Lesley Grace Seebohm (of Poynders End) and her mother, Nora Gribble, were buried
at St Martin’s, Preston in 1913 and 1923 respectively. This is the story of Norah’s
Leslie’s burial and Norah’s son, Julian Gribble, who is memorialised in St Martins
(Acknowledgments: I am grateful to John Medland author of ‘A Soldier’s Story’ and
IW Beacon Ltd, for their kind permission to reprint the article about Julian Gribble.
I am also grateful to webmaster Nigel Watts for allowing me to include extracts concerning
Julian and Philip Gribble)
The Quaker, Frederic Seebohm, was born at Bradford, Yorksshire in 1833 and married
Mary Ann Exton in 1857. He wrote the acclaimed work, The English Village Community
which drew its inspiration from the area around Hitchin. The couple had four children:
four daughters and a son, Hugh Exton Seebohm, who was born in 1867. In 1901, Frederic
was living at 84 Bancroft, Hitchin and was described as a banker and magistrate.
Meanwhile, the merchant, George James Gribble, married Norah Royds (born 1859 at
Great Boughton, Cheshire) at Chester in 1881. Included among their children was a
daughter, Leslie Grace Gribble, born in 1883 at Chelsea.
Hugh (then a Hitchin banker) and Lesley married in early 1904 at Biggleswade, Beds.
and moved into a newly built house at
Poynders End (right) in 1906. They had four children: Derrick (born 1907), the twins
Frederic and George (born 18 January 1909) and Fidelity (1912).
The report of the funeral of Leslie Grace Seebohm - 24 September 1913
In the very sudden death of his wife, the sympathy of the town’s people of Hitchin
and of a wider radius is extended to Mr. Hugh Exton Seebohm, a member of an old and
revered Hitchin family.
The death came with such unexpectedness that a tragedy of grief was experienced by
relatives and friends. Previous to Saturday Mrs. Seebohm was apparently in perfect
health. With her husband she had just returned
to their house at Poynder's-end, from a holiday in Brittany. In the early hours of
Mrs. Seebohm was seized with illness and Mr. L. S. Barnes, of Whitwell, was immediately
the attack was such that death occurred at a later hour the same morning. A London
physician who had been also summoned stated on arrival that everything possible had
It was on January 28, 1904, that Mr. Hugh Seebohm was married at Henlow Church to
Miss Leslie Gribble, the late Mrs. Seebohm being the second daughter of Mr. George
Gribble, then resident at Henlow Grange and later
at Biddesdon, Hants. Nine months previously in the same church Miss Phyllis Gribble,
a sister, was married to Mr. W. A. Fordham, a member of another well-known Hertfordshire
Mrs. Seebohm. was related by marriage to the Rowntree family, Mr. Joseph Rowntree,
chairman of the firm of Rowntree & Co., Ltd.,-1 having married in 1867 Miss Emma
Antoinette Seebohm. Mr. Hugh. Seebohm is the
only son of the late Mr. Frederick Seebohm, the historian and a director of Barclay's
Bank, who did so much for the cause of education in Hertfordshire. Mr. Hugh Seebohm
has been elected to several important public
offices so ably filled for many years by his father.
There are three sons and one daughter of the marriage.
Beside the little Parish Church of St. Martin, Preston, the mortal remains of Mrs.
Hugh Exton Seebohm were interred on Wednesday.
It was a scene impressive in character and many eyes were dimmed among those who
had come to pay a
last tribute. The esteem in which the late Mrs. Seebohm was held in the village
of Preston was fully manifested by the presence of a large number of parishioners
and there was a touching incident when a number of children in charge of a teacher
visited the graveside a little while after the service had concluded..
It was a simple service by the graveside, for the cortege did not enter the church.
The mourners were met at
the entrance to the churchyard by several choristers from St. Mary's. Hitchin, with
Mr. H. G. Moulden and the robed clergy—the Rev. E. P. Gough (rector of Downham Market),
the Rev. J. W. Capron and the Rev. E. P. Tallents. The Rev E. P. Gough conducted
the whole service. On reaching the graveside the hymn, "Jesu, lover
of my soul." was sung, and the short but impressive service concluded with the singing
of the hymn "Holy,
holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!"
