Kate And Her Able Seaman (Part Two): by Win Bourne

St Mary Bourne centre 1930 via English Heritage


Christmas 1914 was over and Kate Turnell (née Loader) was very worried because she had not received any news from her beloved George in weeks. They had married in the summer of 1910 in the village church, St Peter’s, and she was used to his absences when he was at sea. She knew that, though he loved being in the Navy, his heart was with her and that he would be at her side as soon as possible.


Kate used to set aside a couple of hours twice a week to write to him and had regularly received loving replies which she looked forward to enormously. Now the war had been going on for months, and although the gossip in the village had once been that it would be all over before the festivities began, there was still no sign of a cessation.


Until recently George had been relatively safe and sound as he had been based in HMS Vernon – onshore in Portsmouth – had been able to get home to her quite often. Since he had embarked on the ship HMS Lynx in June this year, however, she had no idea where he was or when she would next see him. On his last weekend leave he had seemed subdued and not quite his cheerful self, though he gave no explanation for this. In the latest letter she had received from him when the ship had gone to sea, all he could tell her was that it was heading ‘somewhere in the North Sea’.


Both of Kate’s brothers, Freddie and Bert, had recently joined the Army and were now in training and would probably be serving somewhere in Europe very soon. They had both looked forward to ‘doing their bit’ for King and Country along with their pals, much to their Mum’s and Dad’s mixed feelings.


Kate had gone back to live with her parents at the cottage in New Barn Farm: staying and helping them seemed to be the most sensible thing to do while George and her brothers were away, though she still rented a small cottage nearby for when her husband came home.


On Sundays, when Kate attended services at St Peter’s with her Mum and Dad, it had become noticeable that there were fewer young men in the congregations and that the parents and sweethearts of the lads were subdued. After church some folk were discussing letters that they had received from their older sons in which they had described the dreadful conditions in which they were fighting.


Even though these were professional soldiers, many having fought previously in the Boer War, they had never experienced the long, cold nights with continuous driving rain, the muddy trenches in which they huddled being permanently pumped out. They wrote of the horrors of seeing their comrades injured or even dying alongside them.


The villagers had heard of the death of Sidney Gunnell in Flanders,  and were sympathetic to the worried parents and family of Fred Day, also serving in Flanders, who had just been notified by the authorities that he had been ‘missing’ since October and had now been pronounced dead.


The parents and wives of the younger men, who had been so keen to enlist and were now in training, were dreading the thought that their loved ones might soon be living under similar horrid circumstances.


Mothers and wives were busy at home knitting warm balaclavas, scarves and gloves to send to the front in an effort to give the boys some comfort. Fathers and brothers were working the extra hours to compensate for their absent sons and siblings. After all, animals still needed feeding, milking and shoeing and fields still needed to be worked on. No matter what was going on in the rest of the world, life in St Mary Bourne and the rest of the valley had to continue as well it could until their men returned.


Kate prayed that 1915 would bring peace once more.

[Margaret] Angela Boys

margaret boys 001 - Copy

from Mrs Spankie’s Scrapbook taken at the time of her engagement

[Margaret] Angela Boys surveyed the kitchen table, which was now covered in the débris from her efforts to ice the christmas cake. This was the first time she had attempted such a thing, and she had been anxious to finish the job before the cook returned to work the next morning.

This would also be their first Christmas at Bourneside*, and she was determined to make it as normal as possible for her father, whom she felt responsible for, now that her mother was not with them,** and her brother Geoffrey was a prisoner of war, having been captured at the Battle of Mons. Of course, one of the reasons they had come to St Mary Bourne was that her Aunt Lucy (Boys Miley) was living at Haven Hill, which was in easy walking distance, and they would probably be having lunch with the Mileys on Christmas Day.

boys family2But she really ought to begin at the beginning, as Miss Jarvis, the headmistress of Conamur had always reminded them. Born in Kensington in 1897 to [later Sir] Charles Vernon and Marion (nee Pollock) Boys, Angela had been sent like other girls of her class to boarding school, latterly in Sandgate, Folkestone. The writer Jocelyn Brooke described Conamur as:

The building at the end of the Riviera later became the Marine Hotel… the school inculcated a breezy and strenuous optimism…Corot and Greuze hung on the walls, while the singular flora of Art Nouveau, sprawling water lilies and fleur-de-lis, burgeoned unexpectedly in corners. Little girls in sage green djibbahs were perpetually tearing breathlessly to and fro as though the school were run on the lines of a military detention barracks.

