The Alkham Heroes

 

This section of the village website is dedicated to the men whose lives were lost in the First and Second World Wars and whose names are inscribed on the village war memorial. It is a small token to honour the memories of those who were born and who worked, walked, lived and loved in the lanes of the valley. The title of this section is taken from the memorial’s inscription which reads:  

 

“In loving and proud memory of the Alkham Heroes who fell in the Great War 1914 -1918”

 

13 Alkham families were shattered by deaths in the Great War with the Collards, Daniels and Ryes losing two sons. The hope in 1919, when the memorial was unveiled, of a ‘war to end all wars’ was to be proven unfounded when the Second World War broke out 20 years later. Six more Alkham families were to be devastated by this conflict.

The work to honour the memories of the Heroes is ongoing and it would be good to hear from anyone who has any information on any of these men so that we can recreate a life that was cut so short.

 

“No war is worth it. No war is worth the loss of a couple of lives let alone thousands”.

Harry Patch, 17th June 1898 – 25th July 2009; “the Last Fighting Tommy.”

 

    

I would like to acknowledge the following for their support in compiling these accounts: Anthony Barrier (various); Dave Dixon (www.fadedgenes.co.uk) – Joseph Mount; Dover Express – photos of Edwin & Arthur Daniels; John Fagg – Louis Fagg; Dave Grainger (www.afteraction.co.uk George Bailey & Charles Grainger; Eileen West – George and Edward Collard;  Alan Jackson - Ralph Drake-Brockman; Sue Lees (various); John Richards - Ernest Richards.

 

If anyone has further information we would be delighted to hear from you. Please email using mailto:brianwimsett@hotmail.com

 

 

Mark Robson, February 2017

 

 

 

   
 

1914

 

 
Charles Henry Grainger
     

Charles Grainger (Charlie) was the son of Richard (Insurance Agent) and Sarah Grainger of Pimlico, South Alkham. Charlie was one of the ‘Old Contemptibles’, the original British Expeditionary Force, sent to France at the outbreak of The Great War. He served as a Private in the 1st Battalion, The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. Charlie died on Monday 14th September 1914, aged 23, during the first battle of The Aisne. On this date the ‘Loyals’ were involved in heavy fighting at a factory at Troyon. The Battalion records reveal that: "The position was reached, the factory was carried and held; but the enemy was in great strength and counter-attacked heavily....”.  With ammunition beginning to run out, the ‘Loyals’ were forced to withdraw. Their casualties included fourteen officers and more than five hundred other ranks. Presumably Charlie was amongst these. Charlie has no known grave and is remembered with honour at the La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial, Seine-et-Marne, France.

 

Ernest Tupper

 

Ernest Tupper was born in Alkham on January 21st 1884. In 1914 he was a Petty Officer Stoker in the Royal Navy serving on HMS Aboukir. H.M.S. Aboukir was one of three ships torpedoed by U-boat 9 on Tuesday, September 22nd 1914. There is much debate as to how this could have happened and who was to blame as the ships were old, were not following procedure and were too lightly armed to defend themselves effectively. Ernest died during this attack. He was aged 30 and husband to Minnie Beatrice Tupper of 41, Princess Street, Folkestone. Ernest is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial. The 1911 Census shows that Minnie, aged 26, with two children, Arthur aged 3 and Vera aged 1, was a ‘boarder’ with the Fraser family at 13 Princess Street. Could this have been with her parents whilst Ernest was at sea? Prior to enlisting in the Royal Navy, Ernest was employed as a labourer by the South Eastern & Chatham Railway Company. 

     
     
 

1915

 

 

Stephen James Maple

Stephen James Maple was a Leading Seaman in the Royal Navy and served on board H.M.S.Bacchante. In the 1901 census, Stephen is identified as an Able Seaman based at Gillingham but the 1911 census reveals he was a ‘Hotel Hall Porter’ married to Mary and with two young children, Arthur aged 5 and Edith aged 2 months. They lived at 179, Clarendon Place, Dover.

Stephen was killed on Sunday, 25th April 1915 at the start of the Gallipoli campaign by ‘shore fire’ and is remembered on the Chatham Naval Memorial.

The photo below shows transporters bringing men, mules and supplies ashore at Anzac Cove, as part of the Gallipoli campaign, under the protection of light fire from H.M.S. Bacchante on the morning of April 25th 1915.

 

 

 

 

   
 

1916

 

 

 

Edwin Thomas Daniels

 

Edwin Thomas Daniels was born in June 1886 at Whitfield. The 1911 Census reveals that he was an ‘Agricultural Labourer’.

