Brown has no added inscription on the headstone from his family. A photograph of his grave exists on the TWGPP website.

6.
Private John Mackenzie Campbell, 204th Canadian Beavers Infantry Battalion

He died and is buried in Toronto (St. John’s Norway) Cemetery, Toronto, Canada in 1915. His 1917 Kew Guild Journal obituary lists him as dying aged 36 of sunstroke whilst training in Canada, where he worked for the Toronto Parks Department. He was born into a family of ten children of Mr. Roderick Campbell of Ardross, Lanarkshire and the late Isabella Campbell. His private headstone exists amongst other IWGC / CWGC headstones, a photograph exists on the TWGPP website. 

From J W Clark's Royal Marine (National Archives) records, a curious note in 1916 from Kew Director David Prain re his staff records.

From J W Clark’s Royal Marine (National Archives) records, a curious note in 1916 from Kew Director David Prain re his staff records.

7. James William Clark, 26 March 1918
Gunner James William Clark, RMA/1656(S), Royal Marine Artillery, Howitzer Brigade, died 26 March 1918, aged 26. He is buried at Grave Reference VI. D. 8, Faubourg D’Amiens Cemetery, Arras. He joined the Royal Marine Artillery in January 1916.

Clark is listed as the son of James William and Elizabeth Clark, of The Gardens, Torre Abbey, Torquay where James also worked before Kew amongst a number of Torquay posts at Braddon’s Hill Nursery and Normount Gardens. He was born on August 24, 1891. Clark entered Kew in January 1913,working as a seed collector in the Kew Arboretum before working as Sub-Foreman Decorative Indoors at the end of 1914.

Faubourg Cemetery and the Arras Memorial. Image copyright CWGC website

Faubourg Cemetery and the Arras Memorial.
Image copyright CWGC website

Clark is also remembered on his local primary school memorial, which Margaret Forbes-Hamilton and other ‘churchyard friends’ in Torquay are having restored. This memorial stone of Carrera marble in the churchyard in Torre to the fallen from the local primary school includes James William Clark, who was a young gardener at Kew and whose father was the gardener at Torre Abbey. The Friends  are focusing on this young man to do a more detailed study on Clark. Clark was an only child, though had many cousins, and his parents must have been devastated at his death; the inscription on his Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone chosen by his family reads: “Thy will be Done. Dear Boy.” A photograph exists of his headstone on the TWGPP website.

James William Clark is recorded on his school war memorial, currently being restored, Torre / Torquay (Source: Margaret Forbes-Hamilton)

James William Clark is recorded on his school war memorial, currently being restored, Torre / Torquay (Source: Margaret Forbes-Hamilton)

The Commonwealth section of the Faubourg D’Amiens Cemetery was used by field ambulances and fighting units until November 1918. The cemetery was enlarged after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields and from two smaller cemeteries in the vicinity. The cemetery contains over 2,650 Commonwealth burials including Gunner Clark. It is pictured next to the Arras Memorial (where other Kew casualties are remembered) which commemorates almost 35,000 British and Commonwealth servicemen who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918 and have no known grave. The most conspicuous events of this period were the Arras offensive of April-May 1917, and in the chaotic fighting and German breakthroughs of the spring of 1918, when Clark was killed.

J W Clark document

James Clark lies in a row with comrades from No. 6 Gun, Howitzer Brigade, Royal Marine Artillery who died on 26 March 1918, amid the names and headstones of thousands of casualties from the March 1918 battle. Source: CWGC website

Looking at the Graves Registration documents and Faubourg cemetery records for Plot VI or 6, Row D amongst the several thousand headstones and many thousands more names on the Arras Memorial , over 37,000 names, it is possible to see that James Clark lies in a row with comrades in a small cluster of burials from No. 6 Gun, Howitzer Brigade, Royal Marine Artillery who all died on 26 March 1918. Clark lies alongside Gunner A.E. Skuse (or Skuce), Pte E.Jones, A. Lambert (Armourer’s Crew Royal Navy “HMS Excellent”) showing the strange mixture of units, ranks and  nationalities (West Country English, Welsh, Scottish) that made up the crew of this one gun in a strange Royal Marine or Navy unit. Other Officers and Gunners from the Royal Garrison Artillery Siege Battery brigade are buried in the same row from the same fighting.

I can find none of his RMA gun crew listed as missing on the Arras Memorial. Two other Royal Marine Artillery men Gunners. D. Evans and H. Hancock died at the 8th & 19th Casualty Clearing Stations and were buried at its associated Duisans Cemetery, Etrans although there is no certainty they were from Clark’s section or gun crew.

J W Clark's Royal Marine Artillery record (c/o National Archives)

J W Clark’s Royal Marine Artillery record (c/o National Archives)

I have an especially personal interest in the 26 March and the March 1918 battles, as Gunner Clark and Gunner Brown of the Kew staff died or were killed on the same day in March, during the same battle and not far from my Great-Uncle J.W.Ansell of the 7th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment. Unlike Gunner Clark, Private Ansell has no known grave and is recorded on the nearby Pozieres Memorial. Gunner Clark and Gunner Brown, like my uncle, are likely to be some of the many troops from reserve areas or far behind the lines who found themselves hastily flung into the March 1918 battle when British frontlines were isolated, overrun and penetrated many miles deep by an unexpected German attack.

Sydney Cobbold of the 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade died 3rd October 1916, Somme area (Kew Guild photo)

Sydney Cobbold of the 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade died 3rd October 1916, Somme area (Source: Kew Guild photo / Kew Gardens Archives)

8. Sydney George Cobbold, 3 October 1916.

Sergeant Sydney George Cobbold, S/12906, 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade died on the 3rd October 1916, aged 28. His 1917 Kew Guild Journal obituary lists from his letters back to Kew that he had enlisted in the Rifle Brigade by June 1915 and shortly after November 1915 embarked for France.

Le Fermont Cemetery, CWGC (Image copyright CWGC website)

Le Fermont Cemetery, CWGC (Image copyright CWGC website)

He is buried at Grave Reference II. B. 7, Le Fermont Military Cemetery, Rivière, a front line cemetery of 80 burials begun by the 55th (West Lancashire) Division in March 1916 and closed in March 1917. Looking at the Graves Registration GRU documents, it appears that on the same day that Sgt Cobbold was killed, 4 other 8th Rifle Brigade were killed and buried in the same plot 2 Row B of this front line cemetery alongside him – Rifleman L.J. Farr, W.G. Kittle, Benjamin Gordon (Jewish star in place of a cross) and fellow sergeant J.R. Aspden, Military Medal. Cobbold lies among his comrades and his men.

s G Cobbold cwgc

His CWGC entry lists his inscription from his father Maurice as “His Country Called / He Answered” and a TWGPP photo exists of his headstone.

Sidney was the son of Maurice and Anna Cobbold, of Woolpit, Suffolk where he was born. It was his ‘Birtle’ relative Sarah Cobbold who posted the initial Kew Gardens list of WW1 dead on Rootschat that greatly helped my research. Cobbold was at Kew from 1906-1908.

His CWGC entry lists his inscription from his father Maurice as “His Country Called/ He Answered” and a TWGPP photo exists of his headstone.

Sarah Cobbold informed me as part of her ongoing family research that “Of his siblings … older brother Arthur Cobbold was curator of the Charles Darrah collection of cacti at Alexandra Park Manchester for 30yrs+ until his retirement in 1934. Although Arthur did not see active service, he contributed to the war effort by giving talks in Manchester on topics such as ‘Help the war, help your country, help yourselves By growing vegetables’.” Very interesting in view of our blog posts as a WW1 precursor to the WW2 Dig For Victory efforts. There is also a Cobbold family trust which mentions Sydney Cobbold: http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/features/family_tribute_to_the_cobbolds_who_fell_1_87084

9. Harry or Henry Sydney Cockcroft, 11 December 1919
Lance Corporal Harry Sydney Cockcroft P/14540, Corps of Military Police Home Command.
Cockcroft is listed on the Kew Memorial as ‘Military Foot Police’. Elsewhere he is listed as Royal Fusiliers. He is listed as a Present Kewite in 1914/15 under the section “Gangers, labourers and boys”.

He died of sickness, aged 35 on 11 December 1919. Several spellings of his name including Sidney exist.
In the Kew Guild Journal 1920, p.482, the article on the War Memorial mentions that “Two additional names have to be added to the Tablet. Pte. Albert Wright and L.Cpl. Sidney Cockcroft.”

Several Kew staff are buried in Richmond Cemetery, not so far from the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. (Image: CWGC website)

Several Kew staff are buried in Richmond Cemetery, not so far from the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.
(Image: CWGC website)

The son of Mr. & Mrs. Anne Cockcroft of Wathamstow, and husband of Mrs. Mabel Cockcroft of 84(?the) Green, Kew. He is buried in Richmond Cemetery and commemorated on the Richmond War Memorial, Surrey.

10. Private Ernest Richard Collins, Middlesex Regiment
Listed as one of “six Members of the labouring staff killed in action” in the Kew Guild Journal 1919 Roll of Honour. If this is a correct transcription of his name, I have discovered a Lance Corporal 493195 County of London Battalion (Princess Louise’s Kensington Battalion), London Regiment, also listed as 13th Kensington Battalion and possibly 4073, 8th Battalion, Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment. He is listed on the Brentford Memorial (see the Roll of Honour website). He married Amy Washington in 1905 and Amy Collins is later listed as living at 58, Brook Road, Brentford, Middlesex. He is listed as the son of Daniel and Mary Collins, Tavistock, Devon.

St. Vaast Cemetery (Image: CWGC website)

St. Vaast Cemetery
(Image: CWGC website)

Collins was killed in action on 17 February 1917 and is buried in Grave IV.D.6 of St. Vaast Post Military Cemetery, Richebourg-L’Avoue.

11. Sidney George Comer, September 22 1918
Private Sidney George Comer, Machine Gun Corps and Tank Corps, USA

This Kew man had gone out to work in the USA in February 1914 after working at Kew from February 1911 as Sub-foreman in the Propagating Pits at Kew. He is listed as a boarder at 1 Gloucester Road, Kew in the 1911 census, alongside two other young gardeners, Joseph Sharps of Ness, Chester and Edward Plummer Heim of Purton, Wilts. All three young gardeners grandly signed their 1911 census returns as “Gardener, Royal Gardens, Kew“.

Sidney Comer was born in February 1889. His father J.C.Comer was a wheelwright on the Killerton Estate, Exeter, Devon. His Kew Guild Journal obituary of 1919 notes that he was “one of 6 sons … all serving in the forces”. Although many Comers are listed as casualties on the CWGC.org site, I have thankfully not so far found any other of his brothers listed as killed.

Comer died of pneumonia on September 22, 1918 whilst in training at Camp Devens, Massachusetts, after enlisting in the US army once America entered the war in 1917. Many serving troops died during the Spanish Flu / Influenza epidemics which swept around the world in the chaos at the end of the war.

As well as service at Killerton, Comer had also worked before going to Kew at Boconnoc near Lostwithiel, home today to a famous spring garden festival each April by the Cornwall Gardens Association. Married in 1916, his wife predeceased him in June 1918, probably in America.

12. John Dear (Junior), died 31 March 1919
Sergt John Dear, East Surrey Regiment

John Dear, Junior was listed amongst the “Constables and porters” on the Kew staff in 1914. In the 1911 Census he is listed as a ‘Herbarium Porter, Royal Gardens, Kew’. His father John Dear (Senior) was a ‘Garden Labourer (Ganger)’ at Royal Gardens, Kew in 1891 to 1911. The 1915 Kew Guild Journal, page 195 mentions that “a number of the Constables and Porters who have rejoined the colours are Non-Commissioned Officers acting as Instructors in the New Army”. John Dear himself appears to have served in the 3rd Battalion, East Surrey Regiment (time expired), according to his surviving Service papers.

Born in 1887, Sergeant John Dear 4440 enlisted in Richmond in the 9th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment (the local regiment for many Kew staff) on 28 September 1914, was quickly promoted and went to France on 31 August 1915. Sergeant Dear was wounded (possibly ‘GSW gun shot wound right arm’, fairly illegible entry) and sent home to Britain around 9 April 1916 after 221 days service in France. He was discharged from St. George’s Hospital (Staines) hospital on 19 Oct 1916 “permanently unfit … given £1 and a suit of plain clothes”.

