ALL ABOUT
TUNBRIDGE WELLS

Page 4

 

THE ROW FAMILY DURING WW 1

Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay,Ontario, Canada

Date: April 16,2017

INTRODUCTION

Finding out information about ones ancestors has never been easier than now with the availability of online resources accessed by a click of the mouse, but during WW 1 the task relied largely on information passed down through the family, information that from its telling over the generations has been modified.

The impetus for this article stems from the recent discovery of an ‘Archives Canada’ collection of over 120 letters written from the front or from the camp, by John Row senior and his three sons. They were living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada when all four of them enlisted for service in WW 1. John Row senior , who was a pharmacist, served in the Canadian Medical Corp and his three sons John, Sydney and Frances all served with the 27th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force(CEF).All four of them survived the war with Sydney being awarded the Military Medal for bravery.

Although this collection of letters provides an interesting insight into the lives and experiences of those who served in the war, one letter in particular, written by John Row junior to his grandfather John Row  (in Canada) on August 17,1915 from the Otterpool Camp, Kent caught my attention, as did a follow up letter from his father. Together these two letters describe in detail a trip made by John Row senior and two of his sons in August 1915 to Tunbridge Wells, having made the journey together by train while on leave. The letter(s) provide details of what they did in the town, the places they visited, and who they met with, all in aide of their quest for information about decendants of the family who had roots in Tunbridge Wells and Frant, Sussex.

John Row senior (1866-1952) had been born in Tunbridge Wells and was the son of John Row (1839-1920) and Amelia Row, nee Dibley (1837-1898) who had been married in Tunbridge Wells in 1864. He was also the grandson of John Row (1805-1892) a Baptist minister who preached in Tunbridge Wells.

The Dibley clan were from Frant, Sussex. John Row senior and his parents and siblings emigrated to Canada in 1874. John Row (1866-1952) married Emma Biggins (1872-1944) in Canada and it was in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Canada that John and Emma’s  family first settled and where their sons John (1896-1984), Sydney Arthur (1897-1970) and Francis Dibley (1898-1979) were born. By the time war broke out the family were living in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

This article presents the contents of the letters referring to the trip of the Row family to Tunbridge Wells and provides the results of research that I conducted as it relates to the family members and places referred to in the letter(s) and provides the results of investigating the family history of the Row family, particularly as it relates to Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area. It’s a story which begins in Petworth, Sussex in 1805 and later Hastings,Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells, Frant and London;then to and in Canada from 1874 to 1915; then to England and France during WW 1 and then finally to Canada and the USA.

THE ROW LETTERS 

To set the stage for the genealogical results that were obtained on the Row family and their decendents I have provided in this section a letter in its entirety written by John Row junior (1896-1984) to his grandfather John Row (1839-1920) in Canada dated July 17,1915 from the Otterpool Camp, Kent (photo opposite). This letter describes a quest he and his father John Row Senior (1866-1952) and brother Francis Dibley Row (1898-1979) made to visit their ancestral home and to seek out their ancestors or find out information about them. The significance of the names of the people referred to in the letter are made clearer in subsequent sections of the article. The letter below was one of 70 letters written by John Row that is part of a collection of  123 Row family letters held by Archives Canada.

“ Dear Grandad…………..I received your very welcome letter the latter part of last week. I was very pleased to get such a prompt answer to my letter.

Well we all went to Tunbridge Wells and enquired after the Hodgkins but found they were all dead. We however met an old timer who told us of this Mrs Buss the coroner's wife in Tunbridge Wells whom you mentioned in your letter. We got her on the phone and she told us to come up in the evening. We then went further up the street and saw a Mr. Gale who had a shoe store about opposite the building that used to be the old chapel where your father used to preach. His brother married a Miss Bessie Row, a kind of 42nd cousin of ours.

After supper we took the train to Tunbridge Wells. When we got into "the Wells" we went to Grosvenor Street (Road) and saw the house where Aunt Lucy was born and the place where Dad used to go to school. We then went down and saw the fishmonger. I forget his name but his brother stayed with you in Montreal. He treated us like kings. We then went up to see Mrs Buss. She was a little stiff and sent the butler to ask our rank but she made quite a fuss of us when she found out who we were. The rest of the family came down including her husband and their nephew and his young lady, at least I think she was as he seemed pretty badly smitten.

The nephew had been at the front a while, just long enough to make him worse than if he had stayed at home. He is a young subaltern in Kitchener's army and had a very bad case of the swelled head, however Dad put him in his place. Mrs. Buss treated us fine and we had a very good evening. The young lady wanted to know all about Canada and I told her and a little more too.

They wanted to put us up for the night but I had met a fellow that I used to work with in Winnipeg. He had come home and enlisted and was one of the military police, so we got lodgings at the house where he was billeted. We had a glorious sleep in and a real bed as well as supper and breakfast for the sum of 2 shillings per head.

The following morning (Sunday) we went down to the Pantiles and took the waters according to regulations. We then hit the road for Frant and visited the old church and spoke to the old sexton who remembered Great-grandad Dibley and Grandad Biggins's sister who used to be schoolmistress there. We saw Great-grandad Dibley's tombstone, also tombstones of several other Dibleys, to say nothing of the Tooths.
 











We walked to High Rocks and looked them over, had supper there and walked back to "the Wells" and took the train home.










We see Dad every Sunday when we go to Shorncliffe or Folkstone. He is still on hospital duty and looking well on it. There is not much news to tell as training goes on in the same old way. Everyone is in A1 condition. We have about an equal amount of sunshine and rain with a bathing parade in the ocean once a week. We are about 5 miles from Romney Marsh.

Be sure and give love from all to all.Your Grandson..........John Row.......P.S. Written with a YMCA pen. “

Within the above letter I have inserted some images that relate to the places the Rowe family visited on this trip. From top to bottom are the following.

[1] Tunbridge Wells Central Station where the Row family arrived and departed from.

[2] Pantiles taking the waters

[3] St Albans Church where the Dibley headstones were located

[4] A view of High Rocks

[5] A view of the High Rocks Hotel where they had supper

A related letter was written by John’s father John Row senior (1866-1952) to his father John Row (1839-1920) in Canada dated December 23,1915 from the Shorncliffe Military Hospital .I have provided only the part of the letter that relates to he and his two sons visiting Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area. As a point of clarification John Row Senior was serving with the Canadian Medical Corps and was working at the Shorncliffe Hospital, and not a patient there.

“Dear Father………Yours of the 8th received today, and as I felt that a little Xmas cheer was required, welcomed it.

