Tuesday, 16 August 2011

“When Shall Their Glory Fade?”

This wonderfully researched piece by Roger Deason was written for the Hamlet Historian magazine in 2005 to commemorate the men of Dulwich Hamlet who gave their lives in the First World War.

Dulwich Hamlet nearly had a much more grandiose war memorial. In the immediate aftermath of the War, Pa Wilson was to the forefront of attempts to draw up a very grand war memorial for the Club. The intention was to list everyone who fought. Sadly the plan was abandoned as it became too difficult to track down who had served where, and who had been injured, such were the numbers involved. Indeed, we only have a small insight into those who did survive; for instance we know that it was Billy Millward who became an Acting Brigadier, won the Distinguished Service Order, the Croix De Guerre and lost a leg, but who were the five who retired as Captains, the “at least” three Lieutenants who won Military Crosses, or most of those who won Military Medals or Distinguished Conduct Medals?

Ironically, by the very act of dying, those associated with the Club ensured their names will live on whilst many others have already faded away. Even leaving that aside, in many ways those who died were the lucky ones, if you read the memoirs of a World War I veteran you will often find that they feared a really serious injury far more than death. A quick death would be a release compared to a serious injury at a time when medical knowledge was far less advanced than it is today. The 1919 Handbook hints at the suffering many would endure for years: “Some have returned maimed and health-broken, but the cheeriness of those who have lost an eye or a limb and can bravely carry on is a stimulant to all who have ever felt downhearted.”

What follows are some very brief details on those who did not make it home. Some names may be familiar to you from past editions of the Hamlet Historian; two were regular members of the 1913/14 first team with others having been first team regulars in the past. Many though, would have been forgotten by now had they not died in the war. Some, possibly many, never actually represented Dulwich Hamlet at football and several had actually left the club prior to the outbreak of war. We know several played for Dulwich St Barnabas, a feeder team founded in 1899/1900 and affiliated to Dulwich Hamlet. (In 1914/15 Dulwich Hamlet had intended to run four teams, Dulwich St Barnabas were counted as one of them, being members of the Dulwich League and entered into the Norwood Hospital Charity Cup.) Their better players did step up into the reserves but many never actually made it into a Hamlet team. At that time Dulwich Hamlet also had a cricket section and two of the deceased appear to have been cricketers, we have no record of them playing football for the club.

Looking though the list, if the deceased were typical of our playing members, what is revealed is a tantalising glimpse of a world long gone. The list reveals a surprisingly high percentage of very local players. Indeed the club still had strong links with Dulwich Hamlet School; a useful link as the school was recognised for its pre-eminence in school sport locally at that time. Many of those who fought were old boys of both the school and the football club. A lack of geographical mobility is hinted at by the large number who had moved just a few miles from birth to their given address at the time of death. Only three of them appear to have links outside the London area. Indeed the suspicion lingers that, if they did not go on any of the Dulwich Hamlet Easter foreign tours, some of these men would have been killed in their first trip abroad, possibly even their first long trip out of the London area.

We have listed the men by order of date of death. Their ranks and regiments are taken from official war records. Where these contradict the 1919 Handbook this is mentioned, but the war records can be taken as more reliable. In the latter stages of the war the high death rate meant promotions, brigade switches and mergers may have occurred without the Hamlet officials realising. Whilst in most cases we can be certain that the person mentioned was involved in the Hamlet there are a few cases whereby we cannot be certain. In those cases the balance of probability points, with varying degrees of certainty, to one person. In such cases we have included the details, but flagged it up with an asterisk (*) after the name.

“There follows a Roll of Honour of the 21 fellows who have given their lives for King and Country, – men we have known and sportsmen we greatly mourn, yet for all that we cannot but feel they are happier than we are happy in their lives, and yet more so in the laying down of them. There remains to us but Pride in them and our memory of them – may we keep it fragrant.”

Dulwich Hamlet 1919 Handbook. It was soon realised that in fact, 22 Hamlet fellows had died.

Walter Lester Lawrence
Date of Death : 2 December 1914 aged 22.
Rank & Unit : Private, A Squadron Royal Bucks Hussars.
Buried : Norwood Cemetery.

The first Hamlet casualty of the war was Walter Lawrence who served with The Royal Bucks Hussars, part of the Household Cavalry. Walter, who had left the club by the time of his death, was youngest of the five sons of Walter James and Eliza Ann Lawrence of 114 Rosendale Road, West Dulwich; at least four signed up. Two of his brothers were also in uniform at the time of his death. Arthur, also an ex-member of the Hamlet, was serving with the 1st Life Guards whilst Claude, a Hamlet first team player and committee member, was alongside Walter in The Royal Bucks Hussars. According to war records Walter was born in Brixton, though the 1901 census reports Dulwich as his place of birth. At the time of enlistment he was living in West Dulwich but actually signed up in Chesham. Walter is the only Hamlet World War One fatality buried in South London. He is remembered on a screen wall at Norwood Cemetery, his actual grave is unmarked.

The 1919 Handbook lists his rank as Trooper.

George Ernest Vasey (Ernie)
Date of Death : 27 April 1915. (The officially recorded date, contemporary news-
papers report 26th.)
Rank & Unit : Lance Corporal, 1st/5th Battalion London Regiment. London Rifle Brigade.
Buried : No known grave. Recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial.

Ernie Vasey was no longer with the club at the outbreak of the war but was the first significant figure in the club’s history to be claimed by the war, after an effective spell in Hamlet colours during which he was recognised as one of the commanding figures in the first team. During his time with the club he was awarded a London F.A. badge. Born in Newcastle, in 1901 he was living there as one of a family of 8 children living with Louisa M. Vasey and a servant.

Ernie appears to have been a victim of the Second Battle of Ypres. This was the only significant assault the Germans launched on the Western Front in 1915; they were busier fighting the Russians on the Eastern Front. This battle began as a means of diverting the allies’ attention from the Eastern Front and a method of testing the use of chemical warfare. One hundred and sixty eight tons of chlorine gas was used on 22 April (the first use of gas on the Western Front) with dramatic success. The Allied army fled leaving 5,000 dead and 2,000 prisoners behind. The German offensive was called off on 25 May 1915 due to a lack of supplies and manpower. It had succeeded in driving the allies back from the highest ground, but had failed to take Ypres, which the Germans then proceeded to destroy via repeated bombardments. In total it cost the lives of 59,000 British troops, 10,000 French troops and 35,000 German troops. The difference in figures is largely due to the repeated use of gas by the Germans, a tactic the Allies were to loudly condemn and quickly copy.

The London Regiment was an unusual one in the British Army. This territorial regiment was founded in 1908 to regiment the various battalions within the newly formed County of London, it remained more of a collection of distinctive battalions than a true regiment. Many of the Hamlet dead served in the various battalions that composed the London Regiment. Ernie would have been one of the first Hamlet people to experience warfare on the Western Front. His battalion took part in the Battle of Le Cateau, just days after they arrived in France and were also involved in the famous Christmas 1914 fraternisation at Ploegsteert Wood.

Stanley Brace Peart
Date of Death : 25 May 1915.
Rank & Unit : Rifleman, 1st/21st Battalion, London Regiment. 1st Surrey Rifles.
Buried : No known grave. Recorded at the Le Touret Memorial.

Stan Peart details are covered elsewhere. It appears that Stan was born in South Australia, the youngest of four children, but by 1901 was resident at 15 Camden Street in the Parish of Camberwell. It was in Camberwell that he enlisted, but by then had moved to Peckham.

The 1st/21st Battalion spent the early days of the war based in Camberwell, before transferring to the Western Front between 9 – 22 March 1915. On 9 May they took part in the Battle of Aubers Ridge, an unmitigated disaster for the Allies. Stan probably took part in that battle but lost his life later that month.

Reginald Astill (Reg.)
Date of Death : 1 July 1916.
Rank & Unit : Rifleman. 1st/9th Battalion, London Regiment. Queen Victoria Rifles.
Buried : No known grave. Recorded on Thiepval Memorial at The Somme.

The first of the two Astill brothers to die in the war; neither appear to have played for Dulwich Hamlet Football Club. Instead, they represented Dulwich Hamlet Cricket Club. Reg was born in Brixton, lived in Carshalton and enlisted in London.

The 1916 offensive was conceived to be a war winning strike on three fronts, it ended up with a few divisions of the British army launching an attack in an area that was totally unsuitable in terms of transportation for 40,000 men and their supplies, and with no real chance of strategic gain.

On 1 July 1916, Commonwealth Forces launched an offensive north of the Somme, with British troops attacking along a 15-mile stretch, backed by a French attack to the south. A seven-day artillery bombardment had barely touched the German’s defences; despite expending over 1.6 million shells on the first day alone! Consequently, catastrophic losses were endured. Thiepval was targeted on 1 July but only captured in late September. What is now better known as the Battle of the Somme ended on 18 November 1916 due to the onset of winter turning the battlegrounds into a muddy quagmire.