He was finally discharged by the army (‘character – very good’) in 8 November 1916, presumably due to his wounds. Along with an Army pension (entry partly illegible but finishes 18 shillings weekly for life). John Dear was also issued with a War Badge No. 81696 and Certificate No. 2067, presumably to help him avoid the white feather. I cannot find him listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, as he was discharged as wounded and no longer fit for service. As he died after the war as a civilian, buried in Richmond (see pictures on the International Find a Grave website http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=57172409&PIpi=45438317) he may not have been recorded as a war grave.

John Dear was married on 18 April 1912 in Richmond to Ethel Warry (born Notting Hill, 3 June 1889 and died September 19176, Hounslow) and they had one son, Ernest John in Chiswick (born 28 January 1913, died November 2003 in Ealing, Middlesex). By the early 1920s, Mrs Ethel Dear was signing for receipt of his medals (the trio of the 1914-15 Star, Victory and British War Medal), living in 27 Cambridge Road, Chiswick, Middlesex. She received a 11s 4d weekly rate pension as a a war widow from November 1919. What he died from is not yet clear to me. I cannot currently find a Kew Guild Journal obituary for him. Another possible relation is Kew Gardens storekeeper, George Dear, employed at Kew from 1884.

The Census lists John Dear living at 2 York Villas, Kew in 1911 with his father, his mother Annie Elizabeth Dear (nee Gregory, b. 1860 in Rotherham) and five sisters and brothers – Emma (b. around 1892), Mabel (b. 1896), George William (b.1898), Alfred Edward (b. 1899) and Herbert (b.1902). Three other children did not survive childhood.

Sergeant John Dear’s three brothers survived the war. His wife Ethel’s younger brothers Albert Charles Warry and Samuel James Warry did not, both being killed in the fighting in March and September 1918. They are listed on the CWGC website.

Second panel, Kew Gardens War Memorial D - M C.L. Digoy to P.T. Martin Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project

Second panel, Kew Gardens War Memorial D – M
C.L. Digoy to P.T. Martin
Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project

13. Charles Leopold Digoy, 28 September 1917

Captain Charles Leopold Digoy, Chevalier of the Legion of Honour and Russian Cross of St Ann. 14th French Infantry Brigade.

Born 18 February 1890, Digoy served in the French Army and was killed at the battle of Morourvilliers, Champagne on 28 April 1917. Wounded early in the war on 24 December 1914 and decorated several times during his three years service, Digoy was a high achieving student at the Versailles National School of Horticulture 1906 – 1909 before transferring to Kew from May 1912 until August 1914 when he joined the French Army, writing to the Kew Curator: “our military service is the most troublesome but also the most sacred of a Frenchman’s duties”. A letter about his war service is published in the 1917 journal and his obituary in the 1918 Kew Guild Journal.

An oak from the French battlefields at Verdun was planted near the Kew Gardens War Memorial from seeds harvested in 1917 by the Mayor of Verdun to be sold for the Red Cross. Three such Peace trees were planted at Kew on Peace Day July 1919 or 1920.

In research for our joint article in the Kew Guild Journal 2015, Kew and the First World War – 100 years on by James Wearn and Mark Norris, James discovered that:

Digoy was a French Kewite and a gardener at Kew from 6 May 1912 until he left to serve his country. Before joining Kew he had written no fewer than six letters begging to join the gardens, until a vacancy opened. In his letter of resignation from Kew, regarding his call-up he stated earnestly: “Our military service is the most troublesome but also the most sacred of our duties, France could not do without and whatever inconvenience it puts us to we must accept it as incumbent on our nationality.” His heroic actions feature within the chronicle of his regiment’s history (Historique du 14e Régiment d’infanterie, Édouard Privat, 1920).

James also discovered a French memorial site for him: http://www.memorialgenweb.org/memorial3/html/fr/complementter.php?id=3405246

14. John Divers, 9 October 1916

Rifleman John Divers, service number 7056, 1st / 9th Battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria Rifles) and also County of London Cyclists, died on 9th October 1916 when his patrol into No Man’s Land towards the German trenches was wiped out. For a time he was “missing, believed killed” and an officer wrote to his father that they had not been “able to thoroughly search the ground” for his body.

As a result Divers has no known grave and is one of two Kew Gardens casualties (with H.M. Woolley) listed amongst the missing of the Somme Battles on the Thiepval Memorial at Panel Reference Pier and Face 9 C. John Divers is listed amongst over 72,000 men from the UK and South Africa who died in the Somme area before March 1918 and who have no known grave. An excellent Thiepval database exists to put faces to names and add to the publicaly available knowledge about these 72,000 men.

Several Kew staff with no known grave are remembered on the Thiepval Memorial (Image: CWGC website)

Several Kew staff with no known grave are remembered on the Thiepval Memorial
(Image: CWGC website)

At the end of September, Thiepval village was finally captured from the Germans, one of the original objectives of the disastrous first day of the Battle of The Somme on 1st July, 1916. Attacks north and east continued throughout October when John Divers was killed and into 18th November in increasingly difficult winter weather. Over 90% of those commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial died like John Divers between July and November 1916.

Having visited this Thiepval memorial, it is  like many of the other memorials to the missing such as the Ypres Menin Gate, quite overwhelming to scan the panels ccontaining thousands of carved names.

Born 7 August 1891 at Redhill in Surrey, he was the only son of a gardener and amateur botanist Mr Jos. Jas. Divers. From a well known family of gardeners, Divers worked with his uncle W.H. Divers VMH at Belvoir Castle, Grantham before joining Kew, March 1912, quickly becoming a Sub-foreman, Herbaceous and Alpine Dept. He was killed on the same day as fellow Kewite H.M. Woolley. (Thanks to his relatives for some of this background family / genealogical information).

15. George Douglas, 20 November 1917
Serjeant or Sergeant George Douglas, Tank Corps is buried at Cambrai Memorial, Louverval in France, a memorial to the missing or those with no known graves from the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917. He died on 20 November 1917, aged 40. He served as Serjeant, 93045 with E Battalion, Royal Tank Corps having originally been with the 2/3 or 23rd Scottish Horse. Other websites such as the Tankmen of Cambrai website have him listed as a Corporal, with much more fascinating information about the early Tank Corps crew and this battle.

George Douglas is remembered on the Cambrai Louverval Memorial (Image: CWGC website)

George Douglas is remembered on the Cambrai Louverval Memorial (Image: CWGC website)

Of the 35 Mark IV British tanks which went ino action crushing wire and supporting Scottish troops of the Highland Brigade in the attack on the German occupied village of Flesquieres, 28 tanks were put out of action by enemy fire or had broken down by the end of the first day, the 20th of November. 29 were killed and 31 tank crew missing including Sergeant Douglas, 64 others were wounded.

In the 1914 Kew Guild Journal he is listed as an Old Kewite, having entered Kew in November 1899 from Lowther Castle Penrith. He went with fellow young Kewite James G. Duncan (who entered Kew 1900 from Glenart Castle, Co. Wicklow) as Assistants in the Municipal Garden, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The Kew Guild Journal (1901) notes that Duncan and Douglas have both joined the Town Guard in South Africa during the Boer War on the British side.

He enlisted again in WW1 in Edinburgh into the Scottish Horse before joining the Tank Corps. He was born in Selkirk around 1877, the son of Mr & Mrs James and Agnes Douglas of 15 Green Terrace, Selkirk and husband of Lydia E. Douglas (nee Chaplin) of 13 West Mayfield, Edinburgh.

According to a post on the Scottish War Memorials Trust website, George Douglas was one of four brothers from the same family to die in the First World War. The others were Gunner T. Douglas, 776624, 310 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery killed on 15 April 1917, HAC Cemetery, Ecoust St. Main, France; Private John Sanderson Jardin Douglas, 10225 2nd Battalion, KOSB, died aged 25 on 13 October 1914, Le Touret Memorial; Sergeant J H Douglas, S/1774, 3rd Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, died 17 October 1918 and buried in Selkirk (Shawfield) Cemetery.

16. Arnold Duley, 14 March 1918
Lance Corporal Arnold Edmund Duley, M.M., 17583, 7th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry (died as a Prisoner of War)

Arnold Edmund Duley (Edward or Edmund Arnold in some records)  died as a  Prisoner of War on 14 March 1918 aged 33 in hospital at Tournai in Belgium, probably from being “badly fed and probably had to work in a weak state” by the Germans. Food parcels from the Kew Guild through the POW fund probably never reached him in time, his Kew Guild Journal obituary in 1919 laments. He is buried in Tournai Communal Cemetery Allied Extension, plot IG1, his headstone pictured on the TWGPP website.

An unlucky POW, Duley lies amongst graves in this Tournai cemetery in Belgium. (Image: CWGC website)

An unlucky POW, Duley lies amongst graves in this Tournai cemetery in Belgium.
(Image: CWGC website)

A “rather short young man of quiet disposition”, Duley returned from his post as Head Gardener to HSH Prince George of Russia at Haraks, Yalta, Crimea (1911 – 1914) to serve with his county regiment, the 7th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry, gaining the Military Medal. This medal is reported in the Western Daily Press, Bristol, Tuesday January 23 1917 and later Duley is reported as wounded in the Western Times 28 December 1917.

I have not yet found his WW1 service records but his WW1 medal record card reveals that Arnold Duley entered service in France with the 7th Somerset Light Infantry on 18 August 1915, gaining a 1915 star alongside the standard Victory and British war medals, not forgetting his Military Medal. The Medal record card lists him as ‘Died of Disease 14 March 1918’.

A page from The Kew Guild Journal 1918 records money being sent by Duley whilst serving in the trenches to buy POW parcels for his friend Guy Neville, a Kewite civilian internee at the famously horticultural internment camp at Ruheleben in Germany. The same 1918 page also ironically records aid being sent to Duley when he became a Prisoner of War  at Gefangenlager, Dulmen, I.W. Westphalia Germany. In February 1918 he was sent to work as a  POW in Belgium.

After service at Codicote Lodge Gardens, Welwyn, Herts Arnold  Duley was at Kew from 1906 to 1908, then served in the Cardiff Parks Department. Arnold  Duley is listed on CWGC as the son of George Edmund and Elizabeth Ann Duley, 9 High Path, Wellington, Somerset (hence his county regiment). He is listed on the SDGW Soldiers Died in The Great War listing as born and enlisting in Wellington Somerset.

His Probate and Will leaving £87 were administered by Janet Elizabeth Duley, spinster (his younger sister and only sibling, an Art Student living at home in the 1911 census at 6 High Path, Wellington). His father George (b. 1856, York) was an accountant in a woollen factory, his mother Elizabeth (Somerset / Bristol born 1854). In 1911 Arnold Duley was living in Cardiff as a Gardener, Cardiff Parks Deprtment as one of two single boarder / lodgers in the house of Park Keeper Robert Stewart Trevarthen.

Arnold Duley's reburial form (Source: CWGC)

Arnold Duley’s reburial form (Source: CWGC)

Buried as a Prisoner of War by the Germans, Duley appears to have been reburied or at least the grave remarked with a British headstone. Originally buried by the Germans, he was reburied with a CWGC headstone with no family inscription. The Concentration document / reburial forms are lists of individuals who have been exhumed from their original burial location and reburied in a particular cemetery such as Tournai. These record details of individuals who were originally buried in smaller or isolated cemeteries, but who, at a later date, were exhumed and reburied in war cemeteries. The concentration of cemeteries allowed otherwise unmaintainable graves to be moved into established war grave cemeteries where the Commission could ensure proper commemoration. These forms provide basic details of the individual, but in addition may also include information as to their original burial location and occasionally some details of how they were identified. These additional details would have been omitted if the individual was reburied in the same cemetery or identified using normal methods, for example via a service tag.

Tournai was captured by the German II Corps on 23 August 1914 and the town remained in German hands until it was entered by the 47th (London) and 74th (Yeomanry) Divisions on 8 November 1918. . During the occupation,  the Commonwealth and Allied wounded were cared for in the Hopital Notre-Dame. The (Southern) Communal Cemetery, in the Faubourg-St.Martin, was used and extended by the Germans, although the graves were later regrouped by nationality and some were brought in from other cemeteries in a wide area around Tournai. There is no obvious reference to a March 1918 POW death and burial such as Duley amongst the list of such cemeteries and reburials on the Tournai CWGC cemetery entry. Ironically for someone who had served as gardener to Russian Royalty in Pre Revolutionary Russia, Duley is buried in the same Allied cemetery extension as 117 Russian soldiers who died as Prisoners of War in German hands.

