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Chris_B

Mitcham Memorial - Great War Centenary

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Chris_B   
Chris_B

!00 years ago on this date the Great War had already started in deadly earnest as the battered BEF is forced into a fighting retreat from Mons to Le Cateau. Corps Commander Horace Smith-Dorrien orders II Corps to stand and fight on the 26th August 1914.. Somewhere in the chaos of battle is Private 9520, Archibald Frederick Elgood of the 1st Bn. Lincolnshire Regiment.

Tooting born Archibald Elgood had enlisted on 31st December 1912 at Kingston aged 18 years and 9 months, following his brother Robert in joining the Lincolnshire Regiment. Robert was serving in the 2nd battalion at the outbreak of war stationed in Bermuda, while it was Archibald's fate to be at Mons and Le Cateau.

At the time of the 1911 census Archibald is working as a paper cutter at the local Merton paper mills, but on enlisting gives his occupation as painter labourer. By this stage he may have been working with his father William who was a self-employed builder and decorator.

The Elgood family had first arrived in this part of Mitcham in about 1894 via Battersea, and by the outbreak of war where living at 7 Briscoe Road,Colliers Wood Merton S W, Mitcham, Surrey. Archibald was one of 12 surviving siblings, and one of five brothers, all living in 7 rooms. What must have been a crowded household and limited job prospects may have contributed to Robert and Archibald's decision to join the pre-war regulars, famously derided by the Kaiser as a ‘Contemptible Little Army’. But is was German officers who were to be stunned by the way the British troops brought the German attacks to a standstill time and again in these early days of the war.

From about 6am to past mid-day on 26 August the BEF held overwhelming numbers of the enemy at bay and inflicted severe losses before the order to retire was given once more. The 1st Bn. Lincolnshire Regiment had fought in the Audencorut area a little south of the villages of Beaumont and Inchy close to the centre of the British positions.

According to the history:

Brigadier-General Shaw, the commander of 9th Brigade received his own orders to retreat at around 3.30pm. Covered by the 4th Royal Fusiliers, Shaw withdrew his battalions; 1st Northumberland Fusiliers, 1st RSF and 1st Lincolnshire, covered by gunfire from 107th and 108th Batteries RFA. 2 sections of these batteries were forced to abandon their guns, leaving 4 guns to the enemy. Otherwise the 9th Brigade pulled out in good order, and took position to the west of Bertry, to cover the retreat of the rest of the 3rd Division. Casualties of the brigade were around 180 men and the ease of the withdrawal enabled the brigade to bring out its wounded.”

The 1st Lincolns losses may have been very light compared to other units who fought at Le Cateau, but by the end of the day Private 9520, Archibald Frederick Elgood was counted amongst the dead, having succumbed to his wounds.

A hint of the human cost of these engagements first appears in a brief Times article of the 29 August on an inner page. Further reports of the four day battle appear in the Times on 31 August 1914, with news that the British forces are intact and of heroic deeds. Sir John French estimates our losses at 5,000 or 6,000 men. Other reports will appear in the local press in the days and weeks to come.

When news of Archibald's death reaches his parents William and Emily their feelings must have been completely at odds with the feverish atmosphere of men flocking to volunteer, keen to do their bit and be part of the big adventure before it was “all over by Christmas”. It's not the only time they have had to cope with grief as three of their children had died as infants, nor will it be the last. As the Great War grinds on for four more long years it will claim the lives of two more sons. Of four sons eligible to fight, only William Jnr returns home.

Private 9520, Archibald Frederick Elgood of the 1st Bn. Lincolnshire Regiment has the dubious honour of being the first casualty amongst the nearly six hundred named on the Mitcham War Memorial.

On a personal note it's feasible that my grandfather and his father knew of the Elgoods. They lived in the same area and as builders would have rubbed shoulders with people in the same trade.

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Chris_B   
Chris_B

My visits and posts on the GWF have been few and far between in recent years. But, God willing, it's my intention to use this thread over the next four years to bring attention to the men named on the Mitcham Memorial and the impact on their families and the wider community. I will, from time to time, focus on certain individuals and try to bring out trends and themes as the Great War onfolds as well as reporting the casualty lists.

