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This England

This England is the quarterly magazine for all who love our green and pleasant land and are unashamedly proud of their English roots. Published since 1968 the magazine has now become one of England’s best loved magazines and has a readership of over 115,000 people from around the world. As well as being popular in England it outsells all other British heritage magazines in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and is sent to readers in every country of the world. Published in Cheltenham, in the heart of picturesque Gloucestershire, the magazine is edited, printed and despatched direct from England. Subscribe today and celebrate all that is best about England and the English way of life.

Centenary of the First

Centenary of the First World War Story of the Scrapbooks A chance auction buy reveals a tale of love and loss My father had one particular weakness. He only had to see the word “Auction” and his eyes would light up in excited anticipation. Given the opportunity he would go along and enthusiastically wave his catalogue or nod his head to bid for any item that took his fancy. Sometimes they were useful things like mirrors or chairs, but quite often they were for no known purpose — such as the badly cracked teapot decorated with violets bought because they were my mother’s favourite flowers. His excitement at bringing home his “treasure” from the auction was contagious though and the items he bought have remained in the family. One of his most interesting purchases was several large, dusty scrapbooks each one embossed in red with the words THE GREAT WAR. Full of cuttings from newspapers, postcards, stamps and memorabilia they charted the course of the conflict. As well as the items carefully stuck in, there were many loose pieces and a huge number of small cutouts of individual obituaries of the Fallen. I remember that it was a hot summer’s day around 1980 when he came back with these books and my mother, my two sisters and I were sitting outside. My father proudly laid them on the table and we enjoyed looking through them for a while before we all drifted inside for one reason or another. When we came outside again a short while later a surreal sight met our eyes. A breeze had blown up and lifted each small obituary cutting and scattered them around the garden — but in an incredibly ordered fashion. Every bush, tree and flower seemed to carry an image of those who had made the ultimate sacrifice. It was a strangely moving experience as though the garden had become a wartime cemetery and instead of just a name on a cross we could now put a face to them. The scrapbooks were eventually put away and forgotten about until, on my father’s death in 1999, I found them and took them home with the intention of doing some research. But they ended up in a cupboard once more and it was only with the centenary of the First World War that I thought about the scrapbooks again and wondered if, with all the facilities the internet now offers, I might be able to find out something about them. And, sure enough, because one book has a nameplate for Alice Reynolds-Peyton, the story began to emerge. Alice was born in Ireland, the daughter of Major John Riley of the Connaught Rangers, and on 4th April 1894 she married James Reynolds- Peyton, who lived at Laheen, County Leitrim. James had an illustrious career becoming JP, High Sheriff and Deputy Lieutenant of County Leitrim before leaving Ireland to live in London. Their son John (Jack) was born in Marylebone on 18th January 1896 and, two years later, his sister Dorothea was born. By the 1901 census the family were living at 37 Augusta Gardens in Folkestone, a prestigious address in a town that was then regarded as the most fashionable of all seaside resorts. The advent of the railways, and the decision by Lord Radnor to develop his estate had totally transformed Folkestone. Crescents, villas, large hotels and beautiful parks were all built and the upper classes flocked there to take up residence. Augusta Gardens was a CHRONICLE/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO 66 THIS ENGLAND, Winter, 2017

crescent of beautiful houses close to the seafront and The Leas — a clifftop promenade designed by Lord Radnor for the use of the upper classes with a private police force to ensure its exclusivity! Maybe it was living by the sea, or because of a family tradition, but by 1909 Jack was a Naval Cadet at the Royal Naval College at Osborne on the Isle of Wight. On 15th January, just before his 13th birthday, he was granted the rank of Lieutenant. The College took boys from the ages of 13 and Jack was still at Osborne in 1911. After two years at Osborne boys usually went to complete their training at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth and Jack is likely to have followed this course. He would have started his sea training at the age of 17 and a year later when the One page in Alice’s scrapbook includes these cards made from postage stamps. They were sold in aid of the Cheery Fund in order to buy mouth organs for soldiers and sailors. First World War began he would have the opportunity to put this training into practice. Jack served on HMS Ambuscade, an Acasta-class destroyer launched in 1913. The ship formed part of the Grand Fleet that took part in the Battle of Jutland in 1916, and in the later years of the war she was a convoy escort. With her teenage son off to war, Jack’s devoted mother Alice devised a way of coping with the agonising worry — by filling scrapbooks to keep her informed of what was happening and of what Jack was experiencing. Alice must have spent hours scanning all the newspapers and then carefully cutting out everything that was of interest to her. Some of the entries are marked with a blue crayon as though these were of special significance — and there are touching personal details included such as a badge ribbon and a green and grey feather. And everywhere she went in Folkestone Alice would have had reminders of the war as the town became the main embarkation point for troops bound for France and Belgium. Slope Road led from The Leas to the harbour and many thousands marched down it to sail to war — it became known as the “Road to Remembrance”. The years passed and Alice kept up her diligent labour of love. Then, in November 1918 victory was imminent and all the papers were full of excitement at the end of the terrible conflict. Alice must have felt relief that her son would soon be home. But, tragically, days before the Armistice, Jack died on 4th November — a victim of the Spanish ’flu that killed so many young people worn down by the stress and privations of the war. He is buried near his father in the family plot at Windsor Cemetery in Berkshire. However, there is a mystery that I haven’t been able to solve. There is a superb stained-glass window in his memory in the Church of St. Mary, Lowe House, St. Helens, Lancashire, and masses are still said for Jack — but who paid for this and why? Records reveal that Alice continued to live in Folkestone until 1940 but then the trail goes cold. But forty years later her scrapbooks turned up at an auction house in Kent — and still serve to honour the memory and sacrifice of Jack — and his Mum. SUSAN ROSS The central part of the memorial triptych stained-glass window in the Church of St. Mary, Lowe House in St. Helens, Lancashire. THIS ENGLAND, Winter, 2017 67

Phygure® No.7 Issue 04
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