I have not yet found how Duley obtained his Military Medal.  Hopefully the team at the excellent Somerset Remembers website will find local references. The 7th (Service) Battalion Somerset Light Infantry was formed at Taunton in September 1914 as part of K2 (KItcheners 2nd Army of volunteers) and came under command of 61st Brigade, 20th (Light) Division. On 24 July 1915 it landed at Boulogne. On his Medal record card it states that Arnold Duley entered service in France with the 7th Somerset Light Infantry on 18 August 1915.

17. Gordon Farries, 20 April 1918.

Private Gordon Farries, S/11973, 11th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, died on 20th April, 1918, aged 27.

The fifth to fall of the ten Kew Sub-Foremen who joined the Army, he was at Kew from February 1913 after working at Veitch’s Nursery at Feltham. He originally joined the Royal Army Medical Corps but later transferred to a Scottish regiment. His Kew Guild Journal 1919 obituary notes that he was killed on the night of April 20-21 1918 whilst reinforcing another platoon.

G Farries

Reported missing, his body was later found by men of a London Regiment fighting over the same ground. Farries is buried at Grave Reference III. G. 4, Feuchy Chapel British Cemetery, Wancourt. 

Once missing, Farries is now buried at Feuchy Chapel Cemetery. (Image: CWGC website)

Once missing, Farries is now buried at Feuchy Chapel Cemetery. (Image: CWGC website)

Linked to the history of Farries’ missing body,  this cemetery itself has an interesting story (on the CWGC website) of how the same ground was won and lost, captured and recaptured several times in the last two years of the war.

Wancourt village was captured by the Allies on 12 April 1917 after very heavy fighting, lost to the Germans in the chaos of March 1918, and retaken by the Canadian Corps on the following 26 August 1918. The cemetery was begun by the VI Corps Burial Officer in May 1917, used at intervals until March 1918, and again in August and September 1918. At the Armistice, it contained 249 graves, all in the present Plot I.

Farries is buried in Plot III (3) suggesting his grave was transferred there later. The cemetery was enlarged after November 1918 when 834 graves (mainly of April and May 1917) were brought in from the battlefields of Fampoux, Roeux, Monchy and Wancourt, and from a few smaller burial grounds. There are now 1,103 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War in this cemetery. 578 of the burials are unidentified. The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Gordon Farries is listed as the son of ex-Baillie Thomas Charlton Farries and L. J. Farries, of 2, Gordon St., Dumfries. They chose an inscription for his headstone which reads “To Live in The Hearts of Those We Love is Not to Die“. His headstone can be seen on the TWGPP website.

18. James Garnett, 3rd August 1917
Private James Garnett, service number 11380, 2nd Battalion, the Wiltshire Regiment died on the 3rd August 1917, aged 28. He has no known grave and is listed on Panel 53 of the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate),  one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient.

Garnett is listed as one of “six Members of the labouring staff killed in action” in the Kew Guild Journal 1919 Roll of Honour. He is listed as the son of Mrs. Fanny Garnett, of 6, Manor Grove, Richmond, Surrey.

The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields. The Memorial now bears the names of more than 54,000 officers and men from 1914 – 1917 whose graves are not known. The memorial was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, who also designed the Cross of Sacrifice in each CWGC cemetery worldwide above 40 casualties.  It was unveiled by Lord Plumer on 24 July 1927.

During the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917 an offensive was mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a weakened French front further south. The initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge was a complete success, but the main assault north-eastward, which began at the end of July, quickly became bogged down against determined opposition and the rapidly deteriorating weather. The campaign finally came to a close in November 1917 with the capture of Passchendaele.

Kew staff Garnett and Giles have no known grave and are remembered on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate). Image: CWGC website

Kew staff Garnett and Giles have no known grave and are remembered on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate). Image: CWGC website

19. John Giles, 23rd April 1915
CSM Company Sergeant Major John Giles ,20277, 10th Battalion Canadian Infantry (Canadian Victoria Fusiliers), died 23rd April 1915, aged 26. He was killed by a shell on active service in France on July 17, 1917.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on Panel 24 – 28 – 30, Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. He is listed as the son of Joseph Giles, of “Woodville,” Crowthorne, Berks, England and husband of Amy Giles, of Suite 24, Edge Block, 1211,1st West, Calgary, Alberta. He left a 7 year old son, Roy Giles.

John Giles entered Kew in November 1903 after service at Windsor Castle when Queen Victoria was alive. By 1905 he was Sub-foreman of the Orchid Department. He went to Shanghai municipal gardens in China then Vancouver and Victoria in Canada from 1912, hence his Regiment. he was variously a Private and Staff Sergeant as required in different Canadian regiments.

20. Joseph Hayhurst, 7 September 1918
Private Joseph Hayhurst, G/31695, Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment, formerly 24251, KOSB King’s Own Scottish Borderers (Border Regiment), died 7 September 1918, aged 33. He is buried at the Unicorn Cemetery, Vendhuile, Aisne, France.

Unicorn Cemetery (Image: CWGC website)

Unicorn Cemetery
(Image: CWGC website)

Born at Clayton Le Moors, Lancashire on 4 April 1885 to Joseph (senior) a general labourer (1901 census) and mother Ann. Joseph was listed in the 1901 census as Nursery Gardener Assistant aged 15. His brothers and sisters were cotton weavers.

Aged 25 in the 1911 Census, he was living as a boarder in 55a Moscow Road, Bayswater whilst working as a “Gardener Public” for HM Office of Works. Joseph Hayhurst enlisted at Windermere, Lancashire. He is listed on the CWGC website as the husband of Mrs. B. Hayhurst, Ebenezer Terrace, Billington, Whalley, Blackburn. There is no additional inscription from his family on his headstone, photographed on the TGWPP website.

Hayhurst J CWGC form

A postwar Kew Guild Journal 1921, p.43 “In Memoriam” section records that the deaths “of W. Humphris and Mr J. Hayhurst of the Border Regiment … are recorded in the war but we have been unable to obtain any particulars”.

J Hayhurst's reburial or concentration form suggest he was reburied at Unicorn from elsewhere. Source: CWGC

J Hayhurst’s reburial or concentration form suggest he was reburied at Unicorn from elsewhere. Source: CWGC

Hayhurst’s records suggest he was reburied at Unicorn Cemetery from elsewhere, alongside regimental colleagues, each recognised by their Identity disc.

21. Frederick Honey, 17 April 1917
Sergeant Frederick Honey, G/20245, 8th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment or the Buffs (East Kent) Regiment, ‘died of wounds’ 17 April 1917, aged 28. He is buried at Grave Reference I. K. 16, Chocques Military Cemetery. This was located next to No.1 Casualty Clearing Station for casualties from the Bethune area. He is listed as the son of Mr. and Mrs. T. Honey, of 64, Alexandra Rd., Richmond; husband of Ellen May Honey, of 17, Darell Rd., Richmond, Surrey.

Chocques Cemetery (Image: CWGC website)

Chocques Cemetery
(Image: CWGC website)

His CWGC entry mentions no inscription chosen by family on his headstone, which is pictured on the TWGPP website. . He is mentioned in a list of “Gangers, labourers and boys” in Kew’s 1914 staff list and as one of “six Members of the labouring staff killed in action” in the Kew Guild Journal 1919 Roll of Honour.

22. John Knowles Jackson, 1st June 1916
Ordinary Seaman John Knowles Jackson, J/47092, HMS Fortune, Royal Navy, died 1st June 1916, aged 22. He is one of nine naval burials (four named) from the 1916 Battle Of Jutland buried at Farsund Cemetery, Norway. He is listed as the son of (W or) Thomas and Ann Jane Jackson, 25 Westby Street, Lytham. He was born at Lytham, Lancashire on December 4, 1893.

Farsund J K Jackson

Jackson arrived at Kew to work in the Temperate House in August 1914 from Lytham Hall, Lancashire and left to join the Navy in March 1915. He served on several ships – Diadem, Argonaut and Hecla – before joining the destroyer HMS Fortune which was sunk in the Battle of Jutland.

Jackson's headstone in Farsund Cemetery can be seen to the right of this CWGC image.

Jackson’s headstone in Farsund Cemetery can be seen to the right of this CWGC image.

Jackson's grave is third from left, front row. Farsund Cemetery, Norway. Source: CWGC

Jackson’s grave is third from left, front row. Farsund Cemetery, Norway. Source: CWGC

His headstone is in local grey stone.

23. William Lorimer Joyce, 2nd October 1917
Private William Lorimer Joyce, 26741, 4th Battalion, South Wales Borderers, died on 2nd October 1917, aged 32. He has no known grave and is listed on Panel 16 and 62 of the Basra Memorial, in modern day Iraq. The memorial lists more than 40,500 members of the Commonwealth forces who died in the operations in Mesopotamia from the Autumn of 1914 to the end of August 1921 and whose graves are not known. Another Kew casualty, W. Humphris,  not listed on the war mmemorial is recorded on the Basra Memorial (see end of post).

Born on 22 May 1885, he is listed as the son of William and Jane Joyce, of “Llanfrynach”, Holmes Rd., Hereford (Brecon). He enlisted in Wales on his return from Canada where he worked after training at Kew from March 1908 to Spring 1910. Joyce died as a Turkish Prisoner of War at Seideghan in Turkey after being captured during the fighting in Mesopotamia on April 30, 1917.

24. Henry James Longhurst, 25th September 1915
Private / Rileman Henry James Longhurst, R/7519, 2nd Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps, died on 25th September 1915. He has no known grave and is listed on Panel 101 and 102, Loos Memorial.

Loos Memorial (Image: CWGC website)

Loos Memorial
(Image: CWGC website)

Born on February 3 1892, Longhurst is noted in his Kew Guild Journal obituary 1915/16 as “the first of our young gardeners to give his life for his country in this war” alongside W.H. Morland, another early Kew casualty. He entered Kew on July 1913. He enlisted on November 21, 1914 and was killed in action “somewhere in France“.

25. Percy Martin, Royal Engineers, 6th March 1919?
I can find no Kew Guild Journal obituary for Percy Martin so far so will keep researching this casualty. A possible match is Pioneer Percy  Martin, 128485, “H” Special Company, Royal Engineers, died on 6th March 1919, aged 32. He is buried Grave Reference F. 1000, Richmond Cemetery, Surrey. He is listed as the son of Charles Edward Martin and husband of Louisa Martin, of 10, Princes Rd., Richmond. Percy Martin is also listed on the Richmond War Memorial.

Less likely to be: Sapper Percy Charles Martin, 1471, 1st / 2nd (Kent) Field Company, died 8th August 1915, age 30. This Percy Martin is buried at Grave Reference D. XII. 4, Pieta Military Cemetery. He is listed as the son of Henry and Margaret Martin, of 1, Providence St., Ashford, Kent.

26. Arthur John Meads, 1st December 1917
Rifleman Arthur John Meads, 551182, D Company, 2nd /16th London Regiment (Queen’s Westminster Rifles), died 1st December 1917, aged 27. He is buried at Grave Reference H. 24, Ramleh War Cemetery, Palestine/ Israel. Ramleh (now Ramla) was occupied by the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade on 1 November 1917. The cemetery was begun by medical units linked to the Field Ambulances and Casualty Clearing Stations posted at Ramleh and Lydda from December 1917 onwards. Meads died there of abdominal wounds in a Field Ambulance station around the time this cemetery and hospitals were established. His headstone (with no family inscription) could be seen at the TWGPP website.

Ramleh Cemetery (Image: CWGC website)

Ramleh Cemetery
(Image: CWGC website)

His Kew Guild Journal 1918 obituary lists him as Sub-Foreman of the Palm House. He enlisted in January 1915 and went to France on June 1916. He was wounded on Salonika in 1916/17, before moving to Palestine in 1917. He served with three other Kew colleagues in the Queen’s Westminster Rifles. His death date is recorded as 1st December 1917 during the Second Battle of Gaza, of wounds received on November 26th 1917.

Born on 22 February 1890, he is listed as the son of John and Kate Meads, of Swallow St., Iver, Bucks and husband of Margaret Annie Meads, of Strood Villa, Broad Oak, Newnham-on-Severn, Glos.

27. Walter Henry Morland, May 7th 1915
Private 2092 Walter Henry Morland, Royal Scots.

His CWGC entry lists him as “on staff at Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh as a Rose Specialist“. Also trained at Kew, he is recorded on the RBG Edinburgh war memorial (amongst 20 staff who died) and the one at Kew Gardens.

It was the accidental discovery of Morland’s name whilst searching the CWGC website for ‘botanic gardens’ on the keyword search links that eventually led me to the brief Rootschat listing of the 37 Kew names and the Kew Guild Journal online site. In some future blog post I will trace more about Morland’s comrades amongst the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh’s twenty WW1 casualties.