The attack was launched at 7.30a.m. eleven Divisions were ordered to walk slowly towards the German lines, due to concerns about discipline given the high percentage of inexperienced recent arrivals in action that day, with the intention that once they had broken though the cavalry would be sent in to pursue fleeing German troops. Instead the British endured 60,000 casualties in one day, a third of whom died. 60% of the officers involved in the first day died. A survivor later wrote, “The lads fell like corn before the scythe.” (1) By the time a combination of weather and mud brought an end to the battle on 18 November, the Allies had advanced five miles for approximately 420,000 British casualties, 195,000 French casualties and 650,000 German casualties. The only measure of success the Allies can claim in return for all those lives is that it did assist in relieving the pressure on the French army at Verdun.

Over 72,000 UK and South African forces are remembered at Thiepval, 90% of whom died during the 1916 Battle of The Somme. All of them have no known grave.

(1) The Independent 12/11/05.

George Arthur Popple
Date of Death : 1 July 1916.
Rank & Unit : Sergeant. 1st/12th Battalion London Regiment The Rangers.
Buried : No known grave. Recorded on Thiepval Memorial, The Somme.

The second loss sustained by the Club on the first day of The Somme. ‘Pop’ lived in Upper Tooting and had served in both France and Flanders. He was sent to France on Christmas Eve 1914 and spent part of the summer of 1915 back home recuperating. He had been a regular first team half-back in the 1913/14 team, appearing in 38 of their 43 matches, had been selected for an Amateur International trial match, and earned a Surrey F.A. Cap and Badge and a London F.A. Badge. The 1901 census shows a 9 year old of this name living at 23 St Dunstons Road, Hanwell.

Thiepval is an appropriate location for the memorial. Whilst it is unlikely that either of the two Hamlet victims of the opening day died in the immediate locality, it was the scene of some of the worst British casualties. The seven-day bombardment had barely damaged the German barbed wire defences in this sector, leading to the British troops trying to advance across no-mans land here being slaughtered. It has been said that only bulletproof troops could have won the day at Thiepval on the opening day of the battle.

Tommy Rose
Date of Death : 2 August 1916 aged 35.
Rank & Unit : Bombardier. 156th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.
Buried : St Sever Cemetery, Rouen.

Tommy was arguably the biggest name in Dulwich Hamlet’s history to die in action. A key player in the early years of the twentieth century when the Hamlet emerged as the top team in the area, against competition from the likes of Dulwich and Townley Park. He is also the only player we know for certain who completed his initial training on the Champion Hill pitch when the army took it over. Tommy, a resident of Peckham, enlisted at Camberwell as part of the Camberwell Gun Brigade which was re-named on becoming part of the Royal Field Artillery.

Like most of those buried at St Sever, he succumbed to wounds in one of the nearby field hospitals. The location and date of his death suggests that he probably died of wounds sustained during the 1916 Battle of the Somme, quite possibly in the subsidiary battle known as the Battle of Bazentin Ridge, which launched the second phase of the Battle of the Somme. Tommy’s division sustain heavy losses around Martinpuich. The Royal Field Artillery were present in big numbers and launched a five minute artillery barrage against the German defences before a sudden Infantry attack on the morning of July 14th. Initial successes were not followed up quickly enough and the German defenders re-grouped. The Cavalry were then sent in, to scenes described by a Forward Artillery Spotter, 2nd Lieutenant F.W Beadle:-

“It was an incredible sight, an unbelievable sight, they galloped up with their lances and with pennants flying, up the slope to High Wood and straight into it. ... They simply galloped on through all that and horses and men were dropping on the ground, with no hope against the machine guns, because the Germans up on the ridge were firing down into the valley where the soldiers were. It was an absolute rout. A magnificent sight. Tragic.” (www.wikipedia.org.)

Another attack was launched on High Wood the next day. One battalion saw just 67 survivors out of 200 committed into the attack. There was to be another two months fighting here before the Battle of Flers-Coucellette, 15th September 1916, saw the Allies seize High Wood and other targets from two months previously. By then Tommy had passed away.

The Royal Field Artillery were responsible for the lighter, smaller calibre artillery guns, such as the 13lb and 18lb field guns and 4.5” howitzers, and were often positioned close to the front line

Louis F. Seidel
Date of Death : 14 August 1916.
Rank & Unit : Commander, Uganda
Volunteer Reserve.
Buried : Voi Cemetery, Kenya.

The circumstances surrounding Louis Seidel’s death are obscure. The South London Press mention his death in an article on 17th September 1915. However in the 31 October 1914 match day programme Louis doesn’t even appear in the list of Hamlet people who had signed up but he does appear as alive and enlisted in The African Rifles in the similar 1916 list. On the balance of probability, the official date of death of 14 August 1916 seems the more likely. The cemetery opened in 1915, it holds just 127 war graves, however some of the graves are post war re-burials so this does not provide conclusive proof that he died after this date. He is the only fatality we can say for certain was an old boy of Dulwich Hamlet School, the picture is taken from a Dulwich St Barnabas team line up in 1906/07.

The East African Theatre in World War One is now largely forgotten. The Germans deployed a column here that successfully tied up an Allied force via guerrilla tactics. Allied attempts to suppress them were largely ineffectual; it is highly probable that Louis was involved in these efforts. Peace was only secured in this campaign on 13th November 1918.

The 1919 Handbook lists him as being a Private in the African Rifles.

Francis W. Hagger (Frank)
Date of Death : 1 October 1916.
Rank & Unit : Rifleman 1st/16th Battalion
London Regiment
Queen’s Westminster Rifles.
Buried : No known grave. Remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.

Another victim of the madness that was The Somme. Frank Hagger had initially enlisted in the Navy, serving as secretary to the Captain of H.M.S Lyons until it was decommissioned. He last played for the Hamlet on 26 December 1915 when he turned up in a Naval Asst. Paymasters uniform. He subsequently signed up for the Army and went missing during a night raid. Before the war he was on the fringes of the first team, appearing in 25 non first XI matches in 1913 /14 and had been appointed Vice-Captain of the Senior Team for 1914/15. (The Senior Team played in the Isthmian Reserve League and ranked ahead of the Reserve Team who played in the Southern Suburban League). His status as one of the more high profile victims saw the Club pay tribute to him (together with Messrs Popple, Bescoby and Clarkson) by including his portrait in the 1919/20 Handbook.

Reginald Walker*
Date of Death : 23 December 1916.
Rank & Unit : Private 11th Battalion The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment.
Buried : Hazebrouck Communal Cemetery.

This is the one of the weakest of all the entries here in terms of historical provenance. However, one candidate does stand out as the most likely match with ‘our’ man. He was born in Streatham, lived in West Dulwich and enlisted at Lambeth. He died of wounds, and the graveyard where he is buried is on the site of a military hospital that was in operation from October 1914 – September 1917.

William George Dunbar Clarkson (Willie)
Date of Death : 31 March 1917.
Rank & Unit : Private, 7th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment.
Buried : No known grave. Honoured on the Arras Memorial.

Another of the better known (to his contemporaries) of the Hamlet fatalities. Vice Captain of the Senior team in 1913/14, making 23 non first team appearances, Willie had been appointed their Captain for 1914/15. We know that Willie was serving in the Royal Sussex Regiment and failed to return from a working party. At the time he was shortly due back in England to take up an Army commission. The Royal Sussex Regiment had a recruiting depot locally and was the regiment whose details the club listed in the match programme v Crystal Palace in the early days of the war. He was killed in the run up to the 2nd Battle of Arras. See portrait elsewhere.

Walter Reginald Wheeler (Reginald)
Date of Death : 31 March 1917 aged 27.
Rank & Unit : Rifleman 2nd/21st Battalion London Regiment.
1st Surrey Rifles.
Buried : Salonika Military Cemetery.

The second Dulwich death on 31 March 1917 occurred when Reginald succumbed to wounds sustained. He died in a little known theatre of war, the Balkans. In October 1915 the Greek premier invited the Allied Forces to occupy Salonika. An Anglo-French force of two large battalions was sent to assist the Serbs against the Bulgarian aggression; however the Serbs had lost before the soldiers arrived. A pragmatic decision was made to keep the force there, against the wishes of many Greeks. Even King Constantine backed the Germans, however this was the time of Gallipoli and all Allied shipping in the locality was needed there. It should be noted that the Greek army joined the war on the Allied side in

August 1916 after the Greek revolution broke out in Salonika and assisted the Allies in fighting the Bulgarians.

Reginald was born in Ifield, enlisted at Camberwell and left a wife, Alice F.E. Wheeler, who lived at 178 Ladywell Road, Lewisham and appears only to have served in the Balkans. In this campaign three men died of illness – malaria was a major killer – for every war casualty. However, Wheeler died of wounds making him probably the only Hamlet man to have died at the hands of the Bulgarian army. The picture above is taken from a Dulwich St Barnabas team line up in 1906/07; Reginald was on their committee for 1914/15.

The 2nd/21st were founded in Camberwell in August 1914 in order to replace the territorial units, which were in the process of being sent to the various theatres of war. For weeks many of the men lived at home and reported daily for training. They had to train with Japanese rifles as no proper rifles and kit were available to them until late 1915, when training was accelerated. They were deployed to France in June 1916 and then to Salonika in November 1916, via Marseilles and Malta. They did not return to the Western Front.

Leonard John Rawling
Date of Death : 12 April 1917 aged 29.
Rank & Unit : Private. 7th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment.
Buried : No known grave. Honoured on the Arras Memorial.