SandgateConamurSchoolAdAngela was now seventeen and had returned to look after her father and run the household in the absence of her mother and older brother. Some days like today she felt very grown-up and responsible, but at other times – as she would admit only to herself – she felt rather alone and in need of mothering herself. Hill House formerly Bourneside

Bourneside was a large house for the two of them and her father spent much of his time in his study;  it was going to be up to her, she could see, to make some sort of life for them in the village, particularly as he very often returned to London mid-week. She missed her brother very much, even if he did tease her as all boys teased their little sisters, she supposed.

The Bourne Valley was pretty, and seemed rather quaint after London and even the relative sophistication of Folkestone. The house had been built some time between the 1882 Ordnance Survey map, which simply shows fields, and 1907, when it is recorded in property sales. At the time of the Tithe Award in 1841, the land was owned by the Herbert family, owners of Stoke Farm.

Angela gave a final, satisfied look at her cake – well, the cook had made the cake, beginning of course on Stir-Up Sunday, but she had made it beautiful. Even if she did say so herself.



* Bourneside is NOT to be confused with the house in the village street of that name. At this period, what is now Hill House was called Bourneside. The following is the extract from references to Bourneside in the Hampshire Record Office’s online catalogue.

Bourneside 1914

** Charles and Marion Boys had been divorced in 1910

Led Up The Garden Path By Laurus Nobilis

‘The Laurels’ – Doctor’s House (now demolished)

This post is an anecdotal aside about the peripheral perils of local history investigation, meandering along roads not adopted, climbing up eucalyptus trees, and finding oneself up creeks without a paddle.

On this occasion, your correspondent was lured into a lengthy, if arcadian, detour by no less an adversary than the doughty Laurus Nobilis, in search of the residence of the village doctor, known from the 1901 census to be residing at ‘The Laurels’. Following, no doubt unconsciously, in the footsteps of Charles Pooter, there were apparently other villagers who also thus named their residences.

At any rate, one such was Dr William Alexander Slater Royds. Misled by the ambiguous steer of his daughter, Kathleen Innes, we had taken her comments to mean that the doctors lived in the same house as did she, after her marriage to George Innes. We thus in turn unfortunately misled our readers

InnesFinally, serendipity took pity on us and led us to browse, once again, our collection of old post cards – Eureka! Realising it might be a mistake to emulate Archimedes in running through the streets of the village naked from our morning bath, we share our rapture with you instead through the written word, deeming it less likely to end in arrest and incarceration.

Doctors house

Ordnance Survey 1875

The doctor’s house is on the right hand side of the map, parallel to the road, to the left of ‘676’. It has since been demolished and replaced with two modern houses. We are told there was a small doctor’s surgery in the grounds – this seems likely to be the pink rectangle next to the winterbourne stream.

 Farewell To Dr Royds and welcome to Dr Cardwell

Dr Thomas Cardwell moved into the house some time in 1914, according to Kathleen Innes, so we shall assume that this was before Christmas. According to the directory of the General Medical Council, he qualified in 1882, and obtained the MRCS and LRCP (Edinburgh 1885).

Kate And Her Able Seaman – Part One – by Win Bourne

New Barn Cottages

New Barn Cottages – it would probably have been one like this

1911 census Loader

Kate Loader Turnell remembered clearly the first time she saw George Turnell. It was 1906 and she had been shopping in St Mary Bourne for her mother when she saw her older brother Freddie chatting to a strange young man. As she approached, her brother smiled and said:

‘Here’s my sister, I’m sure she will agree that we can make another place at the table tonight’.

George turned around smiling, and Kate was instantly struck by the colour of his eyes – they were almost cornflower blue. He wasn’t a tall lad, well only a couple of inches taller than her, but he gave the impression of being strong and confident. He explained that he was on leave from the Royal Navy and had heard that his father was living somewhere in the village so had travelled, unsuccessfully, to find him.Twenty year old Freddie had taken such a liking to him that he had invited him to eat that evening and probably stay overnight until he could journey back to his base, which was in Portsmouth. He felt sorry that the lad had had a wasted journey and felt sure that their parents wouldn’t mind.