Some family history searches flesh out the life of this Rose Specialist. Morland was born in Maidstone in 1881, worked at George Bunyard’s Nursery there and the Cambridge Botanic Garden before joining Kew between 1905-07. On the 1881 and 1891 census his father William was listed as a Carrier’s Carman, his uncle Walter a bricklayer’s labourer.

Walter Morland in his 5th Royal Scots uniform (Source: RBGE archives)

Walter Morland in his 5th Royal Scots uniform (Source: RBGE archives)

By 1901 Walter Henry Morland is working as a Domestic Gardener, staying as a 20 year old single boarder at 3 Heathfield Cottages, Bletchingdon, Oxfordshire. This may have been linked to work at the local Mansion Heathfield House, next property listed on the Census return, home of one Charles Stratton and family, “living on own means” and employing a number of servants. Morland also worked at Thomas Rochford & Sons and Hyde Park before joining Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden in 1909, working on the Rock Garden section when war broke out.

The April 1911 Census in Scotland (available via the Scotland’s People website) lists Morland as living a short walk and a few streets away from the botanic garden at 11 Rintoul Place, Edinburgh along with his wife of two years, Annie. They had no children at that time.

Married in 1909, Morland enlisted on August 31 1914 in the 5th Battalion Royal Scots (Queen’s Edinburgh Rifles) at Edinburgh. He was killed during the Dardanelles campaign against the Turks, surviving the landings on April 25th 1915 but dying during “an assault on a wood below Krythia on May 7th. For three weeks no traces of him could be found, and it was supposed he had been taken prisoner; then his chums, during an advance, found his body.”

Helles Memorial to the missing of the Gallipoli campaign, Dardanelles, Turkey. (Image: CWGC website)

Helles Memorial to the missing of the Gallipoli campaign, Dardanelles, Turkey.
(Image: CWGC website)

Morland has no known grave and is remembered on panel 26-30 of the Helles Memorial at Gallipoli in Turkey.

In the Arboretum Nursery there are several young plants of Quercus Aegilops grown from acorns sent home by an officer from Gallipoli. Perhaps it will be possible to plant one of these also in the vicinity, especially as it is in Gallipoli that the first two of our members to lose their lives,Messrs. C. F. Ball and W. H. Morland, lie buried.

Along with other early 1915 casualties, the Kew Guild Journal 1916 notes Morland  (alongside Henry Longhurst) as amongst  the “first of our members to fall in the service of his King and Country. Such is the price of Empire.” His medal card lists him as receiving the 1915 star as well as the usual Victory and British medals.

He is listed on the CWGC website as the son of the late William and Mrs. E.S. (Sarah) of Maidstone, and husband of Annie M.E. Morland of 6 Astley Street, Maidstone. Annie Mary Eliza Morland (1878-1960) lived on at this Maidstone address (the house appears to have now gone) until her death in 1960. They appear to have married probably in Cambridge whilst he worked at the Botanic Gardens there in 1909 before joining Kew.

28. Frederick Thomas Pursell or Purssell, 4 April 1917
Gunner / Sergeant Frederick T Purssell or Pursell, 51510, Royal Field Artillery,

70th Bty. 34th Army Brigade, died 4 April 1917 in Ypres. He is buried at Grave Reference IX. F. 16, Vlamerthinge New Military Cemetery, Belgium. Just outside the normal range of German shell fire, the village was used both by artillery units (such as Pursell belonged to) and field ambulances. There is no family inscription on his headstone, pictured on the TWGPP website.

Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery, Belgium (Image: CWGC website).

Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery,
Belgium (Image: CWGC website).

Listed as one of “six Members of the labouring staff killed in action” in the Kew Guild Journal 1919 Roll of Honour. In the 1911 census Purssell is listed as a Stable Hand (Student Part Time) at the “Royal Gardens Kew”. He was born in Surrey around 1894 to a father Roger Purssell who was a bricklayer, living at Pond Cottage in Kew.

CWGC Graves registration documents reveal that he was killed or died on the same day as 3 others of his 34 Army Brigade Royal Field Artillery colleagues, Wainwright, West and Cronin lie buried alongside him.

Pursell is buried alongside RFA colleagues who died on the same day. Source: CWGC

Pursell is buried alongside RFA colleagues who died on the same day. Source: CWGC

One of several brothers, he is listed as being in the Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery, arriving in France on 29 August 1915. His experience with horses may have been useful in largely horse drawn artillery regiments. Another Kew Casualty Frank Windebank (see below) was listed as a ‘Pony Boy’.

He is listed as married to Sarah Maria Grant on 29 August 1915 in (St.Paul) Brentford (the same day as he embarked for France?) Purssell is listed on his marriage certificate as a “Soldier, RFA living at 7 Albany Road”. He is also listed on the Richmond War Memorial (see Roll of Honour website).

29. Munro Briggs Scott, 12 April 1917
2nd Lt. Munro Briggs Scott, 12th Battalion, Royal Scots, died 12 April 1917. Scott is commemorated on Panel Reference Bay 1 and 2 of the Arras Memorial. M.B. Scott was most likely killed in the major Battle of Arras offensive planned for April-May 1917. The Arras Memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and August 1918 and have no known grave.

The Arras Memorial (Image: CWGC website)

The Arras Memorial
(Image: CWGC website)

Born at East Wemyss, Fife, Scotland, Scott was on the Herbarium staff at Kew around the outbreak of war. He joined the East Surrey regiment in February 1916, then the Suffolk Regiment before joining the Royal Scots as an officer. Married in late 1916, he was posted to France on January 9, 1917 and killed by a high explosive HE shell three months later on 12 April 1917 at the Battle of Arras.

30. Robert Service, 28th September 1918
Gunner Robert Service, 1257927, 4th Canadian Trench Mortar Battery, Canadian Field Artillery, died 28th September 1918. He is buried at Grave Reference I. D. 18, Bourlon Wood Cemetery. There is no family inscription on his headstone, which is pictured on the TWGPP website.

Bourlon Wood  and the village were the scene of desperate fighting in the Battle of Cambrai 1917 (where fellow Kewite George Douglas died). At the end of the Battle of Cambrai, British troops were withdrawn from Bourlon; and the wood and the village were ultimately retaken by the 3rd Canadian and 4th Canadian Divisions on the 27th September 1918, the day before Service died. Bourlon Wood Cemetery has nearly 250 burials – Service is surrounded by Canadian casualties – and was started by the Canadian Corps Burial Officer in October 1918, burying the mostly Canadian dead of this action. 274 metres South-West of the cemetery is a Battlefield Memorial erected by the Canadian Government to recall the forcing of the Canal du Nord by the Canadian Corps on the 27th September 1918 and the subsequent advance to Mons and the Rhine.

Vermelles Cemetery (Image: CWGC website)

Vermelles Cemetery
(Image: CWGC website)

31. Henry James Smith, 10 October 1915
Serjeant Henry James Smith, Service number 24, 7th Battalon, East Surrey Regiment, 10 October 1915, aged 37. He is buried at Grave Reference I. L. 37, Vermelles British Cemetery, France.

According to his CWGC record, his headstone has the inscription from his wife “Memory is the only thing that grief can call its own“. The headstone is pictured on the TWGPP website.

During the Battle of Loos, when Smith was killed, Vermelles Chateau was used as a dressing station and Plot I was completed first.  Smith and fellow Kewite Frank Windebank are buried a few graves apart with other 7th East Surreys)  It was laid out and fenced by the Pioneers of the 1st Gloucesters, and known for a long time as “Gloucester Graveyard“.

Fellow Kewites Henry Smith and pony boy Frank Windebank are buried a few garces apart having died the same day in Vermelles. Source: CWGC

Fellow Kewites Henry Smith and pony boy Frank Windebank are buried a few garces apart having died the same day (despite the dates above) in Vermelles. It was corrected on later documents. Source: CWGC

Henry  is listed as the husband of C. E. Smith, of 6, Enmore Villas, Fourth Cross Rd., Twickenham. He was CSM of the same battalion and regiment as fellow Kewite Frank Windebank, who died the same day. Both are listed as one of “six Members of the labouring staff killed in action” in the Kew Guild Journal 1919 Roll of Honour. An earlier mention notes:

“Two employees from the Gardens were killed in action in France on the same day, Sergeant H.J. Smith, a garden labourer, and Private F. Windebank, pony boy, both of the East Surrey Regiment”.

Herbert Southgate is buried in Gaza Cemetry. Source: CWGC

Herbert Southgate is buried amongst fellow Norfolks in a block towards the rear left of these graves in Gaza Cemetery, Israel / Palestine. Source: CWGC

32. Herbert Southgate, 19 April 1917
Serjeant Herbert William Leonard Southgate, 240701, ‘A’ Company, 1st/ 5th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment, died on 19 April 1917, aged 28. He is buried at Grave Reference XXX. F. I, Gaza War Cemetery.

He most likely died during the Second Battle Of Gaza (17-19 April, 1917) fighting against the Turks and was posted missing until his body was found seven months later and buried by British troops. Gaza was finally recaptured in November 1917. He served with his younger brother.

Herbert Southgate is surrounded by fellow 1/5th Norfolks, killed on the same day in Gaza. Source; CWGC

Herbert Southgate’s grave  is surrounded by fellow Norfolk Regiment soldiers, killed on the same day in Gaza. Source: CWGC

Born on 19 September 1888, he is listed as the son of Herbert William and Hannah Southgate, of East Raynham, Fakenham, Norfolk (hence enlisting in a Norfolk Regiment).  The inscription on his headstone from his family reads “Thanks be to God who giveth us victory through Jesus Christ”.

Fellow Norfolk regiment soldiers Foyster and Snelling who died on the same day lie buried near Herbert Southgate, Gaza Cemetery. Source: CWGC

Fellow Norfolk regiment soldiers Foyster and Snelling who died on the same day lie buried near Herbert Southgate, Gaza Cemetery. Source: CWGC

Previous to training and working at Kew in 1910-12 and 1913, he had worked at Raynham Hall Norfolk and Westonbirt, Gloucestershire. He was noted as an orchid specialist. He also worked on The Gardener’s Magazine for a brief time.

33. John Leonard Veitch, 21st May 1918
Major John Leonard Veitch, Military Cross, 7th Battalion attached 1st Battalion, Devonshire Regiment, died on 21st May 1918, aged 31. Mentioned in Despatches.

He is buried at Grave Reference Row A. Grave 1, Thiennes British Cemetery, France. A photograph of his headstone can be seen on the TWGPP website. According to CWGC records, the inscription on his headstone chosen by his family is “Unto God’s gracious mercy and protection we commit thee”.

The German offensive of April 1918 pushed the front line back almost as far as St. Venant in this sector and this was one of the cemeteries made for Commonwealth burials arising from the fighting in the area. Thiennes British Cemetery was started by the 5th Division in May 1918 (when Veitch was amongst the first to be buried) and used by the 59th and 61st Divisions before being closed in August 1918. It is a small cemetery of only  114 First World War burials in the cemetery, Veitch’s grave being the first  A1.

He is listed as the son of Peter Christian Massyn Veitch, J.P. Esq, and Harriett Veitch (nee Drew) 11 Elm Grove Road,  Exeter of the famous Veitch nursery family.

Vietch is buried in Thiennes Cemetery. (Image: CWGC website)

Veitch is buried first left of the front row in Thiennes Cemetery, next to Plymouth born Harold Harrison of the 1st Devonshire Regiment killed on the same day.
(Image: CWGC website)

His Kew Guild Journal 1919 obituary lists him originally enlisting in August 1914 in the 7th Cyclists Battalion of the Devon Regiment, his local regiment. He was in France from 1915, noted s being on front line duties since December 1915 and fought through the battle of the Somme in 1916. He was wounded in the shoulder at Vimy Ridge. After service in Italy, Veitch was killed by a stray machine gun bullet in the Nieppe Forest area of France on May 21, 1918. Another Devonshire Regiment man, Private Harold  Harrison,  lies buried beside him, killed on the same day.

A month earlier Veitch had received his recommendation for a Military Cross “for his excellent defence of the Lock, just east of the Forest of Nieppe, in the middle of April, when he stopped five attacks. He had the honour of dying in temporary command of our famous battalion.” (letter to Veitch’s father from his Colonel).

He was at Kew from 1908 to 1910, before joining the family nursery business in 1910. Educated at Exeter School, he spent time studying horticulture in Germany and Holland before entering Kew.