Another ex member of the Hamlet club, he served in the same Battalion as Willie Clarkson, Leonard died just twelve days after him in the Second Battle of Arras. Born in Herne Hill; at the time of the 1901 census he was living with his parents, three sisters and a 14 year old servant at 41 Milton Road, Lambeth, but on signing up their address was 38 Lancaster Road, West Norwood. His father, a drapery warehouseman, pre-deceased him. Leonard also served in The Royal Fusiliers.

Leonard was killed in the 2nd Battle of Arras, probably in the 1st Battle of the Scarpe phase. Arras is little remembered today compared to the likes of The Somme and Passchendaele, but was one of the most important actions the British Expeditionary Force took part in. The British launched a large assault on the German troops, who had made a tactical withdrawal to the Hindenburg line, on 9 April. Initial success, such as the Canadians seizing the important high ground at Vimy Ridge, soon waned and it became a very costly affair in terms of casualties prior to the end of the battle on 15 May 1917.

William Henry Nixon
Date of Death : 24 April 1917 aged 26.
Rank & Unit : 2nd Lieutenant 298 Siege Battery, Special Reserve, Royal Garrison Artillery.
Buried : Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery near Ypres.

Another of the local lads, William’s parents lived at 190a Ranmore, Lordship Lane. The ‘Soldiers of the Great War’ official records list gives his date of death as 24 August 1917, however, the date above seems more probable.

The Royal Garrison Artillery were responsible for the large, heavy calibre artillery guns & howitzers during the war, such as 60lb gun and howitzers up to 12 inch. They were often placed some way behind the front line. Despite his burial location the date of death suggests he was not a victim of any of the official Battles of Ypres.

Frank Sydney Marsh
Date of Death : 28 April 1917 aged 23.
Rank & Unit : 2nd Lieutenant 1st R.M Bat, R.N.
Royal Marine Light Infantry.
Buried : No known grave. Honoured on the Arras Memorial.

Another Hamlet casualty at the 2nd Battle of Arras, and a man who appears to had had a varied military career in his short life. In 1914 he was listed as being in the 21st County of London Regiment, whilst by 1916 he was with the Inns of Court Officer Training Corp. We know he spent time in The Royal Fusiliers, training with Eddie Bescoby, yet he died fighting for the Royal Marines Light Infantry. His parents resided at 22 Maryland Road, Thornton Heath. He had been appointed Vice-Captain of Dulwich St Barnabas FC for the 1914/15 season.

Edward L. Bescoby* (Eddie)
Date of Death : 18 June 1917 aged 25.
Rank & Unit : Second Lieutenant, Royal Fusiliers.
Buried : Ljssenthoek Military Cemetery.

Eddie Bescoby has been problematical to trace as it appears that the name on the Dulwich Hamlet war memorial may be incorrect. Only one E.L. Bescoby is officially listed as having died during the First World War, and the War Records Office list him as Edgar Laurence Bescoby, but he was the same regiment and rank as we know ‘our’ Eddie was. The confusion may lie in the fact that Bescoby was known as ‘Eddie’ at Dulwich, and it was naturally assumed that his name was Edward. The last of the regulars from the 1913/14 team to die; he played in 33 of their 43 matches, and was the half back partner of Arthur Popple, who was killed a year earlier,

Eddie was in The Sharpshooters before the war commenced, before getting a commission into The Royal Fusiliers via the 3rd County of London Yeomanry. He did his training with them in Lichfield alongside another Hamlet man, Frank Marsh. He died of his wounds in action in a fairly minor engagement after surviving the early days of the Battle of Messines. Ljssenthoek was used as a casualty clearance station out of reach of the German artillery. His parents are recorded as living in Guestling near Hastings, where Eddie’s name appears on the war memorial at St Laurence Church.

Gilbert Furmage Chignall
Date of Death : 7 June 1917.
Rank & Unit : Lance Corporal 1st/23rd County of London Battalion London Regiment.
Buried : No known grave. Honoured on the Menin Gate Memorial.

Sometimes referred to as Gilbert Feermage Chignall, he was born in Bromley but was resident in Dulwich Village by the age of 3. He died in the run up to the 3rd Battle of the Ypres, more commonly referred to as Passchendaele. This was launched by Commonwealth troops to divert the German troops from a weakened French front to the south. Henry Allingham, Britain’s oldest surviving World War 1 veteran has described watching the start of the battle, seeing men waiting to go over the top to probable death, “They knew what was coming. It was pathetic to see those men like that. In many ways I don’t think they have ever had the admiration and respect they deserved.” (2) The initial attempt succeeded, clearing German troops from the Messines Ridge, but when the main assault began in late July, a mixture of bad weather and fierce resistance saw the campaign become bogged down before the capture of Passchendaele in November 1917.

Gilbert is another who moved around within the Army, he spent time with the 7/12 City of London Yeomanry (Rough Riders) and is one of over 54,000 men with no known grave honoured on the Menin Gate Memorial.

The 1919 Handbook lists him as a Sergeant.

(2) The Independent 12/11/05.

Ernest William Dearne Astill
Date of Death : 30 March 1918.
Rank & Unit : Second Lieutenant 2nd/9th Battalion London Regiment
(Queen Victoria Rifles).
Buried : No known grave. Remembered on the Pozieres Memorial,
The Somme.

After losing so many men in the early days of 1917, nearly a year was to pass before another fatality. Indeed the war itself went through a quiet spell as the Germans withdrew to newly prepared defences along the Hindenburg Line. Ernest, like his brother, was a Dulwich Hamlet cricketer who does not appear to have represented the club at football. He survived over three years of war, but was to lose his life in the 1918 Battles of The Somme. He is one of over 14,000 British troops with no known grave remembered at Pozieres. Nearly all went missing during the critical early days of the battle, March – April 1918, during which time an Allied defeat was a serious possibility. The Germans decided in late 1917 that they had to strike in early 1918, believing the Allied army to be exhausted after a series of major battles in 1917. The Germans had numerical superiority, but were aware this was only temporary as more American troops were due over. Consequently, they launched the 1918 Battles of The Somme on 21 March. The German offensive, known as the Kaiserschlacht, met with initial success, driving the Allied 5th Army backwards over much of the former Somme battlefields. This was the last hurrah for the Germans though, as a counter attack worked and the Drive to Victory can be dated to 18 August 1918.

The 2nd/9th Battalion London Regiment was another example of a territorial force founded in 1914 to replace the front line territorial troops who went to the Front that year. Again, they were badly off for kit and supplies, often not even receiving Lee Enfield 303 rifles or quick fire artillery weapons until mid 1916, and it was early 1917 before they could be deployed to the Western Front.

It is indicative of the stalemate on the Western Front that Pozieres is very close to the targets the Allies were trying to take back in July 1916 at the Battle of Bazentin Ridge where Tommy Rose was probably fatally wounded.

Jack Harold Chance Butler
Date of Death : 6 August 1918 aged 27.
Rank & Unit: Sergeant, 237 Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery.
Buried : Terlincthun Cemetery.

Another of the local lads, and born in nearby Brixton. Jack’s parents lived in Tulse Hill, whilst he was married to Adelaide J. Butler and lived at 112 Palace Road, Tulse Hill. Despite this he enlisted at Herne Bay, seeing action in both France and Flanders before his death. Terlincthun is near the site of several field hospitals and many buried there passed away in hospital from wounds sustained previously, often being buried locally and then re-buried at Terlincthun after the war. The cemetery was badly damaged during World War II.

Sidney Herbert Beales
Date of Death : 25 August 1918 aged 34.
Rank & Unit: Private, 1st/13th Princess Louise’s Battalion, London Regiment.
Buried : No known grave. Remembered at Vis en Artois Memorial.

A local lad, though his parents had moved to Twickenham by the time of his death. Victory in the last Battle of the Somme had cleared the way for an Allied advance and eventual victory. Sidney died in the phase of the war known as the Advance to Victory. He is one of 9,000 men with no known grave remembered on the Vis en Artois Memorial, all lost between 18 August 1918 and the ceasefire in the Picardy and Artois region. Another of the married men, his wife was Florence Emma Beales of 35 Friern Road, Dulwich. Whilst not featuring by 1913/14 Sidney had been a first team player in the past, often appearing at halfback. He was the older brother of Percy, who also represented the Hamlet at first team level. Away from football the 1901 census lists Sidney as a Clerk.

The 1919 Handbook lists him as being in the Queen Victoria Rifles, which was also part of the London Regiment suggesting he may have transferred battalions at some point.

According to the 1919 Handbook Sidney was the last Hamlet man to die, however we are confident this is ‘our’ man. It is an unusual name, the official war records only record two S. Beales as dying in the entire war and the known details of this Sidney Beales tally with the relevant entry in the 1901 census. (His father is named as Harry in the census, it seems reasonable to assume the war record version, Harly, is due to someone mis-reading Harry at some point, the rest matches perfectly.) It appears that he was initially declared missing and declared dead at a later date with the Hamlet using that date whilst the official war records use the date he was declared missing as his date of death.

Albert Charles Andrews *
Date of Death : 4 September 1918 aged 19.
Rank & Unit : Private 26762 A Coy 12th Battalion East Surrey Regiment.
Buried : Esquelbecq Military Cemetery, North France.

