Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Cecil Luff 1893-1916

Cecil Luff

Cecil Luff was born at the beginning of 1893 in Kirdford in Sussex. His parents, Edward Luff and Elizabeth Childs, married in the Petworth registration district in the summer of 1877 and their first child, Lilian, was born at the beginning of 1878 in Fernhurst. The family were still in Fernhurst for the arrival of Horace in 1879 but soon afterwards moved to Kirdford where May was born in 1882, then Archibald in 1887, Annie in 1889 and Cecil in 1893. Two years later they were at Fittleworth for the birth of Nellie and by 1899 in Lyminster where Ernest was born.

In 1901 the family were at Priory Farm in Tortington near Arundel in Sussex. Edward and his son Archibald were both cowmen as was their lodger. Lilian was a cook, the younger children Cecil and Nellie were scholars and Ernest was just 2. The last of the couple’s nine children, Olive was born in Slinfold in 1902.

In 1911 the family were living at Baldhorns Farm Cottage south of the village of Rusper. The farm was a beef farm and very remote although just a few miles west of Crawley. Both Cecil and his father Edward were cowmen on the farm and were living there were his mother Elizabeth, twelve year old brother Ernest and younger sister Olive aged 9.

In June 1915, Cecil joined the 4th battalion Royal Sussex Regiment which had been formed from a pre-war territorial battalion. A few weeks later, the battalion sailed from Devonport on HMT Ulysses and arrived on 29th July in Alexandra as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. From Alexandria, the troops moved on via Port Said to Gallipoli, arriving there on August 4th.

They fought at Gallipoli throughout the autumn and were part of the evacuation of the peninsula in December 1915, returning to Egypt. By this time the battalion had lost most of its members and over the next few months new recruits were drafted in. They spent all of January training and it was noted that all ranks showed improvement in smartness and drill and that the health of all ranks was satisfactory. Also that all clothing and blankets had been through the steam disinfector and fresh clothing handed out to clear the lice. Most of February was spent training again but they had moved to a camp with better roads so most of the training was marching. March and April saw more training this time in bayonet fighting, grenade throwing and machine gun operation as well as night time practice.

During May the training was concluded and the battalion moved to Katoomba where they manned the trenches and observation posts. They were engaged in maintaining defences for the next few weeks as more recruits joined the battalion. However, there appears to have been an outbreak of diphtheria in the ranks at this time, probably brought from home by one of the new recruits. Deaths are recorded on 24th, 25th and 28th June from diphtheria. The 28th of June case was Cecil Luff.

He died in No 17 General Hospital in Alexandria which was located in a school called Victoria College. There were several military hospitals in Alexandria which took in wounded men from theatres of war in the region. They would be brought in by hospital train or ship. A new cemetery to serve these hospitals was opened in April 1916 and it is there that Cecil Luff is buried. It is very sad that Cecil went through all the training in a comparatively quiet theatre of war and survived the infamous Gallipoli campaign only to be killed by a simple but deadly infection.

Back home, Cecil’s parents moved to Worthing where they both died in the 1930s. They had plenty of grandchildren from their surviving seven children. Cecil’s brother Ernest died in October 1918 in France.


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Charles Robert Francis 31 August 1892-1 June 1916

Charles Robert Francis

31 August 1892-1 June 1916

Charles Francis was born on 31st August 1892 at Shalford in Surrey and was baptised at St Mary’s Church on November 6th. His parents Frank Francis and Eliza Perry were married at St Nicholas Cranleigh on 27 June 1889. Two days later, their first child Frederick John was born in Cranleigh. Eighteen months later saw the family living at Ewhurst where they welcomed Alfred. Two years after that Charles was born at Shalford and two years after that Harriet at Abinger. They were still at Abinger for the arrival of Bessie in 1897 and back at Ewhurst for the final addition to the family, William in 1905. On all the records Frank was listed as a general labourer so presumably many changes of employment accounted for many changes of location.

Charles joined the navy on 31 August 1910 at Portsmouth, signing on for 12 years. He was eighteen years old, stood 5ft 5ins and had dark brown hair and grey eyes. His first ship, with the rank of boy 2nd class, was the Ganges 1, which was a shore training establishment at Shotley in Suffolk. He progressed through the ranks becoming an able seaman in October 1911. On 3 December 1915 he joined HMS Tipperary, a destroyer.

A few months later the ship was at the heart of the Battle of Jutland along with her sister ships, H.M.S. Spitfire. H.M.S. Sparrowhawk, H.M.S. Broke and H.M.S. Ardent. Just before midnight on May 31st 1916, the four ships were engaged in heavy and close hand fighting with German warships. Tipperary was badly damaged and on fire, but managed to inflict a great deal of damage before in the early hours of June 1st, she went down. HMS Sparrowhawk and Ardent also sank while Broke and Spitfire made it home. Almost all of the crew of HMS Tipperary were lost including Charles Francis. His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Portsmouth War Memorial.

By the time Charles died, his sister Harriet was married and her second child, born in 1919, was named Robert. Charles’s mother Eliza died in 1918 in Ewhurst at the age of 48 and his father Frank stayed on and also died there in 1940. Charles was a first cousin twice removed. His grandfather Robert Perry was my great great grandfather.