A History of Preston in Hertfordshire
Preston soldiers in World War 1
At Hitchin, there is a War Memorial beside the church gates of St Mary’s (photographed below, left and used with the kind permission of David Barlow) which gives details of the fallen and includes men who were born in Preston but were not living there when they enlisted. Within St Martin’s Church at Preston there is a framed remembrance of men killed in the two World Wars who were living in the village when they enlisted (below, right). There were other combatants who were born in Preston but were living elsewhere in 1914.
Above, l to r: Ernest Wray’s 1914-15 Star; General Service Medal and Victory Medal. Many soldiers received these medals which related to when they served. They were known as ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ - a reference to a Daily Mirror comic strip
(Above) Ernest Wray’s Memorial Plaque and Soldier’s Small Book
Preston men who died in the Great War
Arthur Chalkley was born in the late spring of 1880, the son of William and Amy. The couple were local people – William was born at Waterdell, Ippollitts and Amy was born in the village of Charlton, Herts. By 1881, the Chalkleys had moved from the countryside into Hitchin and for the next twenty years William worked as a brick-maker and a coal porter. Arthur Chalkley married Harriet Claridge in the summer of 1903, after a lengthy friendship – in 1901, he was recorded as a visitor at the Claridge’s home in Ley Green, Kings Walden. Arthur was a drover (of sheep) and Harriet was a seventeen-year-old stone picker. The couple had one son, William Arthur (Bill), who was born at Ley Green in the winter of 1904. In 1911, the small family were living at Back Lane, Preston where Arthur was a stockman on a farm. When Arthur enlisted, he was living at Little Munden, a village five miles to the east of Stevenage. He was Private 4393 in the Hertfordshire Regiment, First Battalion. He was killed on 4 September 1916 (aged 36) and was buried at Knightsbridge Cemetery. Following the death of her husband, Harriet and Bill remained in Preston for the rest of their lives – living together at Crunnells Green and later at 20 Swedish Cottages, Chequers Lane. Harriet (who didn’t re-marry) died in 1968 aged 84 and was buried at St Martins, Preston on 30 January. Bill remained a bachelor. He played cricket for Preston as a right-handed batsman and was captain for a time during the late 1930s. He was also a talented footballer. Bill died in 1982 and his ashes were scattered at St Martins on 15 January. William James Ewington was born at Chequers Lane, Preston in the spring of 1893. He was the son of William (a hay-tier) and Caroline (nee Saunders). Caroline died in the spring of 1897. Four years later, in 1911, William and his father were lodging at The Chequers and working as fitters’ labourers, probably helping with the Temple Dinsley renovations. He enlisted quickly as Private 6856 in the Bedfordshire Regiment, First Battalion but died on 7 November 1914 (aged 21). He was buried at Le Touret Cemetery. William’s sacrifice is noted on Hitchin’s War memorial. His father, William, was living at Back Lane in 1915 and remained in Preston for the rest of his life. He died in 1936 and was buried at St Martins, Preston on 22 June. Sidney Sharp was born at Breachwood Green, Kings Walden in the winter of 1885, the son of Herbert (a forester for the Stagenhoe estate) and Emily (nee Peacock of Ley Green, Kings Walden). In 1891, the Sharps were living at Back Lane, Preston until 1911, when they had moved to Chequers Lane. Sidney was a farm labourer. He joined the Bedfordshire Regiment, Second Battalion (Private 20818). He was killed on 30 July 1916 and was buried at Thiepval Cemetery. His death is noted on the Hitchin War Memorial. At the time, Herbert and Emily were living at 9 Council Cottages, Chequers Lane. Although, the family does not feature at Preston in the 1920 electoral roll, they were back at Chequers Lane by 1925 and in 1951 Herbert was noted at 11 Chequers Lane. He died (aged 93) in 1957 and was buried at St Martin on 28 November 1957. William Jenkins was born in the summer of 1895, the son of William and Minnie (nee Boston) Jenkins – both from established Preston families. The Jenkins were living at School Lane, Preston in 1901 and 1911. William, Snr., was a cowman. William, Jnr., was a farm labourer. William joined the Bedfordshire Regiment, First Battalion and was killed at the end of the War on 20 November 1918 (aged 23). He was buried at Etaples and is featured on Hitchin’s War Memorial. William and Minnie lived at Hitchwood Cottages until their deaths in February 1944 and January 1962, respectively. They were buried at St Martin’s. John Thomas Powell was born at Preston in the spring of 1884, probably at Crunnells Green. His parents, Henry (‘Harry’) and Emma were born in Hertfordshire and went to Preston in the early 1880’s. They were living at Back Lane in 1891 when Henry was a farm labourer. They continued to move around as in 1901 the family was at East Meon, Hampshire, where Henry was a gamekeeper. Meanwhile, John remained at Preston and in 1911 he was living with his sister, Caroline and her husband, George Peters at Church Lane, Preston. He was a farm labourer. He enlisted with the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry (Private 26242) and was killed on 11 April 1917. He was buried at Saulty and his death is recorded on the Hitchin War Memorial.