There is confusion over his name as the 1919 handbook lists him as J.C. Andrews whilst the war memorial lists him as A.C. Andrews. Given that we have identified errors in the 1919 Handbook it seems probable that the war memorial is the correct version. Indeed there are no J.C Andrews, who seem to fit the bill amongst the official war dead. There is however an A.C. Andrews who does match. Albert was born and enlisted in Camberwell, listing his parents as William Arthur and Rosina Andrews of 35 Ulverscroft Road. He died of wounds after serving in both Flanders and France.

The 1919 Handbook lists J.C. Andrews as a Sergeant in the Civil Service Rifles: a battalion within the London Regiment. Furthermore, his place in the 1919 Handbook Roll of Honour suggests his death occurred between Stan Peart and Reginald Astill, and not in 1918. To add to the confusion, a Lance Sergeant in the Civil Service Rifles named Archibald John Andrews did go missing (and was subsequently declared dead), in the Arras area on 21st May 1915. This fits in nicely with A.C.’s place in the Roll of Honour, unlike Andrew Charles who died in 1918. It is possible that both the memorial and the handbook got his initials wrong and that this is our man. Or, could he perhaps have been known to the club as John? Archibald was 11 and living in Portsmouth at the time of the 1901 census. It will be interesting to see where Archibald was residing when the 1911 census data is released.

It is also worth noting that the April 1916 edition of ‘News of the Pink and Blue Brigade’ does not list anyone with the surname of Andrews as either enlisted or deceased, despite being up to date enough to report Stan Peart's death. This suggests it may be that the 1919 Handbook Roll of Honour is chronologically wrong. If that is the case Albert Charles is almost certainly our man.

Robert Charles Lawrence D.C.M.
Date of Death : 19 October 1918 aged 29.
Rank & Unit : Sergeant, 231st Brigade Royal Field Artillery.
Buried : Vadencourt British Cemetery, Maissemy.

Brothers Arthur, Claude and Walter (the first Hamlet man to die), had signed up to fight in the early days of the war. Robert appears to have enlisted later but went on to be the only one of our dead known to have been the recipient of a bravery medal. The Distinguished Conduct Medal was second only to the Victoria Cross for non-commissioned personnel. He is buried at Maissemy, the scene of much fighting in 1918. It was taken by the Germans on 21 March and only recaptured on 15 September. It is probable he may initially have been buried elsewhere as many of those buried here were brought in from small temporary cemeteries at the end of the war.

The 1919 Handbook lists him as a Corporal.

Percy Sills
Date of Death : 6 November 1918.
Rank & Unit : Acting Lance Corporal, Labour Corp.
Buried : Scartho Road Cemetery, Grimsby.

Percy was the final Hamlet fatality, dying less than a week before the ceasefire. Percy was listed as aged 13 in the 1901 census when he was living at 269 Crystal Palace Road, Dulwich. He was another local lad being born at, living at and enlisted at Dulwich, however, he ended up in The Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment), suggesting he may have been a conscript. Before he died he had transferred to the 506th Home Service Employment Company. He didn’t actually serve abroad, however, The Sherwood Foresters were involved in quelling the Republican Uprising in Ireland at Easter 1916, so he may have seen action there. Percy was the only son of Albert and Louisa Sills.

The 1919 Handbook lists him as a Private.

Original article from HH14 Winter 2005.
Copyright © Roger Deason

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Edgar Kail’s Schooldays

Taking Care of the Boy

Mrs Rosa Kail was most impressed. She loved to often repeat the story about Mr Lorraine Wilson, a man held in high esteem in the Kail household. The incident was originally related to her by her husband James. Mr James Kail had returned from the railway station, having gone down with their son Edgar to see him off. The Hamlet team was playing away, and about to embark on their trip. As they were ready to leave, Mr Wilson put his arm on young Edgar’s shoulder and reminded the staff to “Please take care of the boy.” Wilson’s compassion struck a chord with Edgar’s mother, who was pleased that someone was showing a genuine concern for her dear son. The touching episode left an impression on Mrs Kail that she never forgot.

The teenage Edgar appears to have received little love from his austere father. A strict disciplinarian, Mr Kail demanded and received the utmost respect from his growing family. But at a cost – it distanced him from his offspring. By contrast, Dulwich Hamlet’s chief mentor Lorraine Wilson, known universally as ‘Pa’, demonstrated a more fatherly love. Pa had a wonderful track record in the supervision of young people. It was with boys of a similar age group back in 1893 that he had originally built Dulwich Hamlet Football Club. His fostering and nurturing of the boys that came under his wing, and the way he showed great care with those entering adulthood, was a breath of fresh air to Edgar.

However, we must not take anything away from Mr Kail, who was the major influence on his young boys. He often took groups of his children (he had nine) on day trips to central London, frog-marching them to and fro like a mini regiment. Occasionally they were allowed the luxury of a tram ride to Camberwell Green, where they would usually alight before continuing on foot. The part of East Dulwich where they lived is built between two hills, and even the shortest of journeys invariably involved climbing a height or two there and back. Mr Kail even instructed his children how to walk uphill properly, “Lift your feet up. Keep your shoulders back.” It was good tuition for young Edgar, who would later climb the heights that most schoolboys only dream of.

A Shilling Well Spent

Mr Kail also demanded that if a Kail boy needed money for anything, then he had to earn it. He always encouraged his children to be active and useful, and taught them to value the uttermost farthing. And it paid dividends; these precepts and principles learned in youth remained with the Kail family throughout their lives, especially Edgar, who, as well as being prudent would not receive any sort of payment under false pretences.

Before the First World War, Edgar earned his pocket money by doing an early morning paper-round with his brother Fred. The strict routine and good practise was made simpler by a grandfather clock (minus its minute hand) that stood at the foot of the stairs in their Nutfield Road home. The defective yet efficient timepiece governed the Kail household, sounding out the routine of the day, striking the boys into the good habits of timekeeping and dependability.

Following payday, and with sixpence each, Fred and Edgar often walked the couple of miles up to Camberwell Green to enjoy an evening in the old music-hall theatres. There were two at the Green, the Camberwell Palace of Varieties and the Camberwell Empire, where, seated in the ‘gods’, the lads got to see some of the leading entertainers of the day. Little Tich, Harry Champion, Marie Lloyd, George Roby, Harry Lauder and Fred Karno’s Troupe with the little known Charlie Chaplin in the ranks, were all seen.

When the first show was over they crossed the road to the other theatre to repeat the exercise, but not before they had had something to eat. While Edgar queued for tickets for the second house, Fred popped round the corner into Coldharbour Lane and brought back fish and chips. At the end of the evening, and with the time getting on for eleven o’clock, they traipsed home in the dark to East Dulwich, musing over the twenty or so first-rate turns they had seen, undoubtedly reminding each other of the best and funniest bits. They would be sure to get in before the clock struck, or else dad was waiting at the door with a slipper in his hand.

Schooldays at Goodrich Road

Edgar Kail began his schooling in September 1905, attending the Goodrich Road School just a five minute walk down the hill. He remained at Goodrich until he finished his education in his mid teens. London County Council Inspectors at the time described Goodrich as a “large and difficult school...but well maintained.” Some of the school logbooks from the early part of the 20th century are today kept at the London Metropolitan Archives. They record the day to day events that took place in the life of the school. Class trips to the Tower of London, the Monument, Kensington and Horniman’s Museum are all noted, as are local visits to Peckham Rye Park, One Tree Hill, Brockwell Park, Dulwich Park for nature studies, early morning swimming sessions at the Dulwich Baths, Shakespeare plays at the Crystal Palace and so on.

Each February, a visit to the South Metropolitan Gas Company in the Old Kent Road was arranged for the boys who were soon to leave school. ‘Metrogas’ was one of the main employers in the area, where many local boys began apprenticeships, and during the First World War three thousand employees of the company served at the Front. The ‘Gasmen’ also had a football team in one of the major amateur leagues. So just think, had Edgar Kail decided on a career as a gasman after his careers visit, then the Metrogas football team may later have enjoyed his membership as opposed to Dulwich Hamlet.

Running for the School

For schoolboys in Dulwich, the South London Schools annual athletics meeting at Crystal Palace was the highlight of the summer term. Crystal Palace was the home of the FA Cup Final, and many of the boys taking part in the games must have imagined themselves running out in front of a cup final crowd. The organizers of these day-long events received much credit, as often, huge gatherings of four figures took part, whilst many more watched the youngsters from the terraces.

Among the supervisors largely responsible for the day’s proceedings one could always find three well-known faces. Before the First Word War George Wheeler was the chief judge and referee of events, Bob Crump was another of the judges and Bert Hardy fired the starter’s pistol. These three men were leading officials of, or associated with Dulwich Hamlet Football Club. When the Kail boy grew into a man these three good men became his friends and colleagues.

What a great thrill for the Kail family when they picked up their South London Press on Friday June 24, 1910, to see nine year old Edgar’s name in print, probably for the first time. Little did they realise that over the next thirty years his name would hardly be out of the paper, gaining fame as one of the best known sportsmen in the country.
Representing Goodrich Road School, Kail came runner-up in the final of the Under 12s 440 yards handicap race. South London’s leading journal described it as “a grand race won by three yards, a foot and a yard separating the next pairs.” It was not the only medal for Goodrich Road, they also won the tug of war.