The Loader family lived in New Barn Farm cottages, just out of the village, and beyond the viaduct, on the Harrow Way. Dad was a carter on the farm, as were his sons, Freddie and 14 year old Bert. Kate, who was 17 years old, helped her mother in the house and garden and did seasonal work on the farm.

loader map

Fred was correct in assuming that his parents would be happy to include the wandering matelot into their home and later, after they had enjoyed their evening meal, George was encouraged to recount stories of his experiences in the navy.

He told them he had dreamed of being a sailor since childhood and had enlisted at fifteen years of age, his first opportunity, as a boy cadet. He had spent his first year in training in a place called Portland – an island attached to Weymouth on the Dorset coast.

At first he was on a ship docked in the harbour, called the HMS Boscawen – an elderly three decked sailing ship – where he had been taught the rudiments of seamanship. Following that he had progressed, still in Portland Harbour, to the HMS Minotaur and then finally to HMS Agincourt.

HMS EclipseOn completing his training he had been allotted his first seagoing draft on the ship the HMS Eclipse. After numerous trials, where they seemed to sail around in circles in and out of Portsmouth harbour, the commission really started. He told of his first scary voyage across the Bay of Biscay where the ship was tossed like a cork in the tumultuous seas and the crew had to hang on to ropes and rails down below and were not allowed above decks for fear of being swept overboard, many of them being violently sick. George described the change of the waters when the ship left the ocean and sailed into the warmer, calmer climes of the Mediterranean. He spoke of lying on the top deck of the ship, with a warm breeze, no land to be seen – just a myriad of stars in a midnight sky.

He told them of his first sight of the Rock of Gibraltar and how, along with some of his crew mates, he had climbed the huge rock and seen the apes up there and been surprised as they swung out over the precipice to retrieve a bun or some such. The crew members had all been warned before going ashore, to hold on to their hats and leave nothing loose for the mischievous apes to grab. This had been his first port of call on foreign soil, to eat foreign food and hear foreign language being spoken – and he had loved every minute. The HMS Eclipse had called at many ports along the Mediterranean; he remembered hearing the clanging of church bells across the water before docking in Malta. The ship travelled through the Suez Canal and beyond – all the way to China.

He talked long into the evening of other voyages and Kate and her brothers were enthralled and even more amazed when he took off his jacket, rolled up his right sleeve to reveal a picture – a tattoo of a Geisha girl. The family had seen people with tattoos before but never in such vibrant colours. The youngsters begged him for more tales, but as he had to leave early the next day to get back to his ship in Portsmouth it was time to sleep, though he promised to visit them again when he had leave.

The next time George came to the village there was no pretence about looking for his father. The Loader family welcomed him and treated him as member of their family, and he was so grateful, having known none before.

His visits were irregular, according to whether he was based on shore or was at sea. Whenever he did come back, he regaled them with more tales of his excursions across the world, occasionally bringing them small gifts that he had bought in foreign ports.

He started writing to Kate and she readily replied. On his following few stays it became apparent that, though the sea was his first love, he was becoming smitten with her – and she with him. Sometimes Kate did not see him for months and gradually their romance had blossomed, mostly by post. When he did come home they walked out regularly and became a familiar sight arm in arm in the village, attending church and visiting friends.

They had written frequently, their letters becoming more affectionate as the months went by, and when George arrived in St Mary Bourne for a short weekend, after a very long absence, Kate was overjoyed to see him. When the family had greeted him and then returned to their daily chores he suggested they went for a walk together, and as they walked George asked her to be his bride. Kate had been so happy to accept his proposal. The following day they had arranged to be married in St Peters Church on his next leave.

Before he went back to his ship after his proposal, George told her he had a surprise for her, he rolled up his left sleeve to reveal- yet another tattoo of a geisha! This time the girl had – not the coal dark almond eyes of Japanese – but round green eyes similar to Kate’s own.

When he had gone back to Portsmouth she discovered a beautiful card on the mantelpiece- once again with a picture of a geisha.

Inside it read “My darling, I may have the geishas on my arms but I will always have you in my heart, George xx”

In the following few weeks Kate had busied herself with preparing to become Mrs Turnell soon, with her family’s blessing. She remembered thinking -here she was at 21 years of age in 1910 – about to become married to her handsome blue-eyed seaman – life had looked so exciting!

1911 census turnell



There is some mystery about the identity of George Turnell. Although it says on his naval papers, and is repeated on the 1911 census, that he was born in Kew and his father’s name was also George, no trace of the birth of such a person can be found in the usual genealogical sources. There is a George Turnell son of George born in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire at about the right time which could conceivably be him but this is of course speculation. One possible explanation might be that he was illegitimate, or an orphan, which might explain why he had gone to sea at such an early age. (Also speculation!).

