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The Great War Heroes



Three of the names on the Bulkington War Memorial belong to the Gaisford family who can trace their history in Bulkington and Keevil back to 1302. The Gaisfords were the local squires and made their money from land and wool. The Gaisford Estate was sold in 1919. The three men are part of an extended family and are cousins once and twice removed.

Walter Thomas GAISFORD


He was born on 7 October 1871 in West Sussex, the son of Captain Thomas Gaisford, J.P, D.L of Offington, Sussex and his third wife Lady Alice Mary Kerr, daughter of 7th Marquis of Lothian. He was educated at the Oratory School and entered the army in 1892. He took part in the Nile Expeditions of 1898 in Atbara and Khartoum.

He was commissioned as a Captain in 1899, A.D.C. to Major-General the Hon. R. Talbot, when he was commanding the forces in Egypt (1899-1902) and Adjutant 1st Vol. Batt. Royal Fusiliers in 1905.

In the 1891 Census he is living in Sussex aged 20 with his parents Thomas (74), a J.P and his mother Alice M (53), his 6 siblings and 9 servants. He is living on an annuity.

In the 1911 Census he is named on 2 census. He is living in Broadwalk, Offington aged 39, single, with a servant and 2 visitors. He is also named on Chanbattia (Overseas Military), aged 39, a Major in the Seaforth Highlanders, born Offington, Sussex.

Lt Col Gaisford then became the commanding officer of the 7th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders This Battalion formed part of 26th Brigade, 9th (Scottish) Division and was created as a result of Army Order No. 324 issued on 21 August 1914. The battalion was deemed fit for service overseas in May 1915 and served on the Western Front for the rest of the War. Lt. Col. Gaisford was killed on the first day of the Battle of Loos on 15 September 1915. He was 44 years old at the time of his death.

Lt Col Gaisford’s body was never found and he is remembered by a panel inscription on the Loos Memorial in France.

He is also remembered on on the War Memorial in Radclive churchyard, Buckinghamshire, where he had lived. Probate records state that W T Gaisford lived at Hambleton Lodge, Clackmore (Chackmore) near Radclive at the time of his death.


The Great War Heroes

Robert Sandeman GAISFORD

Robert Sandeman Gaisford’s branch of the family was descended from Dean Gaisford, Regius Professor of Greek and Dean of Christ
Church, Oxford. In 1839 Dean Gaisford's second son (and Robert Sandeman Gaisford's grandfather) John William Gaisford, who married into a famous military family (the Cotton family of India fame), purchased a commission in the 72nd Highlanders (later to become the Seaforth Highlanders) and was to serve with them for the next 24 years. He briefly commanded the regiment for a few months during the Crimean War before selling his commission in November 1855 and retiring to Ireland. He raised six children. His eldest son, Lt Cecil Henry Gaisford, had followed his father into the 72nd Highlanders and was killed in Kabul in 1879 during the fighting which preceded the Battle of Sherpur.

John William Gaisford's second son, Douglas John (Robert Sandeman Gaisford's father) was commissioned aged 19 into an Irish militia
regiment transferring to the regular army a year later initially as a 2nd Lt with the 10th Foot (Lincolnshire Regiment) and then transferring across to the 24th Foot (South Wales Borderers) a year later. Douglas saw little active service and retired as a major in 1901. His last appointment was as District Inspector of Musketry in Eastern Command, Colchester. As was common at this time he left the Army with the honorary rank of lieutenant colonel. A year later (in 1902) Douglas was gazetted to the Essex Imperial Yeomanry which had recently been formed for service in South Africa. (I have yet to discover what Douglas was doing with the Yeomanry as he is not listed as one of their commanding officers.) Douglas had married Elizabeth Alison, the daughter of General Sir Archibald Alison, and raised three children: Jane, John William and Robert Sandeman. He retired to the family estates in Co Meath.

He was first cousin, once removed, to William Thomas Gaisford who also appears on the War Memorial.

Robert Sandeman Gaisford's older brother John William Gaisford joined the Royal Artillery on 17 November 1914 and was wounded the following year at Gallipoli. However, he survived the war and continued to serve in the Army right through WW2. As a logistics staff officer during WW2 he reached the rank of brigadier and served primarily in East Africa and the Middle East. He retired from the Army after WW2 and settled, with his second wife, in America.

Robert Sandeman Gaisford  was born in Scotland.  Robert's distinctive middle name comes from another family connection on his mother's side – the Sandemans of the North-West Frontier (Fort Sandeman et al).

On the 1901 Census he is 5 years old, living in Beverley Road, Colchester, born Scotland. He is living with his parents Douglas J, aged
40, a Captain retired from the South Wales Borderers, born Ireland, and his mother Elizabeth (39). There are 2 siblings and 3 servants. His siblings were Jane Esme Gaisford and Brig. John William Gaisford, RAOC. He was educated at Wellington College from 1909 to 1911 and at Royal Military Academy, Woolwich in 1911. On the 1911 Census he is a student aged 15 at Wellington College, Berkshire, born Montgomery Guildsfield, Scotland.