34. Francis Richard or Frank Windebank,10 October 1915

Private (or Lance Corporal) Frank Windebank, 822, 7th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment died 10 October 1915, aged 17. He is buried at Grave Reference I. L 35, Vermelles British Cemetery.

According to his CWGC record, there is no family inscription on his headstone, pictured on the TWGPP project website. The Kew Gardens war memorial plaque (see below) lists him as a Lance-Corporal, rather than as a Private.

Vermelles is where a fellow Kewite of the same battalion and regiment CSM Henry James Smith, who died on the same day is buried only two graves along (I.L 37). Described as a ‘pony boy‘ amongst the “gangers, labourers and boys” at Kew, Windebank was listed as the son of James and Mary Windebank, of 20, Evelyn Rd., Richmond, Surrey.

Frank Windebank and fellow Kewite Henry Smith both died on the 10th in the same regiment, 7th East Surreys, Vermelles.

Frank Windebank and fellow Kewite Henry Smith both died on the 10th in the same regiment, 7th East Surreys, Vermelles.

Listed with H.J.Smith as one of “six Members of the labouring staff killed in action” in the Kew Guild Journal 1919 Roll of Honour. The same journal lists a possible relation, one J. Windebank listed at Kew as a carter who joined up in 1918.

Noting that Windebank was a ‘pony boy’  it was interesting to read that in timeline in the History of Kew by Ray Desmond that in August 1914 “three horses taken by Army.” In 1928 when one of the six Kew horses died, it was replaced by a motor lorry. Kew’s  last Shire Horses were replaced by a team of five Suffolk Punch in 1937, both now rare breeds. By 1948 only two horses still worked the grounds, mostly mowing and hauling but being steadily replaced by motor mowers and lorries. Finally in 1961 there is a note that “Horses no longer used in the Gardens“, the year before the last Victorian Wardian cases  were used for transporting  plant collectors’ precious finds back to Kew.

35. John Nicholls Winn, 7th June 1918
Signaller / Private John Nicholls Winn, 365004, C company, 7th Battalion, London Regiment (Civil Service Rifles), died on 7th June 1918, aged 20. He is buried at Grave Reference X. 5629, Richmond Cemetery, Surrey. ‘Jack’ Winn is listed as the son of William Nicholls Winn (1868-1945, who worked as Assistant in the Curator’s Office at Kew) and Bertha Winn, of 87, Mortlake Rd., Kew.

According to his CWGC record, there is no family inscription on this grave. This appears to be a private headstone, rather than a standard CWGC headstone, as featured in the picture on the TWGPP website .

According to the Kew Guild Journal obituary 1919, John Nicholls Winn was born at Kew in 1898, enlisted in Richmond aged 18 in May 1916 and went to France in Spring 1917. He was wounded in the leg and died later of septic poisoning in hospital in Exeter.

36. Herbert Martin Woolley, 9 October 1916
Listed on the Kew memorial as Rifleman / Corporal Herbert Martin Woolley, “Essex Regiment”  is most likely to be Rifleman 3844, 1st / 5th Battalion, London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade), died 9 October 1916. Herbert is commemorated on Panel Reference Pier and Face 9 D, Thiepval Memorial, along with fellow Kewite John Divers.

Born 27 September 1883, Herbert was the son of G.H. Woolley, Vicar of Old Riffhams, Danbury, Essex. In 1908 after working in several nurseries and Kew 1906-08 he left to work managing a rubber estate in North Borneo. He returned from Borneo to join the Essex Regiment but ditched his commission and training as an officer to become a corporal in the London Rifle Brigade to see action more quickly. His brother suggest he was also promoted to Sergeant.  Herbert was killed shortly after the attack on Combles in 1916.

Herbert or “Bertie” Woolley came from a high-achieving and distinguished family of 12 children including his brother Lieutenant Colonel Sir Charles Woolley (1880 – 1960), “Woolley of Ur”,a famous archaeologist who knew Lawrence of Arabia. His brother Major George Harold Woolley VC OBE MC (1892 – 1968) was the first Territorial to win the Victoria Cross. In G.H. Woolley’s  autobigraphy, “Sometime a Soldier“, Bertie’s unusual decision to become a private soldier and change regiments to get to the front  quicker is described:

 “While I was on sick leave my third brother, Bertie, returned from British North Borneo. He had been trained at Kew Gardens and in Germany, and then was employed on rubber plantations in Borneo. When in England he had joined the old Militia, so I had no difficulty in helping him to get a commission in the Essex Regiment. He soon tired of England, so transferred as a private to the London Rifle Brigade; he did well with them in France and was quickly made a sergeant, then offered a commission. He was killed with the L.R.B. on the Somme in 1916.

About the same time Leonard, who was doing intelligence work in Egypt, was blown up in a yacht while placing agents on the north Syrian coast. He was rescued, but as a Turkish prisoner, and spent two years of bitter captivity at Kedos and Kastamuni.

Also in 1915 Kathleen, my fourth sister, made her way across Russia to take up a teaching appointment in a school in Tokyo. After leaving Somerville College, Oxford, she had been trained for this work by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Rachel, my fifth sister, was also now teaching in England. She had taken a degree at St. Andrew’s University and then went for teacher-training to St. Hilda’s at Oxford. Later she went to a school in Jamaica, and was subsequently head mistress of a diocesan school in India. My other two sisters, Edith and Marjory, were at home looking after my father at Old Riffhams, as well as coping with five or more officers of the Gloucester Regiment (T.A.), who were billeted in the house. A company of their men were in the barn. Most of the Gloucester Brigade were in huts on Danbury Common. Later in the war Edith married Harry Laxton, one of the officers who had been billeted in our house, and Marjory went to live in New Zealand.”

G.H. Woolley, Sometimes A Soldier. London: Ernest Benn, Ltd., 1963, pp. 38-39

His brother George Cathcart Woolley (1876-1947) worked in Borneo (like Herbert Martin Woolley) as a Colonial Administrator and Ethnographer. Part of his collection formed the Sabah Museum. He was interned and harshly treated by the Japanese as a POW. A quite remarkable family!

Albert Wright of Birmingham and Kew Botanic Gardens Remembered on the WW1 section Kew Gardens staff memorial (Image Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

Albert Wright of Birmingham and Kew Botanic Gardens Remembered on the WW1 section Kew Gardens staff memorial (Image Source: Mark Norris, World War Zoo gardens project, Newquay Zoo)

37. Albert Wright, 25 February 1919
Private Albert Wright, 201656, 2nd /7th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, died 25 February 1919, aged 29. He is buried at Grave Reference Screen Wall B10. 9. 661A, Birmingham Lodge Hill Cemetery. This wall carries the  names of those buried in the main CWGC war graves main plot B10 or in graves elsewhere in the cemetery which could not be individually marked. A photograph of his screen wall entry is on the TWGPP website. The cemetery contains 498 First World War burials, most of them in a war graves plot alongside Wright in Section B10. The  screen wall panels of names are linked to numbered stone panels in the ground in front of the cross.

The First World War saw four important hospitals – besides many smaller ones – posted at Birmingham with over 7000 beds.

The Cross of Sacrifice (found in most CWGC cemeteries worldwide) at Birmingham Lodge Hill Cemetery. Image: Wikipedia

The Cross of Sacrifice (found in most CWGC cemeteries worldwide) and Screen wall of names at Birmingham Lodge Hill Cemetery. Image: Wikipedia

Born in Birmingham, Albert Wright worked at Birmingham Botanic Gardens as an Outdoor Foreman from April 1914 to February 1916, leaving Kew Gardens where he studied from May 1912 to April 1914 (being an Assistant 1st Class). His Kew Guild Journal obituary 1920/21 lists him as joining the 5th Warwickshire Regiment, moving with them to France in May 1917. In 1917 he was invalided home with fever before returning to France where he was wounded in the leg whilst wiring out in front of the trenches. Sent to hospitals in Glasgow, Irvine and finally Liverpool he died of influenza and pneumonia before discharge in hospital, three months after the war ended.

Albert Wright's CWGC records

Albert Wright’s name is amongst these CWGC memorial records

In the Kew Guild Journal 1920, p.482, the article on the War Memorial mentions that “Two additional names have to be added to the Tablet. Pte. Albert Wright and L.Cpl. Sidney Cockcroft.”

A view familiar to gardener Albert Wright, the view of Birmingham Botanic Gardens from the Bandstand where local MP Neville Chamberlain spoke to crowds after becoming Prime Minister shortly before WW2. Underneath ironically is the WW2 Air Raid shelter. Photo: Mark Norris, 2011

A view familiar to gardener Albert Wright, the view of Birmingham Botanic Gardens from the Bandstand where local MP Neville Chamberlain spoke to crowds after becoming Prime Minister shortly before WW2. Underneath ironically is the WW2 Air Raid shelter. Photo: Mark Norris, 2011

Priavte 201656 Albert Wright is listed on the CWGC website as finally serving in the 2/7th Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He was 29 when he died and the brief additional information says he was ‘Born at Birmingham’, around 1890.

Albert Wright's name is on this CWGC burial and memorial record. Source CWGC

Albert Wright’s name is on this CWGC burial and memorial record. Source CWGC

Further photographs of the Lodge Hill cemetery graves can be seen on the Traces of War website. Albert Wright is also  listed  in the large central Hall of Memory which records the names of the 12,320 Birmingham citizens who died in the First World War (The Birmingham City Council website notes that a further 35,000 Birmingham men came home with a disability).

Albert Wright's entry Royal Warwickshire Regiment, Hall of Memory WW1 book, Birmingham (Image: hallofmemory.co.uk)

Albert Wright’s entry Royal Warwickshire Regiment, Hall of Memory WW1 book, Birmingham (Image: hallofmemory.co.uk)

Other Kew Casualaties

Several other non-Kew staff are listed in the early Kew Guild Journal roll of honour  (but not as far as I know on the memorial) such as “employed as temporary labourers when the war broke out” who then joined up.

One such was T. Clay (Killed in action) noted by the Kew Guild Journal 1915/16 Journal publication. Of the 6  T. Clays on the CWGC website, he is likely to be one of two 1914/15 casualties  likely to be remembered on the Le Touret Memorial – either Private Thomas Clay 9308, 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment killed 28 October 1914 or Private Thomas Clay 10586 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment  killed on 18 May 1915.

A postwar Kew Guild Journal 1921, p.43 “In Memoriam” section records that the deaths “of W. Humphris and Mr J. Hayhurst of the Border Regiment … are recorded in the war but we have been unable to obtain any particulars”.

W. Humphris (unusual spelling) does not appear to have been otherwise listed on the Kew Gardens memorial and served with Australian forces. Private Walter George Thorrell Humphris  2632 served in 1st Battalion Australian Infantry AIF and died aged 25 on 22 April 1917. He has no known grave and his name is  recorded on the Basra Memorial.   He is listed as the son of James Thorrell Humphris and Jane Ellen Humphris, born London, England. He joined Kew in August 1903 from Oakwood Hall, Rotherham. He left Kew in August 1904 to work at Riverslea, Grassendale Park, Liverpool.

There is still far more to be discovered about each of these names. From Birtle’s posts on Rootschat, it appears that  Kew Gardens archives have staff photographs of each year of new gardeners. I will add further details of my research into each casualty to the post as I uncover more.

There is a contact form if you wish to comment or pass on more information.

If any readers visit any of these Kew Gardeners’ graves, please lay a flower, a poppy cross or spend a few moments of prayer or quiet reflection on the shortened lives of these men and the families and colleagues they left behind them, so that they,  like the lost gardeners of Heligan, are not forgotten.

If any of you visit the Helles Memorial in Turkey where Walter Henry Morland is remembered, the “rose specialist” who started me off on this quest to find out more about Kew’s lost gardeners, then perhaps the most appropriate flower to leave is of course … a rose.

Floreat Kew!

The Lost Gardeners of Kew in World War Two

April 6, 2013

RBG Kew's war memorial, Temple of Arethusa, Kew (Image copyright :  Kew website)

RBG Kew’s war memorial, Temple of Arethusa, Kew
(Image copyright : Kew website)

Kew Gardens war memorial (from the Kew Gardens website)  see also the  WW1 Kew Gardens blog post on this memorial. .

Kew Gardens lost 14  serving and former staff in World War Two, commemorated alongside the Great War losses at the Kew Gardens war memorial in the Temple of Arethusa. A wreath is laid there each November on behalf of past and present Kew staff, a copy of one laid at the Cenotaph made by Kew staff for the Foreign Office on behalf of British Overseas Territories.