Did the boys tell you about the 3 of us looking up Tonbridge and tracking out that cousin married to the coroner, then walking to Frant, and after search & enquiries finding the Dibley plot. The old verger who knew & succeeded Grandpa Dibley directed us to it…………….Well Father, to you & Ethel and all and with the hope that I will see you on my return..........Your son.....John”

Although the Row family had a connection to Tonbridge it was actually Tunbridge Wells that they visited.

THE ROW LETTER REFERENCES

In this section I provide clarification of the significance of those referred to in the letters of John Row junior and his father.

[1] THE HODGKINS AND BUSS FAMILY

John Row stated “We all went to Tunbridge Wells and enquire after the Hodgkins but fount they were all dead,” and that he was referred to a Mrs Buss, the coroners wife in Tunbridge Wells.

Thomas Buss was found in the 1891 to 1913 directories of Tunbridge Wells as a solicitor and commissioner of oaths and the coroner for Kent, Tunbridge Wells Division, at 30 Mount Pleasant Road. The Law times of 1899 also refers to him.

Thomas Buss had been born July 29,1853 in Horsmonden, Kent and was the eldest son of Benjamin Buss (1827-1901) and Mary Matilda Buss, nee Cheesman (1832-1901). Benjamin Buss died in Tunbridge Wells July 3,1906 and his wife Mary died in Tunbridge Wells 1901.Thomas had two brothers born in Horsmonden in 1856 and 1859. At the time of the 1861 census Thomas was a scholar living at Lambershurst and in the 1871 census he was living in Horsmonden. The 1881 census gave Thomas living in Tunbridge Wells on Mount Pleasant Road and working as a solicitor.

The Law Journal of May 21,1884 gave “ Mr Thomas Buss of Tunbridge Wells has been elected Coroner for the Tunbridge Wells District of Kent vacated by the death of Mr Joseph Rogers, late of Tonbridge. Mr Buss was admitted in 1876”.

In 1882 Thomas Buss married MINNIE MARIA HODGKINS, who was born in the 4th qtr of 1859 in Tunbridge Wells. Minnie is the Mrs Buss (coroners wife) who John Rowe and his family went to see in 1915.

Minnie Maria Hodgkins was the daughter of William Hodgkins (1833-1907) and ALICE HODGKINS, NEE DIBLEY. William had been born in Tunbridge Wells and on September 6,1856 he married Alice Dibley in Frant, Sussex. Alice had been born April 1,1831 in Frant. This makes the connection with John Row’s inquiries about the Buss/Hodgkins and Dibley families. Minnie had five siblings(all sisters). Minnie had been baptised in Tunbridge Wells January 1,1860. She was living with her parents and siblings in Tunbridge Wells at the time of the 1861,1871 and 1881 census.

At the time of the 1901 census Thomas Buss and his wife Minnie were living in Horsmonden where he was a solicitor and coroner but son after he and his wife took up residence in Tunbridge Wells.

The 1911 census, taken at ‘Elen Croft’ (sometimes given as Elencroft) on Mount Pleasant Road (No. 30) gave Thomas Buss as a solicitor and coroner, With him in their 10 room home was his wife Minnie and three domestic servants. The census records that the couple never had any children and that they had been married 28 years.  The location of this residence is established from a review of the order in which the 1911 census was taken for on one side of No. 30 Mount Pleasant was Dr J. Elliott on Clanricade Road and on the other side of Thomas Buss’s residence was Albert Wood at 13 Lonsdale Road. This establishes Elencroft as one of the homes near the intersection of Mount Pleasant Road, on Mount Pleasant Hill and Lonsdale Gardens on the west side. A map of this location is shown above and also a view of Mount Pleasant Hill opposite. 

Probate records gave Thomas Buss of ‘Elmcroft’, Tunbridge Wells when he died April 22,1917. The executors of his 20,265 pound estate was his widow Minnie and Benjamin Buss, gentleman. Thomas was buried at Horsmonden Churchyard (St Margarets) Horsmonden. A photo of his gave is shown opposite.

Probate records for Minnie Maria Buss gave her of ‘Elmcroft’ Tunbridge Wells, widow, when she died February 18,1982 at 77 London Road,Tubnridge Wells. The executors of her 28,775 pound estate was John Christopher Honnywell, solicitors clerk and Rev. Philip Cheesman, clerk.  Minnie was buried in the same cemetery as her husband. The grave marker shown above bears the names of Thomas and his wife and also Benjamin Buss.

On a final note about Thomas Buss, the website of the law firm Buss Murton, who’s office can be found today on Church Road makes mention of Thomas Buss. The Times of Tunbridge Wells dated December 31,2016 reported that “Buss Murton had been established for over 300 years which business was founded by an attorney at law who opened a practice in Cranbrook in 1713 which was subsequently acquired by Charles Murton who gave his name to the firm along with Thomas Buss who set up the practice in Tunbridge Wells in 1888”. And so the name of Thomas Buss lives on!

[2]THE DIBLEY FAMILY 

In the letter of John Row he makes reference to the Dibley clan and in the section about the Hodgkin and Buss clan I recorded that “Minnie Maria Hodgkins was the daughter of  William Hodgkins and his wife ALICE HODGKINS, NEE DIBLEY. William had been born in Tunbridge Wells and on September 6,1856 he married Alice Dibley in Frant, Sussex. Alice had been born April 1,1831 in Frant” and thus the interest of John Row for tracking down the Dibley family. John said “The following morning (Sunday) we went down to the Pantiles and took the waters according to regulations. We then hit the road for Frant and visited the old church and spoke to the old sexton who remembered Great-grandad Dibley and Grandad Biggins's sister who used to be schoolmistress there. We saw Great-grandad Dibley's tombstone, also tombstones of several other Dibleys, to say nothing of the Tooths.” The “old church” John Referred to was St Albans Church (photo opposite).

A review of burials in Frant, Sussex record many Dibley family burials there between 1734 and 1848 and that several other members of Dibley clan were buried in Tunbridge Wells and elsewhere, who once lived in Frant.

Alice Dibley who married William Hodgkins in Frant September 6,1856 had been born April 1,1831 in Frant,Sussex. She was baptised in Frant April 1,1831.Alice Dibley was one of eleven children born to Henry Dibley (1803-1854) and Elizabeth Dibley,nee Manser (1809-1877) among which was a sister AMELIA DIBLEY (1837-1898) born December 14,1837 in Frant. Amelia married John Row (1839-1920),a Baptist minister,in Tunbridge Wells in 1864. More about Alice is given in a subsequent section about her husband covering the period after her marriage. Alice lived in Tunbridge Wells with her husband and children from the time of 1861 census up to at least the 1881 census and had six children (all daughters).