Edwin was a Private in the 1st Battalion, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment). He was killed by a shell on Thursday, 8th June 1916 and is buried at Essex Farm cemetery in Belgium. He was one of four sons in the Buffs. Edwin was married to Lilian (18th November 1915) a ‘pupil teacher’ of Crabble Farm Nursery, River.

 

 

 

 

 

John Rye

Born in Temple Ewell in 1892, John Rye was the son of William and Ann Rye. John appears in the 1901 census aged 8 and living in South Alkham. By the time of the 1911 census he is 19 years old and living at Little Cauldham Farm in Capel Le Ferne where he is a servant in the Hambrook household working as a ‘Pigman on Farm’.

John enlisted as Private TF/6498 in the 1st/7th Battalion Middlesex Regiment at Purfleet, Essex. He was ‘killed in action’ on September 16th 1916 at which time his regiment was involved in the third and final general offensive of the Battle of the Somme in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15th – 22nd September) where he would have witnessed the first use of tanks in warfare. Specifically the 1st/7th were involved in the fighting for High Wood. On September 15th “The 1/1st Londons went over the top at 06.20 and took the first objectives before becoming pinned down. A runner was sent back requesting reinforcements and at 08.20 the 1/7th Middlesex were committed. Passing through the Londons they got no further than 10 yards more before enfilade fire decimated the battalion”. It may be that John was killed in this action as dates of death during periods of such intense fighting could be inaccurate or he may have been killed in some of the counter attacks which followed on the 16th.

John was 24 years old when he was killed and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing of the Somme. John is brother to George who was killed six months later.

 

Arthur Henry Daniels

Arthur Henry Daniels was born in March 1895 at South Alkham.  In 1911, the Census reveals that Arthur was 16 years old and a ‘Farm Labourer’ living in Alkham. Arthur enlisted in Dover and, by the time of his death, was a Lance Corporal in the 7th Battalion, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment). Arthur was ‘killed in action’ aged 21, on Saturday, 18th November 1916 - just 22 weeks after his brother, Edwin. It would seem likely that Arthur died as a result of the Battle of the Ancre which was fought in sleet and snow and ended on November 18th marking the end of the Battle of the Somme. Arthur is buried at Regina Trench Cemetery, Grandcourt.

 

 

 

 

 

   
 

1917

 

 

Sidney Marsh

Sidney Marsh was born in 1898 at Common Hill, Alkham and was the son of Alfred (a thatcher and tanner) and Sarah Marsh (1901 census). In 1911 the Census reveals that Sidney was a 13 year old schoolboy. Sidney enlisted at Canterbury and was a Private in the 3rd Battalion, Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment. He died on Thursday, 15th February 1917 aged 19 and was buried on the 20th February 1917 at St Anthony, Alkham. The Military Genealogy website records that Sidney died ‘at home’ which would explain how he came to be buried at Alkham so soon after his death.

The Maidstone Museum website reveals that the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion was a Depot/Training unit used to enlist and train recruits and provide drafts for frontline battalions. Though stationed at home they suffered casualties. 57 Officers and 31 ‘Other Ranks’ (ORs) lost their lives between 1914-19; the Officers with various battalions on active service, the ORs mostly with the Battalion at home. Possibly Sidney was one of those killed during training exercises.


Private George Rye


George Rye
 was the son of William and Ann Rye of Chilton Farm. George emigrated to Australia and became a farm labourer at Hillview Farm, Wagin, Western Australia. He enlisted on 11th January 1916 as a Private in the 44th Battalion, Australian Infantry. George’s unit embarked from Fremantle, Western Australia, on board H.M.A.T. A9 Shropshire on 31st March 1916 (http://naa12.naa.gov.au/scripts/Imagine.asp?B=8074413). At the time of enlisting George was single but by the time of his death (just over a year later) he was married to Lucy Louisa Rye from 3 Burrow Road, Folkestone. George was ‘killed in action’ on Wednesday, 14th March 1917 aged 26. The ‘Digger History’ website states: “The 44th spent the bleak winter of 1916–17 alternating between service in the front line, and training and labouring in the rear areas. This routine was broken by only one major raid, an ill-fated effort involving almost half the battalion on 13 March 1917”. Of this action, known as “the big raid”, C.E.W. Bean, Vol. IV. The AIF in France 1917 p.568 has this note:
"The force, 6 officers and 400 men, assembled in No-Man's Land in spite of a German searchlight playing on the area, and at midnight when the barrage fell, the troops advanced. Progress was difficult in the mud: and the borrow-pit in front of the German breastwork was so deep in water that part of the troops had to move through it holding their Lewis guns and rifles above their heads. Though bombed by the Germans, that particular party and one other entered the German trench. But the bulk of the force was still struggling in the wire and the mud and seeing that all arrangements had broken down and confusion must ensue, Lieutenant Taylor, commanding the assault, came to the bitter decision to order the troops back".