The tattoos, however, are absolutely real and form part of his naval record ‘Japanese girl on right arm’ and then a couple of years later ‘Japanese girl on left arm’.

Most of the cottages for New Barn Farm have been rebuilt; this is one which would have been there in the Loaders’ time, but we do not know whether this was the exact one they occupied.















Lt Col Henry Longfellow Cooper: A Hard Man To Resist?

Emma Elizabeth Folson Cooper was not just a daughter of the regiment, she was now a sister, wife and mother of the regiment as well, and she had had no say in any of it!

Captain Henry Folson medals from several sale catalogues 2014

Her father, Henry Folson, had been Quartermaster for most of his career, but in 1895 had been made an honorary Captain of the Coldstream Guards just before his retirement.

Her one brother, William, was a Battery Sergeant-Major in the Royal Field Artillery (and would be promoted to Lieutenant before the war was over).

Her only son, Herbert Longfellow Cooper, had been nabbed as soon as he was old enough for the ASC by the biggest recruiter after Lord Kitchener, her husband. *

The eponymous Lt Col Henry Longfellow Cooper was running the Wessex Division of the Royal Army Service Corps. Before the war, he had been a granite merchant and, much as she loved him and appreciated his charm, he was a man of granite in more ways than one: he was someone no one could say ‘no’ to.

She had lost track of how many young men ‘the Colonel’ had managed to recruit into the ASC, not just since war broke out but in earlier years as part of the Territorials. He was a sort of Pied Piper of Hamelin, luring what were little more than children with his siren songs to go off to fight . Not that she had ever dared mention the parallel to him…


Sachsenspiegel-OstsiedlungPublic Domain Eike von Repgow – Heidelberger Sachsenspiegel, Cod. Pal. germ. 164


They had been living since they came to St Mary Bourne more than a decade ago at Wakes Wood, a large house at the north-east end of the village. Now that Herbert and his sister had left home, she and Henry were rattling around in it and she had finally persuaded him that they would be much better off at the charming house called Butler’s next door. There just remained the question of finding a buyer for Wakes Wood in the current market (not many people were looking for what was virtually a mansion in 1914).


Longfellow Cooper


*herbert l cooper Identification of Herbert, the Coopers’ son is not absolute, but no other likely candidates have been found, and it seems entirely in keeping with his father’s reputation that he should have joined the RASC.

Florrie And The Country Crafts: by Win Bourne


Little Girl Knitting by Albert Anker via wikimedia.org

All through September most households in the valley had been busy harvesting their own garden produce as it ripened. Wives had been busy bottling fruit, making jam and pickling vegetables. Larders were replete with Kilner jars labelled and stored, ready to supplement the winter diet. The husbands had pulled up the onions, wrapping them in skeins and hanging them out to dry on hooks on the wall. They had prepared sloes and damsons to start blooping away in the shed in large buckets ready to transfer to demijohns and converting hopefully, into wine. If they were lucky they might have obtained some barley and had a barrel of beer brewing.

Now, in October, the thoughts turned to winter and the next season’s events.

This was going to be the best Christmas ever. Mum had taught seven-year old Florrie Randall how to knit and, as she sat outside in the late afternoon sun next to her, she was deciding which colour wool she would choose next.  Mum, and some of her neighbours – perhaps Mrs Benham and Mrs Pearce – would gather their chairs together outside in their yards to catch the last of the sun of a late afternoon to knit and chatter, the evening meals already prepared for the men coming home from the farms and the stables later.

Early preparation was crucial for gifts to be complete for the Christmas morning. Ladies were knitting, crocheting and sewing as fast as their nimble fingers could work. Florrie concentrated hard on her next stitch – in with the needle, round the needle with the wool and pull the needle back and off with the wool- done it- another stitch complete. This would only take a few weeks at this pace she thought. Mum had told her that there was a little bit of love in every stitch, and she did love her sister.
Mum had allowed her to rummage through her wool bag for scraps of left-over yarn and taught her how to knit a square. Florrie had seven squares of various hues already in her collection and she would need twenty before she could reach the next stage of her present for her little sister Ada, who was two years younger. She was going to sew the squares together to make a little blanket for a dolly, which Dad had already been busy making in his shed, along with a crib. Mum was knitting tiny garments to fit the dolly.
Oh! This was going to be Ada’s very best Christmas, and if her brother Alfred was home from the Army and this silly war was finished it would be the very best Christmas for the whole family.