He actually volunteered before his older brother and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the RFA on 16 September 1914. He was promoted lieutenant 9 June 1915 and seconded to the RFC on 4 August 1917 in the temporary rank of captain for employment as a flight commander. In November 1917 Commonwealth forces deployed to Italy to support their Italian allies in the war on the Italian
front. 34 Squadron RFC was one of the units which moved from France to Italy and by January 1918 they had been flying their RE8's for a year. He was promoted to captain on 1 January 1918.

On 29 January 1918, whilst serving near Treviso, a large town north of Venice, Capt Gaisford was flying over enemy lines when he was
attacked by four hostile aircraft. The aeroplane was shot down in flames by Austro-Hungarian anti-aircraft fire over the Piave Sector of the Italian Front on either 29 or 30 January 1918. The RE 8 crashed east of Nervesa and Capt. Gaisford and his observer were killed in action.

He is buried in the British Cemetery at Tezze, Italy. Capt Gaisford was 22 when he died.

On 5th April 1918 Robert's parents received the following letter from the War Office:
The Military Secretary deeply regrets to inform Colonel Gaisford that the following information respecting Lieutenant R.S. Gaisford, Royal Field Artillery, attached Royal Flying Corps, who was reported missing on the 30th January 1918 is contained in a message which has been dropped into the Allied Lines from an Austro-Hungarian Aeroplane:- Brought down in flames.
Buried with Military Honours by the Infantry 30.1.18
It has been accepted for official purposes that Lieutenant Gaisford was killed in action on the 30th of January 1918 and a notification of his death will appear in the Official Casualty Lists in due course.
The Military Secretary is desired by the Secretary of State for War to express his deepest sympathy with Colonel Gaisford in the loss of his gallant son.
The Military Secretary desires to add that under no circumstances whatever should the source of this information (i.e. a dropped message) be divulged in any obituary or other notices inserted in the Press or elsewhere.

On 31 Dec 1918 Douglas Gaisford wrote to the War Office on black edged paper;

I have the honour to request that you will kindly send me a certified extract from the London Gazette dated 16 February 1918, in which my son Lieut. R.S. Gaisford R.F.A, attached R.F.C, was promoted Captain from the 1st January 1918. He was killed in action on the Italian front on the 30th January last and his rank has been shown on his grave as Lieutenant, and I am officially informed that it cannot be changed without the certificate above referred to.
I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant
D.J. Gaisford Lt Col (Retired)

The correspondence in Kew referred to above relates to this wrangle over Robert's rank at the time of his death. It affected his arrears of
pay and other issues and took over a year to sort out. You'll  note that he continues to be referred to as A/Capt in much of the literature even to this day and his given rank on the Bulkington Memorial is as a lieutenant!


The Great War Heroes


Lionel Gaisford was born in Quetta, India on 21st June 1888, son of Col. Gilbert Gaisford of the Indian Army who was murdered by
“Ghazi” on the frontier in March 1898. His mother  was Laura Felicite Lewis Gaisford (nee Hutchinson) and her father was General C. W Hutchinson, R. E (Bengal).  His siblings were Guy Gaisford, Lt. Col. Sir Philip Gaisford, Kt., C.I.E and Doris Felicity Gaisford.

In the 1901 Census he is a pupil, aged 12, at Mostyn House School, on the Wirral, born in Clifton, Lancashire.
He was then educated at Brighton College and at Sandhurst and qualified as 1st Class Interpreter in French in June 1914.  He obtained his commission as a King’s Indian Cadet in August 1906 and joined the Royal Irish Regiment at Rawal Pindi in October 1906, being transferred to the 58th Vaughan’s Rifles in April 1907. With this regiment he formed part of the Expeditionary Force and served in the Mohmand Expedition of 1908 for which he received the Indian Frontier Medal. He went to France during the Great War. His Regiment was part of 21st Indian Infantry Brigade, 7th (Meerut) Division and, given the Gaisford connection with the Seaforth Highlanders, it is interesting to note that the 1st and 1st/4th battalions of the Seaforth Highlanders were both serving in the Division at the same time.
He was killed in an attack on German trenches on 23 November 1914, during the Defence of Festubert. He  was 26 when died. He is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery, near Arras, France.


The Great War Heroes

John Jacob Bodman HICKS

John was born in 1883, the son of John and Annie Hicks. According to the 1891 Census John Jacob (8) is living in Keevil , where he was born in 1883. He was a scholar. He was living with his mother Ann and his four siblings, all born in Keevil. I have yet to find John on the 1901 Census but in 1911 he is living in Bulkington, aged 28 and a Shepherd on a farm. He is married to Ellen (34) who was born in Bulkington, and they have a son, Hubert, aged 7. His son is just 11 when John died. 