It seems probable that it was this action that resulted in George’s death. George is buried at the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres. George is brother to John who was killed six months earlier on the Somme.

Edward Collard  

Edward Collard (right). In February 1901 Edward enlisted in the East Kent Yeomanry. On December 25th 1901 he was seriously wounded in the 2nd Boer War at Tweefontein (South Africa) and was discharged in September 1902.  The 1911 census shows that he was single, aged 31 and a ‘General Labourer’.

By 1917 Edward was a Private in the 2nd Battalion, The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment. He was ‘killed in action’ on Sunday, 13th May 1917 aged 37. The regiment was, at this time, involved in an attack on the Hindenburg Line. This included the ‘action of Bullecourt where there were casualties with 6 officers and 164 men killed, wounded and missing’. The CWGC website states that Edward is remembered on the Arras memorial but the inscription on the family gravestone in St Anthony’s churchyard says that he is ‘interred at Bullecourt’. I was unable to find any evidence of burial at Bullecourt but it could be that Edward was buried there originally and his grave disturbed or lost in subsequent action hence the inscription on the Arras memorial. It would seem likely that Bullecourt is where Edward was killed.

 

     

Percy William Frank Parker

Percy William Frank Parker was born in June 1896 at Ewell Minnis. The 1911 Census reveals Percy to be 14 years old and his employment:  ‘All Works’. I have not been able to shed any light on what ‘all works’ means nor have the Census advisers.

Percy died on Saturday, 23rd June 1917 in Flanders. He was aged 21 and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial. Percy was a Private in the 9th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment. I have been unable to find any record of engagements for the date of Percy’s death though the 9th was involved in heavy fighting before and after during the Battles of Arras (Vimy Ridge) in April 1917, the Battles of Ypres (Messines Ridge) June 7th to 14th 1917 and Pilkhem Ridge 31 July - 13 September 1917.

 

     

Ralph Drake-Brockman

Ralph Drake-Brockman was the son of Alfred and Catherine Drake-Brockman and born on the 17th March, 1888 at 78 Cheriton Road, Folkestone. The Brockman family lived at Chalksole from 1913 – 1919. Between 1902 – 1906 Ralph attended Dover College and was a Prefect, Head of House and Captain of the Running Team. The 1911 Census shows that Ralph was single and a 23 year old Law Student. By 1913, Ralph was working as a solicitor in Folkestone. Ralph, serving as Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery, was awarded the Military Cross on 18th June 1917. He was ‘killed in action’, aged 29, at Messines, Belgium on Saturday, September 29th 1917 when a shell exploded as he, his brother and their Colonel were reconnoitring for an observation post. Ralph is buried at Kandahar Farm Cemetery, Belgium.

 

                                                                                                                              © - The copyright of this document is vested with the current owner - Alan Jackson

   

 

 

 

George Bailey

George Bailey was the ‘dearly beloved only son’ of Robert and Sarah Bailey. The 1911 Census shows that George was aged 21, single and a Railway Clerk.

George enlisted as a Gunner in the 2nd Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery on January 11th 1916 at Shorncliffe. George’s Service Records, and the note from his commanding officer to his parents, state that he was ‘killed in action’ but this was not the case. George’s Unit’s War Diary records that he was accidentally shot by a French civilian and died on Wednesday, December 26th 1917 (his twin sisters’ birthday) aged 26. George is buried at Villers-au-Bois Cemetery, Pas de Calais.

http://data2.archives.ca/cef/well1/218959a.gif 

At the time of his death George’s parents ran the Carpenter’s Arms at South Alkham.

     
 

1918

 

 

 

Albert Francis

Albert Francis, the son of James (a Poultry Keeper) and Rose Francis, was born about 1898 in South Alkham at Yew Cottage. In 1911 the Census reveals he was a 12 year old school boy. Albert was a Private in the 2nd Battalion, Essex Regiment and died on Thursday, 18th April 1918. At this time his parents were living at 292, Cheriton Rd, Morehall, Folkestone. In April 1918 the Germans were making a push to break through the allied lines and the 2nd Bn was moved to the Ypres Salient but I can find no information to identify this as the place of Albert’s death. Albert was aged 20 when he died and he is buried at Chocques Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais.

