Caricatures of officers in the 9th Battalion East Surrey Regiment, 1916-1918
Surrey author RC Sherriff (1896-1975) won enduring fame through his epic First World War play Journey’s End (1929) set in a British dugout on the Western Front in 1918. He enlisted with the Artists Rifles in November 1915 and eventually was commissioned in to the 9th (Service) Battalion East Surrey Regiment in October 1916. His active service came to an end when he was wounded in action on 2 August 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres). He was sent back to England for treatment and never returned to France. Sherriff wrote frequently from the trenches to his family and friends and his experiences later led him to write Journey’s End. In May 2012, the Surrey Infantry Museum presented Surrey History Centre with a portfolio of caricature drawings by Pte Edward Cole of officers in the 9th Battalion East Surrey Regiment (SHC ref ESR/19/2/7/1-15). Although there was no caricature of Sherriff among them, the 14 caricatures included some officers with whom Sherriff served and corresponded, and on whom he took inspiration for characters in Journey’s End.
Edward Cole and his drawings
The drawings are signed by Edward Cole and include the following officers. Brackets denote Cole’s original description:
- Captain Robert Algernon Anslow (B Company)
- Lieutenant and Quartermaster Charles Richard Eli Birch (Stores)
- Captain Charles Alfred Clark MC (Adjutant)
- 2nd Lieutenant Ewan Walter Davies (Lewis Guns)
- 2nd Lieutenant Stanley Kenneth Grant (Intelligence)
- Captain George Cleverdon Hartley MC RAMC attached (Medical)
- Captain Charles Hilton (C Company)
- 2nd Lieutenant William Henry Lindsay MC (Understudy)
- Captain George Steven Perry [actually Pirie] R.A.M.C. attached (Medical)
- Captain The Rev George Denys Poole (Church)
- Captain Montague Wilbraham Taylor (A Company)
- Captain George Spence Tetley MC (D Company)
- 2nd Lieutenant Lechmere Cay Thomas MC (Bombs)
- Lieutenant Eric Leslie Whiteman (Transport)
Pte Edward Cole – The artist
Private Edward F. Cole, serial no.25016 is something of a mystery. His medal index card survives but no service papers for him appear among the ‘Burnt’ series, or Pension records at The National Archives or on Ancestry.co.uk. He did not receive a 1915 Star and therefore must have first arrived in France some time in 1916. He seems to have survived the war as he does not appear on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Roll of Honour. He is mentioned in the diary of Captain G.S. Pirie, RAMC, the 9th Battalion’s medical officer, in referring to Christmas 1916 and the officers’ dinner: ‘…most wonderful programmes were painted by Pte Cole, one of our men.’ He also appears to be the artist responsible for some of the 9th East Surrey’s Christmas cards (SHC ref ESR/19/1/4-6). A caricature of Lieutenant C W Hawtin, drawn in 1919, is also known and in private hands. No image of Cole is known.
The following information has been put together for Surrey History Centre by Michael Lucas, author of The Journey’s End Battalion: the 9th East Surreys in the Great War (Pen & Sword Military, 2012), and ‘The Caricatures of Private Edward Cole: Part One’, in Stand To! (Western Front Association, 2014), No.101, and Surrey History Centre staff. It has been collected chiefly from officers’ individual War Office files in series WO339 and WO374 at the National Archives, supplemented by Medal Index Cards via Ancestry, and from the Nominal Rolls held at Surrey History Centre, for dates of officers’ service with 9th East Surreys (SHC ref 8227/2/6). Information on citations for awards is taken from the London Gazette. Additional personal information has been derived from the papers of RC Sherriff (SHC ref.2332/-) and CA Clark (ESR/25/CLAR/-), and Captain Pirie’s unpublished diary, which is the subject of Michael Lucas’ book, Frontline Medic – Gallipoli, Somme, Ypres: The Diary of Capt. George Pirie, RAMC, 1914-17 (Helion, 2014). Photographs of some of the officers exist in the Sherriff archive (SHC ref 2332).
Find out more about some of the above officers and their time with RC Sherriff on the ‘Letters from France’ blog set up by Roland Wales at www.rolandwales.com The blog features letters written by Sherriff one hundred years to the day, whilst on active service, and feature many of the officers drawn by Cole. The blog accompanies Roland’s new biography of Sherriff From Journey’s End to The Dam Busters: The Life of R C Sherriff, Playwright of the Trenches and gives more insight into the stories behind those featured in this new study of Sherriff’s life.
Read the Commonwealth War Graves Commission blog “The real soldiers of Journey’s End“.
Click on the images to see larger copies.
Captain Robert Algernon Anslow (B Company)
Anslow was serving with the battalion on its arrival in France on 31st August 1915. He left through sickness in February 1916, returning in November 1916 until May 1917, when he finally went home, again through sickness. He seems to have left the army through ill health, receiving a Silver War Badge, and died in the early 1960s.
Lieutenant and Quartermaster Charles Richard Eli Birch (Stores)
Birch was a Regimental Sergeant Major with the 13th Battalion of the East Surreys before being commissioned and sent overseas with the 9th East Surreys. He served with the battalion from February 1916 to August 1917 when he died of pneumonia, and is buried at Etaples Military Cemetery, on the French coast, aged 42.