John William Reed (pictured right) was born in the summer of 1882 at Preston, the son of George and Mary (nee Thrussell). George was from Kings Walden and Mary, from Preston. The family was living at Sootfield Green in 1891 and George was a farm worker. They had moved to Saffron Walden, Essex by 1901 where George was a gamekeeper. John enlisted in the Suffolk Regiment (Private 26766) at Melbourn, Cambridgeshire. He later transferred to the Queens (Royal West Surrey) Regiment (Private G/21093). He was killed on Monday, 14 May 1917 and was buried at Flanders. He is featured on the Melbourn Roll of Honour. (Photograph kindly supplied by David Cooper) Martin Henry Farey was the son of Amos and Mary (nee Isaacson) who married in the late autumn of 1892 when Amos was almost forty years old. Their first son, Martin arrived in the spring of 1894 at Preston. By 1901, the family had moved into Hitchin and were living at 70 Bancroft. Amos was still working as an agricultural labourer. In August 1914, Martin joined the 7th Hertfordshire Regiment, First Battalion (Private 2211) He was sent to the Western Front in 1914 and fought at Ypres, Lens and Bethune and, after heavy shelling, he suffered wounds from which he died on 5 December 1915 (aged 21). Ernest Wray, (pictured right) (born at Preston, 8 December 1891) was the son of Alfred and Emily (nee Fairey) Wray who lived at Back Lane, Preston from 1891. He enlisted in 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment, 3rd Battalion on 5 September 1914 (Private 17002). He was the first villager to die, being killed in action on 24 August 1915. He was buried at Bethune Cemetery. Ernest’s story (including the telegram his parents received following his death) is recounted in detail at this link: Ernest Wray. His parent’s can be researched at this link: Alfred and Emily Wray. Harry Edward Harper was born in Preston during the winter of 1895. He was the son of William and Sarah. By 1901 the family had relocated to Battlesden, Bedfordshire where William was working as a gamekeeper.
Harry enlisted in the Bedfordshire 6th Battalion (Private 20056) at Ampthill, Beds. He died from wounds suffered at Flanders on 23 July 1916 (aged 21) and was buried at Heilly Station Cemetery, Somme. His name is recorded on the Little Brickhill, Bucks Roll of Honour. At the time of his death, his parents were living at Hoo Farm Cottages, Offley, Herts
Soldiers from Preston who survived the Great War
(Charles) Stephen Ashton (right) was the son of Preston baker, Tom and Catherine (nee Smith). He was born in 1884 at Stevenage and shortly afterwards the family moved to The Old Forge bakery on Church Road, Preston. In order to join the army, Stephen exaggerated his age and gave himself another Christian name, Charles. After fighting in the Boer War, he volunteered in September 1914 and was appointed as Sergeant in the Hertfordshire Dragoons. In August 1915, he was sent to Palestine where he fought at Gaza and in the taking of Jerusalem. In 1917, he was transferred to Mesopotamia where he again saw action. He returned home after being de-mobbed in November 1919. Shortly afterwards, Stephen married Lilian Wightman at Luton in the summer of 1920. The couple had two children, Joan M (1921) ND Thomas E (1925). The story of the Ashton family at Preston can be found at this link: Tom Ashton Henry James Armstrong (shown right) Henry was born in September 1883, the son of Frederick and Emma (nee Kirkby) who were tenants at Preston Hill Farm. Henry joined the 4th Bedfordshire Regiment in June 1916 as a Private. In 1917, he was drafted to the Western Front where he took part in the battles of the Somme, Arras, Ypres and Cambrai. He was wounded twice. He returned home and was de-mobilised in October 1919. He lived at Chequers Lane, probably at Elm Cottage (6 Chequers Cottages) with his mother, Emma, until her death in February 1929. Henry died and was buried at St Martins 11 January 1961. The story of the Armstrongs can be found at this link: Armstrongs.
