FEATURE: Remembering Eltisley’s fallen, history society’s book tells lives of Cambs village soldiers who died for their county during the First World War

Eltisley history book Eltisley history book

Friday, May 16, 2014
11:49 AM

As you enter Eltisley, the scene is much like any other picturesque English village, with tree-lined roads leading to its centre.

But the 100-year-old trees along the Green are also a memorial, a Row of Honour dedicated to the men who died for their country during the First World War.

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Eltisley History SocietyEltisley History Society

But the 100-year-old trees along the Green are also a memorial, a Row of Honour dedicated to the men who died for their country during the First World War.

This year marks the 100th ­anniversary of the start of the conflict and, to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, after 10 years of research, the Eltisley History Society has written Remembering Eltisley’s Fallen.

The village saw families torn apart, with three pairs of brothers dying between 1914 and 1918.

Eltisley even saw three men return from Canada to fight.

Eltisley’s fallen

Harry King

Arthur Kidman

Ernest Walter Kidman

Herbert Topham

Martin Riseley

George Childerley

Harry Hayden

Henry Sewell

Frank Riseley

James Payne

Harry Cranfield

William Smith-Chappell

Albert Smith-Chappell

In December 1915, Eltisley was given the first of its bad news, with Harry King, 25, the first village soldier to die in France. George Cozens, who lived in the village at the time, decided to commemorate the fallen with a tree.

On Christmas Day 1915, the first of 14 trees was planted. The fallen soldier’s step-brother and sister helped to place soil around the tree.

It was not long until the village was again in mourning, and a second tree was added to the Row of Honour.

Mary Flinders worked with Peter King, chairman of Eltisley History Society, Geoff Sewell, Jean Lines and Tracey Sharpe to produce the book, which will be launched at the Eltisley Village Fete on July 12.

Eltisley history bookEltisley history book

Mrs Flinders told The Hunts Post: “We have got really wrapped up in these people’s lives and you wonder what they were like. You can try to make assumptions, especially with some photographs of the men. Some of them, they just look like boys, really.

“When we launch the book, we will also have big poppies outside the houses that were homes to the soldiers. We have produced a map of where they lived and you can see the impact it would have had on the village.”

The book also looks into two soldiers who were awarded medals. Edding Flinders was given the Military Medal and Percy Childerley the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Mr Childerley was lucky. In the Battle of the Somme in 1916, he was hit in the back by shrapnel from a shell.

"We have got wrapped up in these people’s lives and you wonder what they were like."

Mary Flinders, author

Fortunately, he had tied a package from home on his back and the wooden box protected him from becoming seriously injured.

Fourteen were not so lucky and never returned home.

Henry ‘Harry’ King (April 13, 1890 - December 1, 1915).

Son of Henry and Emily King, siblings Florence Annie, Mabel and Sarah Jane.

Eltisley history bookEltisley history book

Shortly before his 17th birthday, in January 1907, Harry enlisted in the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment serving in Gibraltar, Bermuda and South Africa.

He joined the 1st Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment before August 1914 and landed in France on August 16, 1914. A week later, he came under attack for the first time when, unexpectedly, shells poured down on him while his division was digging trenches at Wasmes. The division also was came under sustained attack and was forced to retreat.

During the fighting between August 23-27 Harry was wounded in the head and leg. His mother Emily received a postcard stating Harry was missing, but shortly after received another, from Harry, saying he was fine. Between September 1914 and April 1915, Harry returned to Eltisley to recover from his wounds.

At the end of November 1915, Harry was moved to billets at Etinehem, near Bray-sur-Somme where the harsh winter caused parapets and communication trenches to collapse.

Frank Riseley is the man with the moustache, third down from the top in the middle, with Sidney George Hayden on his right and, we believe, Alick Childerley on his left.
 
Frank and Sidney George were born on the same day, Alick a few months later.  The three men enlisted in the Cambs Regt. together.  Frank and Sidney George were killed, Alick invalided out.Frank Riseley is the man with the moustache, third down from the top in the middle, with Sidney George Hayden on his right and, we believe, Alick Childerley on his left. Frank and Sidney George were born on the same day, Alick a few months later. The three men enlisted in the Cambs Regt. together. Frank and Sidney George were killed, Alick invalided out.

On December 1, he was working with the Brigade Tunnelling Company when he was killed by a mine explosion.

Friend George Wiles, from Eltisley, had spoken to him moments before.

Harry is buried in the Citadel New Military Cemetery at Fricourt.

On Christmas Day, 1915, the first tree was planted by Mr Cozens. His six-year-old step brother and step sister Elsie and Stanley placed some soil around the tree.