The last time I was able to visit Mitcham was in 2005, on the occasion of a personal family centenary. It was then that I decided as a naive novice to try to identify the 589 names on the 1914-18 memorial. My first efforts were published on Martin Edwards roll of honour website not long after. I will always be grateful for the welcome and generous help I received on the GWF from members far more knowledgeable than myself.

In the days when we were not so blessed with the amount of data that's now online, my efforts were hampered by ill-health and mobility problems, a situation which has not changed. So I have never able to spend time at the NA Kew, the Surrey History Centre Woking, the LMA or the British Newspaper library, for instance..

Looking at http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Surrey/Mitcham.html today it's obvious that it's in dire need of revision, the data on all men needs an overhaul. But I think this is beyond me now. At the time the project became dormant, there were still 90 names I could not identify. After looking at the data that's currrently online, I decided that now's the time to a least make a final effort to reduce the number of unknowns.

In the last fortnight I have managed to reduce this number to 58 out of 589. This 10% figure is still higher than I would wish, but with few avenues left that I can pursue, this is probably the best I can achieve. There is still the task of summarizing the military career of those 58 men, were possible.

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David_Underdown   
David_Underdown

Hopefully by 1917 I should B A Morris, and by 1918 D W Drewett entries in detail on http://halfmuffled.wordpress.com/the-towers-and-men/g-w/mitcham-st-peter-and-st-paul/ too. I've managed to obtain a copy of Morris's service record from Guards RHQ too by the way.

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SiegeGunner   
SiegeGunner

The Elgood family had first arrived in this part of Mitcham in about 1894 via Battersea, and by the outbreak of war where living at 7 Briscoe Road,Colliers Wood Merton S W, Mitcham, Surrey.

Briscoe Road is on the left side of Colliers Wood High Street, going towards Tooting. No-one residing there today would consider that they live in Mitcham, or Surrey. Do you perhaps have a map showing the boundaries as they were in 1914?

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Chris_B   
Chris_B
SG,


Well of course I know were Briscoe Road is. We can quibble about what was Tooting, Mitcham, Merton and Colliers Wood in 1914-18 . AllI can say is that their address is given as above is as in the 1911 census written in the hand of one of the Elgoods . In the newly created 1918 Parliamentary Division/Constituency of Mitcham, 7 Briscoe Road lay in the West Ward. My Grand mother who lived in Waterfall Cottages 1914-18 regarded herself as living in Merton and my grandfather who lived in Robinson Lane, Lvyeden Road and Swains Lane would say he lived near Tooting Junction not Colliers Wood. In Os map of 1913 that I've seen the various boundaries between Urban District Councils etc are not overly clear. As to me, I lived in Tooting just over the Waterfall Bridge, but was born in Colliers Wood.


The area was absorbed into London Borough of Merton in 1965, not surprisingly present day residents may have lost sight of the history of the area. All three of Elgood brothers are named on the Mitcham War Memorial.


What are your roots in SW19?

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Chris_B   
Chris_B

Hopefully by 1917 I should B A Morris, and by 1918 D W Drewett entries in detail on http://halfmuffled.wordpress.com/the-towers-and-men/g-w/mitcham-st-peter-and-st-paul/ too. I've managed to obtain a copy of Morris's service record from Guards RHQ too by the way.

David,

Thanks for you contribution. I will check D W Drewett's details and would be interested in seeing Benjamin's record if possible.

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SiegeGunner   
SiegeGunner
SG,
Well of course I know were Briscoe Road is. We can quibble about what was Tooting, Mitcham, Merton and Colliers Wood in 1914-18 . AllI can say is that their address is given as above is as in the 1911 census written in the hand of one of the Elgoods . In the newly created 1918 Parliamentary Division/Constituency of Mitcham, 7 Briscoe Road lay in the West Ward. My Grand mother who lived in Waterfall Cottages 1914-18 regarded herself as living in Merton and my grandfather who lived in Robinson Lane, Lvyeden Road and Swains Lane would say he lived near Tooting Junction not Colliers Wood. In Os map of 1913 that I've seen the various boundaries between Mitcham Urban District Council etc are not overly clear. As to me, I lived in Tooting just over the Waterfall Bridge, but was born in Colliers Wood.
The area was absorbed into London Borough of Merton in 1965, not surprisingly present day residents may have lost sight of the history of the area. All three of Elgood brothers are named on the Mitcham War Memorial.
What are your roots in SW19?

