battle of ypres

Five years ago the North St Margarets Residents Association, NSMRA, began researching the lives of 86 local men whose names are recorded on the World War 1 ‘Roll of Honour’ in All Souls Church, Haliburton Road. With the information gathered, on Saturday October 25th we were able to organise a “War Walk” around our neighbourhood, visiting some of their homes and learning something about the families that once lived there. Nearly 100 people took part. Here are some more WW1 stories from our own St Margarets streets:-


A Milk Carrier who enlisted into Northamptonshire Regiment in August 1914 at the very beginning of the War. He landed at Suvla Bay in Gallipoli on 15th August 1915 as part of the allied force sent to keep the Dardanelles, the link between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, open to allied shipping. On 19th December 1915 he was evacuated to Alexandria and served in Egypt and Palestine. He was killed on 2nd November 1917 and buried in Gaza War Cemetery.


A leading seaman aboard the cruiser HMS Hampshire’, the ship carrying Lord Kitchener to a conference in Russia. Passing the Orkneys on the 5th June 1916 the ship struck a mine and all 643 men aboard, including Lord Kitchener, were lost. John Novice’s body was recovered and buried in Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Orkney. He was 28 years old and worked as a Stationer’s Assistant.

HMS Hampshire

There are all kinds of rumours surrounding the sinking of the ‘Hampshire’ and the death of Kitchener. Was there some dark plan to get rid of this celebrated but generally inefficient and sexually suspect man? C. P. Scott, editor of ‘The Manchester Guardian’, is said to have remarked that “as for the old man, he could not have done better than to have gone down, as he was a great impediment lately.”

Why, it is asked, did the ‘Hampshire’ leave port in such a hurry, when imminent severe gales had been forecast? Why had she, contrary to her original orders, set off round the West Orkney coast into the teeth of a Force 8 gale? Why was nothing done to save Kitchener’s life? Orcadians to this day tell stories of armed soldiers posted on the cliffs around Birsay, keeping curious folk away at bayonet point and of visits by “Men in Black” telling the locals not to talk about the wreck or make any attempt to rescue the crew. There are some who say that the ‘Hampshire’ didn’t hit a mine at all but was blown up by a bomb left on the ship by Irish Republicans.


Degens Barber Shop

Born in Nijmegen in Holland in 1883. In 1900 he opened a barber shop in Talbot Road where he lived with his wife Helen and 4 daughters. He was killed on the 16th April 1917 in the closing stages of the assault on Vimy Ridge.


Formerly a brewery vatman and fitter, was a Private with the 34th London Regiment. He had a very chequered career and was sentenced for a variety of crimes including desertion. He was killed on 9th May 1918 either during or just after 90 days of Field Punishment 1. He is buried in Bouzincourt Ridge Cemetery.

Field Punishment No1

Field Punishment 1 for minor crimes like drunkenness, stealing etc usually consisted of the soldier been tied ‘at attention’ to a fixed object like a gun wheel or post for up to 2 hours a day. It was very uncomfortable with soldiers being unable to move or scratch lice. Sometimes the soldiers were placed within sight of the enemy – but apparently out of range. During World War I Field Punishment Number One was issued by the British Army on 60210 occasions.


A Dock Errand boy on Lion Wharf in Isleworth and married to Hetty who came from Ailsa Avenue in St Margarets. He joined the Royal West Surrey Regiment as a private and was killed on the 4th October 1917. He is buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery up on the Ypres Salient.

the blockhouses at Tyne Cot

Tyne Cot is a burial ground for those who fell on the Ypres Salient. Supposedly Tyne Cot was given its name by the Northumberland Fusiliers who noted a resemblance between the German concrete blockhouses – which still stand in the middle of the cemetery – and the cottages of Tyneside workers.


Born in Richmond and died of wounds on 15th September 1916 as a private in the Prince of Wales Own Civil Service Rifles. He was 22 years old. His sister Violet was only 6 when he was killed but she revered his memory until her own death in 1994 when she was buried with his medals beneath the same wooden battlefield cross that her brother had first been laid in 1916.

Unlike Violet there are few of us who have direct memories of the Great War. We may remember grandfathers or great uncles who fought or recall family stories about them but our memories are largely second hand… and maybe because of that we still have a need to remember and reflect…

  • At 3.00pm on Sunday December 14th NSMRA will commemorate wartime Christmas with a festival of song and poetry in All Souls Church with a Christmas tea.
  • In the early spring of next year NSMRA is planning a dusk visit to Isleworth Cemetery to visit the graves of WW1 servicemen who died of wounds at home. Visitors will discover that the distance between Ypres and Isleworth is not so far.

If ever a sound captured the sombre, reflective mood of Remembrance Day it is the high melancholic notes of the ‘Last Post’ – the military bugle call played to mark the end of the day. The call was first used in the 1690’s by British units stationed in the Netherlands. It was then called a ‘tattoo’ after the Dutch “Doe den tap toe” which meant that the taps of beer barrels had to be turned off and the troops return to their barracks. Playing ‘The Last Post’ at military funerals and memorial services serves to remind us that the duty of the dead is over and now they can rest in peace.

The Last Post

played by Corp. Matthew Creek of the Royal Military College Band at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra

— from Martyn Day

Read the first instalment, The War Walk #1 – from the Ailsa to Ypres