[3] THE GALE FAMILY 

In the letter by John Row, he refers to go “further up Grosvenor Road” from where Mrs Buss was living at ‘Elmcroft” on Grosvenor Road (No. 30) “and saw Mr Gale who had a shoe store about opposite the building that used to be the old chapel where your father used to preach. His brother married a Miss Bessie Row, a king of 42nd cousin of ours”. Shown opposite is a view of Grosvenor Road looking south from the intersection with Mount Ephraim and St John’s Road.

No definitive information was found for a marriage between a Bessie Rowe or a shoe store under the name of Gale in Tunbridge Wells. Some clues however about the Gale family show a definite connection between the Gale clan as shoe and boot makers and dealers in the area, most notably in Tonbridge and some Gale’s were found in Tunbridge Wells in other occupations.

The directories of 1882 and 1891 for Tonbridge gave “ William George Gale, shoe dealer, 41 & 170 High Street. He is also found in 1874 as a shoe dealer in the High Street. The 1882 directory also gave a David Gale as a boot maker at 5 Barden Road. Directories of 1913 to 1938 also give a Nelson Gale as a boot and shoe maker with premises at 41 High Street, Tonbridge. It is believed by the researcher that Nelson Gale also had a branch shop on Grosvenor Road in Tunbridge Wells but no record of any Gale shop in Tunbridge Wells was found in either the 1913 or 1918 Kelly directory.

In Tunbridge Wells at the time of the 1901 census, there was a Robert Gale, born 1842 in Penshurst, working as a carpenter and living at 33 Dudley Road with his wife and three children, one of which was a Florence A Gale who was working as a boot shop assistant. A 1911 census gave a Herbert Gale, born 1881 Tunbridge Wells, at 15 York Road as a carpenter/builder with his wife Rose and one visitor.

William George Gale(1855-1932) was born 1855 in Tonbridge and his wife was Francis Elizabeth Gale (1856-1909), born  in Tonbridge. They had the following children (1) William Edward born 1876 (2) Nelson James (1878-1964) (3) Bernard Montague Trayton (1879-1956).After the death of Francis William married Kate Adelaide Sparks (1870-1955) on January 15,1910 at South Norwood. At the time of the 1881 and 1891 census William is found with his wife and three sons as a boot and shoe maker at 41 High Street, Tonbridge. William died in Tunbridge Wells at 110 Upper Grosvenor Road.  His son Nelson James Gale married Edith in 1902 and with her had two children by 1911. At the time of the 1911 census Nelson and his family were living at 41 High Street, Tonbridge where Nelson was a boot and shoe dealer. Nelson died in Tonbridge March 5,1964 with the executor of his 10,937 pound estate being his widow Edith.

The ‘old chapel’ near Mr Gales shop is no doubt the old chapel found on maps and in other records located just off Grosvenor Road on what is now a road called Grosvenor Park, at the top end of Grosvenor Road before the intersection with St John’s Road and Mount Ephraim on the east side of Grosvenor Road. This would locate Mr Gales shop on the west side of Grosvenor Road just below Grosvenor Park. Shown above is a postcard view of this intersection looking south.

JOHN ROW (1805-1893)

John Row was born March 9,1805 at Petworth, Sussex and baptised July 11,1805 at Petworth given as the son of James and Susanna Row. He lived with his parents and siblings in Petworth during his childhood.

On April 28,1849 he married Elizabeth Butcher at Saint Nicholas, Brighton, Sussex. His father was given as James Row and Elizabeth was given as the daughter of John Butcher.

John Row decided to make religion his career and was of the Baptist faith. The 1851 census, taken at 76 High Street in Hastings,Sussex (image opposite) gave John Row as a clerk. With him was his wife Elizabeth, born 1823 at Fulham and his children Esther, age 10; Hannah,age 15; JOHN,age 13; Elizabeth,age 8 and Daniel,age 1.

The 1861 census, taken at 3 South Terrace Halton Hastings, Sussex gave John Row as an “independent minister of several congregations”. With him was his wife Elizabeth and his children Elizabeth,age 16 and Ebenezer,age 9.

The 1871 census, taken at Priory Street in the town of Tonbridge, gave John as an independent minister. With him was his wife Elizabeth; his children Lydia,age 9; Benjamin,age 6; Grace,age 3 and one servant and one visitor.

By the time of the 1881 census John was the minister of the Ebenezer Chapel and living at 1 Ventnor Place near Primrose Hill in Tonbridge. With him was his wife Elizabeth and his children Grace and Lydia.

The 1891 census, taken at 65 Primrose Hill Ventnor Villa in Tonbridge, gave John as a Calvanistic minister employer. With him was his wife Elizabeth; his daughter Lydia ; one visitor and one domestic servant.

Probate records gave John Row of Ventnor Place, Tonbridge when he died November 11,1892. The executor of his 39 pound estate was his widow Elizabeth.

One of the chapels that John row preached at was the one shown on early maps of Tunbridge Wells on Grosvenor Park at the top end of Grosvenor Road, a chapel which was likely referred to as the Ebenezer Chapel. A photograph of it is shown opposite. You can read about it in my article entitled ‘ The Old Chapel on Grosvenor Park’ dated January 17,2017. A photo of the chapel , now a private residence, is shown above.

A book entitled ‘Even to Old Age’ by E.Wilmhust edited by E. Row is described as “ being some records of the life of the late Mr John Row (pastor of Ebenezer Chapel, Tunbridge”.

As noted in the letter by John Row junior to his grandfather August 17,1915 he states in part We went further up the street (Mount Pleasant Road) and saw a Mr Gale who had a shoe store about opposite the building that used to be the old chapel where your father (John Row 1805-1892) used to preach”.

JOHN ROW (1839-1920)

John Row born July 8,1839 at Petworth,Sussex. John was the son of a Baptist minister, John Row,born 1805 at Petworth,Sussex. and Elizabeth Row, who were described in the previous section.  

The 1851 census, taken at 76 High Street in Hastings, Sussex gave John Row, age 45, a clerk. With him was his wife Elizabeth and their four children Esther,age 18; Hannah, age 15; JOHN,age13; Elizabeth,age 6 and Daniel age 1. The 1861 census, taken at St Mary Magdes Old Fish market, gave John Row, age 23 living with a large group of boys in the 20’s all working in a warehouse.

In the 2nd qtr of 1864 John married AMELIA DIBLEY (1837-1898) in Tunbridge Wells. Details about Amelia’s siblings and parents were given in a previous section. Amelia was born December 14,1837 in Frant. At the time of the 1841 and 1851 census Amelia was living with her parents and siblings in Frant, Sussex. At the time of the 1861 census she was living in Cambridge, and working as a shop assistant.