I have lived in the area for 30 years, currently in Liberty Avenue, Merton Abbey, which is a mile or so closer to Mitcham than Briscoe Road, but still not in either Mitcham or Surrey.

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David_Underdown   
David_Underdown

As you'll see from my website (referred to above), Christ Church Collier's Wood was referred to as Mitcham at the time of the war, and indeed at the time the Surrey Association of Church Bell Ringers was drawing up their roll of honour after the war - see http://halfmuffled.wordpress.com/the-roll-transcribed/the-roll-as-published-in-annual-report/surrey-roll-annual-report-version-p2/, or the transcribed roll. It was also still under Surrey County Council in 1913, and Croydon district council. J D Drewett, father of the abovementioned D W Drewett being one of the leading councillors (see eg the 1913 Kelly's Directory for Surrey http://specialcollections.le.ac.uk/cdm/fullbrowser/collection/p16445coll4/id/85652/rv/compoundobject/cpd/64234/rec/2 pp308, 309). It was however already part of the London Postal District, but that had little to do with administrative boundaries at the time, and was part of the Metropolitan Police District (which actually went out as far as Epsom from 1840).

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Chris_B   
Chris_B

David,

I'm not too sharp at the moment, but didn't you tell me about the unusual memorial in the belfry of St.Peter & St.Paul Mitcham some years ago? I'll spend some time looking at your websites ASAP , but does a photo of that memorial exist?

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Chris_B   
Chris_B

SG,

Of course Liberty Avenue did not exist in 1914 and is roughly located on a part of Phipps Bridge Road which has long disappeared. That and the next street, the old Palestine Grove, lay within the boundary of the Mitcham Urban District Council created in 1915. Whether residents of the day regarded themselves as living in Mitcham or Colliers Wood is debatable.

I'm not sure what your point is, other than to say that boundaries, and allegiancey to places and names, have changed in a hundred years, and particularly in the last fifty. I won't be imposing modern delineations on the world of the Great War, I'll simply let the records speak for themselves. It's certainly worth looking at Kellys 1913 pp 308 - 314 that David has referred to.

As a local person, I thought perhaps you might have a more positive contribution to make. I wonder if you are willing to visit Christ Church, a short walk from your home, and make a note of a few of the names on the Church Roll and see if you can trace them where I failed. Please let me know if you are interested.

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SiegeGunner   
SiegeGunner

I was merely curious and am grateful to both Chris and David for elucidating the boundary situation that existed at the time of the Great War. I'm afraid I have no interest in researching individual casualties.

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Chris_B   
Chris_B

I was merely curious and am grateful to both Chris and David for elucidating the boundary situation that existed at the time of the Great War. I'm afraid I have no interest in researching individual casualties.

Fair enough. I wouldn't be so nosy as to ask your exact address, but looking at google maps I'd say the terrace on the southern side between Willow View and Church Road is pretty much as it would have been in 1914. This part of liberty avn at least was once Phipps Bridge Rd. Looking again at Palestine Grove and the mid to late Victorian buildings that remain, you can see just how crowded life must have been on this narrow street of meagre dwellings. The Elgood family are living here at the time of the 1901 census, 8 people in one these small abodes.

Anyway, I shall leave you to enjoy the sights and amenities of modern day Colliers Wood. The tower, the retail park and the Wandle nature reserve, and of course the good old Northern Line. The exterior and interior of those art decco edifices must have looked so modern when the extension from Clapham Common to Modern was built in 1926. The stations were designed by Charles Henry Holden. The architect who'd worked on IWGC prototype cemeteries probably including Forceville that was visited by King George V on his 1922 pilgrimage.