Kew Gardens staff and Old Kewites served all over the world in both World Wars and sadly this is where some of them lie buried, as far afield as the hills of Italy, the deserts of Libya, the jungles of Singapore and the battlefields of Normandy.  Kew Gardens staff or Kew trained gardeners in both world wars also helped with the design and planting of war cemeteries, which are beautifully and respectfully maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission gardeners.

One of RBG Kew Gardens' WW2 staff casualties rests  in this beautifully planted war cemetery, Assisi, Italy. (Image copyright CWGC website www.cwgc.org)

One of RBG Kew Gardens’ WW2 staff casualties rests in this beautifully planted war cemetery, Assisi, Italy. (Image copyright CWGC website http://www.cwgc.org)

Looking through the 1940s issues of the Kew Guild Journal recently published online, there are short obituary tributes to the lives of these Kew Gardens and Old Kewite staff. I have added details from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. A recent discussion thread on the Rootschat forum listed brief details of the names of First World War casualties from Kew Gardens, which is covered in a separate blog post. There was however no list of easily accessible names for the 14 casualties from World War Two. A little detective work reveals the following complete list.  I hope this is of use to family historians, as well as a tribute to these brave men.

1939-45 panels,  Kew Gardens War Memorial, M to T name section. Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project

1939-45 panels, Kew Gardens War Memorial, M to T name section.
Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project

Photographs of Kew in both wars can be seen in the excellent book The Story of Kew Gardens in Photographs by Lynn Parker and Kiri Ross-Jones. There is an excellent selection on Kew in both wars in this book, including the employment of women gardeners to replace the men on active service, ‘Dig for Victory’ allotments and the ARP preparations for air raids.

1939-45 panels,  Kew Gardens War Memorial.  Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project

1939-45 panels, Kew Gardens War Memorial.
Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project

G.H.Larsen 13 September 1944
Born November 25 1914 in France, Georges Henri Larsen came to Kew on exchange from the Luxemburg Gardens, Paris 1935-36. Serving with Corps Franc d’Afrique and Free French forces in Normandy, Larsen was killed in the fighting at Epinal.

C.G. Last, 22 June 1944 MM, Military Medal
Died aged 36, Corporal 9900V, Cecil George Last served with the South African Medical Corps, attached First City / Cape Town Highlanders, South African Forces, buried at Assisi War Cemetery, Italy. This is mostly burials from June – July 1944 from battles with the Germans who were trying to stop the Allied advance north of Rome. Born October 12, 1910 he was the son of William G and Beatrice Last of Letchworth, Hertfordshire.
His Kew Guild obituary notes that he was killed at Chiusi in Italy whilst attempting “under heavy shell fire … to bring to safety one of his native stretcher bearers who was wounded and exposed to heavy fire.” He was previously noted for gallantry and awarded the Military Medal whilst wounded in the Desert campaign. He served as a medic with the South African Highlanders until after El Alamein.

C.G.Lasts's burial place lies amongst the graves of Assisi War cemetery, Italy (image CWGC copyright www.cwgc.org)

C.G.Lasts’s burial place lies amongst the graves of Assisi War cemetery, Italy (image CWGC copyright http://www.cwgc.org)

J.G. Mayne, 16 May 1944
Lieutenant, 48th Highlanders of Canada, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps.
Buried at the Cassino War Cemetery, Rome. Monte Cassino was finally taken two days after Mayne’s death.
Born on January 1st 1914, ‘Jack’ was the son of Robert Furlong Mayne and Kathleen Mayne. He attended Kew from 1938 to 1939 before leaving for an exchange post at the Ontario Agricultural College. He married Mary Mayne, Frimley, Surrey in England in 1943 and his only daughter was born after his death.

 J.G. Mayne's burial place, Cassino War Cemetery,  Monte Cassino, Italy (image copyright: CWGC www.cwcg.org)

J.G. Mayne’s burial place, Cassino War Cemetery, Monte Cassino, Italy
(image copyright: CWGC http://www.cwcg.org)

W.S.H. Menzies, 2 July 1943
Sergeant William Sydney Hugh Menzies, Sergeant Wireless Operator, RAF (Volunteer Reserve) buried Sleaford Cemetery, Lincolnshire. Garden boy at Kew 1936-38. Son of William Duncan Graham Menzies

R. F. Miles, 11 May 1942
Reginald Frederick Miles 1375370, RAF (Volunteer Reserve), aged 26. He is one of 47 air force burials in Dunure Cemetery, Ayrshire. Born July 21st 1915, Miles was a student gardener at Kew from 1932-34 and returned to work in the Tropical department in 1938 until call up on September 23 1940. He crashed off the West Coast of Scotland during a training flight and was listed as missing for four months until identified and buried. “A wreath from the Kew Guild was among the floral tributes”, his Kew Guild Journal obituary noted. He was the son of Frederick William and Ethel Miles, Clench Common, Wiltshire.

J.C.Nauen, 10 September 1943
Assistant Curator, Botanic Gardens Singapore from 1935. Served with G.H. Spare as a Serjeant 5387, volunteer in the 3rd Battalion, (Penang and Province Wellesley Volunteer Corps) SSVF Straits Settlement Volunteer Force.

His botanic skills were of help gardening and collecting plants from the local area to help keep fellow prisoners alive. Nauen died as a Japanese POW prisoner of war, aged 40 working on the Burma-Siam railway in September / October 1943 of blood poisoning. He is buried in Thanbyuzayat CWGC Cemetery in Burma, alongside 1000s of fellow POW victims from the Burma-Siam railway. He was the son of John Jacob and Clara Nauen of Coventry.

Some of Nauen’s plant collecting herbarium specimens survive at Kew, whilst he has an interesting obituary in the Kew Guild Journal 1946 and The Garden’s Bulletin Singapore September 1947 (XI, part 4, p.266).

An interesting Kew Gardens archives blog post on the role of tropical botanists in keeping fellow POWs alive in internment camps has been recently written by James Wearn and Claire Frankland.

1939-45 panels,  Kew Gardens War Memorial.  Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project

1939-45 panels, Kew Gardens War Memorial.
Image: Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens Project

T.W. Rayment, 14 June 1942
Flight Sergeant Thomas Watkins Rayment, Air Gunner, 7 Squadron, RAF (Volunteer Reserve) aged 28. Buried at Avesnes-sur-Helpe Communal Cemetery, France.
‘Tommy’  Rayment is buried alongside several of his 7 Squadron crew (Pilot Officer Don White and Flight Engineer Sergeant Leonard Clinton Fenton) after being shot down during a bombing raid over Essen  and the Ruhr, Germany’s industrial areas. Rayment’s was possibly the only Stirling bomber among several 7 Squadron bombers lost on this 1000 bomber raid. He was based at RAF Oakington near Cambridge and his crew’s death is recorded / confirmed in the ops notes on 25 August 1942 appendix of Oakington’s history .

The CWGC website lists him as the son of Herbert John Rayment JP and Louise Rayment, of Beecroft, NSW, Australia. Born to English parents working in the seed business in Australia, Tommy was at Kew from 1938-1940 in the Tropical & Decorative Departments. He volunteered for the RAF from July 23,1940 and survived many bombing missions. He was shot down once at sea, the sole survivor of his crew, picked up by a trawler after five hours in a rubber dinghy.

Rayment  features on a war memorial at Beecroft , NSW, Australia. The memorial, Rayment’s  life and a possible memorial to this Stirling crash are  being researched by Beecroft historian Tony Cunneen and aviation researcher Joss Leclercq.

T W Rayment features on the Beecroft war memorial  (Photo from the Register of War Memorials in Australia website) .

T W Rayment features on the Beecroft war memorial (Photo from the Register of War Memorials in Australia website) .

A probate record in the UK 10 March 1943 lists him as living at 1 Mortlake Road, Kew, Surrey before call up,  his death / probate registered  by Reuben Thomas Rayment (civil servant) and Dorothy Rayment (spinster) , presumably family members.

E.H. Robson, 23 October 1944

Born in 1912, Edward Herbert Robson entered Kew in 1935 after working in private estate gardens and became foreman in the Temperate House until 1938 when he moved to work in the parks of Coventry. He had already joined the Royal Berkshire Regiment in October 1940 by the time Coventry was bombed in late 1940 and 1941. His brother Major John Elliott Robson of the same regiment was also killed in Italy on 7th October 1944 and a third brother was injured and taken prisoner at Arnhem. His Kew Guild Journal 1946 obituary notes him as collecting and sending back plants and seeds throughout his service in Palestine, Egypt and Italy. His grave is in Florence War Cemetery in Italy.

F.G.Selby, 4 December 1943
Born August 4 1913, Frederick George Selby entered Kew from 1937 – 1942 serving as student gardener and then Foreman in the Decorative department after several years working in private gardens in Cornwall and Surrey. He joined the RAF on October 16, 1942 as aircrew becoming a Sergeant Air Gunner.
Selby was killed during a bombing raid on Leipzig on December 3-4, 1943. He is recorded as visiting Kew two days before his final flight. Air Gunner F.G. Selby is buried At Becklingen War Cemetery in Germany. He was the son of William Frank and Alice Selby, and husband of Rita May Selby.

Eric Egerton Smith, 23 November 1941
Trooper 7910903,11th Hussars, Royal Armoured Corps. Joined Born June 19 1914, Smith was at Kew as a student gardener from February 1939 to June 12 1940 when he enlisted in the 11th Hussars, after previous service with the Parks Department, Hounslow. Buried in Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma, Libya. Smith died during the Libyan Desert campaign driving an armoured car on patrol towards Italian and German enemy lines at Sidi Rezegh. Son of George Egerton Smith & Lilian Nelly Smith, Heston, Middlesex.

Eric Smith's desert burial ground Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma, Libya (Image copyright: CWGC website www.cwgc.org)

Eric Smith’s desert burial ground Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma, Libya (Image copyright: CWGC website http://www.cwgc.org)

G.H. Spare, 7 February 1945
Gordon Henry Spare, Private 6070 SSVF Straits Settlements Volunteer Force / 3rd Battalion (Penang and Province Wellesley Volunteer Corps), Singapore Volunteers, died at Labuan, Borneo as a Japanese POW. Remembered on column 396 Singapore Memorial. Son of Harry and Grace Spare, Wallington, Surrey, and husband of Rose Ellen Spare, Worthing, Sussex. His wife, young son and daughter were evacuated clear  of danger before the Japanese invasion.

Singapore Memorial (image copyright CWGC website www.cwgc.org)

Singapore Memorial (image copyright CWGC website http://www.cwgc.org)

J.W. Sutch, 8 August 1944
Royal Armoured Corps, Trooper, 1st Northants Yeomanry. John Wilfred Sutch was born on November 8 1923 and served at Kew as a “Gardens boy” from 1939-1942. He is buried in the Banneville La Campagne war cemetery, Calvados, France. Sutch was a tank driver and died during the battle for the Falaise Gap in the Normandy campaign after D-Day.

A photograph of him in uniform can be seen in The Story of Kew Gardens in Photographs.

Beautifully kept garden setting of Banneville La Campagne War Cemetery , Calvados, France where Kew's J.W.Sutch lies buried. (Image copyright: CWGC www.cwgc.org)

Beautifully kept garden setting of Banneville La Campagne War Cemetery , Calvados, France where Kew’s J.W.Sutch lies buried. (Image copyright: CWGC http://www.cwgc.org)

P.E.or R.E. Thyer, 17 June 1944
Lance Corporal 589614V, Royal Natal Carabineers, South African Forces, Bolsena War Cemetery, Italy. Born July 5 1911, Percy Ernest Thyer he was the son of William H. and Kate Thyer, Glastonbury, Somerset. (Listed on the cwgc.org.uk site as R.E. Thyer and in the Kew Guild Journal as P.E. Thyer). Thyer was at Kew between 1936 and 1937. He transferred to South Africa as an Exchange student at Government House Gardens, Pretoria in 1937 until he enlisted in 1943 after part-time service whilst still employed as a gardener. Thyer died aged 32, in action at Belvedere Farm, Citta d’Pieve, Italy. Many of the burials in this cemetery are related to a tank battle between the 6th South African Battalion and the Hermann Goering Panzer Division in Italy.

Kew Gardener P E or R E Thyer is buried in Bolsena Cemetery, Italy . Image: CWGC website

Kew Gardener P E or R E Thyer is buried in Bolsena Cemetery, Italy . Image: CWGC website

So that (as of April 2013)  is brief information on  13 of the Kew casualties named on the bronze memorial plaque on the Kew Gardens memorial.