John and Amelia had the following children (1) JOHN ROW (1866-1952) who was born in Tunbridge Wells  (2) Lucia Morris Rowe (1868-1967) (3) Etheldredge Elizabeth Row (1875-1962) who was born in Montreal Canada (4) Arthur William Row (1878-1961).

In 1874 John Row and his family emigrated to Canada, perhaps having taken advantage of cheap passage and free land in Western Canada offered by the Government of Canada. Travel  records show that the family had sailed from London and arrived on the ship Helios (photo opposite( in Quebec on May 12,1874. This vessel was part of the fleet of the Montreal Ocean Steamship Company. Canadian census records list the family in Western Canada in the 1880’s and 1890’s.

In 1900 John was living in Medford, Massachusetts.  Amelia died December 29,1898 in Medford,Massachusettes, USA. John died at Framington, Middlesex, Massachusetts in 1920.

JOHN ROW (1866-1952)

John was born July 8,1866 in Tunbridge Wells and was the son of John Row (1839-1920) and Amelia Row, nee Dibley.

In 1874 he emigrated to Canada with his parents and after spending some time in Montreal, where his sister was born in 1875, the family initially took up residence Montreal but later moved to Saskatchewan, Canada. Saskatchewan is known as a prairie province of Canada, noted for its flat land and its agriculture, particularly with regards to producing huge annual wheat crops.

The 1881 census record gave John living with his family in Montreal, Quebec and in 1891 he was living at Cote St Antoine Village in Huchelaya, Quebec. Sometime after 1891 and before 1895 he moved to Saskatchewan.

John Row practiced as a druggist first in Moosamin, Saskatchewan (photo above), Canada and later at Withewood, Saskatchewan (image opposite) and finally operated a pharmacy in Winnipeg,Manitoba.

On August 5,1895 at Whitewood, Saskatechewan John married Emma Biggins (1872-1944). John and Emma had the following four children (1)John Row (1896-1984) (2) Sydney Arthur Row (1897-1970) (2) Francis Dibley Row (1898-1979) (4) Elizabeth Morris Row (1901-1954) (5) Philip Row (1904-1989). All of the children were born in Whitewood, Saskatchewan.

The 1901 census recorded the family living at Whitewood, Saskatchewan. John Row was given as a druggist and living with him was his wife Emma and his three sons John, Sydney and Francis.

When war broke out John was working as a druggist and living at 261 Toronto, Street, Winnipeg. Shown opposite is a photo of Main Street in Winnipeg.

John’s attestation papers show that he enlisted for service in WW 1 June 17,1915; that he was a gentleman of 5’-7-1/2” tall of fair complexion with gray eyes and hair and a follower of the Church of England faith. His next of kin was given as his wife Emma. Because of his drug related background he was assigned to the Royal Canadian Medical Corps (image opposite) , and eventually achieved the rank of corporal having been an acting sergeant through most of the war. John’s military records from WW 1 show that he had served for four years with the Royal North West Mounted Police from 1892 to 1896.

Archives Canada hold in their collection some 27 letters he wrote to his wife Emma and to his father covering the period of July 8,1915 to November 21,1918.

His first letter dated July 8,1915 to his wife Emma in part stated “ Have had a long voyage, sea up to now as smooth as a lake.We have all thoroughly enjoyed it. As I told you we embarked immediately on our arrival by train.The ship cast off at once last Thursday. Travelled all that day down the magnificent St Lawrence River, the banks lined with pretty villages & scattered farms. Reached Quebec about 2:30.Saw the remains of the great bridge, citadel,docks and shipping. Reached fathers about five the following morning (Friday).Sunday night we passed Cape Race, Newfoundland.Tuesday struck the gulf stream.Sales wales & porpoises.We have passed numerous ships, mostly freighters.” John goes on to describe in detail the drills and lectures held on ship as they made their way to England and that on Friday said“ I have been made a corporal since coming aboard & have put in 2 almost successive guards at the hospital and that on Saturday he expected the ship would land.
























John’s next letter of July 20,1915 was sent to his wife from Shorncliffe camp and in part said “ The railway trip across England was very enjoyable”. He was still at Shorncliffe October 16,1915 and in a letter of that date he tells his wife that he expects to be in France soon. His next letter of November 5,1915 was sent from the Walmer Canadian War Hospital ,Deal, England where he signed himself as Sgt John Row.  He was still at this hospital December 8,1915. His letter of December 23,1915 was sent to his father from the Shorncliffe Military Hospital. His letters of 1916 to the end of the war were largely written from France with some sent from England during leave.

He returned to Canada  on the ship CEDRIC (photo opposite) having departed from Liverpool and arriving at Halifax, Nova Scotia on March 27,1919 .  His wife Emma was given as his next of kin and that he was a corporal with the Army Medical Corp (service No. 2355) with the intention of living in Winnipeg. He was living in Winnipeg with his wife at the time of the 1921 census.

John died October 11,1952 at Prince Albert Saskatchewan but was buried in the Brookside Cemetery in Winnipeg on October 14,1952. His wife Emma had died in Winnipeg November 1,1944 and was buried in the same cemetery.

THE CHILDREN OF JOHN ROW (1866-1952)

In this section I provide information on the three sons of John Row who served in WW 1.  I did note however that Johns daughter Elizabeth Morris Row had been born November 29,1901 at Whitewood, Sask.; that she had married June 6,1923 Guy Johnson (1895-1941) in Winnipeg and had two daughters. She died November 24,1954 at Edwardsville, Illinois, USA. The last child of John’s was a son Philip row who was born in September 11,1904 at Whitwood. In 1927 Philip married Edna Wilson and then in 1936 married again and with his second wife had three sons. Philip died February 22,1989 at Flin Flon, Manitoba.

[1] JOHN ROW (1896-1984)

John Row was born April 11, 1896 at Whitwood, Saskatchewan, the son of John Row (1866-1952) and Emma Row. He was living with his parents and two brothers at Whitewood at the time of the 1901 census.

His attestation papers signed October 27,1914  in Winnipeg gave his address at 261 Toronto Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba and that his occupation was “teamster”.  He was assigned service number 71513 with the 27th Btn of the Canadian Expeditionary Force with the rank of private. His personal description was given as 5’-8” tall; fair complexion; with brown hair and eyes and was of the Church of England faith. Shown opposite is a photo of the 27th Btn in Winnipeg.

In a letter to his mother dated May 13,1915 John talks of his travels from Winnipeg by train and that they arrived in Kenora, Ontario where the town band came out. After having a meal there they reboarded the train stopping for a while in Ignace “where I saw Mrs Blair” and then the train arrived at Fort William, Ontario. John said “Were getting off the train at Fort William for breakfast then exercise at 9am”.  Shown below left is a photo of the 27th Btn in Kenora and to the right is another view of Kenora with the 27th Btn off to the front. Below them are two photos of Fort William, Ontario.