A Carter gave his address as The Chequers, Preston, Hitchin when he was demobbed in February 1919. Unfortunately, I have been unable to discover anything about him or his family – he appears neither in the 1901 or 1911 census at Preston nor in the electoral rolls of 1920 or 1925 in the village. He enlisted in March 1888 and when war broke out, he was a reservist who was immediately called-up, joining the Royal Marine Light Infantry as a Second Class Warrant Officer. In August 1914, he was sent to Ostend and later served in Antwerp during the siege. In 1915, he was sent to the Dardenelles and after taking part in the Gallipoli campaign, he served in Egypt. He was then sent to Greece and finally to France, where he took part in numerous engagements. Arthur James Palmer was the son of Arthur and Lizzie (nee Fairey) who were living at Hitchwood Cottages in 1911. Arthur was born in the winter of 1892 and was a cowman. He volunteered in August 1914 and was a Private in the Hertfordshire Regiment. Because of ill health he was not sent overseas and was invalided out of the service in December 1914. By then his parents were living in Chequers Lane. Arthur married Alice Maud Thrussell at St Martins, Preston on 30 June 1917. He gave his occupation as roadman. The couple had four children: William C (1918), Reuben L (1919), Winifred A (1921) and Kathleen M (1922). Walter Charles and Henry George Peters were born in 1894 and the spring of 1898, the sons of Henry George (a waggoner in 1911) and Caroline (nee Powell). The family was living at Church Road, Preston in 1911. Walter volunteered in January 1915 and was a Gunner in the Royal Field Artillery. He was sent to France in the same year and was involved in heavy fighting which included the Battles of Ypres, Loos, Arras and Cambrai. He was wounded but rejoined his Regiment and was demobbed in March 1920. Henry joined the 1st Buffs (East Kent) Regiment in January 1916. In July, he was stationed at Rouen and Calais guarding the detention camps. He was demobilised in November 1919. On leaving the army, the brothers returned to the family home at 5 Holly Cottages, Back Lane, Preston, but both had left the village by 1930. Walter married Philadelphia C Heathorn at St Martin’s, Preston on 22 November 1922 and the couple remained in the Hitchin area having two children: Queenie (1927) and David (1931). Lawrence Henry Peters was born in the late autumn of 1896, the son of Thomas (a horse-keeper in 1911) and Martha (nee Andrews). The family was living at Church Lane in 1911. He volunteered in May 1915 and was sent to the Western Front as a Private in the 12th Royal Sussex Regiment. He fought in the Battles of Ypres, Festubert, the Somme and Cambrai. Lawrence was demobbed in March 1919 when he returned to the family home, now at Chequers Lane. By 1925, he had moved to the Hitchwood area and in the spring of 1924, he married Nora E Hoggett at Newmarket. The couple lived in the Hitchin district and had two children: Oliver J (1925) and Sheila (1929). Frederick Woodrow was the son of Frederick and Mary Annie, and was born in Norfolk in the summer of 1891. The couple were still living in the county in 1901 when Frederick, snr., was a wheelwright and carpenter. Frederick, jnr., joined in 1916 and was assigned to 2nd Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). That year, he was drafted to France and fought at Ypres, Passchendale and Arras. He was invalided to England owing to ill health and when he was discharged in October 1918, he held the rank of Lance Corporal. He returned to the family home at Holly Cottages, Back Lane where the family were still living in 1920, but by 1925, they had left the village.