In the 1911 report, Edgar Kail’s name does not appear in the placings among his contemporaries from the previous year. He may have been absent, or he may have had a rare off day, but he is back for the June 1912 games. Competing in the Under 12s 440 yards race he won his first heat, whilst in the 100 yards sprint, he won both heats, his second round time being 14 seconds. Alas, in the final he finished at the tail end, only three yards separating him from the winner. Incidentally, running in the 220 yards was F. Sivewright – could this be the same person who ten years later became a team mate of Kail’s at Dulwich Hamlet?

Practice Makes Perfect

The South London Schools Cricket and Athletic Association held its 22nd annual sports meeting in June 1913. Again in the press report (SLP June 27, 1913) we find Edgar, now 12 years old, appearing in three events. He finished first and third in the heats of the Over 12s 220 yards and won his first heat in the 100 yards sprint. He also came second in the obstacle race having won the heat. Edgar wasn't the only member of the Kail family there that day - his younger brother Harold did very well in the heats of the Under 10s 100 yards.

Up the road from the Kail family home was Dulwich Park. Less than twenty years earlier the Dulwich Hamlet Football Club, in its infancy, used the park for its home fixtures. One of the park’s main features, indeed the central attraction, is the picturesque boating lake. In Edwardian times sand blown over from the bridal path onto the tarmac surrounding the lake produced a gritty surface that was as near to the racetrack at Crystal Palace as one could find. The ideal location where the young athlete could practise his running. So it was here that Edgar, overseen by his father with the stopwatch, perfected his starting and finishing, his breath control, and the things that accompany attainment.

All the training eventually paid off, and in June 1914 Edgar Kail finally gained a winner’s medal in these games. Having recorded the best time in the heats of the 440 yards race - the only boy under 60 seconds - he went on to win the final by two yards, and a time of 57.8 seconds. The close race was made more exciting as the young Edgar was up against his schoolmate, W. Jones, who finished second. It was a triumph for Goodrich Road School, and a personal triumph for the boy champion. In the 880 yards (half mile handicaps), Edgar completed the two laps of the Crystal Palace track in bronze position, six yards separating him from the runner up.

Getting Noticed

Freeman’s Ground at Champion Hill was another football venue close by that was drawing larger and larger crowds as its occupants, Dulwich Hamlet FC, started collecting silverware on a regular basis. Improvements were made to the ground, and before long it was being used for many other representative games, including semi-finals, and county and schoolboy matches. The columnist F.B. Douglas-Hamilton was watching such a match at Freeman’s Ground one Saturday in 1910. Of all the players on the field, it was the handsome little kid playing up front which caught his eye. He wasn’t alone either, it was the opinion of a number of others that the lad with the exceptional skills could make the grade and one day become a famous player.

The diminutive forward was a few years younger than the rest of his team-mates who ranged from thirteen to fifteen. The match in progress was a trial to pick the school team. Two Kail boys were being considered – thirteen year old Reginald, who was hoping to be promoted from the second team, and his nine year old brother Edgar. Suffice it to say that the younger sibling won a place whilst poor old Reg remained in the reserves. A year or so later Edgar was made the captain of the Goodrich School side.

Douglas-Hamilton took every opportunity of watching schoolboy football, especially savouring the county games, and if that was London FA XI, then Edgar Kail, in his mid teens, was often playing. Sometimes the boy astonished him with his knowledge of the game. One time he overheard Edgar and another boy discussing the centre forward capabilities of a fellow student. “He’s simply great.” remarked Edgar Kail. “In fact another G.O. Smith.” “Smith, Smith?” queried the other boy. “Who’s G.O. Smith?” Young Edgar, disgusted by his friend’s ignorance of one of the greatest centre forwards England had ever produced, frowned, “You don’t know G.O. Smith! Dear oh dear, go and learn your history of England!”

The Start of the Great War

When war with Germany broke out in August 1914 Edgar Kail was acting as the scorer for the Dulwich Hamlet Cricket Club. Despite his youth and slight stature Edgar was being noticed as a general all-round sportsman, and perhaps it was only a matter of time before he was good enough to take his place in either the Hamlet’s cricket or football team. Or both; the Hamlet cricket team was virtually the football team in a different set of togs. It was to the credit of the DHCC officers to allow Edgar along for the experience of some first class cricket, and to show their complete confidence in the boy. Edgar relished the responsibility of recording the correct scores, and undoubtedly appreciated the assurance shown in him.

The match in progress was on the Army Barracks ground in Caterham, Surrey, with the Guards Depot being Dulwich’s opponents. When the bugles were sounded, the game was immediately abandoned, and it must have been a very odd sight to the youngster to witness the guardsmen dashing from the field to change from their whites into battle dress!

No one could have foreseen the effect that this Great War would have on the British nation over the following four years, and for generations to come. Thousands of bright young lives were suddenly plucked up and dumped in the thick of a carnage on a scale not known before, many never to return. Fortunately for us Edgar Kail was the safe-side of recruitment age.

Schoolboy Honours

The season came and went, and May 1915 concluded what was a very unimportant nine months of football. Most clubs tried to carry on in some shape or form, but Dulwich Hamlet FC, like many others in the land, had exhausted its funds. Neither was there any need for the usual engagement in battle on the continent in the shape of an Easter tour. Players looked forward to these trips, but the hard fact was that thousands of them were out there anyway, and the majority of those fields had been “torn up by the greater conflict.” (SLP April 9, 1915) What the next season held in store in the increasingly troubled times was anybody’s guess. With most of its playing force signed up for the war, football’s governing bodies looked to schoolboys to continue the game.

Increasing in confidence with every representative match, Edgar (along with his peers up and down the land) was also bringing enjoyment to many devotees, starved of league football. The young ambassador of the beautiful game appeared in the forward line of the South London Schools team that defeated East Ham 2-0 in the 4th round of the English Schools Shield on Saturday 13th March 1915. The match was played at Champion Hill, the home of Dulwich Hamlet Football Club, and it was probably at this game that a select few of his future followers first caught a glimpse of their hero. Following a bye in the first round, South London had disposed of Chatham 12-0 in the second round and Woolwich 10-1 in round three. Later in the Spring (May) he represented London in a match against Birmingham, scoring five of London’s seven goals.

At the corner of Goodrich Road stood the Lordship Lane Chapel, where the Kail children, encouraged by dad, attended the Sunday School. Some evidence suggests that half the time the boys didn’t turn up at three o’clock, but could be found elsewhere, presumably with jumpers for goalposts. The folks at the church also ran the 36th Battalion of the Boys’ Brigade. The object of the Boys’ Brigade, was “the advancement of Christ’s kingdom among boys and the promotion of habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self-respect, and all that tends towards a true Christian manliness.” One couldn’t argue with that. And it is no surprise to find included among Edgar’s collection of medals was one for the Boys’ Brigade South London Sports.

That clutch of medals won by Edgar as a schoolboy also includes; the South London Schools FA Senior Winners, the South London FA Senior Bronze, TSSA London v Newcastle 1914, Camberwell Carnival School Sports and the Hardy Competition 1914 [A competition possibly organized by Bert Hardy, but more likely one associated with the ‘Hardy’s Own’ regiment of Boy Scouts in South London led by troop surgeon Dr Hardy] and the London Schools FA Silver 1915. The Newcastle match, played at Tottenham Hotspur’s, White Hart Lane, saw Edgar representing an all-London side that won 3-0.

English Rose

In April 1915 Edgar Kail was chosen for the English Schools FA team. He was now numbered among the eleven finest young footballers in the country and honoured with the privilege of wearing the Rose of England. The annual match versus Wales took place on April 24th, this year at Ninian Park in Cardiff. The English team was a made up of six youngsters taken from the London area and five from the North East. Photographs were taken of the two sides before the match, which was watched by 4,000 spectators.

In the 1-1 draw, the Welsh took the lead and England equalized before the break. Later in the game, “England through Kail became extremely dangerous, and after a pretty bit of combination in which some good re-passing was witnessed, the ball was again left in the possession of Kail, who running through, had the goal at his mercy, but shot inches wide.” So ran the report in Cardiff’s Evening Express Mail.
A week later on May 1st Scotland were taken on at Molynieux, the home of Wolverhampton Wanderers. It was the first of Edgar’s encounters with the auld enemy, and it turned out to be a game to remember.

F.B. Douglas Hamilton, writing towards the end of Kail’s career, recalled how he accompanied the party of schoolboys and the small army of officials on the trip to the Black Country. Several of the youngsters were quite nervous. On arrival the boys enjoyed a bit of sightseeing at the famous oak tree in which Charles the Second supposedly hid from the Roundheads. “What do you think of it?” asked Edgar. One of the boys replied, “I wish I could hide in it while the match is being played.” Douglas-Hamilton kept glancing at Edgar to see if his young friend might also be overawed by the occasion, and consequently fail to do himself justice. However, any doubts he may have had were soon to be dispelled.

The following day, in the home dressing room Edgar’s leadership traits were displayed when he half jokingly said, “If any of you chaps are nervous you’ll lose the match first and I’ll punch your heads afterwards.” Before the contest, in front of another 4,000 plus crowd, the team was again photographed with various mustachioed dignitaries. The surviving picture shows a fresh faced Edgar in confident mood. As the photographer packed away his camera, and the players began to take up their positions, Douglas-Hamilton said, “Half a sovereign for every goal, Edgar.” Edgar’s beaming young features instantly took on a furrowed brow, “Money for playing football?!” Edgar queried with a cringe. Even then, he had a horror of professionalism – and he was still only fourteen years old.