The reference to Fort William was of particular interest to me for Thunder Bay, Ontario, where I have lived since 1981, is a large city that was formed January 1,1970 from the amalgamation of the towns Fort William and Port Arthur. Today the city has a population of about 120,000 and is a major shipping port at the head of Lake Superior and grain from out west arrives in Thunder Bay by train.

After getting back on the train at Fort William the train carried on to Quebec where he and his comrades boarded a ship for England (photo opposite).

John’s letters, which he most often signed simply as “jack”  of June 15,1915 and July 13,1915 were written to his mother from the Dibgate Camp in Shorndliffe.

In a letter to his mother from the Chruch of England Club, Ottepool Camp near Hythe he said in part “ Dad and his friends were up to see us the other night”.

He continued to write often back home to his mother and occasionally to his grandfather throughout the war.  His last letter from France was dated June 15,1918 .His last letter back home was dated September 1,1918 from Hut 6, A Division, Epsom, Surrey to his mother where he talked about “ things being slow here; going to the camp cinema e4very night; played an occasional game of billiards. Things seem to be going well at the Front. There are several letters in the archive between John and his father as well as some to his brothers. It’s an interesting collection of letters and paints a colourful picture of the events of the war.

John returned to Canada after the war. The 1921 census recorded John living at Archie, Marquette, Manitoba and was still single.

On November 7,1929 he married May Latham (1906-1994) at McAuley, Manitoba and with her had four children.

John died January 14, 1984 at Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

[2] SYDNEY ARTHUR ROW (1897-1970)

Sydney was born at Whitewood, Saskatchewan on June 15,1897 and was the son of John and Emma Row, and the brother of John Row referred to above.

In the years before WW 1 he lived with his parents and siblings in Whitewood and then in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

His attestation records dated October 29,1914 show he was assigned service No. 72049 with the 27th Btn Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), the same battalion that his brothers John and Francis served with. His address at the time of enlistment was given as 261 Toronto Street, Winnipege with the occupation of “checker”. He was described as being 5’-7” tall of fair complexion with grey eyes and dark brown hair, with a Church of England affiliation. He had given his age as 18 yet he was actually only 17.

Like his brothers he travelled by train from Winnipeg to the east coast of Canada where he boarded a ship to England. Unlike his brother John, he wrote only five letters between April 6,1916 to December 7,1917 and in the last letter he wrote from Penkett Road Hospital in Wallasey, Cheshire where he said “ I still expect to be at the hospital on Xmas” and “ It was wrong in the newspaper about being wounded twice and the Military Medal was won at Lens, quite a bit to the left of Vimy but it doesn’t matter anyway. I expect you will receive the medal in due time”. It appears that his stay in hospital on this occasion was for Tonsillitis but had been in hospital before from injuries.

The London Gazette of November 19,1917 announced that the Military Medal had been awarded to 72049 Pte S.A. “Rowe” and on April 25,1918 the London Gazette corrected the spelling of his surname to “Row” and noted that he was with the Canadian Infantry.

The last letter he wrote was dated March 5,1918 from Hut 17 #2 Division Woodcote Park Epsom,Surrey was to his his brother John and among the collection of letters is one written by him from France dated January 4,1917.

Sydney returned to Canada after the war. The 1921 census gave him at Marquette, Manitoba living as a boarder. In June 1927 he married Carolyn Wilkinson (1898-1970) at Framingham, Middlesex, Mass. USA. He and his wife had two children. Sydney lived out the remainder of his life in Springfield, Mass. USA and died there June 16,1970.

[3] FRANCIS DIBLEY ROW (1898-1979)

Francis was born at Whitewood, Saskatchewan, December 6,1898. He lived with his parents and siblings initially in Whitewood and later in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was the brother of John and Sydney Arthur Row and the son of John and Emma Row. His middle name of “Dibley” was derived from the Row family Dibley relatives.

His attestation papers signed November 23,1915 at Winnipeg gave him as service No. 461264 with the 61st Btn but later reassigned to the 27th Btn. His address at the time of enlistment was Ste B, Hecla, Blk, Winnipeg and was given with the occupation of “Clerk”. He was described as 5’-4” tall of fair complexion with blue eyes and fair hair. A second attestation paper for him was dated February 24,1916 of the same address but with the occupation of “student” and service number of 874260.

Archives Canada has only two letters written by him from France to his mother dated May 15,1917 and November 9,1917.

He survived the war and returned home to Canada. In the 1921 census, taken at Strathclair, Marquette, Manitoba he was living as a lodger.

On May 28,1925 he married Ruth Helen Thexton at Winnipeg but later moved to the United States.

He died December 1,1979 at Lebanon, Missouri, Usa and was buried at Lebanon. A photo of his grave maker is shown above.

 

THE STEVENS FAMILY OF 14 FRANT ROAD

 

Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

Date: February 25,2017

INTRODUCTION

The story of  Sidney Agar Stevens (1867-1948) and his family is an interesting one for many reasons, not the least of which is the tragic death of his two sons, one in WW 2 in the form of Richard Playne Stevens (1909-1941) who became one of the most successful and awarded  night fighter pilots in the RAF  and Robert Francis Stevens (1912-1939) who was killed while experimenting with a home-made depth charge , described as a” Heath Robinson Weapon”,from his canoe on the River Ouse near Lewes, Sussex, a strange and tragic story of a young man  who prior to his death lived with his parents and siblings at 14 Frant Road, Tunbridge Wells.

This article reports on the Stevens family from their origins in Ledbury, Herfordshire in the 1860’s-1870’s to the boys school in Wiltshire that Sidney attended; then to London in the 1890’s and early 1900’s where in 1907 Sidney married Isabel Dora Wilson and began a family (7 children) in Swanley and Tonbridge, Kent. By 1911 Sidney was a manager of a coal department in London. Moving again to Kent by 1915 he and his family lived in the 1920’s in Reigate, Surrey. By 1930 the family were living in Rusthall in a nice home at 6 Bretlands Road and not long after took up residence at 14 Frant Road, Tunbridge Well where they lived throughout WW 2. The death of Sidney’s two sons in 1939 and 1941 took its toll on the family and Sidney and his wife went into quiet seclusion in Barwick, near Yeovil, Somersetshire where on August 18,1948 Sidney died, his wife managing to live on until December 13,1956.

THE STEVENS FAMILY –PRE 1907

I begin my account of this family with the birth of Sidney Agar Stevens on May 14,1867 at Ledbury, Herefordshire, one of several children born to James Charles John Agar Stevens and Mary Helen Stevens.