"It is only a very slight wound, it is a small shrapnel wound in the back, near the left shoulder blade. I am now in a nice ward far from the shot and shell and I can assure you it is champion to get nice white sheets once again. It is nearly 12 months since I saw a bed of this description. Fancy tomorrow being my birthday."

Harry Hayden

Arthur Kidman (August 27, 1888 - December 19, 1915).

Arthur and twin brother Ernest Walter were two of nine children to George and Mary Kidman. He worked as a farm labourer before signing up three days after war broke our on August 7, 1914. In September 1914, Arthur joined the 8th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment.

He travelled to the South Downs for his training and was shooed to France on August 30, 1915. Arthur saw combat for the first time on September 25 –- the second day in the Battle of Loos.

After Loos, Arthur’s regiment was sent to Ypres, in Belgium. On December 15, he was moved to the Forward Cottage trench near Wiltje, north of Ypres. Four days later, the Germans launch a gas attack, during which clouds of Phosphene and Chlorine gas and engulfed Arthur’s trench. During the attack, Arthur lost his gas mask.

Eltisley history bookEltisley history book

Arthur was one of Of the 25,000 soldiers in the area, 1,069 were taken to hospital and 120 who died.

Ernest Walter Kidman (1888-1917)

Walter was conscripted along with his younger brother Ebenezer in 1916 but was given an exemption for five months.

On January 17, 1917, he was enlisted in the 7th Battalion, 3rd Suffolk Regiment which was sent to the Arras sector on the Western Front.

Eltisley history bookEltisley history book

In the middle of November, the battalion was moved to the Cambrai area to take a German communications and supply base. The attack started on November 20 and lasted until December 7.

Walter was killed in the fighting on November 26.

Despite help from Ben Sewell, his friend from Eltisley, Arthur died from gas poisoning.

Arthur is one of 54,000 men who have no know grave and is listed on the Menin Gate at Ypres.

Eltisley history bookEltisley history book

A second tree, provided by James Millard, was added to the Row of Honour in January 1916.

Herbert Topham (March 26, 1881 - January 7, 1916).

Herbert son of George and Martha Topham , had a younger brother William and two younger sisters Amy and Jennie. His worked for his father on the farms at Eltisley.

In 1910, he joined the Bedfordshire Yeomanry and at the end of December 1915, when he was based at the Bedfordshire Yeomanry camp, he became ill with rheumatic fever and was transferred to the Glen Red Cross Hospital where in Southend.

Eltisley history bookEltisley history book

He died at the hospital on January 7, 1916, aged 34.

Herbert is buried in Eltisley churchyard.

Martin Riseley (February 20, 1878 - July 30, 1916).

Martin was the youngest of 10 children born to Henry and Elizabeth Riseley. In April 1899, when he was 21 he enlisted in the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards in April 1899.

He was sent to Gibraltar and for a couple of months soon after, then returned to England when he married Mary Ann, four years his senior, in October 1900. Two years later, Martin was shipped to South Africa for the last stages of the Boer War in South Africa. For his service, Martin was given the Queen’s South Africa Medal.

Although it is not known when Martin emigrated to Canada, his wife travelled across the Atlantic in September 1911 to join her husband.

Martin joined the 95th Battalion Canadian Infantry in November 1915 after his oldest son, Walter, then 21, had joined the Royal Canadian Regiment three months earlier.

In May 1916, Martin sailed from Nova Scotia on the SS Olympic, the sister ship to the Titanic. In England and he was sent to Folkstone. During and during his stay, he was granted leave to visit family in Eltisley.

On his return to Kent on July 29, Martin and another soldier got off the train when it stopped at Hatfield. When he heard the guard’s whistle, Martin turned to see the train leaving the platform and chased after it. A witness saw Martin try to jump onto the back of the moving train but fell and suffered a serious injury to his right leg.

He was taken to Bricket House Hospital, in St Albans, where his right leg was amputated. He died on July 31.

Martin is buried in Eltisley graveyard. His wife remained in Canada and his son Walter returned to Canada to his previous occupation as a belt maker.

George Childerley (November 30, 1884 - August 15, 1916).

Postman George was one of eight children to Charles and Lydia Childerley. He was living in London when he enlisted in January 1915, joining the Royal Field Artillery as a territorial gunner.

He was in the A Battery which was sent to France in March 1915. George was given a week’s leave in April, 1916, and on his return he served on the front near Loos.

In the summer of 1916, his brigade was moved to Bealcourt and Boufflers and on to St Hilarie, Flesselle and Flechencourt.

On the night of August 14, George’s brigade launched a barrage on the Germans at Switch Trench. The following night, a similar attack was launched, and George was wounded by a shell burst.

Two hours later, George died at a frontline medical station.

He lies in the Danzig Alley British Cemetery, along with 3,769.

Harry Hayden (July 15, 1896 - August 21, 1916).

