After the unseasonal heavy rainfall during much of August, a drier period into September witnessed some success around the Ypres salient. However, the coastal landings further along the Belgian coast had been abandoned as there was little prospect of breaking through the German defences from Ypres to secure the Belgian coastline. The Germans use mustard gas for the first time during this phase of the offensive.
Elsewhere, on the Eastern Front the Germans, recognising the turmoil caused by the Russian revolution, launched an offensive against the port of Riga. This assault proved to be highly successful, largely owing to the feeble resistance of the Russian Army, whose morale and fighting spirit had been seriously damaged by the ongoing political events.
There are seven men whose names appear on the war memorial in the month of September 1917.
Frederick Alfred E. (Ernest) Smith, First Engineer, Merchant Navy. Frederick died on 9th September 1917 when the S.S.Tuscarora, en route to/from the UK, was torpedoed. The ship was damaged but not sunk. Three crew members were listed as missing after this attack and it is assumed that Frederick’s body was never recovered. Frederick was born in Ramsgate, Kent in 1876 and married Emily Winifred Smith in 1902 in or around the district of Yarmouth. No trace of Frederick in the 1911 census has been found although Emily his wife is to be found at Oxford Lodge, Shoreham where she is described as living on her own means. The date of moving to Rosewarne, Five Ashes is unknown. No further details of Emily have been found.
Benjamin Baldock died on 10th September 1917. Benjamin was born in Ticehurst in 1893, and by 1901 the family was living at Scatsfords Hill, Mayfield. At that time Benjamin was one of six children, although by 1911 there was only Benjamin living at home with his parents and they were living at Scotsford, an 8-room house. At that stage Benjamin was aged 17 and was listed as a carter by profession.
He was part of the 8th Bn Welsh Regiment, who were deployed to Mesopotamia in Feb 1916, and eventually captured Baghdad. He is buried at the Amara War Cemetery, Iraq. He is also commemorated on the Heathfield War Memorial.
Herbert J. Bateup, died 12th September 1917. He was killed in action and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium.
Herbert was born in Mayfield around 1890 and by 1901, aged 11, was one of four children living with parents and paternal grandfather at Sharnden Lodge, Mayfield. By 1911 Herbert was living in Margate, as a single boarder working as a town postman. He subsequently married Ethel Mirams in Thanet.
Nelson Soane, died 17th September 1917, Lance Corporal, 6th Battalion Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment. LC Soane is recorded incorrectly on the Mayfield War Memorial as Sloane. He was killed in action near Arras and is buried at the Windmill British cemetery Monchy-Le-Preux. France. Nelson was awarded the Military Medal, by which he earned the right to add the letters MM to his name.
Nelson was born in Buxted in 1881, and was successively resident at Pinstaws, Rotherfield and later at Town Row Green, Rotherfield. He is recorded in census returns as being employed as a Bricklayer Lab and later as a Gardener Domestic. At the time of this latter occupation Nelson had married Elizabeth Harriet (nee Hall) in 1906 and by 1911, the couple were living at Sharnden Lodge, Mayfield.
Alexander Humphrey, Private 12th Battalion East Surrey Regiment. It is believed that Alexander Humphrey was mistakenly added to the Mayfield War Memorial instead of Albert Humphrey who in turn is correctly recorded on the Five Ashes War Memorial. See below.
Albert George Humphrey, Private 8th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment. Albert was killed in action on 5th September 1917 and is buried at Duhallow ADS (Advanced Dressing Station) West-Vlaanderen Belgium. Plot No I.C.2.
Albert was born in Mayfield 1896, one of 12 surviving children, living at Summerhill Cottage, Hadlow Down, Five Ashes. The family lived at this address for over 20 years and by 1911 Albert’s occupation was recorded as Horseman on farm. He enlisted with the RSR at Eastbourne and although his service records are missing, other sources suggest he enlisted in 1915. The local paper reported that he ‘enlisted at the beginning of the War when he was just over 18 years of age. He went abroad in February 1916 and in the following July he sustained a remarkable injury, being hit by a bullet which entered his head by his left ear and passed out of his right cheek without damaging a tooth. After his recovery, he returned to the Front where he served for another eleven months before he met his death…’
Frederick James Tinker, died 26th September 1917, aged 38, was a private with 12th Bn Suffolk Regiment.
Herbert was born in 1882 in Westbury, Wiltshire and initially became an agricultural labourer. By 1911 Frederick was 30 and had moved and was living at 3, South Street, Mayfield, as a lodger with James Kemp, widower, farm lab, and his daughter Winifred, housekeeper aged 38. Frederick was employed as an engine cleaner for E.S.C.C. In 1914 Frederick married Winifred Kemp – no records of any children born have been found.
He was killed in action and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
Horace George Cornford, died 29th September 1917, was a private with the Australian Infantry, A.I.F., 30th Bn. Horace was the older brother of Elam Cornford, who died on 10th July 1915.
Horace was born in 1894 and by 1901, aged 7, was one of six children living at Freemans Farm, Five Ashes. By 1911 the family were living at Meres Farm, Five Ashes and there had been 4 more siblings born. By that time Horace was 17 and living as a boarder in High St, Rotherfield working as a grocer’s assistant.
In 1913 Horace emigrated to Australia and formally enlisted with the Australian Army on 14.2.16.
On his enlistment papers, it says that he was working as a grocer’s assistant, an apprenticeship of two years, living in Manly, NSW.
The local papers wrote: “Many people in Uckfield and Mayfield will learn with regret of the death in action of Private Horace George Cornford, of the Australian Forces, and second son of Mr. & Mrs. Horace Cornford, of Harland’s Farm, Uckfield, and formerly of Meres Farm, Mayfield. No actual details of his death have been received, but it is understood that it was caused by a shell”.
Horace is also commemorated on the Uckfield war memorial.
All newspaper images and transcripts reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)
Brian Oldfield & Carole Stilwell