8 April 2013

Pte 18040 George Greeno

George Albert Greeno was born in 1889 in Bethnal Green and attended Hague Street Primary School which is now the Weavers Fields Nursery.

  Canrobert Street in Bethnal Green 

He married Alice in 1908 and lived with his wife and two daughters down Vallance Road but by the time he volunteered in the West Ham Battalion he was living at 94 Canrobert Street in Bethnal Green and employed as a sail maker.

George in a group photo of C Company

George was a member of C company and was used as a Battalion Runner, one of several extra dangerous roles on the front-line.

George's Will made out to Alice in his paybook

During the Hammers first trench raid on June 1st 1916 it was George who had to creep out with the raiders to their attack positions and then return with absolute stealth back to the British line and inform the Brigade artillery that everyone was in their place. For this role in the attack, during which the battalion were awarded three Military Cross's (MC), a Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and several Military Medals (MM), George was rewarded with a Commander's Commendation

George's trench raid Commendation

A year after the trench raid, George was utilised as an Officer's Batman, a personal 'servant' in the dugouts. It was in the dugouts around Windy Corner that George was somehow "accidently wounded by a revolver shot"... Frank Jenns (who was writing up the War Diary) gives no indication as to who shot him in the thigh, but the fact that Jenns doesn’t say "by comrade" might imply that the fault lay with an Officer, receiving an unlucky reminder that the Webley pistol issued at this time had no safety catch!

George's paybook also contains the signatures of many Officer's
in the West Ham Battalion,most of whom were Killed In Action 

George recovered from his wounded thigh and returned to the West Ham Battalion. On disbandment he was sent to Egypt and thankfully survived the Great War.
All for a shilling a day!

Sadly he had to return his medals as they were engraved with the wrong name "Greens"! George died in 1951.

with thanks to the Greeno family for images

15 March 2013

Captain Hugh Cardinal Harford

Hugh Cardinal-Harford was born in 1877 in what has today become the Ampthill Square Estate in Camden. During the Boer War he was wounded quite badly in the stomach at Vaalkop in June 1901 but managed to eventually recover.

He later possibly attended the wedding of his mother to his new step-father, John Howell Junior of Hastings who, as part of an "& Son" construction company was responsible for very many of the finer buildings in and around Hastings.

When war was declared in 1914, Hugh was an Insurance inspector but quickly re-enlisted and joined the West Ham Battalion at Stratford during their formation in early 1915. I haven't yet been able to determine what particular connection there is to West Ham for Hugh. In 1906 he lived in Alderney Street in Pimlico and by 1911 he was living in Herne Hill. But the connection  must have been significant as his younger half-brother Reggie also joined the battalion in mid 1915, leaving his job as a Lloyds shipping clerk.

Both men were in D Company and well liked by all, with Hugh serving as Captain and Company Commander while Reggie was a popular Lieutenant and Platoon Commander. They both performed well as Officers and were there onboard the Princess Victoria heading to the Front in France in November  1915.

 Hugh on the left, sitting beside William Busby, in a close up from a photo of Busby's Platoon in D Company, taken in 1915 during training

They had only been there for a matter of days when Hugh's war changed. He was on horseback, leading his marching D Company towards the frontline when his horse suddenly took fright and dismounted him violently into a ditch. His injuries were clearly quite bad and he was evacuated to hospital for  recovery.

By May of 1916 he was back fit, but he didn't return to the West Ham Battalion. He did however bump into Lt William Busby, the local Scoutmaster from Forest Gate who was returning from his home leave. Busby made a note in his personal diary of how Hugh, by now promoted to Major, had been given "tremendous responsibilities..."

Hugh had been tasked with rounding up all the visibly underage boys who were serving in the Army, usually in a Front Line infantry unit of Kitchener volunteers. On average they were fifteen or sixteen years old, although some were even younger. As you can imagine, most of these lads were passionate about being there and therefore it was quite natural for them to be "most indignant" about being taken back to Etaples and held until they were sent back home to no-doubt worried parents.

Hugh's half-brother Reggie meanwhile served with the West Ham Battalion all the way through the Somme fighting, including leading his Platoon of D Company at Delville Wood where the casualties were horrendous. By the end of September he was making a transfer over to the new aspect of warfare, Tanks. 

Both men survived the war and Reggie was a regular visitor to Frank Keeble's farm in Essex for many years up until WW2. They had been good friends since meeting in early 1915 and had shared a dinner at the Trocadero back in 1916.

image courtesy of Michael Holden

25 February 2013

Pte 18374 Samuel Herbert Legerton

Samuel Herbert Legerton was born on 22nd September 1884, along with a twin brother, Walter Edward, in Salcott-cum-Virley, Essex. Sadly, Walter died in January 1907, aged 22 and lies buried with his parents in the cemetery at Tolleshunt d'Arcy.

Samuel was 5ft 5in and had fair hair. He had left UK for Boston, USA, on 23rd September 1903 onboard a ship called The Mayflower when he was a 19 year old clerk. At some point he returned to the UK and by the end of 1914 he was 29 years old and living with his wife Amy at his sister Lizzie's newsagents on Barking Road which he ran on her behalf.  As an illustration of the changing character of the local area, the old shop is now a small mosque.

When War broke out Samuel, like so many along the Barking Road, volunteered at East Ham Town Hall on 25th February 1915 and became Pte 18374 in The West Ham Battalion.

Undergoing basic training on Wanstead Flats all the way through to Salisbury Plain for Advanced Infantry Training and traveling over on the Princess Victoria, Samuel absorbed all the life changing experiences of the Hammers up until the end of their Somme Summer in November 1916.

At some point during or after their last major assault while on The Somme at the Quadrilateral (Beaumont Hamel) he contracted 'trench fever' - spread by the body lice that every man was plagued with - and was shipped back to Blighty....

It was after his recovery in England that he was transferred to the Labour Corps and in that way moved to an agricultural unit near Warley for the rest of the War. After a happy life, Samuel died on 31st May, 1938

images courtesy of Jackie Duckworth, Samuels grandaughter