Robert (Bob) (right) (born 19 April 1894), Frank (17 July 1899) and Charles Wray (born 1884) were three of Alfred and Emily’s (nee Currell) sons. The family were living at Back Lane from 1891 where Alfred was a hurdlemaker. Bob Wray volunteered in August 1914, joining the Bedfordshire Regiment as a Private and was sent to France in 1915. He fought in the battles of Festubert, Arras, Albert and Vimy Ridge and throughout the Retreat and Advance of 1918. During his career, he attained the rank of Lance Corporal and was wounded three times. He was demobbed in December 1919 and received the Military Medal. Bob married Elizabeth (Lizzie) May Jenkins at St Mary’s, Hitchin on 18 November 1922. The couple moved to Peters Green where they had twelve children. The story of Bob’s life can be found at this link: Bob Wray. Frank Wray (right) joined the Bedfordshire Regiment in 1917 as a Private and was sent to the Western Front in the same year. He fought in the Battles of Ypres, Cambrai, the Somme, Neuve Chapelle and the Retreat and Advance of 1918 when he was wounded. After the Armistice he was sent into Germany with the Army of Occupation and served on the Rhine. He returned to England in 1920 and was demobbed in April. Frank married Margaret Campbell at St Martin’s, Preston on 2 June 1926. The couple lived at 9 Council Cottages, Chequers Lane, Preston and had four children. Then, Frank died from influenza and was buried at St Martins on 15 October 1936. The story of Frank’s life can be found at this link: Frank Wray. Charlie Wray (right) enlisted about three weeks after the outbreak of war on 16 August 1914. He was a Private in the Bedfordshire First Regiment (No. 7708). In September 1915, he was back in England having been gassed. He transferred to the Bedfordshire Territorial Force (No 201481) where he served as an Acting Corporal. He was demobbed on 20 February 1920 after receiving the 1914-5 Star; General Service Medal and Victory Medal.
Edward Peters (right) was born at Preston in 1885. He was the son of Thomas and Martha. The story of the Peters family can be found at this link: Peters. Clearly from his uniform Edward was involved the Great War. William Swain (below, right) was born at Preston in 1889. He was the son of George nd Mary Swain. The story of this family can be found at this link: Swains. He served with the 4th Bedfordshire Rifles and was awarded the Military Medal. William Barker I’Anson was the son of Albert and Eliza I’Anson and Frederick (bailiff of Offley Holes House) and Rose Perry. The Hitchin War Memorial includes him among the dead of WW1.The Commonwealth Graves Commission records the death of William Barker I’Anson at Flanders on 7 October 1916. His residence was given as Offley. He was a corporal (No 18850) in the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment).
There is a further resource of WW1 soldiers has been discovered that adds to the list of Preston men who fought during The Great War. In 1918/1919 lists of Absent Voters were compiled which gave the addresses and regimental numbers of serving soldiers. The following is a catalogue of these men together with a note of their record - if it is available
Stephen Charles Andrews was living at Jacks Hill, nr Preston in 1918. He was with the Royal Engineers (Reg No 23250) Ernest Ball was the grandson of William Andrews. Ernest was born at Burgess Hill, Sussex in 1888c. In 1911, he was a bricklayer living at Hitchwood Cottages. He served as a Private with the 1st Battalion of the South Wales Borders (Reg No. 44364) and received the Victory and Star medals. Ernest was killed in action at Flanders, France on 10 September 1917. He is not included on the Hitchin War Memorial. Arthur Robert Boreham. Arthur was from Ley Green but had moved to Back Lane, Preston by 1918. His son, Reginald Arthur started at Preston School on 7 January 1919. Arthur’s Reg No was 2686 and he served as an Able Seaman in the Royal Navy. Charles Alfred Biles. Charles was a game keeper who lived at Keepers Lodge on the Kings Walden Road, Preston. He joined the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1 August 1916 (when he was aged 31) and then the Royal Scots Artillery Regiments (Reg No 111343) and held the rank of Gunner. Charles served at Salonika. He contracted malaria on 17 July 1916 and received an Army pension until 23 November 