11th November 2018
Lest we forget
Wilfred Thomas Dooley was born in 1888 and lived in Willesden. Wilfred followed in his father's footsteps, joining the Post Office straight from school in 1907 as a sorter/tracer. Elected as an active member of Cygnet in March 1914, his exposure to rowing on the Tideway would be short. At the outbreak of war, he enlisted as Private 2053, 1st/8th Battalion, London Regiment (POR) and was dispatched to France on 18th March 2015. He was killed in action on 15th September 1916, aged 27, during the assault on 'High Wood', part of the Battle of the Somme. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme.
Albert John Dunn was born in Camberwell in 1877, joining the Post Office from school. By 1911 he had married Clara Castle and moved to Southgate, Middlesex, where they had two daughters. Thought to have been a member of the Territorials before the outbreak of war, Albert was posted to France on 18th March 2015 as Sergeant 290 1st/8th Battalion, London Regiment (POR). He was killed in action on 25th May 1915 on the last day of the Battle of Festubert and is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial. He was 38. Albert had been in France barely ten weeks and was the first Cygnet member to be killed in WW1.
Ernest William Erridge was born in 1889, the son of a coachman from Kensington Park Mews. Prior to the war, he is known to have been working at the Post Office as a letter sorter and had already gained some service history in the Paddington Rifles and the London Regiment, POR. At the outbreak of war, he re-enlisted with POR and was sent to France on 18th March 1915, subsequently attaining the rank of colonel. He was wounded in action and transported back to St Bartholomew's Hospital where he died on 8th April 1916 aged 26. He is buried in Kensal Green (All Souls) Cemetery.
Robert George Erridge,brother of Ernest, was born in 1891 and duly sought employment with the Post Office after leaving school and served for a time with the Paddington Rifles. The club minute book for this era suggests that Robert was quite an active committee member. Following the declaration of war, he enlisted with 1st/8th Battalion, London Regiment (POR) and was sent to France where he rose through the ranks to Company Sergeant Major. He was killed in action on 30th October 1917, aged 26, during the Second Battle of Passchendaele and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial on Passchendaele Ridge.
Cornelius Gibney was born in County Cavan, Ireland in 1883. By 1911 he was living in Fulham, south-west London working as a post office sorter and is listed as an honorary member of Cygnet. A tall, well-turned out man, judging from the adjacent photograph, Gibney enlisted as Private 5932, 1st/8th Battalion, London Regiment (POR). Wounded during an attack on Passchendaele Ridge during the Second Battle of Passchendaele, he died on 30th October 1917 aged 34. He is buried at Dozinghem Military Cemetery.
Arthur James Rixon was born at Lambeth in 1887 and followed in his father's footsteps, joining the Post Office in the early 1900s. Arthur had joined the Territorials before the war and was mobilised in August 1914 as Sergeant 5 1st/18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles). Sent to France on 9th March 1915, he subsequently rose to the rank of Company Sergeant Major and fought in a number of battles including Loos and Ypres. He was killed in a minor skirmish west of Ypres on 7th April 1917, aged 33. His body was later recovered during 7th June Messines attack and his name is commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres.
John George Rogers was born in Islington in 1887 and worked as a sorter at the Mount Pleasant Post Office. At the outbreak of war, he enlisted with the 1st Royal Marine Battalion, RN Light Infantry. He was killed on 17th February 1917 during a German artillery barrage on the 1RMLI assembly area prior to the Battle of Miraumont. As a result, the battalion suffered a fifty per cent casualty rate before the intended assault had even begun. John Rogers is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
Albert Roland Russell is the person we know least about, beyond the fact that he lived in Ealing, was a Post Office employee and a member of Cygnet. His rank is given as Lance-Sergeant in 17th Battalion, The King's Liverpool Regiment. His last will and testament records him as being killed in Flanders on 8th May 1918. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial and was the last Cygnet fatality of WW1.
Arthur Bond Thaine was born in 1881 and baptised at St John's Hampstead, the son of a poultry man. In common with most of the above, we know little about his education prior to joining the Post Office as a sorter at Mount Pleasant. Soon after war broke out, he enlisted as Private 492095, 13th London Regiment (POR) and was duly dispatched to France. He was killed in the trenches at Neuve Chapelle on 1st March 1917 on what was described as a 'quiet night' with only two casualties. Aged 36, he is buried at St Vaast Point Military Cemetery.
Cecil Arthur Toms was born in Wandsworth in 1878. The son of a bookbinder and a milliner, he was educated at Plough Lane's School, Wandsworth, before joining the Post Office as a sorter-tracer. By the outbreak of war, he was married and subsequently had two children. Initially placed on the Army Reserve under the Derby Scheme, he was eventually called up as Private 375586 2nd/8th Battalion London Regiment (POR). He was killed in action on 30th October 1917 during the Second Battle of Passchendaele and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. His photo appears by kind permission of his family.
Bertram Thomas Valentiny was born in 1881, the son of a haberdasher living in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden. In 1899 he went to work for the Post Office as a tube attendant, operating a pneumatic mail distribution system. By the outbreak of war, he was married with four children and enlisted as Private 9/11027, 11th battalion, The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment), rising through the ranks to Sergeant. He was killed on 20th January 1917, aged 36, during a raid on enemy trenches, south-west of Ypres and is commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres.
My thanks to Ian Mountain (Cygnet RC), Mike Willoughby (Organiser of the exhibition 'Rowers of Henley and the Thames who died during World War 1') and Cecil Toms' descendants for their help in the preparation of this article.
KIA on 30.10.1917 aged 26, Passchendale
KIA on 30.10.1917 aged 29, Passchendale