James had been born July 19,1829 in Oxford, Oxfordshire and went on to have an interesting career as a hotel keeper in the 1870’s to working in the India Office in the 1890’s, but passed away in London in 1895. His wife Mary Helen had been born 1830 at Mons, Monmouth.

The 1871 census, taken at 29 High Street at the Feathers Hotel (image opposite) in Ledbury, Hereford gave James Stevens as a hotel keeper. With him was his wife Mary and four of their children, including Sidney Agar Stevens. Also there was an aunt, one visitor and four members of staff working as barmaid, waitress, cook and chambermaid.

While James Stevens was still at the Feathers Hotel at the time of the 1881 census with his wife and children, Sidney Agar Stevens was off to boarding school and is found in the 1881 census as a pupil in a boys school at 11 North Street in Wilton, Wiltshire. Upon completion of his studies he returned to live with his parents and siblings.

The 1891 census, taken at 44 Sarsfield Road in London gave James Stevens as a writer with the India Office. With him was his wife Mary; his son Sidney, a clerk with the railway and his daughter Helen, age 22, born in Ledbury. Also there was one domestic servant.

With his father passing away April 14,1895 in London Sidney lived with his mother. The 1901 census, taken at 46 Sarsfield Road ( the same place they lived at in 1891), Mary Helen Stevens was a widow living in own means. With her was her son Sidney, a railway clerk, and her daughter Helen, a teacher.

On June 19,1907 Sidney Agar Stevens married Isabel Dora Wilson at St Mary Magdalene,Wandsworth Common,  London (image opposite).  Isabel. At the time of the marriage Sidney was living at 44 Sarsfield Road, a bachelor with the occupation of clerk. Isabel was a spinster born January 23,1880 in Wandsworth who was residing at 64 Nightingale Lane and given as the daughter of Joseph William Wilson, a principal of and Engineering School at Crystal Palace.  Sidney’s father was listed a deceased civil servant. Isabel’s father Joseph had been born November 22,1850 in Staffordshire and died September 3,1930. Isabel’s mother was Mabel Isabel Wilson, nee Hanson who was born September 23, 1866 in London Putney and died February 10,1939.

SIDNEY AGAR STEVENS AND FAMILY- PRE 1930’S

Upon being married 1907 in Wandsworth Sidney and his wife began a family producing seven children between 1908 and 1917. Details about where the family lived prior to 1919 is best given by the birth records of the children and the 1911 census. More information about the children are given later in this article but here is a list of them (1) James Wilson, born March 28,1908 at Swanley, Kent. He went on to marry Phyllis Sagner and had two children (2)Richard Playne, born September 11,1909 in Tonbridge. He married and had children but was killed while serving with the RAF in WW 2 (3) Lawrence John, born October 29,1910 in Tonbridge. He married Elizabeth Coles and emigrated to Zanzibar (4) Robert Francis, born July 28,1912 in Tonbridge. He never married and was killed in a terrible and strange accident at Lewes, Sussex in 1939. (5) Philip Arthur, born May 10,1914 in Longfield, Kent. He married Jean Maud Heslewood and had one child (6) Mary Helen, born July 7,1917. She married and had three children (7) Henry Agar, born March 27,1919. He married Joan Wise and had two children and died in the 4th qtr of 1988 in Colchester.

The 1911 census, taken at 19 Wandle Road (image opposite), Wandsworth Common gave Sidney Agar Stevens as the “manager of the coal department Bradbury south of London coal owners factors merchants”. With him was his wife Isabel and their children Richard Playne,James William and Lawrence John. Also there was Sidney’s sister Helen Anne Mary Stevens, a 41 year old spinster living on private means, and three servants in premises of seventeen rooms.  Direcories of 1913-1914 give the family at this same address.

The 1915 electoral record gave Sidney Agar Stevens at Maycroft, Longfield, Kent. The 1920-1921 electoral records gave Sidney Agar Stevens at 20 Woodlands Road in Reigate, Surrey, and by 1930 the family had moved to Rusthall, Kent.

THE STEVENS FAMILY 1930 ONWARDS. 

The 1930 Kelly gave the listing “Sidney Agar Stevens, 6 Bretlands Road, Rusthall. A modern photograph of this home is shown opposite being finished in a tan toned render, being located on the east side of Bretlands Road south of Cranwell Road. A rather attractive Victorian style home in a good area of the villa style with ground floor, main floor and upper floor estimated to be of about 12 rooms.

The directories of 1934 and 1938 gave show that Sidney and his family had taken up residence in a lovely yellow toned brick Victorian home at 14 Frant Road . A modern view of this home, from an estate agents listing is shown opposite. The estate agent (Rightmove) was advertising at that time the availability of a three bedroom apartment in the home, one of three in the building.

At the time of the death of Sidney’s son Robert Francis Stevens in September 1939 Robert was given as being of 14 Frant Road, Tunbridge Wells where he was living with his parents.

After the death of Robert and the death of his brother Richard Playne Stevens in 1941 while serving with the RAF, Sidney and his wife left Tunbridge Wells.

Probate records for Sidney Agar Stevens gave him of The Croft, Barwick near Yeovil, Somerset and that he died on August 18,1948. The executor of his 2,555 pound estate was his widow Isobel Dora Stevens. Isobel died December 13,1956.

ROBERT FRANCIS STEVENS 

In the previous sections I recorded that Robert had been July 28,1912 in Tonbridge: that he never married and was killed in a terrible and strange accident at Lewes, Sussex in 1939. Shown opposite is a photograph of Robert which accompanied the following article that was given in the Kent & Sussex Courier September 1,1939 describing the circumstances of his most unusual death. His death was reported on widely and included to name a few the Aberdeen Peoples Journal of Scotland September 2, 1939; The Cambridge Daily News of Cambridgeshire August 29,1939 and August 12,1939; the Dundee Evening Telepraph of Argus Scotland August 29,1939 and August 12,1939; The Dundee Courier of Argus Scotland August 30,1939.  Each of these articles add some information to the Kent & Sussex article and some provide preliminary information prior to the inquest. However the Kent & Sussex article is quite comprehensive and I present it below in its entirety. Also shown in this section is a selection of images pertaining to the story. One shows the type of canoe that he was in; another is a lovely postcard view of the River Ouse  and the other is a multi-view of Lewes Sussex where Robert was holidaying and where the inquest was held.

