4 December 2012

Dinner Up West

Frank Keeble was an original Officer in the West Ham Battalion. Although he came from the countryside of Essex his mum had been born in the Borough and his grandad was an Alderman.

He won the Military Cross on the Hammers first trench raid in July 1916 where he not only broke his leg but was wounded by shrapnel in three places. He was sent to hospital in Reading for three weeks and then moved into the Atherton Road home of another volunteer in the Hammers, Lt Reg Norman. Reg was a fruit and veg salesman in Stratford market and his dad ran a very large and successful produce distribution.

By September, Frank Keeble was ready to return to the West Ham Battalion but before he did he met up on the 17th with an old pal and fellow Hammer from the early days in Stratford, Reggie Howell. They went 'up West' together and headed for the Trocadero restaurant in Piccadilly. Reggie would have told Frank just what had been happening over the Somme Summer and how the Hammers had been hit with high casualties. Hopefully the news didn't ruin the meal too much.

Here's what they had - Frank and Reggie both signed the menu for posterity

menu courtesy of the Keeble Family

German Heritage Volunteers

One of the West Ham Battalion officers, Ernest Sherman (who came from Whitechapel and won his Military Cross at Oppy, April 1917) was German heritage, but he wasn't the only one.

There are a distinct number of German surnames in the Hammers, but this shouldn't be surprising - the 1911 Census records that about 2% of the Borough of West Ham was 'foreign born'.

Most of the lads were British born but of German parents or grand parents and they included the Medical Officer, Dr Alan Holthusen. He had his GP surgery in Sebert Road, Forest Gate and another in Wanstead. His younger brother Len was also serving in the Hammers, as the Signals Officer.

Alan Holthusen

The West Ham Battalion tailor was Ernie Kurtz, born in Bow but living in Forest Gate, son of a tailor and married to a seamstress.

Ernie Kurtz

Other German surnames on the Muster Roll of 'Originals' include Lang, Luck, Giess (two brothers who enlisted together), Vogt, Teitjen (who knocked a few years off his age and was severely shattered mentally by the Somme Summer of 1916), Tettmar, Hauser, Izzat, Francker, Englefield, Vaus, Zimmer, Schuler, Therin (two more brothers who enlisted together) and Kunkel (who was wounded by a sniper).

Cyril Blattman is interesting as he was living just a few doors down from Mr Flatan's photography shop in Ley Street, Ilford when he enlisted. Although Cyril's surname sounds German, it was actually from his grandfather Jean Blattman - who was born in Matherne in the Alsace region of France and first appears in London on the 1851 Census!