     

Cecil Allen

Private Cecil G Allen of ‘C’ Company, 11th Battalion, Border Regiment was the son of Mrs. E. Allen of Chalksole Green. In 1911 the Census reveals he was a 13 year old schoolboy. Cecil enlisted at Woolwich. He died, aged 20, on Tuesday, 30th April 1918. Though this was the time of a major German offensive to break through the allied lines the Battalion War Diary states that the 11th was ‘In the Line’ (i.e. at the Front) until 25th April but not involved in any heavy fighting. From the 25th to the 30th April the 11th took part in military training, church parades and a football competition. It is reported that Cecil ‘died of wounds’, which he presumably received whilst at the front. Cecil is buried at the Bagneux British Cemetery, Gezaincourt.

     

George Collard

George Collard, who the 1911 Census reveals, was single, aged 18 and a "General Labourer", died 51 weeks after his brother, Edward. George had emigrated to Australia in 1912 (the year his mother died) when he was 20 years old. He lived at Coonabarabran, Warrumbugle Shire, New South Wales, where he worked as an agricultural labourer. It was here that he enlisted on 3rd July 1916. Following basic training George sailed from Sydney on 17th October 1916 on the requisitioned P&O steamship H.M.A.T. Borda as a Gunner in the 34th Battalion (incorrectly recorded by the CWGC as the 33rd), Australian Infantry. George "died of wounds received in action in France" on Monday, May 6th 1918, about 100 miles from his Alkham home. He was aged 25 and is buried in St. Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen. 

     

Joseph Edward Mount

Joseph Edward Mount was born about 1896 in Guston. In 1911 the Census reveals he was a 15 year old, ‘Farm Yard Boy’. Joseph enlisted as Driver T1/1765 in the Army Service Corps and first saw active service in France on the 26th October 1914. Later in the War, as a result of gas poisoning, he was discharged as medically unfit for further active service. Medals awarded: Victory Medal, British War Medal, 1914 Star, & Silver War Badge. By 1918 he was employed as a War Goods Inspector (Army Pensioner), and worked in Salford near Manchester. He married Edith Bailey (George Bailey’s sister), on the 26th September 1918 at St Anthony, Alkham. Only two weeks after their marriage, on Friday, 11th October 1918 Joseph died, at 58 Great Cheetham Street, West Broughton, Salford (Lancs) - Aged 23. The cause of death was recorded as Enteric Fever [Typhoid] but this was also the time of the second wave of the so called Spanish Flu,  an epidemic which killed more people than the First World War and which was often mistakenly reported as Typhoid. Joseph’s new bride, Edith, was with him at his death. His body was brought back to be buried on 15th October 1918 at St. Anthony, Alkham.

 

     
     

1939 - 1945

 

Ernest (Dudley) Richards

Ernest (Dudley) Richards was an Ordinary Seaman (C/JX 157953) on H.M.S. Gloucester. Ernie was the son of Fred and Elizabeth G. Richards and they lived in one of the cottages that now makes up Upton Cottage. Ernie was ‘lost with his ship’ on Thursday, 22nd May 1941, aged 18, and is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial.

H.M.S. Gloucester was sunk on 22nd May after being dive-bombed during the Battle of Crete with the loss of 722 of the 807 crew members. The Commander-in-Chief at the time, Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, observed: "Thus went the gallant Gloucester. She had endured all things, and no ship had worked harder or had had more risky tasks. She had been hit by bombs more times than any other vessel, and had always come up smiling.”

 

          Ernest   

                  H.M.S Gloucester      

 

Henry (Frederick) Keeler

Henry (Frederick) Keeler was the son of Charles and Louisa Keeler of Ewell Minnis. The 1901 census states that Charles Keeler (aged 18) was a Farm Labourer and that the family lived at Pimlico. By 1911 Charles (aged 28) was a ‘Waggoner on Farm’ and the family lived at Standen Cottages.

Henry was a Private in the 1/6th Battalion, The Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey). This was a territorial force set up in response to the Second World War. They were amalgamated into the 131st (Queen's) Infantry Brigade (44th (Home Counties) Division) which fought with the 8th Army in North Africa. Henry died on Saturday, 24th October 1942 (the start of the Second Battle of El Alamein) aged 22 years and is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial, Egypt. Henry is also remembered on the family headstone in St Anthony’s churchyard which reveals that his sister, Ruth May, had died when she was 21 years old in August 1938, his father had died in June 1937 aged 54 whilst his mother died in January 1971 aged 84.