There were many tributes to the deceased in the form of flowers, chief among which
was a simple and
beautiful wreath of blue plumbago from the husband; a bunch of arum lilies from "Mother
and Father "; and
a similar bunch from "Brothers and Sisters." Mrs. B. P. Gough sent a floral tribute
bearing the following inscription: "For my darling Leslie, with loving thoughts and
prayers, from Ellen, who loves her so very much. How her bright and glorious spirit
shines! God grant unto her eternal rest and let light perpetual shine upon
The immediate family mourners were: Mr. H. E. Seebohm (husband), Mr and Mrs George
Gribble (parents). Mrs Wolverley Fordham and Mr W. O. Fordham (sister and brother-in-law),
Miss Vivian Gribble (sister), Mr Phillip Gribble and Mr. Julian Gribble (brothers).
Mr. Seebohm's relatives present included: Sir Rickman and Lady Godlee (sister and
brother-in-law), Miss Seebohm and Miss Hilda Seebohm.
Among those present were :—Mr. and Mrs. Milne Watson, Mr W. F. Dalton, Mr W. Tindall
Lucas, the Rev. F. H. Procter., Mr. Edward Brown (Luton),
Mr A. Spencer, Mr R. de V. Pryor,. Mr Theodore Ransom, Miss Ransom.
Mr Theodore Lucas, Mrs F. A. Wright, Mr and Mrs H. E. Harrison, Mr T. Fenwick Harrison,
the Rev. R. S. Bagshaw, Mrs Armstrong, senr., Mr and Mrs Armstrong, Mr and Mrs A.
J. G. Lindsell, Mr W. O. Times, Mr Francis Shillitoe, Mr Francis Ransom. Mr Jack
Ransom. Mr and Mrs W. Bailey Hawkins, Miss Bailey Hawkins, Mr and Mrs R. J. W. Dawson,
Mr Lister Harrison (Woodford), Mr Frank H. Barclay (Cromer). Mr R. Seebohm
(Luton), Mr Rushbrooke, Mr L. S. Barnes (Whitwell), Mr M. H. Foster and
Mr R. Vaughan,
The grave was lined with evergreens, Rose of Sharon berries, lilies, roses, plumbago
and silver and golden variegated ivy by Mr. H. Peters (gardener
at Poynder's End), Mr. W. Sharp (gardener at Offley Holes to Major Richardson), and
Mr. J. Swain (gardener to Mr. J. C. Priestley).The coffin was composed of brown English
oak, with plain brass fittings, and a brass plate bore the inscription: ‘Leslie Grace
Seebohm; born 1883 ; died September 20, 1913’.
Leslie Seebohm’s grave (shown above right) is in the north western corner of St Martin’s
Of Norah Gribble - mother of Leslie Seebohm
Of Norah’s son - Captain Julian Gribble
In his book, Norah’s son, Philip, provided a description of his mother:
My mother in her lighter moments was capable of charming flashes of frivolity, but
her normal reaction to life
was one of intensity. She was a marvellously beautiful woman, blessed with divinely
golden-red hair, and immense, almost violet eyes, varying in depth with her moods;
her full, sensitive mouth, firm chin and small but magnificently carved head were
a delight. She was proud of her legs, and often pulled her skirts to her knees to
allow us children to admire their symmetry.
She had very advanced views, was self-centred, artistic, intellectual and convinced
that her family were beyond reproach, an outlook that made her intolerant of even
minor faults, and encouraged her to exaggerate their importance to a point at which
she found an excuse for melodrama. Much as we all loved her, my mother's presence
was usually accompanied by a sense of strain, and it was only when she left the house
that the family could relax.
She took an active part in local government, mainly from a sense of duty I think,
but it was religion and its trappings that dominated her life. There were weeks when,
day after day, she would lock herself in her studio
and sit rapt in meditation while pondering over the manuscript of one of the several
books she wrote on religious subjects, among them My Way Out, published by a close
friend, John Murray; or at other times she might be writing poetry or be lost in
painting some canvases. Her poetry was moving and was an outlet from frustration
and a form of release.