Captain Charles Alfred Clark MC (Adjutant)
Known as ‘Nobby’, Clark enlisted in the ranks of the East Surrey Regiment in 1896 and served as a regular soldier in the Boer War. A Company Sergeant Major in 1914, he was promoted to Regimental Sergeant Major, before being commissioned in January 1916. He served with the 9th East Surreys from January 1916 as Adjutant, and ultimately as Acting Commanding Officer, until March 1918, when he was wounded and captured. Clarke was awarded the Military Cross for leading a bombing attack on the Somme, later winning a D.S.O. for his leadership of the battalion in March 1918. He was extremely popular with all ranks. Sherriff described him with considerable respect and affection, whilst Private Eatwell similarly admired his leadership at the battalion’s desperate stand in March 1918. Clark’s personal papers are held as ESR/25/CLAR/- and contain memories of the raid on which Journey’s End was based, and of RC Sherriff, whom he describes as ‘a steady unassuming young fellow of good presence’. Clark also reminisces in his correspondence with Sherriff, 1936-1938 (SHC ref 3813/1/61), ‘He carried a warm charm in his personality and had a certain calm, quiet air of distinction – much respected by his men’ (SHC ref ESR/25/CLAR/19(3)).
Clark continued in the regular army after the war, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1933. Too old for the Army by 1939, he was made responsible for Air Raid Precautions for Folkestone, Kent. He died in 1971.
2nd Lieutenant Ewan Walter Davies (Lewis Guns)
Davies served for four months in the ranks of the Civil Service Rifles, a predominantly middle class Territorial unit, before being commissioned in October 1915. He arrived with the 9th East Surreys on 13th August 1916, at the start of its ordeal on the Somme. He was the officer in charge of the successful January 1917 raid by the battalion on which Sherriff based his account of a raid in Journey’s End. A sprained knee ended his service with the unit in April 1917 and he was later injured in a road accident. He served in Nigeria in 1918 and 1919. Captain Clark, Adjutant from January 1916, described him as ‘a good steady fellow, unemotional and reliable. One felt at ease in his presence.’ Captain Hilton served in the same unit.
2nd Lieutenant Stanley Kenneth Grant (Intelligence)
Grant joined the 9th East Surreys on 27th August 1916, just before Delville Wood, where he was wounded. Accidentally wounded in a training accident in March 1917, he returned to the battalion in October 1917. He was killed in the great German offensive of March 1918, although listed as ‘missing’ until July 1918.
Captain George Cleverdon Hartley MC, RAMC attached (Medical)
Born in 1887 in Montrose, Hartley was the son of a Methodist minister and was educated at Bath. Apprenticed to an engineering company in Leeds, Hartley decided that he wanted to study medicine and he graduated from Birmingham University in 1916. Hartley replaced George Pirie as the 9th Battalion’s medical officer for some weeks in early 1917. As a Lieutenant, he was awarded the Military Cross for assisting in recovering a wounded man ‘from the open under very heavy fire’ during the battalion’s raid in January 1917. He was promoted to captain and served in Salonika and Constantinople. After the war he became a respected GP in the West Midlands. He died in 1953 and his obituary appeared in the British Medical Journal, (26 December, p.1435).
Captain (later Major) Charles Hilton MC (C Company)
Hilton served in the ranks of the Territorial Civil Service Rifles before the war. He was sent to France in March 1915, was commissioned in December 1915, and joined the 9th East Surreys the same month. He returned to England in October 1917 for six months duty following his long period of service in France. He returned to the battalion in April 1918 and was still serving with it at the Armistice as a Major. He was awarded the Military Cross when in temporary command of the battalion in the last week of the War for ‘making several fearless reconnaissances’ and maintaining contact with the retreating Germans. After the War he became a salesman and died in 1933 of a gangrenous appendix. Sherriff admired Hilton’s abilities, but did not like his relentless sarcasm. However, Hilton was great friends with Captain Pirie. Second Lieutenant Davies (see above) served in the same company.
2nd Lieutenant William Henry Lindsay MC (Understudy)
Lindsay served for two years in the ranks of the Rifle Brigade before being commissioned in 1916. He joined the 9th East Surreys in September 1916 and was awarded the Military Cross for his part in the January 1917 raid. He was killed at Lens trying to fight off a German raiding party in September 1918. Captain Clark described him as ‘A cheerful charming young fellow. Full of freshness and laughter. Very efficient and very brave.’ Some entertaining letters from him to Sherriff survive in Sherriff’s papers.
Captain George Stephen Perry (Pirie) RAMC attached
A South African, Pirie was practising as a doctor in Scotland when he volunteered his services in December 1914. He served as a medical officer at the front in Gallipoli, where he was mentioned in dispatches and later evacuated having been wounded by shrapnel. After recovering, he went to France and became medical officer to the 9th East Surreys from December 1915, with some breaks of service, until his death by shellfire in July 1917 at Ypres. He was posthumously mentioned in dispatches again. He was a brave and popular frontline medic. He kept a detailed diary for almost all of his service, a copy of which is held by his family and is the subject of Michael Lucas’ book, Frontline Medic – Gallipoli, Somme, Ypres: The Diary of Capt. George Pirie, RAMC, 1914-17 (Helion, 2014).