The Scottish Schoolboys were soundly beaten 6-2, with Edgar bagging a hat-trick. His tally would have been higher but he had a fourth goal disallowed due to a handball. The pick of his goals was described in the classified edition of the Express & Star Newspaper later that evening. “Six minutes after the interval Kail gave England the lead in very fine style. He was challenged by a couple of opponents, but by skilful maneuvering he secured an opening, and let fly, the ball entering the net high up, and well out of the reach of McDonald.” This early report of Edgar Kail’s style of play and finishing would become typical over the next two decades.

So, before he had even begun his amateur career at Dulwich, Edgar had already played at a number of the Football League’s best-known grounds. Kail’s next visit to Cardiff’s Ninian Park would be five years later for Dulwich Hamlet, on the road to victory in the Amateur Cup.

Record Opening Bat

In Dulwich Park Edgar was still knocking off hundredths of a second from his own speed. Laps of the lake got quicker as he learned how to breathe properly, conserve his lungpower and use his muscle power to get the maximum from his body. With the nation at war with Germany the South London Schools games were toned down somewhat in 1915, and held in Wandsworth rather than the usual lavish surrounds of Crystal Palace. To compensate, schools in the borough of Camberwell were invited to enter their best young athletes into the Dulwich Hamlet School’s fourth annual Sportsday. Held at the Herne Hill Track on Thursday 24th June 1915, Edgar Kail again represented Goodrich Road School in the 220 yards race, and won the final in 29.6 seconds.

It is a wonder that Kail picked up an education at all; he never seems to have been at school! Only the previous day he was a cricketing hero at the Kennington Oval, making a record opening partnership of 139 in the annual trial match arranged by the South London Schools Association. For the twenty second year South East London schoolboys met their South West London counterparts in a one sided match that was won by an innings and 36 runs. The record score knocked up by Edgar Kail and his partner J. Robinson apparently lasted for many years after. “Both played,” said the South London Press, [SLP July 2, 1915] “for their age, what can only be described as really good cricket.” In fact, they played the game of their lives, making the game safe before a wicket had even fallen. Kail, honoured with captaining the East team, was the first batsman out. Having hit 9 boundaries, he was eventually caught for 68. In the field he was also quite accomplished, bowling two wickets, and taking a good catch.

Edgar Kail’s feats over these two days proved his all round sporting ability. In fact, he now excelled in cricket, track athletics and football. Whichever sport he was to finally decide upon he was certain to achieve greatness in it. We can be thankful that he chose football.

The same newspaper that reported the above events also carried the sad story of a local soldier’s recent death in the war that was taking place on the continent. It is an extraordinary coincidence that Rifleman Stanley Peart had not only been a Dulwich Hamlet footballer, but had also once captained the South East London Schools cricket team at the Oval, in 1906. Stan Peart was the third Hamlet man killed in the conflict. He was 23 years old. By the end of the war twenty two Hamlet men were counted among the dead.

The Principal Duty of Obedience

With the war on the continent increasing in ferocity and in casualties, sporting life in Britain took a backseat. The condition of the grass on a football pitch became almost irrelevant, and at Dulwich Hamlet’s Champion Hill ground things were no different from anywhere else in the country. Weeds had taken root all over the field of play and wild flowers were springing up along the clinker terracing. Nevertheless, to one young man with a great affection for his local club, these things did not go unnoticed.

With the support and encouragement of Bert Hardy, Edgar Kail took it upon himself to assemble some of the best footballers in the area that had just left school, to help out at the run down Champion Hill. Most evenings Bill Caesar, Fred Pilkington, Bill Brierly, Alan Braggington, (a fellow pupil at Goodrich Road School) and a number of others, would all meet Edgar at the ground. After the usual kickabout, the youngsters got on with some of the urgent and ongoing jobs that needed doing at the neglected football ground: painting the goalposts, mowing and marking the pitch, scrubbing out the dressing rooms and generally keeping the place from further deterioration.

What may have looked like some very menial tasks to some, quickly became a labour of love to these lads. If nothing else it was a character-building exercise for the youngsters who were hearing news of soldiers killed in action each and every day. Their elder brothers, including Fred and Reg Kail, and their cousins were at the Front putting their lives on the line, and they were not going to sit at home and laze about. Anyway, if the war didn’t hurry up and reach a conclusion it would soon be their turn to don the khaki.

When the Camberwell Gun Brigade rightly commandeered most of the local open spaces, Dulwich Hamlet found that its ground, which was barely two years old when the war started, was also required by the Military. Amazingly, the Dulwich Hamlet Board, through gentle persuasion and skilful diplomacy, managed to secure the pitch for football. The rest of the Hamlet quarters however, including the grandstand and the ‘old’ pre-1912 enclosure, were all utilized, dozens of army horses tethered round the barrier of the pitch whilst the stand became a harness-room.

The Groundsman’s Beautiful Daughter

The Champion Hill ground staff made all the arrangements essential for the comfort of the spectators visiting Champion Hill. This had always been the case, and from time to time the club received letters of praise regarding its stewarding of matches, and this was due in large part to Mr A. Dalhousie Ramsay.

Dal Ramsay was known to everyone who made a trip to Champion Hill. A quiet, yet extremely popular man, Ramsay was a regular feature from the turn of the century, overseeing the stewarding duties at Freeman’s Ground and the new stadium built in 1912. Serving on the Committee, it was Ramsay’s responsibility to see that visitors and spectators were well cared for. The assistance received from the keen bunch of young lads allowed him to get on with more pressing needs.

As much as Edgar Kail took great pleasure in lending his hand, he also had an ulterior motive for making the daily trek to the ground. He had fallen in love with Ramsay’s pretty young daughter Irene, or Rene as she was known.

The walk from Edgar’s home in 13 Nutfield Road to the Hamlet ground took him directly past Tintagel Crescent where the Ramsay’s lived at number four. Mr Ramsay saw traits of himself in the boy (a genial disposition, a thorough sportsman and jolly good fellow), and felt that his only daughter could not have fallen for a more excellent chap. His hopes that the ‘childhood sweethearts’ would stick together for the duration were realized when the couple eventually got engaged in December 1923, and married in February 1926.

The Dulwich Hamlet Apprentices

In September 1916, just as the new season was about to commence, all involved in both amateur and professional football were fully aware, as one report put it, “of the greater game before the nation”. (SLP Sept 1, 1916) Where possible, some sort of play between youngsters and veterans would be attempted, but with Europe now into the third year of the war, and virtually every member of Dulwich Hamlet Football Club on active service, the Club Secretary George Wheeler was prompted to ask in the press, if anyone desired a game to write to him.

This clarion-call saw the likes of Reg Leutchford, Andy Kempton, Sam Laycock, Bob Aspinall, Bill Dash and the Nicholls brothers join the Hamlet and become important members of the team. With Bert Hardy, diligently arranging the fixtures, and a local goalkeeper called Mortleman greatly encouraging the younger element of the club, things were kept together during the troubled times. The usual team at that time was:-

George Hudson (goalkeeper)
Sam Laycock, Fred Pilkington (backs)
Bob Aspinall, Jack Guilliard, Tope Klein (half-backs)
Len Goodsell, Edgar Kail, Roger(?) Thompson, Ernest Siever, Gilbert Laws (forwards)

Andy Kempton was the main utility player, and Curly Evans played when available. But priority was given to Dulwich Hamlet members and visitors on leave from the Front, or their call of duty.

Edgar Kail was still only fifteen years old; a fresh complexioned, grey eyed, brown haired boy. He was still a little short of his final height of 5’8”, yet he was the first choice inside right, and fast becoming well-seasoned in the national sport. Cuttings from the period reveal the emergence of one of the best loved amateur sportsmen and great footballers of the era between the two world wars.
The South London Press from Friday November 3, 1916, reported Nunhead and Dulwich scraping up two teams, “providing their few remaining crocks and friends with a little entertainment.” Kail scored one goal but Nunhead won the match 3-2. A week later, “Kail was first to find the net,” in a 7-2 victory over the Army Ordnance Corps., “the London representative schoolboy, playing in capital form.” He later scored a second goal.

He celebrated his sixteenth birthday on Sunday November 26, 1916, although ‘celebrated’ might not be the right word to use in such dark days. The day before he scored for the Hamlet against another top amateur side, Leytonstone, but despite getting the equalizer before half-time, Dulwich went on to lose the match 4-1.

Along with matches against old adversaries Leytonstone and Nunhead, Dulwich Hamlet entertained and visited their old friends from the Guards Depot of Caterham. A team from the Horse Transport was taken on, as were the Royal Naval Depot side from Crystal Palace, the Royal Bucks Hussars, the Army Ordnance Corps, the Scots Guards, the Army Catering Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. One particular game, against an AOC side in February 1917 saw the ‘crocks and boys’ of the Hamlet win 13-3, with nine of the goals coming from the boot (or head) of Edgar Kail.