My mother was a rather frightening and utterly lasting influence on the characters
of all her six children. Not
only was she a thinker and a writer, but also a creative artist, and in her early
or orthodox phase she was a competent portrait painter; she had studied at The Slade
as a girl and taken her work very seriously. In later life she despised representational
jest and emotive fragments, and concentrated on her search for new means of expression
and the use of new media. Several rooms at Henlow were covered with her murals, executed
One and all we had to learn silence because Mother's moments of inspiration must
never be spoiled by slamming doors, noisy footsteps or the yelling and shouting of
the average large family. The rage and genuine agony that were the reaction to any
such interruptions had to be seen to be believed. Our behaviour had been
an outrage, the extent of which we soon grasped and the importance of which we never
forgot; so now I am a good guest and have often been told by my hosts that they would
hardly know that I was in the house.
My mother was always boasting about "our family", by which she meant HER family,
the royal family of Royds, who claimed descent from Edward III, and not to be confused
with the Royds of Brereton."
At 9.30am of March 23rd 1918, as the final German bombardment began,Captain JulianRoyds Gribble reported to Battalion HO that masses of German infantry were advancing
towards them. Two days earlier the Germans had launched a million man offensive which
had over-run a fifty-mile stretch of the British Western Front. British soldiers
surrendering in tens of thousands. The 10th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment
dug in behind the British lines and were given orders “to fight to the last”. As
the hillside erupted in explosions and the shattered British army withdrew inchaos
around them, the placid sights and sounds of the Isle of Wight, where many of these
men had trained must have seemed a world away.
This Remembrance Sunday also falls on Armistice Day. At11 am on the 1st November
1918 the guns on the western Front of the First World War (1914 -1918), finally fell
silent. Aswe look at the long lists of names on our war memorials it is hard to
visualise these were sons, brothers, lovers, husbands, fathers and friends. However
if we take just one name, one
man who knewand loved the Island, perhaps we can come a shade closer to understanding.
Julian Royds Gribble was borninto a privileged wealthy family on January 5th, 1897.
He was enrolled at Eton school in 1910.He grew up a
tall graceful. and popular boy. interested in art and music. When the
first World War began Julian transferred to the officers' training school at Sandhurst.
What follows is an article written by John Medland that was published in the
Newport Beacon (Isle of Wight) in November, 2007 (publisher - I W Beacon Ltd.).
Julian Gribble was born in 1897 and educated at Eton
In early 1915 Julian Gribble was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Royal Warwickshire
Regiment and was posted to train recruits at Albany barracks, Parkhurst.
In a letter to his mother, Norah Gribble, from Parkhurst in 1915: “Although we have
sent out over 8,000 men to France from the battalion since the war began, we sent
our first draft to the Dardenelles yesterday. I went down to Cowes to see them off.”
Julian spent his off-duty moments exploring the Island on his motorbike. He loved
the countryside and the seascapes. He took advantage of every sporting opportunity
and made friends “with any sort of man” in his mother’s words “ who had led any sort
of real life”. His love of the Island is reflected in the many letters he
wrote to his mother from Parkhurst, Culver Down and the Wheatsheaf in Newport which
she published after
In the winter of 1915 -16 Julian was posted to Culver Down gun battery “a Godforsaken
spot on the extreme
end of the Island” Later he wrote "There are 30 men under me here. I have to do absolutely
everything for them, which is really rather Interesting, find and pay the women to
do their washing, arrange with the contractors for food, mount the guard and visit
sentries by day and night. This last is the worst job of all at night. Last night
was blowing as I have never felt it blow before, driving sleet with it"
Conditions were basic and Julian shared them with his men. "My hands are sore today
and covered with
blisters, as we have been digging a subterranean passage in the chalk, which is
very hard work."
The stunning sea views provided some excitement. "a torpedoed Dutch steamer of 3,084
tons came in
yesterday escorted by a destroyer. Her engines had been put out of action and she
was being towed along
by two tugs. The same submarine torpedoed a French barque off St Catherines. Both
these appeared in the papers this morning, but we actually saw them yesterday"
He remained on the Island for a year, sometimes taking drafts of newly trained troops
as far as the French
ports. "Nobody was in such a good position" his mother wrote, "for realising the
ravages of war as those who spent their time in filling and filling again its ravening
jaws and those who saw its wreckage perpetually cast up into the military hospitals."