After the evening meal Mother, Ada Randall, was busy on yet another piece of handiwork. She had acquired a hessian sack from Eli Brown, the carrier. Goodness knows what it had originally contained, not coal or anything wet or smelly, that’s for sure. She had soaked it in soda then washed it in the copper and now, as it hung out to dry, it smelled lovely.

Ada had spent many evenings painstakingly cutting strips of material about an inch wide and four inches long, while the light held. She had searched through her rag bag (everybody had a rag bag – a collection of worn out shirts, their buttons removed and saved, blanket pieces, sheets, skirts and even trousers – any length of material too good to throw away, no matter how big or small) and selected the strongest and thickest pieces. Once the onerous task of cutting of hundreds of rectangles was done, she would then begin making a rag rug – for that was the goal. Ada’s first job was to hem all around the edge of the hessian to stop it from fraying, then, with her rug hook, she would pull each strip of cloth through the weave of the backing, line after line until the rug was complete, the more strips she pulled through the tighter the rug became, making it firmer as she went.

She knew just where the rug would be put, underneath that draughty back door where the wind whistled through in cold evenings. She had already made several rugs in a myriad of colours, which were a comfort to everybody in their bedrooms as they first put their foot on the floor in the morning, that lovely soft surface instead of the cold stone floor. The rugs didn’t match, they were never meant to.
This creation was not any particular person’s Christmas present, but with that horrid draught from under the door blocked, everybody would have a cosier winter.


A reminder of Florrie Randall’s immediate family:


Mary Barnes Langford

Sims treeMary Barnes Langford, the daughter of William Barnes and Sarah Sims, was very glad indeed of her sisters, and her cousins, and her aunts surrounding her in the village, as she would otherwise have felt very lonely indeed.

She had just seen her husband, Thomas, off to war. They had been married seven years, and had two daughters, Lillian and Dorothy, who were now five and three years old. They couldn’t understand what had happened to their father, but they were bewildered and seemed to spend a lot of time squabbling with each other. She realised that this was probably partly because of her own mood, which was anxious and sad. Sad of course because she missed her husband, but anxious because she could not see how they were going to make ends meet.

sims 1911 censusThank goodness for her mother, who had lived with them ever since they came to Ivy Cottages. At 79 years old, she was not really up to looking after the girls single-handed if she could find work, but that might be what was needed. Perhaps she could find work she could do at home, taking in people’s laundry or something.

Ivy Cottages

Ivy Cottages, Link (near Bourne Valley Inn on the valley road)

Mary was in that annoying state where she couldn’t quite manage to cry, but couldn’t quite pull herself together either.

‘Remember you are a Sims!’, she said to herself, in an attempt to reach deep within to draw on her famous family toughness. Why, her great-uncle Daniel Sims* was the St Mary Bourne equivalent of the Tolpuddle Martyrs!

Great Uncle Daniel had been a worthy follower of Captain Swing

When 19th c. politicians and pamphleteers spoke of the English ‘peasants’, they did not mean direct family cultivators, but agricultural wage-labourers. In fact the English agricultural population divided into three – at the top stood a small number of landlords, who between them owned most of the land. The first attempt to discover how the land of Britain was owned (in 1871-3) revealed that about 1200 people owned ¼ of the UK, and about 7,200 owned ½ though it certainly underestimated the concentration of landed property…

This comparative handful of giant landlords rarely cultivated their estates themselves…they rented them out to tenant farmers who actually exploited them. In 1851, when the first nationally reliable figures were collected, there were about 225,000 farms in Britain, about ½ of the 100-300 acres in size and all of them averaging just over 110 acres, ie what passed for a small farm in England would certainly have counted as a giant farm beside the smallholdings of typical peasant economies. Just over 300,000 described themselves as farmers and graziers, who cultivated their farms b y employing the 1.5 million men and women who described themselves as agricultural labourers, shepherds, farm servants etc, ie the typical English agriculturalist was a hired man, a rural proletarian…

Of course rural society consisted not only of those actually engaged in land ownership or farming, but also of the numerous craftsmen, shopkeepers, carters, innkeepers etc who provided the services necessary to agriculture and village life…


It was in Hampshire and Wiltshire that the movement, as it drove westwards, became the most widely dispersed and attained its greatest momentum. When the riots were all over, there were 300 or more prisoners awaiting trial in each county, compared with a little over 160 in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire and a little over 100 in Kent. Yet in both [counties] the riots were remarkably short-lived.