Allan Beard, 1946

The 14th and last name is Allan Beard, who served as a despatch rider with the Middlesex Regiment and died aged 31 a “tragic death” just after the war, possibly from injury related to war service. His obituary http://www.kewguild.org.uk/articles/1855/ appeared in the 1946 Kew Guild Journal.

Beard had been a gardener on the Parks Staff at Stamford Park, Ashton Under Lyne until he joined up in 1939. http://www.tameside.gov.uk/parks/stamford/history

Along with several garden colleagues, he had joined Hyde Company, Territorial Army section of the 6th Cheshire Regiment in early 1939; this would see him very quickly called into service three days before war broke out. By October 1939, he was serving with the Middlesex Regiment and fought through the campaigns of 1940 in Northern France and Belgium, eventually being evacuated from Dunkirk.

Back in Britain, instead of promotion Allan Beard chose to train as a despatch rider partly from a love of motorbikes. Sadly he was the victim of a wartime traffic accident (not surprising with blackout etc), being struck by an army lorry in Canterbury in 1943. By June 1944 he had been discharged from the army on medical grounds and returned to his previous garden job. Stamford Park by then had lost its railings in wartime, collected as salvage metal for the war effort, but had been maintained as a public park, popular like Kew Gardens with people encouraged in wartime to “holiday at home”.

Allan Beard entered Kew in August 1946 under a Government assisted training scheme. His obituary is reported in the 1946 Kew Guild Journal but not listed on the CWGC website as his death occurred as a civilian after military service. It may have been linked to his earlier accident.

Several other Kew related wartime casualties are mentioned in the Kew Guild Journal tributes but not listed on the Kew Gardens War Memorial.

Norman Laurence Harding, July 23 1941  RAF Sergeant Wireless Operator and Air Gunner, 18th Squadron, reported missing (later presumed killed in action) after an attack by Blenheim bombers on shipping off the coast of France on July 23 1941. Bought up at Kew, the son of Laurence Harding, Norman as a 19-year-old had worked in Kew’s Herbarium Library from 1933-34.

Percy Henry Patmore MBE, MM, 26 February 1944
‘Pat’ was a Ministry of Agriculture ARP Officer and a District Warden in Westminster during the war, well-known to many Kew staff. He earned his Military Medal in the First World War. He was killed by injuries from a bomb on his home at 80 Cat Hill in East Barnet in the little blitz of February 20 1944. Passed away from injuries in Wellhouse Hospital, 26 February 1944.

Posted on behalf of the World War Zoo Gardens Project at Newquay Zoo, researching what happened in zoos and botanic gardens in wartime. Find out  more about the project on the Botanic Gardens Conservation International BGCI website article from the BGCI Roots journal by Mark Norris

Dig for Victory 1917 (World War 1 style), the lost gardeners of Kew and the fortunate Herbert Cowley (1885 – 1967)

March 22, 2013

There is still a great deal of labour employed for example, in pleasure grounds and bedding out which in the present circumstances should be put to better account

(The Garden, editorial No. 2359, 3/2/17)

Herbert Cowley (1885-1967) from his Kew Guild journal obituary 1968

Herbert Cowley (1885-1967) from his Kew Guild journal obituary 1968

Corporal Herbert Cowley returned from the trenches in 1915 to his editing desk at The Garden magazine, walking with a stick from a shrapnel wound to his knee cap. In this he was somewhat lucky as 37 of his former Kew Gardens colleagues were killed (see  blog post on the Lost Gardeners of Kew WW1 ).

This was a generation of gardeners for whom ‘digging trenches’  had a deadly double meaning. Active in the Kew Guild for Old Kewite staff as its secretary, he also edited the Kew Guild Journal, recently placed online. After four years as journal editor from 1909 to 1914 and time off for military service, he became editor of The Garden in 1915/16 and carried on as a gardening writer until the late 1930s.

Unlike his fallen Kew colleagues, Herbert Cowley lived to the grand age of 82, dying in Newton Abbott in Devon in November 1967. There is a lovely description of him at Dartington as:

“that eighty-year-old gentleman with the vivid blue eyes, who retired from the world of horticultural journalism in 1936, yet who still remembered everyone and everything from those days”

recalled a researcher who had tracked him down to talk about his friendship with Gertrude Jekyll (quoted on pg. 79, Beatrix Jones (1872-1959):Fifty Years of Landscape by Diane K. McGuire)

The Garden 1917, edited by Herbert Cowley.

The Garden 1917, edited by Herbert Cowley.

In my collection of wartime gardening books at Newquay Zoo as part of the World War Zoo Gardens project,  I have a slightly musty bound year’s copy of The Garden magazine from 1917, an edition  that Cowley edited. This is one of the wartime volumes I’ve bought whilst researching  the wartime history of zoos and associated botanic gardens.  Leafing through its yellowing pages, it is sometimes hard to believe at first that there is a war on. Only when you begin to read between the lines or look at the adverts do you begin to pick up glimpses of the upheavals caused by war on an Empire of pioneer plant hunters, foresters, farmers and botanists called back from around the world to defend their mother country.

I will feature more in detail from this random 1917 edition in a future blog post. The Garden magazine can be read online for free at https://archive.org/details/gardenillustrate7915lond – search by year – and other sites.

Herbert Cowley as Editor at The Garden magazine was no desk gardener. As a career gardener he had risen through the ranks. His father Henry was a ‘domestic gardener’. Herbert studied at Swanley College for two years, one of the last eight men students before it became a female horticultural college around 1902. Swanley then trained many lady gardeners who dug for victory in both world wars. He worked at Lockinge Gardens in Berkshire before studying at Swanley, at some point for the royal garden at Frogmore and after Swanley for the famous nursery family of Veitch’s at Feltham. One of that same family, Major John Leonard Veitch MC (Military Cross) of the Devon Regiment would be killed on 21 May 1918, one of Cowley’s Old Kewite & Veitch’s nursery family.

cowley 007Cowley joined Kew Gardens and appears always to have been a popular colleague. The Kew Guild Journal describes him in 1915/16 as having been much sought after by different departments, eventually settling in the Orchid department in 1905, probably from his experience with Orchids at one of the Veitch’s nurseries’ specialities. Veitch’s employed several famous plant hunters to collect exotic plants from around the world for the conservatories and gardens of Victorian and Edwardian Britain in one of the ‘golden ages’ of British estates, big houses and impressive gardening schemes. It was the Downton Abbey age. All this would go into decline after the war as it poignantly did at Heligan Gardens in Cornwall and many places elsewhere as a result of rising costs, loss of labour, fortunes or heirs. By the time of Herbert Cowley’s death in 1967, many of these country houses, their gardens  and their gardeners would have vanished into memories and yellowing  pages of his gardening magazines and Country Life in bound volumes in archives.

From early on Herbert Cowley was active in learning, sharing and passing on information, a quality that any good gardening writer needs, through Kew’s Mutual Improvement Lectures in 1906/7 season. Sadly the prewar lecture lists contain the names of some of the Kew staff including C.F. Ball who would soon be killed on active service. Cowley left Kew around 1907 to join The Gardener magazine as a subeditor (later called Popular Gardening).

Herbert Cowley  became Assistant Editor at a different title, The Garden in 1910. This was the magazine he was to return to as Editor in 1915/6 until 1926; this is the magazine that I have a 1917 edition in my collection. Cowley then edited Gardening Illustrated from 1923-26, another success in a long career as a gardening journalist and writer.  At some point he worked for Wallace & Co of Tunbridge Wells, nursery-men and landscape architects. He wrote his final (?)  book The Garden Year from Tunbridge Wells in 1936;  March & April excerpts of his advice are included at the end of this blog post:

“In my capacity as editor of gardening journals I have many times been asked for a practical book containing reminders for garden work all the year round. This book is specially written to supply that want – it is in fact a modern gardening calendar in book form … 

Reminders for each department – utilitarian as well as ornamental – from the kitchen garden to the orchid house – will be found in these pages.  

It is hoped that this book will be given a place in the front row of the gardener’s bookshelf and that it will prove useful all the year round.

The information given is based on generally accepted practice and the season for doing things in any well-ordered garden” (Preface, The Garden Year, 1936)

Frontispiece to The Garden Year 1936, written by Herbert Cowley.

Frontispiece to The Garden Year 1936, written by Herbert Cowley.

“Well-ordered”,  “practical”, “each department” of the garden, this is the voice of the Kew-trained gardener from the Edwardian age . Cowley writes in a clear, no-nonsense advice style about gardening. At first sight there is very little personal material, so it is hard to glimpse from his writing what he made of his wartime experiences as a temporary warrior. Like many of his generation, he got on with life after the war and probably didn’t talk or write about it much.

His army records (available on genealogy sites like ancestry.co.uk) reveal that he enlisted early in the war on 7th September 1914 as No. 2477 in the 12th County of London Regiment (the London Rangers). He very quickly embarked for France by 25 December 1914, just after the famous Christmas Truce and football matches in No Man’s Land. He may well have been a Territorial Army soldier to have enlisted and embarked so swiftly. His brother Charles Cowley  (b. 1890, Wantage, Berks – d. 1973, New Zealand) served in the same regiment from 1915 and became a Sergeant, invalided out with trench foot to become a musketry instructor in devon.

In one of Herbert Cowley’s  postwar letters in his  National Archives British Army Service records, he complains to the Army authorities in 1920 from his residence at Curley Croft, Lightwater, near Bagshot :

I have received so far no medals whatsover for services rendered at the Front in 1914/15. I was in the 12th London Regiment and went to Belgium with the 1st Battalion on Christmas Eve.”

He would eventually be awarded the ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ trio of medals for soldiers who served so early in the war. He was also awarded the War Badge by 1916, a useful public symbol which showed others that he had been injured and demobilised, protecting him from the comments and white feathers of the ignorant or unknowing. Cowley had got what was known as a ‘Blighty’ wound, serious enough to get him invalided out of the army but one that allowed him to live an active life. He was to suffer other family tragedies though.

Ever the gardener, he wrote for The Garden a letter on March 28 1915 about plants in France whilst overseas with the BEF, published 10 April, 1915 about a need for a  “seeds for soldiers” scheme,

“The suggestion re. quick-growing seeds is excellent. Delightful instances are now to be seen of dug-outs, covered with verdant green turf, garden plots divided by red brick and clinker paths suggestive of an Italian Garden design. Some plots are now bright with Cowslips, Lesser Celandine and fresh green leaves of the Cuckoo-Pint, wild flowers obviously lifted from meadows and ditches nearby. Yet the roar of heavy guns and the roll of rifle fire is incessant. Verily the Briton is a born gardener.”   The Garden, 10.04.1915

This is an area extensively  covered in Kenneth Helphand’s Defiant Gardens chapter on Trench Gardens.

Alongside part of an RHS lecture from the RHS journal April 1915 by James Hudson on the “Informal and Wild Garden”,  The Garden’ s Editor F.W. Harvey has printed an evocative article by Herbert Cowley on “A Garden in the War Desert”  about a war damaged village and famous chateau garden at Zonnebeke near Ypres in Belgium.

“Our Sub-Editor at the Front”, Cowley is recorded in the 1916 Kew  Guild Journal as being “wounded twice” in the spring battles of Ypres in 1915. He was slightly wounded in late April 1915, reported in The Garden of 8 May 1915:

” For the past eight days we have been in severe battle. I am slightly wounded by shell – only a bruised rib and am in hospital. Dreadful warfare is still raging … we must win!” 

Looking through his army and pension records, he was more seriously wounded on May 4 1915, as GSW Right Knee (either Gun Shot Wound or shrapnel wound?). His medical  entry is hard to read on the ‘burnt documents’ as these Blitz damaged records are known. The circumstances are reported in The Garden on 15 May 2015:

“Rifleman H. Cowley … has again been wounded in action and is now in hospital at Oxford … wounded in the knee whilst bandaging another soldier in the trenches … Rifleman H. Cowley 2477, Surgical 7, 3rd Southern General Hospital , Oxford”  

Over the next few days of fighting on the Frezenberg Ridge in the Second Battle Of Ypres, it is recorded at 1914-18.invisionzone.com website entries about the 1st Battalion, that the fighting “brought about the end of the original battalion.” The battalion had also been involved in the first German poison gas attack on 22 April 1915.

Cowley was lucky to be alive, if injured; only 53 of his original battalion comrades survived unscathed  after this action at Ypres, an area soon to become as sadly well known as the Somme. The Kew Guild Journal 1916 notes his absence from the 1915 Kew Guild dinner speeches as “Our Secretary Rifleman H. Cowley (cheers) in hospital at Oxford, wounded at the knee.” Obviously a popular man as the ‘cheers’ shows. In an uncanny or eerie coincidence, the 1911 census lists his sister Annie (b. 1887) as being a nurse in domestic service to the Prentice family of the oddly named Ypres House, Rye in Sussex.