(The regiment enlisted a total of 47,500 men during the war, of whom 11,500 lost
The Isle of Wight
Prisoner of war
The impact on Norah Gribble of losing her son and daughter was explained later by
‘....to my mother's everlasting grief, he (Julian) died there on Armistice Day, a
victim of Spanish Influenza then sweeping Europe. Many millions died, and their deaths
far exceeded the total casualties of the whole war. My mother was broken hearted.
She went into a spiritual decline and never recovered a balanced view of life. The
early death of my sister Lesley after a few years of marriage had much affected my
mother. She believed that Lesley's death was due to carelessness and she brooded
over this loss. Julian's death, again, as she thought, due to neglect, seemed to
break down her final defences. She was the victim of regret and mourning throughout
the remainder of her not very long life.’
Norah Gribble died in March 1923 and was buried with her daughter, Leslie Seebohm
in St Martins graveyard.
A copy of Norah Gribble’s book, ‘The Book of Julian’ (1923), devoted to Julian, was
recently held by a Preston villager and made available to interested folk through
the local parish magazine.
Inside St Martins are wall plaques in memory of Mrs Seebohm and Julian Gribble. There
is also a stained-glass window in the south chancel memorialising Julian Gribble
which was designed by his sister, Mrs Vivian Doyle-Jones.
In April I 916 Julian was ordered to France. Over the next six months without leave
he was in the thick of the fighting of the Battle of the Somme. In October he was
sent home as sick with "trench fever". Although he was recommended three months rest
after just one month he reported back to Parkhurst. From there he was
posted to the 10th Battalion with the rank of Captain. At a time when the average
life expectancy of British
army officers at the front was 17 weeks Julian was already a veteran. In peacetime
he would still have been
Julian was a good officer. He got to know the men of his company as individuals,
learning in detail about their lives. Julian's Sergeant wrote "I am an old man in
the service of my country, but I have never loved or
respected any one so much as he, God bless him" Julian spent the winter of his twentieth
birthday in the mud, frosts and floods of Flanders "wet up to the middle and never
warm or dry. He had another short leave in 1917 and then endured the final dreadful
winter of the war back in the trenches. In the opening months of 1918 Julian was
due leave, but after the epic horror of the hundred day Battle of Paschendaele, the
British army was seriously undermanned. Julian's leave was postponed month after
In the darkest hours of March 2 Ist the unsuspecting British III and V Armies were
shocked by the most
intensive barrage of the war. In eight hours 6,500 German guns delivered 1.16 million
poison-gas and high-explosive artillery shells into the British defences. Supported
by the close fire of over 5,000 mortars, the barrage moved forward 200m every four
minutes, annihilating defences and leaving the surviving defenders deaf and stunned.
It was the beginning of the decisive German spring offensive, code named Kaiserschlacht,
The 10th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshires were in reserve in the III Army when
the German barrage began. Julian dashed off a goodbye letter. 'All I pray to God
is to give me strength to lead D Company well – as they deserve. I know mother that
in any case you will not grudge to England your youngest son. We have always
been cheery so lets go on being so – thanks to you and Father I have had as happy
a time in this world as possible, almost."
Behind the creeping barrage 76 German divisions, equivalent to the entire British
Army in France, advanced. They were led by "Stormtroopers" armed with wire-cutters,
grenades and flame-throwers. Behind them came large "battle groups" of infantry with
field artillery and heavy machine guns, followed by more masses of
marching infantry. To Sir Arthur Conan Doyle it seemed as if fresh divisions were
"rolling in like waves from
some inexhaustible sea."
The four infantry companies of 10th Battalion hastily dug in along 1,600 yards of
the Hermies Ridge behind the rearmost British defences with orders to hold the position
to the last man. The Battalion vvas supported by its own battery of field artillery,
flanking infantry, and further batteries of artillery and heavy machine guns.