 

Louis (David) Fagg

Louis* David Fagg was born on the 15th December 1918 to Ernest and Emily Fagg at the "Butt and Ben", a small dairy farm on Woverton Hill and later at Sunny Hill Farm, both on Ewell Minnis. Louis and his four brothers and two sisters went to Alkham School until they were 14. At the start of the war Louis joined the 4th Btn. of the Buffs (East Kent Regiment) as a Private. His first assignment was to France as part of the BEF followed by the withdrawal through Dunkirk. Following a period of training the Battalion sailed to Malta arriving at the Grand Harbour on the 10th November 1940. Throughout the siege the Buffs took a major part in the defence of the island, mostly airfield defence against enemy bombing. As the enemy became hard pressed in North Africa the bombing decreased and the Buffs were sent to Alexandria, arriving on the 20th of September 1943 for rest and recuperation. An urgent need arose for a British presence on the islands of Leros and Samos and the only troops available were the 4th Btn. Buffs.

On the 22nd of October they embarked on the Destroyers HMS Eclipse and Petard. Just after midnight on 23/24 the Eclipse struck a mine and sank in 3 minutes, along with Louis and 134 other Buffs. As well as the memorial at Alkham, Louis is remembered on the  Buffs Roll of Honour and the Athens Memorial. 

*On the Alkham Memorial his name is spelt "Lewis". In the Register of Births it is spelt "Louis"  and that was how he was always known; only Military sources spell it "Lewis". 

William Henry Hinds

Corporal William Henry Hinds was in the 5th Bn., The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) and was ‘killed in action’, aged 22, on Wednesday, 17th November 1943.  William was the son of Hubert George and Sarah Lily Hinds; husband of Joyce Leah Hinds, of Malvern, Worcestershire. Curiously, though William is remembered on his family’s headstone in St. Anthony’s churchyard the same details are recorded on the Smarden ‘Roll of Honour’ website which lists their men killed in the Second World War. Possibly he had moved to Smarden by the time of his death. William is buried at Sangro River War Cemetery, Italy.  The site of this cemetery was selected by the 5th Corps and into it were brought the graves of men who had died in the fierce fighting on the Adriatic sector of the front in November-December 1943. Presumably this is when William was killed.

I have been unable to find any record of any ‘Hinds’ family on the 1901 or 1911 census.

Ronald Couchman

Ronald Couchman was in the 5th Battalion, Grenadier Guards and was ‘killed in action’ in Italy on Tuesday, 25th July 1944. The Grenadiers’ website reveals that the 5th Bn was involved in the invasion of North Africa and then Italy at Anzio before fighting their way to Florence. Presumably it was in the heavy fighting around Florence that Ronald was killed. Ronald was 27 years old when he died. He was the son of Ernest James and Olive Blanche Couchman of Alkham. Although Ronald is buried in the Florence War Cemetery, he is also remembered on his parents’ gravestone in the churchyard.

Alan (Gordon) Gavin

Alan Gavin was a Rifleman in the 2nd Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He died on Thursday, 19th October 1944 aged 23 years. Alan was the son of Gordon and Euphemia Gavin. The 1901 Census states that the Gavin family lived at Maggot Farm in Maggot Lane (apparently the name was changed to Meggett in the 1950s). The family was still at that address for the 1911 census with five sons and two daughters though Alan was not born at this time. The 2nd Bn took part in the Normandy landings then fought through France, Belgium and Holland into Germany. Presumably Alan was killed as part of this movement. Alan is buried in the Leopoldsburg War Cemetery, Limburg, Belgium and was the last of the Alkham Heroes to be killed in war.

 

BELOW ARE PHOTOS OF THE GRAVES OF THE ALKHAM HEROES

Albert Francis – Choques Military Cemetery

Cecil Allen - Bagneux British Cemetery

George Collard – St Sever Cemetery Extension Rouen

Charlie Grainger – La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial

Ralph Drake-Brockman Kandahar Cemetery, Belgium

George Bailey – Villers-au-Bois Cemetery

Sidney Marsh – St Anthony’s, Alkham

George Rye – Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery

Edward Collard

Arras Memorial

Edwin Daniels – Essex Farm Cemetery

Percy Parker – Menin Gate

Arthur Henry Daniels – Regina Trench Cemetery

 

 

John Rye

Thiepval Memorial

   

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM