A simple and informal ceremony this morning saw the present day firefighters from Greenwich Fire Station honouring their Second World War counterparts, twelve of whom were killed at Invicta Primary School on the night of 14 November 1940 when the school was in use as Station 54X of the Auxiliary Fire Service.
Ironically, it was a quiet night in London, with the main focus of the Luftwaffe’s attacks being the city of Coventry. It was because of this lack of activity in the capital that the firemen based at Invicta Road were still at their station when the parachute mine that was to destroy the school drifted down. The explosion buried the men under tons of rubble and apart from the twelve firemen, three civilians, including the school caretaker, were killed.
This Sunday, 11 November, marks 100 years since the end of World War I. Our thanks to local historian BARBARA HOLLAND for this piece looking back at the lives of the local men who lost their lives in the “war to end all wars”.
Many of the names of those who died in World War I are recorded on public war memorials in towns and villages across the country. Charlton is home to three of these: the War Memorial in The Village and two in Charlton Cemetery, looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The men whose names are inscribed on the memorials lost their lives in many different countries and different services. Not all died during fighting: accidents and illness took their toll as well. Not all were young men: older men wanted to enlist as well to serve their country and use their experience and skills. Some lied about their age in order to join up. Not all the Charlton war dead were recorded on the memorial: other names have been found on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database.
Behind the death of each of these men is a story of family loss. I’ve picked out just a few names to tell you a little bit more about them, their families and their service.
Charlton Village War Memorial
Money for the cross came from hundreds of small donations given in memory of the hundreds of local men who had died in the War. It has a bronze sword of sacrifice on the front face, with a bronze plaque and the names of the men inscribed on seven-stone tablets on the bases.
A new bronze tablet was placed over the original one in May 1955, to commemorate those who had died in both world wars. A new Book of Remembrance, listing the names of 314 men and one woman, was later dedicated by the Bishop of Woolwich at a service in St.Luke’s Church and is now kept on display in the church in a glass case. (Thanks here to Mike Leach who did the original research on the names in the Book of Remembrance).
For Britain, the First World War started on 4 August 1914 and the earliest deaths on the Village memorial recorded were on 22 September. This was the date when Navy Stoker 1st Class, Thomas Arthur Jobbins, aged 28, lost his life when his ship, HMS Aboukir was sunk by a German U-boat off the Dutch coast. The same U-boat also sank HMS Cressy and HMS Hogue with a total loss of life of 1,450 men on the same day.
Thomas was the son of Albert and Margaret Jobbins of 10 Ransom Road, Charlton, and left a widow Annie Agnes Jobbins. Albert and Margaret sadly were to lose a second son, on 13 April 1917. He was John Frederick Jobbins, a private in the 6th Battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment.
Wilfred Arthur Hewlett also lost his life, aged 32, on the Aboukir leaving a sister living at 9 Sandtoft Road, and Alfred Frederick Holford died, aged 35, on the Cressy leaving a widow living at 62 Inverine Road.
Thomas Henry Woodmore, Guardsman in the 1stBattalion Welsh Guards, was one of nearly 11,000 casualties on 11 November 1918, the final day of the war. Thomas was born in Charlton in 1895 to Thomas Jacob and Edith Woodmore, followed in 1899 by his brother Harold Francis. They lived at 49 Sundorne Road. Harold also enlisted, joining the 3rd Royal West Kent Regiment in 1917. He was posted on 20 November 1918, only a few days after his brother’s death. He survived the war after being discharged in 1919 with anaemia and lived until 1968.
The Charlton Memorial has the names of a number of brothers who lost their lives.
The Tumber brothers – the Tumber family, living at 686 Woolwich Road, lost three sons in the space of just five months. The first to die was John Robert Tumber, aged 22, on 9 July 1917. He was serving on the ship HMS Vanguard in Scapa Flow when it was rocked by a series of explosions. The ship sunk instantly, killing 843 out of the 845 men aboard.
Edmund David Tumber enlisted for six years with the 20th London Regiment in March 1914 at the age of 17. He was posted to France with the Royal West Kent Regiment in 1915 and wounded twice before being killed in action on 26 October 1917 aged 20.
George Edmund Tumber enlisted with 1st/19th London Regiment and died on 2 December 1917 at the age of 25, leaving a widow, Charlotte.
The Friday brothers – Herbert John Friday and William George Friday were the sons of William and Mary Friday who lived at 9 Hopedale Road. They enlisted together in the 20th London Regiment and were both killed in action on the same day – 20 October 1915. Herbert was 23 and William 25. Less than 2 months after their deaths a third brother, Ernest Percival, enlisted. He survived the war.
The George brothers – John Edward George (not on the memorial) and Thomas Hamlet George enlisted in the 6th Battalion The Buffs (East Kent) on the same day – 3 September 1914 – and died on the same day – 13 October 1915. John was 39 and Thomas 35. A third brother, Charles Arthur, also enlisted but survived the war. Their parents, Josiah and Angelina lived at 17 North Street. Thomas left a widow, Louisa, who lived at 38 Derrick Gardens.
Another 10 pairs of brothers also lost their lives – Atwell, Brooks, Daly, Hankins, Hussey, Kerswell, Lind, Lomas, Shorter, and Sturgis.
Thomas Edwin Brooker was one of 8 men named on the Village War Memorial who died when they were 50 or more years old. He was born in 1865 and had served in the Army prior to the War from 1887 to 1903, and re-enlisted on 13 August 1914. Although by then he was 48 years old, he declared his age as 40 years and 242 days. He served in France until 1 April 1915 when he developed rheumatic fever and returned to England to be treated in hospital. He was declared fit again on 2 July 1915, but died at Aldershot only a few weeks later on 11 August of a cerebral haemorrhage. He left a widow, Elizabeth, living at 58 Eversley Road.
Many of the men named on the Memorial were only teenagers when they died: two were only boys of 17:
Reginald Edgar S Pinson was the son of William and Mary Pinson who lived at 7 Charlton Church Lane. He enlisted with 6th Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment and was shipped with the British Expeditionary Force to France on 1 June 1915. It was just over two months later when he was killed in action on 14 August 1915.
Harold William Allan was the son of William and Charlotte Allan living at 112 Charlton Lane. He was born in 1897, but had enlisted in the Royal West Kent Regiment on 16 July 1912 at the age of just 15, having declared his age to be 18 years and 3 months. His battalion, the 1st, shipped to France on 15 August 1914. He was killed in action on 28 October 1914.
The last name I’ve picked out is A. Zeitz on the Royal Naval tablet on the Memorial. It is out of order so was added on at some point after the other names:
His full name is Arthur Alfred Alexander Zeitz, born in Berlin in January 1876 to Theodore and Helena Zeitz. He married his wife Christina Hanny in 1905 and they had one daughter Helena Margaret (Nellie) in 1908. By 1914, the family were living at 36 Atlas Gardens in Anchor and Hope Lane.
Arthur joined the Navy in 1897, where his place of birth is recorded as Marylebone and his occupation a carpenter. He served until 1906 when he bought himself out and joined the Royal Fleet Reserve. He then re-enrolled in July 1911 for 5 years, but served until demobbed on 14 February 1919. He died in August of that year and was buried on 20 August in Charlton Cemetery. His burial record shows his occupation as ‘crane erector’.
As to why his name is out of order, I don’t have an answer. His death may have been too late to be carved in alphabetical order, although the Memorial wasn’t unveiled until October 1920. Was there a question of whether his death wasn’t as a result of his war service?
Maybe, if he was German-born, anti-German feeling prevented his name being added?
Charlton Cemetery memorials
Charlton Cemetery has 59 graves containing burials from World War I which are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
A War Cross commemorates these men, and there is also a special memorial located near the entrance which bears the name of 2 soldiers and 2 sailors whose graves are not marked by headstones.
The four men whose names are inscribed here died in this country, in very different circumstances.