“MIDNIGHT EXPERIMENT KILLED CANOEIST. HOME-MADE DEPTH CHARGE EXPLODED ACCIDENTALLY. Had Spoken of Making One Weeks Ago. POLICE RESEARCH CLEARS UP RIVER MYSTERY. Twenty-seven-year-old Robert Francis Stevens, Tunbridge Wells canoeist, whose dead body was found in his frail craft on the lonely reaches of the River Ouse near Lewes on Friday, August 11, was killed while experimenting with a home-made depth charge. The discovery of the body, the head shattered by gun-shot wounds, in a 12ft. canvas canoe at first appeared to contain all the elements of one the most dramatic murder mysteries of recent years. Patient research police investigations, under Supt. A. Holloway, of Lewes, ruled out the possibility of foul play. But still the mystery was not solved. How did this quiet, well -educated young man, son of respected Tunbridge Wells parents, Mr. and Mrs. S. A. Stevens, of Frant-road, meet his death? “

“The solution was found in the sunny lodge room at the Foresters' Hall, Lewes, on Tuesday, when the Coroner (Dr. E. F. Hoare) re-opened the inquest which had been adjourned from August 12. Here, for the first time, it was revealed how young Stevens, with his penchant for experimenting, first came into possession of the piece of tubing from which the shot which killed him was fired. After several witnesses had spoken of his love for good literature and happy disposition it was brought to light that some time ago he had spoken of making a depth charge with some disused piping and a length of rope. This fact was commented on by Dr. Hoare in his address to the jury. He said that Stevens was evidently of an inventive frame of mind and perhaps, while experimenting with the improvised depth charge, had found that it did not go off as he intended. He then may have hauled it aboard and while he was examining it the cartridge exploded and killed him. A similar line was adopted by Mr. John Harington, for the dead boy's parents, during his close cross-examination of witnesses. After a short absence the jury returned a unanimous verdict of "Accidental Death."

Robert like his brother Richard took an interest in flying. An Aero Club Certificated (No. 16936) issued January 22,1939 gave “Robert Francis Stevens of 14 Frant Road, Tunbridge Wells with a profession of “secretary” and that he took his certificate on a D.HG. 60G Gypsy 11 of 120 H.P. at the Kent Flying School. Shown above is an image of the same type of plane he took his certificate on.

Probate records gave Robert Francis Stevens of 14 Frant Road, Tunbridge Wells and died August 11,1939 at Beddingham near Lewes. The executor of his 651 pound estate was his mother Isobel Doris Stevens (wife of Sidney Agar Stevens). Where he was buried was no established but he was not found in the records of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Cemetery.

RICHARD PLAYNE STEVENS 

As noted above Richard Playne Stevens was born September 11,1909 in Tonbridge. He married and had children but was killed while serving with the RAF in WW 2”.

Regarding his personal life is was noted that his wife was Olive Mabel Hyde in Tunbridge Wells in the 3rd qtr of 1935 and with her had two children, one of which was killed during the bombing of London. Travel records show two trips. The first was when he departed from London November 11,1928 on the MORETON BAY; travelled 3rd class and departed at Melbourne, Australia giving an address of Little Brether c/c Imigration Deptarment, Melbourne. His second trip was from Rangoon Burma but embarked at Port Said on the ship CHESHIRE arriving in London July 6,1936. His occupation was given as “None”; that the country of last residence was “Palestion” and that his intended country of occupancy was “England”.  Probate records gave Richard Playne Stevens of Lane-end North End, Ditching Sussex and that he died December 15,1941 on war service. The executor of his 186 pound estate was his widow Olive Mabel Stevens.

Robert obtained his Aviators Certificate (14170) at the Redhill Flying Club on August 8,1936 which he took on a DH 60 Gypsey 1.854. The certificate gave him of Three Firs in Rusthall, Kent in 1936.

Shown in this section are two photographs of him in his RAF uniform and one of his headstone. Images are also given of the type of Hawker Hurricane he flew in and a view of one of them being refueled.

Heralded as one of the most successful night fighter pilots in the RAF during WW 2 he is now one of the forgotten heroes of the RAF. However a book entitled ‘Lone Wolf’ (image opposite) by Andy Saunders (2016) , which required 20 years of research to write, will hopefully give Robert the credit he deserves. From this book it was noted that the plane he flew was a Hawker Hurricane DZ-F serial number V6934 which had a red 7 on the front cowling ; five red swastikas under the cockpit and a large dragon on the cowling. Apart from this book two articles appeared about him in the September 1996 and December 1996 issue of the ‘Flypast’ magazine in which a photo of his plane before as well as after the crash were given.

Given below is an account that appeared on the Find a Grave Website which I have reproduced as written, which account completes my coverage of the Richard and the rest of the Stevens family.

Richard Playne Stevens was the one of the most successful night fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force in the Second World War. Now, he is the one of forgotten heroes of the RAF.

He was born in Tonbridge, Kent, England in September 1909. When he was 19, he left the Hurstpierpoint College after he won a shooting a cap at Bisley. He went to work to a cattle farm to Austarlia, then joined the Palestine Police. Soon he returned to England and settled in Shoreham and married with Olive Mabel Stevens, who paid flying lessons for him. His instructors felt, he had a nature sense for the flying. After many training, he got a job in the Northeast Airlines, where he flew air taxis and freights. Then he went to the Wrightways Air Services flying night mails and newspaper to Paris. In Europe, the situation began worse, and he gave himself with his De Havilland Dragon as a target over London at night, to test the searchlights and artilleries. On 26th July 1937 he joined to a RAF Auxiliary Squadron. On 10th April 1940 he was accepted by the RAF and he flew test flying for the air defences with D.H. Rapids. He had made many attempts to trasfer to an operational squadron, and on 26th October 1940 he was posted to the 56. Operational Training Unit. He had already more than 400 flying hours, and it was very uncommon amongst the other young pilots. What's more, with his 32 years, he was older than most of pilots in the RAF. Unless he was the oldest member. After a conversion training to Hawker Hurricane, he was posted to 151. Squadron to Digby. After the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe changed their tactic to night raids on cities, airfields, power plants, aircraft industries, etc. It was decided, that some of the day fighter squadron would have converted to night fighter squadron. One of them has been the 151. Squadron. The Squadron moved to Wittering, where they joined to the 25. Squadron, which squadron's Beaufighters operated with the new A.I. Mk IV radar. On the night of 15-16 Januray 1941 Plt Off Stevens took off from Wittering with a Hurricane Mk Ia (V6934) at 01.00 hours on an operational patrol; as there was little activity in the sector, he was vectored to the London area, where a raid was in progress. He noticed that there was heavy anti-aircraft fire at 20,000ft and climbed to the centre of the activity. At 01.35 he saw a Dornier 215 leisurely flying south, he quickly got into position and delivered a stern attack. The Dornier returned his fire and attempted to escape by diving steeply to port. Stevens followed it down and after a 15 minutes chase shot it down. The WAAFs in the control room heard a triumphant scream which was the first of many from this particular pilot. Stevens flew back to the capital and soon found a Heinkel over West London at 17,000ft, he closed to 50 yards and it a four second burst, soon afterwards he saw two of the crew bale out the aircraft rolled over and dived into the sea off Canvey Island. Once again the control room staff were left in no doubt of the outcome of the attack. When he landed back at the airfield there was great excitement at his debriefing - it was 151's first success and only the third time a pilot had destroyed two enemy aircrafts in one night.