Serjeant John Hicks was serving with the 6th Battalion Leinster Regiment when he died, aged 32, during the Gallipoli campaign. The
husband of Ellen Hicks, of Bulkington and the son of John and Annie Hicks from the neighbouring village of Keevil, it is not clear why Sjt Hicks was serving with an Irish battalion which, like 7th Bn Seaforth Highlanders, had been formed in August 1914 as part of the reinforcement of the original BEF. From the date of his death on 10 August 1915 it seems likely that Sjt Hicks was killed whilst participating in the 29th Brigade attacks on Sari Bair. Sjt Hicks’ body was never found and he is remembered by a panel inscription on the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli, Turkey.


The Great War Heroes

Frank Henry HARRELL

Frank H. Harrell was born in Devizes on 28th January 1888. He appears on the 1891 Census aged 3, living with his grandparents, Worthy Harrell ((51), an agricultural labourer, born in Bulkington; Elizabeth (51), born in Potterne; their daughters Ellen (14) and Ann E (12) and his sister Winifred E Harrell (2), all born in Bulkington.  He appears again on the 1901 Census, living on the High Street in Bulkington with his now widowed grandfather, Worthy Harrell, who was a carter on a farm. Frank is 13 and is a general labourer on a farm. Also in the household is Ellen (24), Worthy’s daughter. They were all born in Bulkington. According to the 1911 Census Frank is now a Stoker in the Royal Navy, aged 23.

The inscription on the Bulkington War Memorial simply refers to FH Harrell, RN. No rank is given. However, we know through research that Stoker 1st Class Frank Henry Harrell was 29 years old when he died on 25 October 1917 serving with the Royal Navy battleship HMS Glory. At the outbreak of World War I HMS Glory was involved in escorting Canadian troop convoys across the North Atlantic. It then became the flagship of the North American and West Indies Station. After a brief spell in the Mediterranean Fleet she was  transferred in 1916 to the Russian port of Archangel where, until 1919, she acted as a Guard ship. Since, in accordance with the customs of the Royal Navy, Frank Harrell was probably buried at sea he is remembered with honour on a panel at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.


From the ship’s log: 

Murmansk; Lat 69.03, Long 33.05

2.10am: Departed this life, Frank Henry Harrell, stoker 1st class, ON 103700 (RFR Po. B 4584).

1.00pm: Read the service for the Burial of the Dead and committed to the deep the body of the late Frank Henry Harrell.

8.30pm: Sold by auction the effects of the late Frank Henry Harrell.
Glory, pre-Dreadnought battleship, guardship, Archangel

HARRELL, Frank H, Stoker 1c (RFR B 4584), SS 103700 (Po), illness
According to “Naval History”  he died of Septic Meningitis. The Probate Records show that he left an estate worth £765.17s. 5d.
Frank was the husband of Dora Louise Harrell, of 12 Southbroom, Devizes and the son of Juliana Harrell of Bulkington. He was born in Devizes, Wiltshire on 28th January 1888.


The Great War Heroes


According to the 1891 Census George was born in Whaddon, Wiltshire in 1885. He was 6 years old and living in Whaddon with his father Henry (46), a farm servant, his mother Martha (36) and his 4 brothers and sisters. The family move to Steeple Ashton and on the 1901 Census they are living at Spiers Piece. George is 17 and a soldier. This census says that he was born in Berwick, Somerset, with his younger brothers and sisters born in Whaddon. The 1911 Census gives him as being born in West Ashton, Wiltshire!


In the 1911 Census George (27) is back living with his parents and siblings, all of whom are farm labourers. George seems to have left the

army for a time (or maybe he was just on leave at the time of the census?), joining again at the beginning of the 1st World War.

Pte George Pickett was an ‘Old Contemptible’, one of the original troops sent to France and Belgium in the summer of 1914. A professional soldier, George joined the Army as a boy at the turn of the century. He was still a Private and serving with 1st Battalion, The Wiltshire Regiment when he took part in the first British action of World War 1 (The Battle of Mons). He also took part in the BEF’s general retreat to the Marne and met his death at the Battle of Le Cateau on 26 August 1914. His body was never found and he is remembered by a panel inscription on the La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial in France.

George was 30 years old when he died.


The Great War Heroes


According to the 1891 Census Albert, aged 5, was born in 1885 and was living in Littlemarsh with his father James Giles Noyes (39), an agricultural labourer, born in Southampton; his mother Elizabeth James nee Bosworth (39) who was born in Oundle, Northamptonshire and his four brothers (3 of whom were born in Oundle). By the 1901 Census he was 14 and living on the High Street in Bulkington with his parents, a brother and a sister. His birthplace was given as Hinton, Wiltshire and his father was a general agricultural labourer. On the 1911 Census he is still living at home with his parents and his older brother James. Albert is 24, single and a farm labourer, born in Hinton. 

Pte Albert Wareham, a member of the 2nd Battalion The Wiltshire Regiment, was killed on 3 December 1917 whilst serving in the Ypres Salient. His death occurred after the 3rd Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) had been fought to an inconclusive end. Albert appears to be unique amongst the soldiers remembered on this memorial in that his death occurred not during a notable action but merely as a result of general duty in the trenches. Recorded as the brother of Mabel Wareham of Seend, Albert is buried in Hooge Crater Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium.

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