[As reported in The Times of 27-29 November 1830], Hampshire, Berkshire and Wiltshire were chiefly concerned with machine breaking [whereas the other counties were chiefly fire-raising]. In Wiltshire, it was said of the small farmers that, even if they did not actually take part in the riots, they are ‘glad to see the labourers at work’ and many farmers were half-hearted in the defence of their machines and made the labourers’ task an easier one. Their hostility to tithe and rent was deeper and led them, on occasion, to become active accomplices.


18 November 1830 St Mary Bourne Arson attack on large farmer – ricks were fired, setting off riots in the area
21 November 1830 Vernham Dean A ‘robbery’, ie acquiring money or food by menace
21 November 1830 Hippenscombe Threshing machine destroyed
22 November 1830 Ashmansworth Villagers compelled their rector to pay them 2/-
22 November 1830 Hurstbourne Tarrant ‘Robbery’ to the value of £1
22 November 1830 Vernham Dean ‘Robbery’


Between 18th and 24th November 1830, there were incidents in Andover, Barton Stacey, Broughton, Bucklebury, Buttermere, East Woodhay, Great Bedwyn, Ham, Highclere, Hippenscombe, Houghton, Hungerford, Inkpen, Kintbury, Lambourn, Leckford, Ludgershall, Mottisfont, Overton, Stockbridge, the Wallops and Upper Clatford.[i]


Thomas is believed to have been part of the Territorials called Hampshire Fortress:

The following is a list of units transferred to the Territorial Force on 1 April 1908, or raised in that year under the terms of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907, and the associations by which they were administered.[1] … A number of units, particularly those attached to the Royal Garrison Artillery and Royal Engineers, had their titles altered again in 1910.[2]

Hampshire (Fortress) Royal Engineers (Nos. 1, 2 and 3 Works Companies, Nos. 4, 5 and 6 Electric Light Companies)

*Daniel Sims is on the tree – and marked with a small green leaf in the corner. His transportation to Australia with his “co-conspirators” is covered in Julie Muirhead’s blog post here.

[i] Captain Swing by E J Hobsbawm and George Rudé, Lawrence and Wishart 1969

The Holbrookes of Stoke House

Stoke House

Stoke House via Google Street View

Barbara Holbrooke sat in her morning room, drew a deep breath and wondered what she should attempt next, apart from the Herculean task of marrying off her three remaining spinster daughters. Gertrude and Constance were both happily married, thank goodness, but Winifred was now 46, Helena 44 and Margaret had just turned 30. They were not unattractive girls -women- but the problem had been finding young men brave enough to propose to the daughters of  the vicar. And Kimpton, with a population of only 300, where they had lived from 1882 until her husband’s death in November 1911, was the very epitome of being a large goldfish in a very small bowl – where on earth was she supposed to have found eligible bachelors for them?

Despite the small size of the parish and congregation, the rectory was positively palatial – 16 rooms in the way counted by the 1911 census. As the living remained in the gift of the local landowner, she presumed that the lord of the manor had financed both church and rectory without input from the diocese, with the idea of putting a succession of second or third sons in this sinecure.

Crockfords 1908

It was not, of course, a surprise that her husband had predeceased her – after all, he was 22 years her senior. But it had been a bitter blow when their youngest son, Lt Dr. Cecil Dacre More Holbrooke, had died while serving in the army in India in 1909. She had hoped that, by steering him into medicine, he would escape the apparently irresistible pull of the scarlet  (none of their children seemed to be drawn to the black of the ecclesiastical world). But it was not to be. In 1905, at the age of 25, he had joined the RAMC and been sent to Poona where he had met his end, four years later, in a chukka of polo hit on the head by the ball.*

Holbrooke tree

Her three remaining sons had also gone into the army. She had had hopes that Gerald Howard, born in 1877, who emigrated to Saskatchewan in 1909, would also escape a military fate. He was indeed just getting himself established when war was declared in Britain so, of course, he duly signed up in Canada on 24 September 2014.*


Gerald had already served 5 years with the 12th Middlesex, eight years with the Natal Police, and two years with the (Canadian) Royal North West Mounted Police.