By the end of the 1915,  Herbert Cowley would be invalided out of the Army, be recovering from wounds and married to Elsie Mabel Hurst on 8th December 1915 in Kingston. By the end of this same year, several more of his Kewite gardening colleagues would be dead. Herbert Cowley went on to have at least one son. Many of his Kew colleagues who died in the First World War left many children fatherless.

A walk in the trench cemeteries in my early twenties past rows of teenage soldiers’ graves  made me feel both prematurely old and also fortunate to have a life ahead of me. Searching through book auction websites reveals Cowley to have made good use of his extra lease of life, a life  denied to so many of his generation.  Cowley very quickly returned his gardening and writing talents  to produce many books of practical, no-nonsense advice for the gardening enthusiast, in his own way helping the war effort in the First World War’s version of Dig for Victory.

In the 1917 journal,  his own book Vegetable Growing in Wartime is reviewed. His  article on this topic appears soon after, amidst many articles on vegetable allotments for the novice gardener, some written by women. Cowley’s book quickly went into a second edition as the First World War Home Front food situation in Britain appeared more and more worrying.  Bad  harvests and the increasing German submarine attacks on merchant shipping was causing shortages, price rises  and uncertainty over future supply. Rationing was introduced in Britain in the last years of the First World War. In Germany the Allied blockade was to have even greater effects on the wartime population and eventually its fighting ability.

Herbert Cowley continued to practical small pamphlets on Storing Vegetables and Fruit (1918), Cultivation with Movable Frames (1920) and a short book on The Modern Rock Garden (a book still available as print on demand online). His largest book The Garden Year appeared in 1936, when some sources suggest his garden journalism career came to an end.

He had not given up plants though in 1936. For a well-known gardener  with a dodgy knee in his fifties, a new element to his career was beginning, away from the deadlines of editing  and publishing. In Theo A. Stephen’s My Garden magazine, a 1936 volume lists Cowley as leading:

“Garden Tours – starting from London on the evening of Saturday 20th, Mr. Herbert Cowley will conduct a party to the Swiss Alps. The tour will take fifteen days,returning on Sunday July 5th to London …”

So Cowley was still energetically going abroad in his fifties, despite his shrapnel wounds. Alpine plants were to remain a passion of Herbert Cowley to the end of his life in 1968. He was an honorary life  member of the British Alpine Society and his Modern Rock Garden remains in print to this day.

His Kew Guild Journal obituary in 1968 mentions other plant hunting trips to the Dolomites and a notable visit to Bulgaria as a guest of King Ferdinand in the company of Kew contemporary C.F.Ball of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin in Dublin. (Ball was killed as a Private in the Royal Dublin Fusilers on 13 September 1915 as part of the Gallipoli campaign).

Cowley wrote interesting accounts early in his editorship of the Garden in late 1915, around the time his obituary appeared for Charles Ball  about their shared Bulgaria trip in the special “Rose issue” of The Garden, 23 October 1915 and in the The Garden November 6 , 1915 

In a future blog post, I will look at the gardening and writing career of Theo Stephens in war and peace. Owned and edited by Stephens from 1934 to 1951, My Garden  was an unusual survivor amongst small magazines throughout the paper shortages of World War 2.

Cowley had a long  working relationship with Gertrude Jekyll, to whom she records her thanks in A Gardening Companion:

and lastly to her devoted friend and colleague, Mr. Herbert Cowley, editor of The Gardening Illustrated during the period of her contribution to it, for many of the photographs which materially enhance such value as this book may possess.”

The Fate of The South Border, Gertrude Jekyll, January 20, 1917, The Garden magazine

The Fate of The South Border, Gertrude Jekyll, January 20, 1917, The Garden magazine

An entry in the 1917 The Garden  magazine describes how Miss Jekyll dug up the South Border, one of her flower beds at Munstead to plant potatoes (photograph by Cowley?). Many of the famous postwar photographs of Jekyll’s Munstead Wood and Miss Jekyll are attributed to Cowley. Judith Tankard in a recent beautifully illustrated Country Life article launching her Gertrude Jekyll book (27 April  2011 pdf reprinted at judithtankard.com):

in her articles published before the First World War she supplied most of the pictures herself, but after that, she relied on photographs taken by Herbert Cowley, who became Country Life‘s Gardens Editor after the departure of E.T. Cook in 1911“.

Many of Cowley’s early booklets were published by the Country Life magazine publishers / George Newnes. They produced small and useful booklets throughout the Great War well into the Second World War as part of  the ‘dig for Victory’ efforts.

Cowley, according to Tankard, “was a frequent guest at Munstead Wood [and] snapped the famous picture of Jekyll strolling in her Spring Garden in 1918.” He is remembered as a prolific photographer in his Kew Guild Journal 1968 obituary by A.G.L Hellyer, a noted editor of Amateur Gardening and garden writer (1902-1993) in the Second World War period:

throughout the 1920s he was always a prominent figure at shows – with close-cropped hair and always a large wooden camera and stand. He seemed to do all his own photography as well as being editor.”

By Spring 1918 when he had snapped these famous photographs, Cowley would have undertaken a more unpleasant task.  As oldest surviving Cowley brother, he was busy of sorting out the probate or estate on 12 March 1918  of his older brother Henry William Cowley. Brother Henry had died whilst training on military service on 14 September 1917. Lance Corporal Henry W. Cowley TR9/76191 (his trainee / regimental number) 26th Reserve Training Battalion died in a comatose state of a cerebral haemorrhage at Napsbury Hospital St Albans. Cowley’s brother is buried near Heathrow airport at Heston (St. Leonard) Churchyard as the family lived in Isleworth, Middlesex.
Brother Henry’s service and pension records still contain the urgent  telegrams from medical staff to his wife that Henry was dangerously ill in hospital. Among other records are a list of his surviving possessions to be returned, poignant personal items such as pipes, tobacco, whistle, cigars. A schoolteacher, Henry W. Cowley attested on 22 November 1915 and was mobilised for training on 16 July 1917, called up in the 34/35 year old age range. His wife Olive was awarded a pension of 26/3 a week for herself and her three children Henry F G Cowley (born 23/08/1906, d. 1986 Newton Abbott, Devon), Ivy Cowley (b. 6/01/1908)  and Eric Jack Cowley (b. 24/2/1911, . 1984), all born at Heston, Middlesex. Later Herbert Cowley would again be listed professionally as ‘editor’ when he sorted his father Henry’s will or probate after his father died on 3 April 1930 at Easton, Portland, Dorsetshire.

Richard van Emden’s recent 2011 book The Quick and The Dead gives a much fuller account of how the burials, search for the missing and impact on the surviving families affected the now passing generation of surviving children and their own families right up to the present day. Some of the long-serving Kew staff such as C.P. Raffill, A.B. Melles and others worked in the Graves Registration Unit and for the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission; in this way Kew was involved in planning the planting of these cemeteries with suitable plants for the climate.

Herbert Cowley’s side of the family was not the only one to lose a relative. Two years earlier on the first day of Battle of the Somme, his wife Elsie Mabel (nee Hurst) lost her 30 year old brother Percy, a clerk. Rifleman 4278 Percy Haslewood (or Hazlewood) Hurst of the 1st /16th Battalion, London Regiment (Queen’s Westminster Rifles) was
killed on the 1st July 1916, during his battalion’s diversionary attack on Gommecourt. Percy left a wife Geraldine of 18 Teddington Park, Middlesex. His widowed clerk / accountant father Samuel and typist sister Elsie Mabel was left grieving for his loss. Like Herbert’s Kewite colleagues Rifleman John Divers and Corporal Herbert Martin Woolley, Percy H. Hurst is listed on the Thiepval memorial to the Missing of The Somme (Pier / face 13C). Several other Kew Gardens staff are listed in the Kew Guild magazine ‘Roll of Honour’ section as serving in Percy Hurst’s local London Regiment but thankfully survived.

The Kew Guild journal obituary ends with an unusual coda to Herbert Cowley’s gardening career. According to an (obituary?) article it quotes from the Western Guardian on November 9th 1967, Cowley left journalism to move to Withypool on Exmoor to run a riding school for 20 years throughout what must have been the wartime period 1940s up to the late 1950s. I wonder what this old soldier, who had seen the widespread call up and loss of horses, their grooms and riders  in the Great War, made of Exmoor’s famous mounted Home Guard patrols in a very different
war, a war that would cause him more family grief.

Cowley and his wife made a final move to the Brixham area in the early 1960s, growing camellias, nerines and alpine plants. (His Western Guardian obituary notes him as an honorary life member of the Alpine Garden Society). This is where he was encountered at Dartington in his eightieth year, with his “vivid blue eyes” and excellent recall.

Herbert’s unexpected move to the West Country and retirement from journalism may be explained by a sad wartime event in 1940. His Kew Guild Journal 1968 obituary concludes that he is survived by his wife Elsie (b. 1893?  d. 1969) and a son (name as yet undiscovered). However it seems one possible son is likely to have been killed in World War Two.  RAF Sergeant Observer Robert Hurst Cowley, 580643, died aged only 22 on the 2nd September 1940. His 57 Squadron was flying Blenheim bombers on anti-shipping patrols over the North Sea from its base in Elgin in Scotland at the time before converting to Wellington bombers in November 1940. Robert is listed on the CWGC site as the son of Herbert & Elsie Mabel Cowley of East Grinstead, Sussex. Like many of his father’s Kew Gardens colleagues from the previous war, Robert Hurst Cowley has no known grave and is commemorated on panel 13 of the Runnymede Memorial to missing aircrew, one amongst 20327 names. Robert is also listed on the St. Thomas a Becket church, Framfield on the War Memorial as ‘of this parish’. Kew Gardens itself would lose several of its 1940s staff as aircrew during the Second World War (see future blog post), recorded on their war memorial.

I will end with some of Herbert Cowley’s March vegetable gardening advice from The  Garden Year (1936). The advice in some areas would soon be out of fashion or obsolete as rationing and Dig For Victory took hold again in Cowley’s lifetime. No doubt his 1917 Vegetable Gardening in Wartime booklet would be found on the shelves or second hand bookstall, dusted off and referred to many times again.

We’ve just started planting some 1930s / 1940s varieties of veg that Cowley would be familiar with in the World War Zoo Gardens project allotment at Newquay Zoo, despite the rain, frost and soggy ground. Heritage varieties such as The Sutton broad bean  seedlings, Early Onward peas and Ailsa Craig onions are all in, planted on the odd dry warm March  day.  By late summer they will be ready as fresh unsprayed  food for our zoo animals, especially our monkeys.

GARDEN OPERATIONS FOR MARCH (1936)

from The Garden Year 1936 by Herbert Cowley

Fruit & Vegetables

Wall fruit will require protection from frost.

Gooseberries are best pruned now and sprayed to keep birds at bay.*

Fruit tree planting must be completed.

Gaps in the Strawberry beds should be filled and Strawberry plants in pots for forcing should be taken inside.

Autumn-fruiting Raspberries need cutting down

Black Currants infected with ‘big bud’ require spraying.*

Grape Vines, Peaches, Nectarines and Figs require attention.

Main crop potatoes should be planted, also Jerusalem Artichokes, Shallots and Asparagus.

The main sowings of all vegetable crops are necessary this month.

The Garden Year, illustrationTomatoes will require potting on.

Celery must be sown in gentle heat.

Herbs can be planted.

A seed bed can be sown for the cabbage tribe.

GARDEN OPERATIONS FOR APRIL (1936)

from The Garden Year 1936 by Herbert Cowley

Fruit & Vegetables

Apples and Pears should be sprayed with lime-sulphur and lead arsenate*,  and bark ringed if necessary.*

Gooseberries should be sprayed with  derris.*

Raspberries and Loganberries need mulching.

Melon beds should be made and seed sown.

Peaches and Nectarines should be disbudded.

Grape Vine flowers should be pollinated.

Onions should be planted out.

Carrot and Beet   main crops should be sown.

Celery trenches should be prepared.

Mushroom beds can be made this month.

Vegetable Marrows and Ridge Cucumbers should be sown in the greenhouse.

Peas, Beans, Spinach, Lettuce should be sown.

* Many of these sprays are now wisely banned (2013).

March 1936 tasks The Garen Year

March 1936 tasks
The Garden Year

April 1936 tasks, The Garen Year


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