On 4th February Stevens was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Stevens was a very experienced and determined pilot. His daughter had been tragically killed in a Luftwaffe night raid, and from this time the war became Stevens's personal vendetta against the german pilots. He had deep hatred towards the german aircrews, and he determined, that he would shoot as much enemy planes as he could. He frequently fired into the cockpit area, and often he took bursts into the bomber after it had not had any help. He fired so extremely close distance, that his Hurricane suffered damage frequently. On one occassion, he was so close to a He-111, when it exploded, his Hurricane was covered in debris and human blood. After he landed, he refused to have removed them. His fellows admired and respected him. He was a modest man and did not drink hard drinks. His tactic was the same: to fly where the AA guns and searchligths were active, search the enemy planes, get as close as it can and take hard bursts. On another occassion, he shot down a He-111. The german pilot tried to land with his damaged bomber, but Stevens was still behind him. The german was on his final approach, when Stevens took a long burst into the bomber. As he commented his action:" I helped him to the landing with his remained ammunition." Certainly the bomber blew up.

Many successess followed. A probable Ju-88 on 12-13rd March, two He-111s on 8-9th April (a double victory again), a Ju-88 and a He-111 on 10-11th April (the third double victory), a He-111 on 19-20th, another two He-111s on 7-8th May, and he calimed a He-111 as probable destroyed on 10-11th May. On 2nd May 1941 he was awarded a Bar to his DFC. On 13-14th June 1941 Stevens shot down a He-111, on 20-21st damaged another and on 28-29th July and 5-6th October he destroyed Ju-88s. In November 1941, he was posted to the 253. Squadron at Hibaldstow. This squadron was the one of the first which introduced the night intruder flight, flying over the continent to enemy airfields, to wait for the landing and taking off German bombers. On 12nd December 1941, he received notification that he had been awarded the Distinguished Service Order, but sadly he could not hold the bright medal in his hand. On the night of 15-16th December 1941, Stevens took off a night intruding with a Hurricane Mk IIC (Z3465) towards Gilze-Rijen area, Holland. But he failed to return. In the morning of 16th December 1941, the Germans discovered a wreck of a Hurricane near of the German airfield, Hulten. The pilot was still in the seat in the harness. A Ju-88 wreck laid 600 meters from the Hurricane. This Junkers was shot down on the night of 15th, about 21.38 hours. Stevens had claimed 14 victories, and this was his last, his 15th victory. He got all of his victories without radar or any help! The Germans did not managed to shoot him. As he followed his last victim, he flew too low, and hit the ground. Stevens was buried in the Breda (Zuijlen) Cemetery. In 1945 he was reburied at Bergen-Op-Zoom. He rests in grave 23. B. 4. Service No: 87639 Age: 32 Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 253 Sqdn Honors: D S O, D F C and Bar. Son of Sidney Agar Stevens and Isabel Dora Stevens; Husband of Olive Mabel Stevens, of Barwick, Somerset. Burial:Bergen-op-Zoom War Cemetery Bergen op Zoom Noord-Brabant, Netherlands Plot: 23. B. 4.”(Bio submitted by Gabor Nagy of Hungary, 19 April 2006.)

 

VE DAY IN TUNBRIDGE WELLS

Written By: Edward James Gilbert-Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

Date;  December 2016
 

Victory in Europe Day, generally known as VE Day was the public holiday celebrated on May 8,1945 to mark the formal acceptance by the Allies of World War II of Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender of its armed forces. It thus marked the end of World War II in Europe. A number of commemorative items were produced including the pins shown opposite

Upon the defeat of Germany, celebrations erupted throughout the western world. From Moscow to Los Angeles, people celebrated.

In the United Kingdom, more than one million people celebrated in the streets to mark the end of the European part of the war. In London, crowds massed in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the palace before the cheering crowds. Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister Princess Margaret were allowed to wander incognito among the crowds and take part in the celebrations.

In Tunbridge Wells VE Day was a time for great celebration, for the residents of the town had given up so much in aid of the war effort. Although the war had ended its effects on the town and the country at large were felt for years to come. However, people of the town got together on VE Day, to mark the end of the war by celebrating in the streets and by organizing and attending street parties. In this article several photographs are presented showing these street parties.

Ann Bates in the Civic Society book ‘Tunbridge Wells In The Second World War And The Years of Austerity 1939-1953 describes the events of the war and its impact on Tunbridge Wells. On pages 134-136 of this book Ann provided the following information about VE Day. “ As May started, everyone was waiting eagerly for news that the war in Europe was over. On the 7th May, 1945 at 7pm, it was announced that Germany had surrendered and that the next day (the 8th), had been declared VE Day, with Sunday 13th ‘Victory Thanksgiving Day’. The King addressed the War Cabinet and Chiefs of Staff on May 8th and in the evening at 9 pm he made an announcement to the public. Churchill had spoken to the Nation earlier in the day at 3pm.”

“May 9th and 10th were also proclaimed to be Public Holidays and everybody celebrated with street parties, gatherings and parades”. Shown below left,from the book ,is a photo of a VE Day party on Nursery Road in High Brooms and below right from the same book is a view of a mass celebration in the Calverley Grounds. When the war ended after the later surrender of Japan similar celebrations were held and two days were proclaimed as Public Holidays.














Shown opposite is a partial view of the front page of the Advertiser announcing “ Thank God for Victory-Great Scenes of Rejoicing in Kent as crowds celebrate on VE Day. Below left is one of the photos from the newspaper showing the street party on Wood Street and to the right of it is a photo of the street party on Gordon Road.








Shown below are two more views of celebrations in the town. The one on the left is a photo of celebrations on Goods Station Road and the one on the left was taken at an unidentified location in the town.
















Shown below left is a photo of the celebrations on Goods Station Road and to the right is another celebration in an unidentified part of town.
















Shown below are two photographs by George Merritt of VE celebrations in the town.
















Shown below left is a view of celebrations on Audley Avenue and to the right of it is one on South View Road.














Shown below left is a view of celebrations on Kirkdale Road. Since 1945 annual celebrations have been held for VE Day. Shown below right is a photo of St Mark’s C of E Primary School on Ramslye Rd of their VE Day celebrations in June 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                       GO TO PAGE 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web Hosting Companies