Harry was born to farm labourer Alfred and Ellen Hayden and was one of three boys and three girls in the family. Before the war, Harry worked as a milkman.

He joined the 6th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment on November 10, 1914, and left for France in July the following year. He was stationed at Hazebrouck, east of St Omer and then to Godewaersvelde, close to the Belgian border, on August 24.

Harry also was in the trenches at Orville, Bienvillers, and Fonquevillers. On July 12, 1916, at Hegiloland Harry was wounded by shrapnel.

He wrote home to say: “It is only a very slight wound, it is a small shrapnel wound in the back, near the left shoulder blade. I got it two nights ago.

“I am now in a nice ward far from the shot and shell and I can assure you it is champion to get nice white sheets once again. It is nearly 12 months since I saw a bed of this description. Fancy tomorrow being my birthday.”

He returned to the front on August 3 where he was involved in the same battle as George Childerley. At Bazentin le Petit on August 8, amidst several days of fierce fighting, Harry was wounded again.

This time, he wasn’t so fortunate and a piece of shrapnel went through his shoulder into his chest. He Harry was moved to a hospital in Boulogne where he had an operation to remove the shrapnel.

He was expecting to be sent home when his wound was cleaner, but his condition deteriorated, developing pneumonia, and Harry died on August 21.

Sidney George Hayden (1895-1918)

George, a labourer, enlisted in the 1st Battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment in January 24 along with Frank Riseley and Alick Childerley.

They arrived in France in March 1916.

George was involved in action at Festubert, the Battle of the Somme and the Third Battle of Ypres.

He was moved to Gouzaucourt, south west of Cambrai, and to Longavesnes, east of Albert, in March 1918. The latter was the scene of George’s battalion’s heaviest fighting. On March 21, the Germans attacked for 10 days. During the fifth day, George was killed.

Harry, who died aged 20, was buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.

Henry Sewell (May 31, 1883 - May 15, 1917).

Henry was brought up by his father George and sister Agnes Ann after his mother Sarah Ann Sewell died in childbirth in 1891.

The labourer joined the 8th Battalion Suffolk Regiment on March 22, 1916, when he was 32. He fought at the Battle of Ancre Heights in October 1916, and the Battle of Ancre the following month, Actions of Miraumont, in February 1917, the capture of Irles in March, 1917 and the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line up to April 1917.

In April 1917, Henry had contracted spotted fever, a contagious bacterial disease caused by overcrowding, cold weather and over-muscular exertion. He was taken to a hospital in St Omer, where which we died on May 15, 1917.

He was 33.

Henry is buried in Longuenesse Souvenir Cemetery in St Omer.

His brother Ben joined the 8th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, in August 1914, and fought throughout the war. Ben, at Mazingarbe, would have been 45 miles away from his brother when Henry died. After the war Ben returned to Eltisley.

Frank Riseley (January 4, 1895 - September 26, 1917).

Martin Riseley’s nephew Frank was one of five children of William and Annie Riseley. He was a gardener for the Countess of Dysart before the war, and prior to joining the 1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment in January 1916, signing up with life-long friends Alick Childeley and Sidney George Hayden. The Eltisley trio arrived in France in March 1916.

During the October battle both Frank and Alick were wounded. Frank was sent to a hospital in England, and Alick remained at a hospital in France. Frank had sustained severe injuries and didn’t return to fighting for four months.

His friend Alick was so seriously injured from shrapnel wounds to his head, that he was discharged from the army in February 1917.

Frank was back on the front in September 1917, in the Third Battle of Ypres. On In the early hours of September 26, his battalion launched an offensive and on Joist Redoubt.

Frank’s father was told that his son was missing. In July 1918, William Riseley received a letter saying that the army had concluded that Frank was killed.

Although Frank has no known grave, he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial at Zonnebeke, near Ypres.

James Payne (June 10, 1883 - October 4, 1917).

Eltisley Rovers Football Club goalkeeper James was the son of Riseley and Elizabeth Payne. Before joining the 8th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment D Company in 1914, James was a portable engine driver in Lincolnshire.

James’s battalion crossed the channel to France in September 1915, starting their combat at the Battle of Loos. Between October 1915 and March 1916, James moved to Armentieres, and then to Fricourt for training prior to the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.

In November 1916, James was ranted leave and returned home for a weekend before going to France for further training.

His battalion moved back to Loos in February 1917, to Arras in April before a respite holiday at Pruges in June.

James was stationed at Ypres throughout the summer of 1917 and was moved to the frontline on September 27 to the Shrewsbury Forest Sector, south of Ypres.

A week later his battalion attacked during the Battle of Broodseinde. The Eltisley man was listed as missing.

The news arrived home as James was expected to return on leave. His mother was informed that he was killed by a sniper.