In 1870, the vast area known as Rupert’s Land was transferred from the Hudson’s Bay Company to the new Dominion of Canada. The sudden shift of authority and resultant uncertainty and unrest among the inhabitants of the region erupted into the Red River Rebellion of 1869-70. Alarming reports of whisky trading and of restlessness and inter-tribal warfare among the Indians of the plains reached the newly formed federal government in Ottawa. It was essential that order be restored and maintained if the Canadian Northwest was to attract settlers. In 1872, Colonel P. Robertson-Ross, Adjutant-General of the Canadian Militia, was dispatched into the Northwest on a fact-finding journey for the Canadian government. He recommended that a regiment of 550 mounted riflemen be organized to preserve order in the territory and to protect the surveyors and railway builders who were working their way to the Pacific coast.

aaTheir eldest son, Bernard Frederick Roper, had joined the Indian army in 1893 at the age of 21 – she remembered that there had been no holding him. It was a good life for a young man, just so long as they weren’t engaged in any war. She dreaded what the future might be for him now.


But the very first to arrive at the front had been, as she might have known, her knight in shining armour, Philip Lancelot. Although he was 41 years old by now, he arrived in France with the Royal Garrison Artillery as part of the British Expeditionary Force on 19 September. He had left behind a wife, Eleanor, whom she would have to keep an eye on, although she was perfectly looked after by the army, living in married quarters in Shoeburyness with a cook and a maid, and plenty of other wives for company.

Her life felt as if all the colour had gone out of it. She knew she must make an effort to keep up the spirits of her daughters, but today her heart was not in it. She already hated this phrase people kept using, ‘for the duration’. How long, oh how long might that be?


*I have seen – but cannot at the moment lay my hands on 😦 the evidence for the polo accident. Apologies, but I did not want to delay this post any further.

I have concluded that my memory may have been playing tricks – Captain Egerton Orme Bellairs Black Hawkins (see elsewhere on this website) is memorialised at the military cemetery in Bloemfontein and St Mary Bourne (Section G Row 10 #406) ‘killed 21 January 1909 in a polo accident’. Grateful thanks to the commenters below.

**The evidence for the Holbrookes having moved to Stoke House is Gerald’s attestation papers in September 1914, when he gives his mother as his next of kin.

The Long Shadow Of Camelot: The Holbrookes

Historical events are said to cast a long shadow, and today, if you will join me on a journey, our Tardis takes us back to the arrival of William, Duke of Normandy, on our shores in 1066 or, if you prefer, all the way to Camelot.

Amongst William’s companions was the Count of Rupierre, ‘Rubra Spatha’ or ‘Red Shield’, to whom he gave a chunk of Derbyshire in gratitude. Over the years, the most successful 1 of these Ropers moved to Kent where Will Roper married Margaret, daughter of Thomas More. Skipping a few centuries, we arrive at Henry Roper, 10th Lord Teynham, of Linsted Lodge (1708-1781), who begat Philip who married Barbara Lyttelton by whom he had a son and six daughters, one of whom (Emma Theresa) married Frederick Holbrooke, whose family were gentlemen (as described in his father’s will proved in 1808) and may be descended from the 15th century astronomer and Master of Peterhouse, John Holbrooke. 2

Frederick and Emma Holbrooke in turn had  five daughters and one son, the Revd Frederick Holbrooke, who married Henrietta Smith. They had six daughters and four sons: Bernard Frederick Roper (1871-1948), Philip Lancelot (1873-1958), Gerald Howard (1877-1915) and Cecil Dacre M (1879-1909).3

Dear reader, armed just with the above information, I ask you to infer what happened to the four sons and why. I pause, and invite you to do so also.


Shall we start with the why?



Much has been written about the influence of the public schools (The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton) and poets like Sir Henry Newbolt and his Vitai Lampada  in fostering a spirit of gung-ho militarism at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.


This is the word that year by year
While in her place the School is set
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind –
“Play up! play up! and play the game!”


Although I am sure this is true, I think there was another equally important factor: the revival of the code of chivalry, as summarised by this reviewer 4 of Mark Girouard’s book5

Around about the time of its wars against the French Revolution and then Napoleon, England witnessed an odd and interesting phenomenon that lasted through the entire 19th century and right up to the end of the Great War: The revival of the medieval code of chivalry, with King Arthur, knights in armor, the notion of courtly love, and all. The ideals of personal bravery and honour, service to the nation, and self-sacrifice reappeared in modified form and helped shape British culture for several generations, not only in art and literature but even in politics.