On the second day of the offensive the Germans began to shell these new positions
and the command
structure of the British Ill Army began to break down as it joined the V Army in
a fighting retreat. The next morning, as Julian reported the Germans massing to attack,
the Battalion's artillery were galloping
away under conflicting orders. As the German attack intensified more supporting
artillery and infantry
retreated. The battalion found itself increasingly isolated and surrounded. Even
the HO staff and any retreating stragglers they could rally were thrown into the
desperate fighting. They held on for three hours.
By 12.30 just D Company was left holding onto the top of the ridge. When he was the
last officer standing
Julian finally allowed his men to retreat, keeping six with him. Private Madeley
was one of them. "I got hit and
I am glad to say I broke through, but not so with the Captain" Julian was last seen
emptying his revolver into the final assault. "I saw him go down under about seven
big German brutes and that was the last I saw of one of England’s finest officers".
The "Kaiser's Battle' lasted just two weeks. A new French Supreme Commander combined
dogged British resistance with a French counter-attack. 425,000 men fell on all sides
in fifteen days of fighting that is now almost entirely forgotten.
The citation to the Victoria Cross in the London Gazette of 28 June 1918 read:
‘For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. Captain Gribble was in command
of the tight company of the battalion when the enemy attacked and his orders were
to hold on to the last. His company was eventually entirely isolated, although he
could easily have withdrawn them at one period when the rest of the battalion on
his left were driven back to a secondary position.
His tight flank was in the air, owing to the withdrawal of all troops of a neighbouring
division. By means of a runner to a company on his left he intimated his determination
to hold on until other orders were received from Battalion HQ and this he inspired
his company to accomplish. His company was eventually surrounded by the enemy at
close range, and he was seen fighting to the last. His subsequent fate is unknown.
By his splendid example of grit Captain Gribble was materially instrumental in preventing
for some hours the enemy obtaining a complete mastery of the ridge, and by his magnificent
self-sacrifice he enabled the remainder of his own brigade to be withdrawn as well
as another garrison and three batteries of Field Artillery.’
Julian's body was robbed and left for dead, but later it was discovered that he was
alive. He began to make a good recovery in hospital in Germany, but found himself
on the losing side in the terrible final months of the war. The Allied blockade of
Germany was so effective that the whole country was in a state of starvation.
When Julian arrived at the new officer's prison at Mainz Castle he and his fellow
inmates suffered six weeks starvation before the first Red Cross parcels arrived.
In May Julian heard that he had been awarded the Victoria Cross for his stand on
Hermies Ridge. The other officers saw the letters "VC" on the envelope and carried
the embarrassed invalid about the barrack square on their shoulders. On June 4th
Julian celebrated Eton's special day with four other old Etonians "with a soup made
of a few scraps of lettuce".
The First World War finally came to an end after the German Revolution of October
1918. By this time some two million German civilians had starved to death, but worse
was to come. A bird 'flu' had mutated. We know it as "Spanish Influenza". After more
than four years of wartime food shortages it became the greatest pandemic in history.
Recent estimates put the death toll at more than four years of wartime food shortages
it became the greatest pandemic in history. Recent estimates put the death toll at
50 to 100 million worldwide.
Eight days before the Armistice Julian himself fell ill. On the morning of November
24th his fellow prisoners were released and boarded the train home. Julian was left
alone in the castle hospital. He died shortly after midnight.
His last words were to dismiss his nurse: "Go away gnadiger Frau." (gracious lady).
The following day the French army arrived with food and medicine.
Taking his love for this Island into captivity with him, in his last letter to his
mother he wrote "The only trees we have are a row of small planes which I to/ to
imagine In different surroundings - boulevard at Amiens - a sea front at Cowes."
Julian's mother never recovered from the loss of her son. She visited the grave at
Mainz the following year. Her older son describes his embarrassment as "my poor mother
kneeled at the grave and wept. She scraped the snow away with her bare hands and
kissed the ground, gathering earth and leaves in her fingers as if these were part
of her son."
This description of the grief of Norah Gribble brings into stark relief a grief that
was echoed throughout eleven million homes and families in all the lands whose sons
were lost in this pointless war.
These I I million men & boys may have died for misguided notions of European nationalism,
but they died to give us a better future.” (End of article)