James, like Frank Riseley, is listed on the Tyne Cot Memorial, and has no known grave.

Harry Cranfield (May 15, 1879 - October 26, 1917).

Labourer Harry sailed to Quebec, Canada, in July 1912 and where he lived at the same lodging house as Martin Riseley when enlisted four years later.

When he signed up, Harry said he was aged 27 and 10 months, despite being two months away from his 37th birthday.

Harry returned from Canada in October 1916 and was in France at the end of November. In April 1917, the four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force attacked the Vimy Ridge, to the west of Arras, and held the vital high ground.

In May 1917 when Harry was promoted to Lance Corporal.

The following month Harry was also involved in action at attacking Lens – and again in September, where his battalion was under gas attack for four days.

In October 1917, the battalion was moved to Passchendaele, and then on to Ypres, where, on October 26, Harry’s cD Company attacked three enemy pillboxes and forced four German officers, including two majors, and 60 soldiers to surrender.

Harry died in the attack.

His commmanding officer, Lieutenant Banbury, wrote to his mother saying: “I can assure you that he was a good soldier and a great favourite with the men.”

He is commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres and has no known grave.

Harry’s brother James, a policeman in London, survived the war.

William Smith-Chappell (March 16, 1896 - October 29, 1917).

William, the son of John and Mary Smith-Chappell, was a farm labourer for Eltisley farmer George Topham before he enlisted in the Huntingdon Cyclist Battalion in November 1915.

In July 1916, men from the Hunts Cyclists were sent to France and transferred to other regiments, with William joining the 1st Battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment, which achieved success in taking the Schwaben Redoubt in October 1916.

The regiment stayed at Ypres until September 1917 when the Third Battle of Ypres was in full swing.

On the night of October 29, there was Cambridgeshire a Regiment came under gas attack. William was that sole man to die.

Anthony Grey sent a letter to Mrs Smith-Chappell that read: “Having very recently joined the battalion I had not come to know your son as I would have liked but my platoon sergeant said to me ‘He is one of our best lads, sir’.”

William is buried at the Voormezeele Enclosures, south-west of Ypres.

Ernest Walter Kidman (August 27, 1888 - November 26, 1917).

Walter, whose twin brother Arthur was killed at Ypres in 1915, was conscripted along with his younger brother Ebenezer in 1916. A Local Military Tribunal in March 1916 gave Walter an exemption for five months to work for his employer and support his mother, who had lost her husband the previous October.

On January 17, 1917, Walter was enlisted in the 7th Battalion, 3rd Suffolk Regiment which was sent to the Arras sector on the Western Front.

In the middle of November, the battalion was moved to the Cambrai area to take a German communications and supply base. The attack started on November 20 and lasted until December 7.

Walter was killed in the fighting at Pelican Trench, near Gonnelieu, on November 26.

He is commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial to the missing.

Walter’s brother Eben survived the war and his sister Rosa married Ben Sewell.

Albert Smith-Chappell (October 11, 1898 - March 21, 1918).

Albert, who like his brother William, worked as a farm labourer for George Topham when he was called up in April 1917. He was enlisted in the 3rd Battalion, Befordshire Regiment, but was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps in October 1917.

He is believed to have been transported to France in December 1917. In the spring of 1918, the outnumbered Allies were expecting a German offensive and Albert’s crew, like other Vickers crews, was ordered to hold out until the last.

On March 21, 1918, the Germans attacked the frontline and west of Cambrai. Albert was killed in the fierce fighting. He was only and aged 19.

He was the youngest Eltisley soldier to die during the conflict.

Albert is buried at the Ontario Cemetery at Sains-les Marquoim Nord.

Albert and William Smith-Chappell’s father John was serving in Egypt and survived the war.

Sidney George Hayden (January 4, 1895 - March 25, 1918).

George lived with his parents Alfred and Ellen in a home overlooking the Green. He was a labourer, and enlisted in the 1st Battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment in January 24 along with Frank Riseley and Alick Childerley.

They arrived in France in March 1916.

Later George was involved in positioned in action the trenches at Festubert, and in May and June, he was based at Givenchy before trenches at Ferme du Bois for the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

George’s battalion was also involved in the Third Battle of Ypres.

For Christmas 1917, George was given a dinner of turkeys, geese and plum pudding, and on Boxing Day there was a battalion snowball fight.

George was moved to Gouzaucourt, south west of Cambrai, and to Longavesnes, east of Albert, in March 1918. The latter was the scene of George’s battalion’s heaviest fighting.

On March 21, the Germans attacked for 10 days. During the fifth day of battle, George was killed about 40km away from where his brother Harry was fatally injured.

George was the final Eltisley man to give his life for King and Country during World War One. He is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial.

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