FACTS AND FIGURES
Ridley Boileau was the first soldier recorded on the Memorial to die. In all probability Colonel Frank Ridley Farrer Boileau, a professional soldier killed at Le Cateau in France in 1914 and on the general staff of General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien. He was also the highest ranking soldier commemorated. Ridley however, accordinging to his family, had no known link to Hemel Hempstead.
The first "Hempstedian" to fall was Walter Messenger who was born and lived only yards from where the Memorial Cross was first erected at Moor End.
Benjamin Oakley was the first soldier to be killed from the first group of fifteen volunteers who attested on 27th August 1914 at the newly established Hemel Hempstead Recruiting Office.
The first siblings to die were Cecil and Julian Smeathman who tragically fell on the same day. Distressingly, their parents were notified of their deaths only thirty minutes apart when they were attending a meeting for the Relief of Belgian Refugees at the Town Hall.
The first soldier to be buried "at home" in Hemel Hempstead was Harry George who died of wounds at Colchester. He was interred with full military honours in Heath Lane Cemetery in June 1915.
Four men present at the wedding of Philip Beckley and Lily Wiseman at Marlowes (Carey) Baptist Church on Wednesday, 19th January, 1916, all fell during the conflict. They were the Groom, Philip Beckley, his Best Man and closest friend William Barnes, the Bride's brother Leonard Wiseman and finally, John Coker brother to one of the Bridesmaids. Philip and John died three days apart in September 1916 fighting in the final stages of the Somme campaign near Etaples in France.
The youngest casualty aged sixteen years and 192 days was Boy 2nd Class, Robert Rhodes who died whilst training at the Royal Naval training establishment "HMS Ganges". Robert was only five days younger than Boy 1st Class, Thomas Cripps, who died at Jutland aboard "HMS Malaya", the youngest casulaty to fall during active service.
The oldest man commemorated was Serjeant Alfred Chisman who had been honourably discharged in July 1916 after being wounded. He was fifty-years of age when he died in 1919
Sapper Alfred Tebby who died on Saturday 9th November 1918 was the last man, commemorated on the Memorial, to die before the signing of the Armistice ended the war.
A number of inaccuracies are recorded on the Memorial including incorrect initials and some spelling mistakes along with the duplication of some names. These include: William Ansell and William Carrington who are one and the same soldier; likewise Sidney Herbert Sear and S H Sear; also Edgar Butler and E T Butler; Frank Fowler and Francis Fowler are the same man; and it is likely that H W Potton and H Potton are one and the same; finally, William Hearn who appears twice more as W Fearn and William Kearn.
Not all the soldiers commemorated were natives of Hemel Hempstead or the surrounding area and a number had either moved to the area for work or were the husbands of Hemel natives who had moved away.
Inevitably, the largest employer in the area John Dickinson the stationery and paper maker in Apsley, contributed the largest number of men commemorated making up one fifth of the total.
Not surprisingly the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiments saw the largest number of local recruits, eighty-eight and twenty-six respectively and those battles with the highest casualty rates included many of the men commemorated; sixty-two fell on the Somme in 1916; twenty-five were killed at First and Second Ypres; twenty-one died at Passchendaele; and seven men were lost on the same day, 31st May, 1916, at the Battle of Jutland where five went down with "HMS Queen Mary".
February 1916 was the only month during the Great War when no fatalities appear to have occurred amongst the men commemorated although one of the "Unrevealed Men" may have died at that time.
It is also known that at least 420 men from Hemel Hempstead died in the Great War compared to the 388 names commemorated on the War Memorial.
© Traquair Publishing 2020 all rights reserved