Forceville happens to be the final resting place of one of my wife's great uncles - Pte 2789 Frances Tough, Seaforth Highlanders KIA 14/11/1916 . Sometimes it's useful to know who the individual casualties were.

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David_Underdown   
David_Underdown

David,

I'm not too sharp at the moment, but didn't you tell me about the unusual memorial in the belfry of St.Peter & St.Paul Mitcham some years ago? I'll spend some time looking at your websites ASAP , but does a photo of that memorial exist?

I've not managed to trace a photo, sadly the memorial seems to have been lost in the fire at the church. I think I may have sent you the clippings of its unveiling though?

Morris' service record is only six pages, and doesn't actually add a great deal to what's in SDGW, but message me an email address and I'll send it on.

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Chris_B   
Chris_B

Yesterday I posted what I know of Archibald Elgood's story, but near the end of the long list of names on the Mitcham War memorial is one "WHiTE. A". On the 26th August Alfred White is just another soldier at Le Cateau.

Alfred had been born in Earlsfield in 1894, and his family had lived in Wandsworth, Herne Hill and West Norwood before settling on the borders of Mitcham and Streatham before the outbreak of the Great War in area know as Lonesome, a rather drab and isolated place near open lavender fields and a chemical factory. Paines firework factory was close by.

Alfred was one of six surviving siblings and one of two sons that would be eligible for military service by the war's end. At the time of the 1911 census the family were still in West Norwood, and Alfred described his occupation as "Fitter's Mate Heating Engineers". It's the same occupation he gives on the 5 June 1912 when Alfred has made the journey to Kingston and the depot of the East Surreys to enlist, he joins the 4th (extra reserve) battalion. At some stage Alfred is transferred to the 2nd Lancashire Regiment, and his fate is sealed.

According to his Medal Index Card, Alfred is first in France on 22nd August 1914, just days before Le Cateau. The 2nd Lancs where part of the 4th Division's 12th Brigade that had arrived just in time to fight at Le Cateau. The battalion was on the lelf flank and "came under attack from German machine guns, artillery, cavalry and infantry. With assistance from 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the Lancashire Fusiliers held their own, even though it was estimated that the regiment was combating 23 German machine guns, with only 2 machine guns. .... the Lancashire Fusiliers, was subjected to heavy German artillery fire and repeated attempts to infiltrate infantry down the flanks of the brigade. The brigade right flank was held by 1st Rifle Brigade and 1st Somerset LI. On the left flank, 1st Hampshires attempted a counter attack, but the Germans were too strong in artillery and machine guns, and the attack had to be abandoned, after heavy casualties. The brigade hung on to its positions with great tenacity."

By 5pm on the 26th the 4th Division was in retreat. Overall losses at Le Cateau were estimated at some 8,482 men (12% of the force engaged) and 38 guns. The CWGC register list 99 fatalities for the 2nd Lancashires on that day. Alfred White's MIC is marked, "Pres Dead 26-8-14" .

When the Armistice comes Alfred's parents will in due course be sent his 14 Star, British, and Victory medals and will have to sign for his plaque and scroll. In contrast to the Elgoods, Alfred will be their only loss. His parents Alfred and Alice Margaret will remain on Mitcham. In Alice's case just long enough to see here son's name added to the Mitcham Memorial and on the memorial in their local church St.Marks. Alice is buried on 17 February 1922 at Church Road Cemetery, Mitcham. Alfred White is remembered on the family grave in the Churchyard of St.Peter and St.Paul, Mitcham, with the simple epitaph .. "Died at Mons"

For Archibald Elgood and Alfred White, it's a dead heat on 26th August 1914.

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Hayleyelgood   
Hayleyelgood

Hi my grandad was born and originally came from south of the Thames born in mitcham  ... He had a half brother called john I think . his name is William Frederick Elgood he was assigned to Borneo ww2 reg. 48 I think ... Love to know if you may know any history ..... 

 

I think my great grandads first name was either john or William but not 100% . also was a boxer. 

 

My email laceyelgood@yahoo.co.uk

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