The Hemingfords in World War 1
6. The Fighting Men of Hemingford Grey
It is summer 1914 and you are walking from St Ives to Hemingford Grey. Having strolled along the Causeway, you turn
right into Filbert’s Walk, where you pass a terrace of 31 houses on your right-hand side. These houses are all owned by
Johns (Jack) Harrison, osier grower and basket maker, and the Harrisons’ family home is at Numbers 30 and 31, converted into a single house.
This is the last house at the Victoria Terrace end of the row. Jack’s son, Charles is also an osier grower and he and his family
live in the house at the St Ives end of Filbert’s Walk.
You pause at No 5, where William Hookham and his wife Harriett live. He is 33 and works as a brewer’s carman. His parents, brothers and
sister live just around the corner at 7 Victoria Terrace. He will join the Bedfordshire Regiment and be killed in action in Belgium on
16 November 1914.
Just two doors farther along, at No 7, the Avory family have their home. Their son Sydney Avory, who is 15, will lie about
his age and join the Hunts Cyclist Battalion on 2 November 1914, transferring to the Bedfordshire Yeomanry Reserve in November 1915.
He will subsequently serve with the London Regiment and be killed in action in France on 6 November 1918, just five days
before the Armistice.
At No 10 lives another branch of the Avory family. James William Avory is 22 and a rod cutter with Harrisons the basket makers;
he will become a driver with the Royal Field Artillery and will die at home of wounds sustained in the Great War on 29 February 1920;
he is buried in Hemingford Grey Cemetery.
You pass the Green Man pub at No 16 then glance at No 21, where Arthur Stocker lives. He will die of his wounds in Belgium on
14 July 1917, aged 19. The Hunts Post reports as follows:
Pte Arthur Stocker killed
Pte Arthur Stocker, aged 19, only son of Mr and Mrs Harry Stocker of 21 Filbert’s Walk, St Ives, has laid down his life in France.
The Rev C Bankes, chaplain to the Dorset Regiment, has written the parents a sympathetic letter in which he states that he buried the
body alongside some of his companions on 15 July. “He took his place in the greatest of the world’s struggles and played his part.”
Deceased joined the colours about nine months ago and was drafted from the Beds to the Dorset Regiment. He worked at
Messrs Enderby and Co’s printing and lithographic works, St Ives. This makes the third employee of that firm killed in action.
On Tuesday afternoon, Mr Stocker received official intimation from the War Office that his son was killed on 14 July.
You reach the last of the cottages in Filbert’s Walk, where Harrison senior and his family live. The Harrisons have a son, Ronald, who is 19.
Lieutenant Ronald Harrison will be killed in action at the third battle of Gaza on 10 November 1917 and is buried in the Gaza War
Cemetery in Palestine. He is commemorated in Broad Leas Cemetery in St Ives.
At the end of Filbert’s Walk, you turn right along Victoria Terrace. The first building, No 1, is a pub, the Queen’s Head.
Further along, at No 25, lives the Rook family. George is an insurance agent and he and his wife Lizzie have six children.
Eldest son Henry is 16 and his brother William 15. Both boys will lie about their age and join up. By the time the Army finds out,
they will be serving in France. William will later be posted to Ireland, while Henry will be wounded in the ankle and invalided out.
Henry will send photos of himself in uniform to girlfriend Laura, who reciprocates in kind. They will marry after the war and both men
will live into the 1980s. Younger brother Frank, who is 8 at the outbreak of war, is Gerry Rook’s father and Karen Partridge’s grandfather.
Next door to the Rooks lives a widow, Alice Stocker, and her children. Alice is a laundrywoman and her youngest, Joseph, is 15.
Joseph Stocker will be killed in action in France on 31 May 1918, serving with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
Carrying on towards the village, you see only four more houses until you arrive at the school, opened in 1903. From there,
you pass open fields on either side until you reach the pub, the Waggon and Horses, at Apex Corner. You decide to take the
right fork and walk down Back Street (now Church Street). Looking across to the river, you see the Water Mill in the distance.
This is run by Thomas and Henrietta Knights and their family; one of their sons, John (Jack) Knights, has moved to Canada.
He will join the Canadian Infantry and be killed in France on 10 June 1917, aged 34.
Carrying on down Back Street, you pass the cottage of Samuel Warrington, the recently retired village bobby. His son
John Warrington is 21 and a domestic chauffeur. He will volunteer for service with the Bedfordshire Regiment and be
killed in action in Belgium on 31 October 1915.
Further along, you see New Walk Villa, where Henrietta Pratchett runs a small boarding house. Her son William Pratchett
is a regular soldier, serving with the Royal Garrison Artillery. He will die, aged 35, of wounds suffered in the Somme
area of the Western Front on 30 September 1918.
At the end of Back Street is Old Rectory House (now Hemingford Grey House). Here lives Major (later Colonel) A F Watt
of the Yorkshire Hussars, Yeomanry Territorial Force; in August 1915 he will be appointed ADC to Field Marshal
Sir John French, Commander of the British Expeditionary Force from the outbreak of war until his replacement in
December 1915 by Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig. In March 1916, it will be announced that the President of the French Republic has,
with the permission of King George V, conferred the decoration of Croix de Chevalier on Major Watt.
You turn along Church Lane. and find some small cottages (now demolished) in front of the Maltings. The Jakins
live in Miller’s Cottage; father Joseph is a rag and bone man and also sells newspapers. He and wife Julia have three children,
the middle of whom is George, a 20-year-old farm labourer. George Jakins will volunteer, joining the Suffolks, and will die of
his wounds in Belgium on 20 December 1915.
At the end of Church Lane, you turn right towards the river. Immediately on your right-hand side are five cottages in Dharwar Terrace.