1920. He received the Victory and British medals. Sidney Charles Burton was born in 1883 and married Lavinia Louisa Cooper at Ippollitts Church on 6 June 1910. He was a chauffeur at Poynders End when he enlisted with the Bedfordshire Regiment on 9 December 1915. From 29 January until 22 November 1917 he served in France with the Machine Gun Corp, 120th Co as a Private. He was discharged on 26 October 1918 as being no longer physically fit for duty having fractured his right fibula - an injury that would take twelve months to heal. Sidney was a patient at the 4th Southern General Hospital. He received the Victory and British medals. In 1911, William Claxton was a gamekeeper at Cockenhoe, Herts, aged 27. He was married with two children. Five years later, in 1916, William Claxton was the licensee of The Chequers inn at Preston. By 1918 he was serving as a Private in the Queens Regiment Labour Corps and the Royal Fusiliers (Reg No 406011) He received the Victory and the British medals. After being demobbed, he and his family lived at Wain Wood until at least 1930. Arthur Robert Crawley. Arthur was the grandson of Henry Crawley and was born at Preston in around 1898. In 1918, he was living at Back Lane and was a Private with the Suffolks and then the 2nd London Regiment - the Royal Fusiliers (Reg No 12435). Arthur joined in 1917 and was drafted to the Western Front. He saw heavy fighting at Ypres, Cambrai and the Somme where he was wounded. He was then transferred to Egypt and served in the Palestine Offensive at Jaffa. He was demobbed in April 1920 and received the General Service and Victory medals. William Frederick Cullum. In 1911, William (born around 1882 in Leicestershire) was a married chauffeur living at Temple Dinsley Lodge. He joined the RAF (Reg No 225157). In 1918, William was living at Kiln Wood Cottage, Preston. George William Garner was living at Poynders End in 1918. He served as a Driver with 7th Sec No 3 Army Aux (Horse Co) ASC (Reg No TI 2679) and received the Victory medal. John Garner was born in 1889, the horse-keeper son of farm bailff George Garner who was living at Poynders End Farm in 1911. John married Daisy Darton at St Ippollitts Church on 20 January 1912. Three years later, a son, William Arthur Garner, was born on 15 March 1915 when John and Daisy were living at Hitchwood Cottages. John enlisted at Bedford on 5 December 1915 as a Private in the Northamptonshire Regiment (Reg No 25565). There is a lengthy record of his service online which includes his time with the 1st Yorks and Lancs Regiment (31852); promotion to Lance Corporal and three months leave from June to September 1916 to recover from injuries to his left ankle and right leg (which resulted in 30% disablement). He was demobbed on 3 July 1919 with a pension and the Victory and British medals. John and Daisy were at Poynders End Farm in 1919. John died at Offley on17 April 1962 and was buried at St Martin’s, Preston. John Murphy was living at Hill End in 1918. He was a Private in the 432nd Agri. Co Corps at Kempston Barracks, Beds. He was in France from 26 October 1915 and received the Victory, British and Star medals. Ernest Payne. Ernest was a general labourer living with his parents, Thomas and Mary Payne, at Poynders End in 1911. He joined the RAF and was shown as living at Crunnells Green in 1918. Christopher Thomas Peters was born at Preston in around 1881 to Thomas and Martha Peters. He was a Private in DVC (Reg No 12066) and his home was at Chequers Lane in 1918. Frederick Shaw was thirty-six years old, and a butler living at 2 Markham Square, Kings Road, Chelsea when he enlisted on 13 December 1916. Three years earlier, he married Grace Naylor at Chelsea Register Office, but by 1918, the couple had no children. Frederick served as a Gunner in the Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery (Reg No 198076). He was demobbed in 1919 and lived at Preston until at least 1930. As he lived in Ippollitts Parish, possibly he was a butler at Temple Dinsley.
Percy Sharp (right) was living at Poynders End when he joined the 23rd (Duke of Cambridge’s) Middlesex Regiment as a Private (Reg No 20249). He received the Victory and the British medals. In 1929, he and his wife Lucy were living at Hitchwood Cottages, but by 1951 they were living in the council houses on the north side of Chequers Lane.