Captain The Rev George Denys Poole MC (Church)
Poole was a priest at Clapham and chaplain at a London hospital when he offered his services in August 1915. He was sent to the 72nd Brigade and ministered to various units including the 9th East Surreys and the 8th Royal West Kent Regiment. He was awarded a Military Cross in March 1918 for maintaining morale and recovering wounded men. Poole’s Military Cross citation records ‘It was mainly through his initiative that many badly wounded men escaped from falling into the hands of the enemy.’ He survived the War. Unlike some chaplains who were rarely seen in dangerous situations, Pirie recorded ‘We often see him in the trenches.’>
Captain Montague Wilbraham Taylor (A Company)
Captain Montagu Wilbraham Taylor (b.1889) was educated at Tonbridge School. His father. Taylor won the M.C. and was still serving with Taylor joined the 9th East Surreys on 27 August 1916, just before the battle of Delville Wood, serving with the battalion in France until February 1918 when he was sent back to England for six months. He returned to the battalion in May, was awarded the Military Cross for service at Haussy, in October 1918, and was still serving with the battalion at the Armistice and with the 9th East Surreys in Germany, in August 1919. His father, Colonel Montague Brook Wilbraham Taylor, was in the Rifle Brigade and donated Taylor Hall in Farnham to the local cub scouts, which is still in use today. A brother had served in the Boer War with the Royal Artillery.
Captain George Spence Tetley MC (D Company)
Tetley served in the ranks of the Royal Fusiliers from September 1914. He was commissioned and joined the 9th East Surreys in October 1915. He was awarded the Military Cross for recovering wounded and buried men and restoring the defences when a portion of trench was blown in, early in 1916. Wounded himself in May 1916, he returned just in time for Delville Wood, where Pirie records he distinguished himself. He was wounded again in May 1917, losing a leg. He resigned as medically unfit and died in 1928. Sherriff was impressed by his courage and energy, but amused by his eccentricities and colourful language. Several letters from him to Sherriff survive in Sherriff’s papers.
2nd Lieutenant Lechmere Cay Thomas MC (Bombs)
Thomas joined the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps and was commissioned in November 1915. He joined the 9th East Surreys at the end of August 1916, in time for Delville Wood. He was awarded a Military Cross for the January 1917 raid and another for a further raid at the end of that year. He was wounded in the German offensive of March 1918, but returned, before being fully recovered, in July 1918, being attached to a Trench Mortar Battery. He was sent back to England sick in September 1918. After the war he served in Iraq, where he was again wounded. He subsequently served with the Northumberland Fusiliers and King’s African Rifles. He saw Journey’s End in 1930. During the Second World War he distinguished himself, winning the D.S.O. twice and commanding infantry brigades in Burma. He was also awarded a C.B.E. Clark described him as “Tommy the Bomber’…one of the most courageous men I ever met. Never happy unless he was in the thick of it. Would volunteer for any job against the enemy, no matter how dangerous. Would be most unhappy if left out of any stunt. A splendid personality men would follow him anywhere – so cool, so calm and so inspiring.’ There is a letter from Thomas (‘Tommy) to Sherriff in Sherriff’s papers, and in 1976 he was interviewed about his First World War experiences by Peter Liddle a recording of which is in the Brotherton Library at Leeds. He died in 1981, perhaps the last surviving officer of the 9th East Surreys.
Lieutenant Eric Leslie Whiteman (Transport)
Whiteman served in the ranks of the Surrey Yeomanry from 1911 and went to France in December 1914. After being commissioned, he returned to France with the 9th East Surreys in August 1915 and served until spring 1918 as Transport Officer. He was wounded in the desperate fighting of March 1918, but took command as the senior surviving officer. . He was awarded the Military Cross for his conduct during the Great Retreat in March 1918.Thereafter he seems to have given up Transport for command of a rifle company. The only officer remaining who had served with the battalion from its earliest days in France, he was wounded again, according to the Battalion War Diary, on the very last day of the War. He was a great friend of Captain Pirie.
The East Surrey Regiment Nominal Roll for the 9th Battalion, 1914-1918
The East Surrey Regiment Nominal Roll of officers who served with the 9th Battalion in France and Italy covers the period 5 August 1914 to 30 Nov 1918. The roll is in alphabetical order or surname and includes date of disembarkation, date of joining, date of laving and a ‘Remarks’ column detailing cause of leaving, for example, ‘killed in action’, ‘wounded’, ‘died from wounds’. The extracts shown here include entries for some of the officers and caricatures mentioned above, namely, Captain Anslow, Lieutenant Birch, Captain Clark, Lieutenant Grant, Captain Hilton, Captain Sherriff, Captain Taylor, Captain Tetley, Lieutenant Thomas, Lieutenant Whiteman. Sherriff’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Warre Dymond is also mentioned but no caricature of him is known.
Extracts from the Nominal Roll of Officers who served with the 9th East Surreys during the First World War (SHC ref 8227/2/6)