These visiting sides would invariably contain one or two professional players in their ranks. One Navy team, which included three internationals, got a little more than they bargained for when they faced the young Hamlet team, and were soundly thrashed 6-1. Edgar and his friends fully understood the service they were providing. It was a bit of pleasure for soldiers on leave; and for some who returned to their units at the Front, it was the last indulgence they would know.

The on-off partnership Edgar was forging with Sid Nicol and Bill Davis when they were on leave would pay dividends after the war when the trio became the most feared inside forward line in the amateur game. And thus Edgar received the best kind of apprenticeship a fresh-faced young footballer could wish for.

The First World War finally came to an end only a fortnight before Edgar Kail was eighteen years old – the national conscription age. What goes through a young man’s mind as such a time draws nigh? There would have been a lot of fear and trepidation, no doubt: but also a characteristic aspiration and preparation to give his all. Fortunately, Edgar would have to wait until the next terrible war before he would serve his country in uniform as part of the Police War Reserve.

End Piece

It is impossible to say what triggered Edgar Kail’s sporting prowess as a youngster; even before his tenth birthday his natural ability was unquestioned. But generally speaking, boys in their formative years are impressionable and seek to emulate their heroes. Edgar’s role models must have come from the football and cricket fields and the athletics track. We can only speculate on who his sporting heroes were, but we can take a good guess.

The 1908 Olympic Games were held in London’s White City, and it would seem odd if Mr Kail did not take his sports-loving sons to the Games. Among the many athletes taking part was the flamboyant British sprinter Willie Applegarth. Applegarth held several world records before the First World War in 100 yards (1913 & 1914) and 220 yards (1912, 1913 & 1914) and appealed to the picture card collecting masses and Boy’s Own readers. The tabloids and the sports papers further fired the public’s imagination before he left these shores and became a professional in the United States in 1915. When it came to sprinting, Applegarth was regarded as being years ahead of his time, and his running style was to influence the great Harold Abrahams.

It is also inconceivable that the budding batsman did not visit the Surrey County Cricket Club during the summer season. The Kennington Oval was only a fifteen minute tram-ride from Edgar’s home, and Jack Hobbs, the game’s chief exponent with bat and pad plied his trade there. Hobbs was called ‘the Master’, and it is generally agreed that he was one of the most accomplished batsmen the world has ever seen. A charming man of great integrity, Hobbs became the first cricketer to be knighted [in 1953]. Like Edgar, Hobbs’ talent was seen early on. The story goes that he played his first first-class cricket match against WG Grace, who commented, “He’s going to be a good ‘un.” And the old man was dead right. Jack Hobbs went on to smash Grace’s own record of 126 centuries! In his long career, Hobbs scored over 61,000 runs, including 197 centuries.

And then there was Hussein Hegazi, the quicksilver Egyptian inside-forward for Dulwich Hamlet Football Club. Hegazi, the crowd favourite and an idol to the schoolboys of SE22, hailed from Cairo, and brought great style and flair to Champion Hill in the three seasons before the War. The similarities between Hussein Hegazi and Edgar Kail (ten years his junior) are striking: both started out as athletics champions, with amazing bursts of speed over short distances; each player, though slight in build, possessed great skill with the ball and a confidence to take on an entire defence single-handedly, which often resulted in a powerful shot and goal; Hegazi later gained international caps for Egypt whilst Kail played at the highest level for England.

It is tempting to think that the teenager saw in the exemplary Egyptian a role model that he could base his own character and whole career upon. It is just as appealing to wonder what Hegazi made of Edgar Kail – this new kid on the block. “Have you seen the Kail boy?” I can hear him say. “He’s going to be a good ‘un.”


Thanks to: Dorothy Bedwell (nee Kail), Marjory McKenzie, Callum McKenzie, Colm Kerrigan, Mishi Morath, Roger Deason and Bill Azzi.. Sources: South London Press, DHFC programmes, handbooks and 75 Year Book, Boys Own Annual 1933, The Dulwich Hamlet Story by John Lawrence.
Original article from HH14 Winter 2005.
Copyright © Jack McInroy

Monday, 9 May 2011

Firm Foundations

“Dulwich appeared to me as the Promised Land appeared to Caleb when Moses sent him to “espy it out from Kadesh-barnea”. I had come to the land of Peace, and quiet purposes. I had begun to know the meaning of civilisation, in its strictly social sense; the build up of a concise community, whose values, customs, ceremonies, and created and natural possessions could enrich the mind of the individual and discipline his emotions into an appreciative sense of historical perspective, through humility to joy.”
Richard Church, Over the Bridge

A while back Hamlet supporter Tim Williamson alerted me to ‘Over The Bridge’, the first of three volumes of autobiography by poet and author Richard Church. Church spent his formative teenage years in rural South London just off Half Moon Lane in the idylls of Herne Hill, and attended the Dulwich Hamlet Elementary School from 1905, “…where, for the next three years” he says, “I was to find an almost impossible happiness.”

I quickly obtained the books – Over The Bridge, The Golden Sovereign, The Voyage Home – and marked every reference to Dulwich Hamlet School, and there were plenty of them. The latter part of the first volume especially is littered with anecdotes and descriptions of life in the Boys department of the school in the Village. We are quickly informed that although Dulwich Hamlet was not a ‘Higher Grade’ school the standard of work was apparently more advanced than many of the other schools in the borough.

Now, you may need me to tell you at this point that Dulwich Hamlet Football Club has its foundations in the aforementioned school of the same name. It may also be worth mentioning that one or two characters in Church’s book feature prominently in the early history of the club. So it is with some interest that we can pick up a few titbits here and there that can help us build up a better picture of the personalities of these men.

Headmaster, Mr Charles Thomson Hunt is described as “a plump little man with full jowls and iron grey hair… and cool blue eyes.” Church liked him and he liked the youngster very much. They hit it off from the moment they met when his father brought him for an interview. Very soon C.T. Hunt became the chief influence on twelve year old Richard Church. He had a “calm severity, and his personality was a constant force.” He also made the lad begin to realise the quality in the books he read. In fact this was something that Hunt had picked up on in that that very first meeting, and he constantly encouraged the youngster to expand his reading matter.

Hunt sounds like a wonderful man, and the sort of teacher we all wished we’d had. Instead of the boys being merely receptive to instruction, he made them stand up before the whole class and get them to say something. (Colin Welland’s character in the film ‘Kes’ springs to mind.) The whole regime at Dulwich Hamlet was very positive. The boys, particularly Church, were enriched with a new found confidence and faith in themselves. The Headmaster and his staff shared in their enthusiasm and took pride in their students. It wasn’t long before Richard Church took a lead in Art and in English, the two subjects he excelled in. His skill in the former helped him eventually win a scholarship to Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts. Such a gifted scholar was he that he even managed to impress Mrs Isabell Hunt, and was invited on a number of occasions to the Hunt’s home in East Dulwich, where he was permitted to thumb through portfolios of engravings and prints of the great masters like JMW Turner.

Although C.T. Hunt had only been Headmaster since 1901, like many of the staff at the school he had been around for years and was almost a permanent fixture. He actually started at the school in the 1880s, and was a senior teacher when a certain Lorraine ‘Pa’ Wilson, asked him if he would allow him to use the gymnasium apparatus in the school playground. Pa Wilson, who was running a bible class at the school, was granted his wish and thus began a very successful gymnastics class. It was still going strong at the outbreak of the First World War.

In the latter part of the Victorian era much was made of ‘Muscular Christianity’. Indeed, not a few of our top professional clubs began life as football sides associated with Sunday schools and churches of one denomination or other. Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Aston Villa, Birmingham, Bolton Wanderers, Blackpool, Everton, Fulham and Wolves to name just a handful from the Premier League alone. And even the Hamlet’s third eleven played under the name of Dulwich St Barnabas. Pa Wilson was a pioneer in Dulwich, and was once said to be the backbone of the athletic life of the school. The College Chapel Committee enjoyed his presence and he is sometimes found quoting the New Testament in his speeches at club functions. He and his great friend Canon Daniell, the chaplain of Dulwich College, went out of their way to involve the local youths in active sport.

Years later Pa Wilson went on record saying that Canon George William Daniell “taught me the mainspring of right action.” And that right action, or moral obligation I suppose, showed itself throughout Wilson’s wonderful career in his goodness, integrity and nobility. Daniell returned the compliment when he said, “The quiet thoroughness of a life like Wilson’s was not without effect upon the people among whom he dwelt. He was an inspirer of many. His sterling qualities won him esteem and admiration.” Wilson’s ‘philosophy’ literally drove him on, and he claimed he was never happier than when he was striving for a thing. Yes, there was much pleasure in the accomplished work, but the greater happiness lay in the doing of it.
Rev. George W. Daniell
President of Dulwich Hamlet FC, 1893 – 1915.

It was thus with such a motive that he agreed to become actively involved in the formation of an old boys club at the Dulwich Hamlet School. He was originally approached by a couple of the lads with a handful of loose change and the challenge was too good to turn down. A meeting was called and sixty old scholars showed up. Others who couldn’t make the meeting sent in apologies and expressed their approval of the proposal and gave their names as members. A committee was appointed comprising of prominent staff members and local dignitaries. Initially Daniell and Wilson took on roles as patrons, with Hunt in the secretary and treasurer’s seat, but this would soon change.