The last one is Number 5, home to William and Sarah Favell, their five children and Mr Favell’s 86-year-old father.
Son George is 16 and will also join the Suffolks. George Favell will be killed in action on 10 May 1917. On 1 June 1917,
the Hunts Post will report as follows:
Sorrow At Hemingford
PTE GEORGE FAVELL, son of Mrs. Wm. Favell, of Hemingford Grey, has met a soldier's death on the field of war.
He joined the Suffolks at the start of hostilities when he was only 16½ years of age. He was invalided home about
a year ago with shell shock and loss of speech from which he recovered in three or four months, and was again sent out.
The sad news came on Saturday last from the War Office that he was killed on the 10th May. The sympathy of everyone who
knew him is with his mother (a widow) and family. A memorial service was held on Tuesday evening, the Church being nearly full.
Afterwards a dumb peal was rung by ringers from both villages.
Across the road are four houses called the Pavement. Tragedy strikes two houses here. The Doo family (John is another retired PC)
have two sons, Tom and Fred, who will join up. Tom will be taken prisoner and held in Germany but Fred Doo, a driver in the
Royal Army Service Corps, will die on 11 November 1916. The Hunts Post will report his funeral on 24 November 1916.
Soldier’s Funeral at Hemingford
Funeral of Fred J Doo, son of Mr and Mrs John Doo of Hemingford Grey, took place in the village cemetery on Thursday
afternoon, 16 November, with every sign of sorrow and respect, most of the houses having blinds drawn. The young soldier,
a smart fellow, joined as a driver in the Army Service Corps. He fell sick after inoculation and, following months of illness,
passed away at St Mary’s Hospital Worthing on 11 November from cellulitis of neck, septicaemia and heart failure. Deceased was
24 years of age and served his apprenticeship with Messrs Bryant and Bryant’s boot and shoe establishment in St Ives. Afterwards,
he was in a situation at Palmer’s Green, from where he enlisted. The body was conveyed by rail from Worthing to Hemingford Grey.
Next door (now 70 High Street) live the Briars family. Their son William Briars lives in London, where he works as a barman in the City.
In June 1912 he married Connie Ward and they have a child, Edward, born in June 1914. They will have two more children,
Edith May in June 1915 and Dudley William in September 1916. In November 1915, however, William will respond to Lord Kitchener’s
call and enlist in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He will be killed in action in Belgium on 18 April 1918, aged 29. When his
Army records are finalised in July 1919, Connie is living in Wolverton, Bucks, and her three children are in the
National Children’s Home in City Road, London.
On a less sombre note, you spot the Fordham family home in Goodwin Cottages in the High Street (now 48 High Street).
Son Bill is a 21-year-old stableman but in June 1916 he will be Sergeant William Fordham, attached to the
Royal Horse Artillery and awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for Bravery on the Field of Battle. As a result,
the children of his old school in Hemingford Grey will be given a half-day’s holiday.
Sergeant Fordham’s citation reads as follows:
For conspicuous gallantry. When his gun had been much damaged and he himself wounded and unable to walk, he insisted on remaining
in charge of the gun till it was towed away. The whole gun detachment had been wounded.
Seventeen men are commemorated on the brass plaque in St James’ Church Hemingford Grey, four of whom have yet to be mentioned.
Arthur Ernest Hull
Arthur was born in Godmanchester and was a regular soldier in the Bedfordshire Regiment. Just before the outbreak of war,
he married Sarah Watson in St Ives. Sarah lived with her family in the High Street, Hemingford Abbots. Arthur, aged 28, was
killed in action in France on 28 August 1914, just 24 days after war was declared and a mere seven days after the first
British death following enemy action. By the time that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was undertaking its registration
work in the early 1920s, Sarah had remarried and it was presumably she who decided that her late husband should be
commemorated in St James’ Church.
John Victor Mulley
John was born in Ipswich but enlisted in Huntingdon. He was serving with the Suffolk Regiment when he was killed in action
in France on 16 September 1916. We have been unable to find anything that links him to Hemingford Grey.
Frank Leslie Stokes Oliver
Frank was born in Essex but was living in Cambridge in the early 1900s. He enlisted in Huntingdon and was serving with the
East Surrey Regiment when he died of his wounds at home, probably in Christchurch Hampshire, on 2 November 1918. He was 27.
He is buried in Hemingford Grey cemetery. By the time the CWGC registered his death, his widow had remarried and was
living at 32 Victoria Terrace.
Herbert Frederick Walker
Jack Walker was born in Houghton and his family farmed at Houghton Hill, though they appear to have had strong links with
Hemingford Grey. He was serving with the Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry) when he was fatally wounded on 10 November 1918,
the day before the war ended. He died on 1 December 1918 aged 25.
On 13 December 1918, the Hunts Post reported his death as follows:
Private Herbert Frederick Walker, better known as Jack, fourth son of Mr and Mrs G Walker of Hemingford Grey,
died on 1 December at No 18 General Hospital in France at the age of 25. He joined the Bedfordshire Yeomanry in
October 1914, went to France in June 1915 and was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry). He was wounded on
10 November 1918 in the right and left shoulders and developed bronchial pneumonia. He was buried at Etaples in a
military cemetery and there will be a memorial service in Hemingford Grey Church on Sunday evening 15 December 1918.
How utterly devastated his family must have been - he survived over four years of service only to be wounded on the day
before the Armistice was signed.
In 1911, the population of our two villages - men, women and children - was just over 1,000 (not including the Workhouse).
Nearly 200 young men answered the call; of those, many suffered terrible injuries, both physical and mental,
and 24 made the ultimate sacrifice.
We must never forget them.