Peter Seaden-Jones visited us at a drop-in session at Richmond Station. From a photograph of his grandfather, we have managed to piece together the key details of Ernest John Pilcher’s war story.
Ernest John Pilcher was born in Pietermaritzberg, Natal, South Africa in around 1881. According to the 1891 census, he appears to live in Chester as the 9 year old son of Frederick and Lucy Pilcher. He has a sister Edith and two brothers Archie and Arthur. His siblings are born in the U.K. but his father’s occupation as an Army Warrant Officer may explain Ernest’s birth in South Africa.
On the 26th of December 1907 at the age of 26 he married Florence Alltimes at the Balham Hill Ascension church in Streatham. Florence was 23 years old at the time of their wedding. His occupation is recorded as a grocer.
In the 1911 census Ernest and Florence were recorded as living at 23, Sussex street in Pimlico. He is listed as “Manager in the business of grocery stores”. Marjorie Edith their daughter was just 2 years old.
At the age of 34 years and 6 months he enlisted in the army on the 22nd of November 1915. By this time his attestation record shows that he and Florence have a second daughter Peggy Dorothy born on the 6th of July 1913. Their address is now 20, Bellenden Road, Camberwell and his occupation is recorded as a “Traveller”.
Although originally assigned to the Royal Field Artillery he transferred to the Devon Regiment having the service number 58799.
On the 14th of January 1917 he transferred to 174th Labour Corps (number 104133) based in Woolwich. This may well be as a result of injury or illness as his medical grade is recorded as C1. This rating meant that he was not fit for active service only Garrison service at home camps. Ernest by now lived at Clapham Park Terrace, Lyham Road, Brixton.
After the war he must have moved away from London as he and Florence are listed on the electoral register of Southend on Sea and he is in the sweets and tobacco trade.In the latter part of his life he lived in Devon and passed away at the age of 94 while in Malta.
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Alfred Martlew was a member of the No-Conscription Fellowship and the Independent Labour Party. He was uncompromising in his stance against the war but despite his protestations he was ordered to join the Non-Combatant Corps. He was one of the 16 men sent from Richmond to France in May 1916. After returning to England, Martlew was imprisoned at Winchester before being offered a place on the Home Office Scheme. This gave ‘genuine’ and ‘sincere’ conscientious objectors the opportunity to undertake civilian work under civilian control as an alternative to time in prison. Martlew worked in the quarry at Dyce Camp, spinning at Wakefield Work Centre, West Yorkshire, and tree felling in Dalswinton, Dumfries. But like many other conscientious objectors he questioned whether the work he was performing was still contributing, if indirectly, to the war effort. In 1917 Martlew went missing from his Home Office Scheme post and travelled to York where, before the war, he had been a ledger clerk at Rowntrees Cocoa works. There he met his fiancée, Annie Leeman. He gave her his money, watch and other possessions, and told her he intended to hand himself in to the police authorities. This was their last meeting. Just over a week later Martlew’s body was found in the River Ouse at Bishopthorpe. Although the inquest into his death returned the unresolved verdict of ‘found drowned’, the coroner thought it likely that he had taken his own life.
Submitted by Pat Burgess. Ralph Metcalfe and Elizabeth Close were possibly unmarried when their eldest son was born towards the end of 1893 at Gunnerside. Hence he was given his father’s surname as a christian name and his mothers surname name. Ralph and Elizabeth were both born in Swaledale, he in Muker, and she at Melbecks. In 1901 the family, which now included another two sons and two daughters, was living at Fell House, Hartley, Nr. Kirkby Stephen. Metcalfe enlisted at Richmond, as it appears he was working at Browson Bank Farm, on the A66, at that time. His Battalion was sent to fight in Palestine, where sadly he contracted malaria and died on 14 June 1918. He is buried in Gaza War Cemetery.
At over six feet tall and 22 stone, Bill Moore must have been an impressive sight! While originally from Wells, he made his way to the north of England with his travelling boxing booth. For a time he set up at Darlington, but at the outbreak of war in 1914, Moore decided to move his show to Catterick Camp. The ‘Tommies’ must have enjoyed what he had to offer. Boxing matches even involved Annie, his daughter and a captive bear which on one occasion escaped onto local moorland. Military Police eventually tracked the animal down, much to the relief of the locals.