Sir Walter Scott’s novels had a lot to do with reviving the myth of chivalry (and it was indeed mostly a myth), and so, too, did the paintings of Benjamin West, featuring the Black Prince and other knightly heroes. And Tennyson helped further the new myth in the next generation. There was a new rise of interest in the Middle Ages, but George IV and then the Victorians interpreted that period to suit themselves. Those with the money to build new country homes often opted for what they fancied were medieval-style castles. Prince Albert’s tomb features a reclining sculpture on top depicting the Prince in full armor with his favorite dog at his feet, also in medieval funerary style. Even Baden-Powell promoted his new Boy Scouts in Arthurian chivalric terms.

The whole thing reached its climax with the deaths of Capt. Robert Scott and his companions in Antarctica early in 1912 (especially Capt. Oates, who “walked out to his death an English gentleman”) and with the sinking of the TITANIC later that same year. Many of the English males aboard politely helped their wives and other women into the lifeboats and then stepped back, content to go down with the ship… And just to round out 1912, there was also a jousting tournament at Earl’s Court, in which a dozen aristocrats donned armor and went at each other with lances.


And as for the what?
For that, dear reader, you will have to wait (not too long, I promise) for the next episode 🙂
But the connection with St Mary Bourne, I will tell you, is that for many years the Revd Frederick Holbrook was Rector of Kimpton, and that after his death his widow and the remaining children living at home moved to Stoke House.

1 My knowledge of the Roper family lies in my own descent from the ‘no-hoper Ropers’ (sorry, cousins!) who remained in Derbyshire and did not go on to make a fortune.

2 see Oxford University Press Keith Snedegar, ‘Holbroke , John (d. 1437)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/13482, accessed 4 Oct 2014] John Holbroke (d. 1437): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/13482 ]

3 As we have seen, Roper was one of the landed gentry families of England. Lancelot was a knight of the round table, The family name of the Barons Dacre is Trevor-Roper, and the Dacres married into the Howard family, who became Dukes of Norfolk.
4 Review of Mark Girouard book

5 See The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman by Mark Girouard

‘Tipperary’: The Western Front And The Home Front United In Song

The mood in Henry Fisher’s refreshment rooms that morning (the part of it reserved for the men) was a little downbeat. The war had not been going for two months yet, but no one now seemed to think it would all be over by Christmas.

The chaps had fallen to talking about what they would normally be doing on the first day of October. There was a pleasantly seasonal nip in the air which reminded them that today signalled the start of pheasant shooting and there was nothing to prevent them except a general feeling that it would be in poor taste to engage in shooting for sport at a time when the lads were at the front, shooting for their lives.

‘Come on, fellows, this won’t do!’, said Albert White of Barford House, going to the piano and striking up the new tune, which everyone seemed to be humming or whistling these days – whistling in the dark, perhaps, but still effective.

Tipperarytitlethis morning's gossip

"Tipperary!" (click to enlarge)

The Guns’ Obligato*

The day after the Canadians attacked Vimy Ridge my battalion of the Royal Fusiliers advanced from Bully Grenay to a chateau on the outskirts of Lieven under heavy shell fire.

At the back of the chateau a street led to the main road to the town.  There, despite the bombardment, we found a Cockney Tommy of the Buffs playing “Tipperary” on a piano which had been blown out of a house into the road.

We joined in – until a shell took the top off the chateau, when we scattered!

L.A. Utton, 184 Coteford Street, Tooting, S.W.


You may have seen Gareth Malone’s explanation of the popularity of Tipperary, in which he says:

On the Western Front, marching bands were sent to accompany the troops. Soldiers would regularly put on concert parties and almost every division had its own entertainment troop. In the long periods of waiting between battles, songs played an important role in staving off boredom and boosting morale.

‘A Long Way to Tipperary’ was the first hit of the war – a lively tune with fond thoughts of returning home soon. Songs about home resonated throughout the war, with ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’, released in 1914, remaining popular throughout. As war continued, upbeat messages about staying cheerful and carrying on, such as ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’, played a vital role in keeping spirits up. The songs united people in a shared experience whether they were at home, on the Western Front or stationed further afield.


*Extract from

Memoirs & Diaries – The Best 500 Cockney War Stories – Not Yet Blasé and Other Stories

Published in London in 1921, The Best 500 Cockney War Stories comprised, in the words of its newspaper publisher (The London Evening News) “a remembering and retelling of those war days when laughter sometimes saved men’s reason”.

via First World War.com