Also at that formal constitution the Headmaster of the school, Mr William Brenchley, was appointed as the Club President. However, Brenchley who had only been at the school for the previous eighteen months or so, declined this lofty position which was instead taken up by Canon Daniell, or lowly Reverend Daniell as he was at the time, with C.T. Hunt as Vice President.

Interestingly, Canon Daniell’s grandfather (John Frederic Daniell, 1790-1845) was a noted scientist, and has a crater on the moon named after him! It is located in the ‘Lake of Dreams’ where it now rubs shoulders with the John Lennon Peace Crater. William Brenchley’s tenure as Headmaster lasted throughout the 1890s – and therefore he witnessed the rapid growth of Dulwich Hamlet Football Club. After that he had an illustrious career at Camberwell Borough Council as Alderman and was hugely influential in the establishment of the Camberwell New Cemetery at Honor Oak, Brenchley Gardens.

On his walk to school from No.2 Warmington Gardens, Richard Church was sometimes overtaken by Mr Hunt on his pushbike. One day the ruddy youth with his head in the clouds and making free poetic gestures of word and movement, and feeling at one with nature, made a boastful pass at the universe, and the pale gold autumn foliage of a great elm tree responded. The Head pulled up alongside and severely asked, “My boy, what are you doing?”
“I am an elm-waif, sir.” replied Church.
“I see.” said the Head cautiously. “Well, don’t let it make you late.” And he rode on.

“[Dulwich] was the same Garden of Eden which had caused Edward Alleyn, three hundred years before me, to fall on his knees in prayer, thanking God that at last he had found the place where he could build his college, the thank offering of a successful man of the theatre, colleague of Shakespeare, husband of John Donne’s daughter.”

The spirit of Edward Alleyn, Richard Church felt, lingered in Dulwich. The Elizabethan and Shakespearian associations touched the boy’s imagination. The more he listened to the easy discourses of Mr Hunt, the more he identified himself with the environs of the Village, the more he began to appreciate the eloquence of the past – and the tragicomedy of Shakespearian drama. He absorbed the whole atmosphere through his skin and developed a way of reading a book whereby he would contemplate “a physical presence, the author in the flesh”, a sensation which he found both natural and reassuring. But that’s poets for you.

Along with the Headmaster there was one other member of staff that Church greatly appreciated. It was the Assistant Head and master of the top standard, where he spent most of his time in the school. Mr George C. Wheeler was an extremely modest and kind hearted man in every way. He had a humility and grace that always deflected any praise that was given to him. He also happened to be the Secretary of Dulwich Hamlet Football Club, which was continuing further up the ladder of success and into the Isthmian League, and with a ‘proper’ ground secured at Champion Hill where they had played since 1902. This is more or less the same site where the present DHFC team play today, over a hundred years later.

A brief article on George Wheeler appeared in a June 1897 issue of the South London Press. He was only one of the many teachers prominently involved in sporting legislature and organisation, slaving away in “the true interests of sport and training up the young mind to the essential value of athletics.” He held a place on the committee of the South London Schools Cricket Association, and was an active exponent himself at the crease for Thurlow Park Cricket Club, the side which he captained. One of his most memorable matches was a 94 not out in the drizzling rain against the Hermits at Norbury. “Mr Wheeler” the article continued, “is never forgetful of trying to assist a player anxious to improve his cricket, and this trait in a sportsman is one to be universally admired. No wonder he is so popular amongst his members and friends.”

And he just couldn’t stop himself. Speaking of Wheeler’s teaching practices during Scripture and History lessons, Church commented:

"Much of our classwork was interspersed with demonstrations of batting technique, or how to bowl breaks, so that today I still recall the Acts of the Apostles as taking place in the neighbourhood of an English cricket field, in perpetual summer weather, and the Magna Carta being staged between Association goal-posts."

George C. Wheeler
Secretary of Dulwich Hamlet FC and Assistant Head of the School

By his own admission the youngster was useless at football, and little better as a batsman. He put this down to his increasing short sightedness. But we can’t all be a Doddy Wight or a Teddy Booker, Dulwich captain and Cambridge blue respectively. Still, Wheeler did not hold this against him. In fact it worked in the boy’s favour:

He treated me with a jocular familiarity that warmed my timid nerves and brought me out as a member of the small community. He soon saw to it that I was made captain of the school, though no sportsman; merely a paint-slinger and a book-worm, as he not infrequently remarked, to the amusement of my school fellows: but no ill feeling on either side. I would sit there grinning at these almost affectionate sorties, and go on my own gait unperturbed.

In adulthood Richard Church entered the civil service, but later worked for the publishers J.M. Dent & Sons and became editor to Dylan Thomas, the famous Welsh poet. On the one hand he encouraged the younger poet to publish his verse, but on the other he refused some works by the same author, on the grounds they were too obscene. He is also noted as the first critic to recognise the greatness of William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies.’ Other feathers in his cap included a stint as President for The English Association, and Director of the Oxford Festival of Spoken Poetry in the 1930s.

He spent just three years at Dulwich Hamlet School, “my most kindly nurse”, and left as a fifteen year old. Yet his time at the feet of such luminaries as C.T. Hunt and G.C. Wheeler made a deep impression on him which the poet and author was to write so fluently about in his memoirs fifty years later.

Along with Pa Wilson and several others, these two men were just as much of an influence in the lives of the young players and officers of the football club throughout the first thirty years. The greatness that the club achieved between the wars is due to these firm foundations it was built upon.

When George Wheeler was first introduced to Pa Wilson in the mid 1880s, he was told, “This gentleman is very fond of sport.” Quite an understatement! And the feeling was mutual. Separately they both would have undoubtedly achieved great things in some sport or another, but together they were a dynamic force – ‘the mainspring’ that drove things along.

Acknowledgements: My grateful thanks to Tim Williamson whose grandfather James Ross Williamson was one of the founder members of DHFC. Sources: Teachers and Football – Schoolboy Association Football in England 1885-1915 by Colm Kerrigan; Over The Bridge by Richard Church; The South London Press, DHFC handbooks.

Original article from HH23 Summer 2011.
Copyright © Jack McInroy

James Ross Williamson

It is generally thought that J.R. Williamson is one of the two lads that handed over to Pa Wilson the one shilling and eightpence (less than ten pence in today’s money) to start up a football club for the old boys of Dulwich Hamlet Elementary School. Williamson would have been about fourteen at the time – the school leaving age.

It was with extremely great pleasure then, that one day, at a Hamlet home match, a man tapped me on the shoulder and introduced himself as the grandson of J.R. Williamson.

Tim Williamson, who still lives locally in East Dulwich, is very proud of his association with his grandfather’s club. But he was honest enough to confess that he and his late father were really Millwall supporters who only turned up at Champion Hill on the odd occasion to see the Hamlet. In recent years, however, Tim has become a more frequent visitor and now only watches the occasional Millwall match.

He now regrets not having questioned his father much about his grandfather. Tim showed me a letter he received from his aging aunt Freda, where she mentions her own father J.R. Williamson. She was only eight years old at the time of his death so she couldn’t say much about him, except that he was a “Director of the club.” He was, in fact, for five years in the 1890s the DHFC Secretary. He also appears to have kept goal for the fist team at some stage in those early years.

The letter continues, “I spent many a cold Saturday watching them [the 1920s/30s Hamlet side] with my boyfriend. A football ‘hero’ was Edgar Kail, and his brother Ken was in my class at school and much sought after by the girls – me among them. I thought there was a street named after Edgar Kail but I can’t find it in my A to Z. Oh happy days.” Freda passed away last year aged 96.

Four generations: James Ross Williamson is on the right.

J.R. Williamson, born in 1878, hailed from Scotland and was one of six children born to his parents in Edinburgh. On leaving Dulwich Hamlet School he began to work in the building trade, but eventually ended up working for his younger brother in what became the family business.

Williamson’s Electrical Company was established in 1900 by Wlliam Williamson, J.R.’s younger brother, at a location in Rye Lane, Peckham, that was previously used as a museum and a dance hall.

The landlord of the premises, presumably as part payment, would receive electrical treatment from William to improve his health. Business was flourishing when William took over the lease in 1912, when many of the local houses were wired up for the first time. He also put in the electrics at Dulwich College, Alleyns School, James Allen Girls School, St Stephen’s Church in Dulwich, two Thomas Tilling bus garages and the headquarters of the Football Association in Lancaster Gate.

In the 1930s a shop front was added and goods such as radios, lamps and electric two bar fires were sold. They also ran an accumulator service so customers could keep their radios charged up. Our friend Tim was born above the shop many years later. The company still exists today in East Dulwich.
An early handbook from DHFC's time at Sunray Avenue.

In the very early days the Hamlet played their home matches in Dulwich Park, then Woodwarde Road, on to Burbage Road, then Sunray Avenue before securing Freeman’s Ground at Champion Hill. It was Williamson’s unmarried sisters who had the weekly task of washing the kit. What they muttered when they got the kit bag back after a match played in the ‘part swamp part jungle’ of Sunray Avenue one can only guess.

Sadly, J.R. Williamson passed away in 1922 in his mid forties leaving behind ten children – seven girls and three boys. One of the eldest of these, James junior, the father of Tim, was just fourteen at the time.

Original article from HH23 Summer 2011.
Copyright © Jack McInroy