Algernon William Sims was the son of the head gardener at Temple Dinsley and was living at Preston in 1911. He was a Sergeant Mechanic in the RAF and in 1918, gave his address as ‘The Cottage’, Preston. Sidney Smith was living at Pounders End in 1918. He was a Lance Corporal with the Military Mounted Police 14th Corp, Headquarters (Reg No P2900) See this link for his story: Sidney Smith Leonard Charles Smith was living at Poynders End in 1918. He was a Private in the 4th Bedfordshire Transport Section serving in France from 2 October 1915. He received the Victory, Star and British medals. John Swain was a Private in the Befordshire, Northumberland and Suffolk regiments (Nos 27031; 41684 and 42354 respectively) He received the Victory and British medals. A John Swain is noted as living at Holly Cottages, Back Lane Preston from 1920 to 1930 and Frederick Woodrow was living in the cottages in 1920. Were these two soldiers were rewarded for their service with accommodation in these cottages. Oliver Henry D. Vickers of Temple Dinsley (son of Douglas) served as a Second Lieutenant in the RAF.hn Henry Walkden was born in around 1891 and served as a Private in the Rifle Brigade (Reg No 15415) and the 80th Machine Gun Corp (95814). When he took the oath on 9 December 1915, he was a grocer’s assistant living at 50 Mornington Toad, Leytonstone East, London. He received the Victory and British medals and was discharged on 24 March 1919 as being unfit for duty having contracted malaria. John’s next-of-kin was his mother Mary who was living at Preston and the address to which his war badge and certificate were sent was St Martins Place, Preston. Frederick Walker was a horse-keeper at Little Hill End, near Preston, in 1911, living with his father- in-law, wife (Alice) and daughter (Violet). He joined the Bedfordshire Labour Corp as a Private (Reg Nos 19300 and 240207) and in 1918 he was with the 432nd Agric. Company, Labour Corps, Kempston Barracks, Beds. He received the Victory and British medals. Frederick and Alice lived at 6 Chequers Lane in the 1950s. He died in September 1969, aged 85. Frederick Woodrow (born 11 June 1884) was a game keeper of Hollybush Cottage, Kings Walden when he enlisted, aged 39, on 31 May 1916. A little more than six week later, he married Mary Ann Cridge at Hitchin Register Office on 18 July 1916. He had five children born between 1902 and 1910. Frederick was in the Queens Regiment Labour Corp (Reg Nos 47405 and 73987) and served at Ypres, Passchedaele and Arras. He was invalided to England because of ill health in 1918 and discharged as unfit for duty in the October when he was living at Holly Cottages, Preston. He was still living there in 1920.
Another casualty of WW1 has been discovered. Frost in his History of Preston CC mentions Percy Evered (sic) - a cricketer who died during the conflict. On checking the 1911 census, Percy Evershed (a carpenter, born c1883) was discovered - he and his younger brother were born at Washington, Sussex and were lodging with Thomas and Martha Peters at what is now known as The Old Forge on Church Lane. Percy (Reg No G/4673) joined the 4th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment and was promoted to Sergeant. He was occasionally posted back to England as a bomb-throwing instructor and it was during a training session (which used live ammunition) that his prompt and courageous action saved his Lieutenant’s life. Percy's selfless act was rewarded with the Meritorious Service Medal for gallantry. Percy was part of the British Expeditionary Force. He died of pneumonia on 28 May 1918 when he was a prisoner of war and is buried at Peronne Communal Cemetery in the Somme. He was also awarded the Victory and British medals.
The Preston Parish News of January 1919 stated: ‘The Roll of Honour contains the names of former scholars of Preston School who have served in the great War has been framed and hung up in the School. It contains 47 names, and of these 47 lads, five have made the great sacrifice, viz., William Ewington, William Jenkins, Ernest Wray, Jack Powell and Sidney Sharp.’ If this is true, there are still more Preston School Old Boys who fought in WW1 to be discovered - several of those listed above were clearly not Old Boys!