Arthur Victor Lomas died on 28 March 1916 aged only 18. He was an Ordinary Seaman serving on the ship HMS Conquest. He was on the ship’s boat returning from shore leave near Harwich when it was lost in a snow storm. The boat foundered and all 39 men on board drowned. He lived at 16 Lydenburg Street with his parents, Joseph and Louisa Lomas, the second of their sons to die in the war. Arthur’s brother, Albert Henry Lomas had died a year earlier on 13 March 1915 while serving with the 2nd Devonshire Regiment in France. (Both names are on the Village Memorial).
Arthur William Powell served as a Rifleman with the 16th Battalion London (Queen’s Westminster Rifles) Regiment. He died on 10 December 1914 aged 40 after being run over by a lorry on Woolwich Road. He was married to Fanny Powell living at 66 Westcombe Hill, Blackheath, and had 2 daughters, Audrey born in 1902 and Edith born in 1908.
Maurice Smith, a Canadian by birth, landed in France on 19 May 1915 and died on 24 February 1916 age 51. He died in St. Bartholomew’s Hospital of wounds received while fighting in Hooge with the 7th Battalion Rifle Brigade. He left a widow, Fanny, and lived at 23 Wyndcliff Road. (Also on the Village Memorial).
Robert Ernest Stead died on 13 March 1916 aged 32. He was a deckhand on HMS Victory and died of illness while at Royal Navy Barracks at Portsmouth. His sister, Mrs E Cockshott, lived at 14 Tuskar Street, Greenwich.
It says: “The purpose of the local list is to identify buildings, structures and monuments of local architectural or historic importance and to preserve their features of interest as far as possible.”
Interestingly, it’s the first time the council has received nominations from community groups and individuals, while be be considered alongside its own proposals. The Lee Forum and Positive Plumstead Project groups have both contributed.
Nominations include an eclectic compilation of buildings, details and structures – from bridges to pubs, to railway stations and lighthouses. “Local heritage listing is a way for local communities to identify and celebrate historic buildings which enrich and enliven their area.”
I found out about the heritage listing by chance, after getting in touch with the conservation team on the Charlton Riverside Heritage Consultation. It felt like the conservation effort should cross Woolwich Road and by a bit of luck this opportunity came up.
‘An underdog at risk of losing its identity’
I haven’t lived in the area for long but I already feel really protective over it – slightly unloved and riddled with traffic pollution, but with an amazing industrial heritage and lots of interesting details. It’s an underdog at risk of losing its identity due to over-development.
A few favourite local nominations include the Angerstein freight railway crossing and alley by Fairthorn Road – built in the 1850s by local landowner John Julius Angerstein so workers could better access Combe Farm, which sat at the bottom of Westcombe Hill (Angerstein’s collection of paintings funded the National Gallery). Locals still cross here everyday.
It’s modest and unpretentious and that’s why it suits the area so well – like something out of a Famous Five novel. It’s a breath of fresh air next to the concrete traffic jams of the A2. Despite walking through the dim alley at dusk, hoping that the person behind is a friendly commuter and not an axe murderer, I’d hate to lose it.
Similarly, the strip of old factory walls and old doors on Ramac Way have a time-worn feel to them. As the last factory walls standing, they feel like a poignant reminder of the need to preserve local industrial heritage and that this area hasn’t always been a place to buy stuff but a place where we made stuff – useful stuff! Transatlantic electrical cables, shipping propellors, batteries, Bakelite telephones as well as Airfix kits, the stuff of childhood dreams.
The Rose of Denmark pub also feels like an unsung hero. Its post-war styling is very evocative of the area and style of the old Valley ground.
Characterful heritage buildings are at risk with all the new development – nowhere feels safe from redevelopment! Hopefully by adding more heritage spots, more people will appreciate the history of the area – and it might help encourage sympathetic development in the months and years to come.
Comments on the architectural, historic and environmental merits of nominations should be given by email or post, by 5pm on 30 October 2018.
By email: planning.policy[at]royalgreenwich.gov.uk
By post: Royal Borough of Greenwich, Planning Policy Team, 5th Floor, The Woolwich Centre, 35 Wellington Street, London, SE18 6HQ