Saturday 30 March 2024

The Reverend Theodore Bayley Hardy, VC, MC, DSO (1863 – 1918) – Anglican Church Minister and School teacher who served as a British Army Chaplain in WW1

Rev’d Hardy was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. In addition to the VC, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Military Cross, making him one of the most decorated non-combatants of the First World War.

Portrait of Rev Hardy by
Howard Somerville
Born on 20th October 1863, Theodore’s parents were George Hardy and his wife, Sarah, a school teacher.   The family lived in Barnfield House, Southernhay, Exeter, Devonshire, UK. 

Following the death of George Hardy, the house became a preparatory school for young gentlemen and was run by Theodore’s Mother.

Educated at the Royal Commercial Travellers School, Pinner, Middlesex from 1872 to 1879, the City of London School from 1879 to 1882 and at the University of London, Theodore became a school master. 

In Ireland in 1888, Theodore married Florence Elizabeth Hastings.   

He was ordained as an Anglican Church minister on 18th December 1898 and combined his teaching work with his duties as a Curate.

From 1891 to 1907, Theodore was an Assistant Master at Nottingham High School, where one of his pupils was D. H. Lawrence - a Junior School house there is named in Theodore’s honour. From 1907 to 1913, Theodore was Headmaster of Bentham Grammar School in West Yorkshire. 

Theodore’s wife Florence became ill and died after a year of illness in 1914. Following his wife’s illness, he had to give up teaching and became the rector of Hutton Roof, near Kirby Lonsdale in Westmoreland.

51 when war broke out, Theodore volunteered at once but was turned down as being too old. Eventually, in August 1916, he was accepted for army service as a Temporary Chaplain to the Forces, 4th Class and attached to 8th Battalion, The Lincolnshire Regiment. 

On his way to the Western Front, Theodore met the Rev’d Studdert Kennedy, known to the troops as 'Woodbine Willie'.  Kennedy's simple advice, which Theodore followed closely, was this:  'Live with the men. Go everywhere they go. Share all their risks and more if you can do any good. Take a box of fags in your haversack and a great deal of love in your heart. Laugh with them, joke with them; you can pray with them sometimes, but pray for them always.'

Theodore lived with the troops in the forward trenches, dodging the constant gun fire and sniping, handing out sweets and cigarettes, writing letters for the troops and helping carry the wounded to safety. Seeking to better earn the trust of the men, Theodore took to visiting them at night in the trenches, whilst conducting his chaplaincy duties by day. He often went without sleep and a visiting General once commented that Rev'd. Hardy appeared to be 'asleep on his feet' during his own service. During the Battle of Arras in April 1917, the Senior Chaplain found on several occasions that Theodore had been working continuously for 48 or even 36 hours and had to order him to get some sleep.

On 31st July, the Battle of Passchendaele* (July 31–November 6, 1917) began with an attack in which the 8th Battalion suffered 177 casualties of all ranks. All this time Theodore was with his men, helping the stretcher bearers remove the wounded from the mud of No Man’s Land at night. After several nights he was reported missing and was eventually found lying asleep in a water-filled shell hole into which he had collapsed from exhaustion. 

In October 1917 Theodore was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) 'for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty', while rescuing wounded men from no-man's land throughout the night, despite himself suffering a broken wrist. 

*The Third Battle of Ypres also known as the Battle of Passchendaele

The DSO was followed by the award of the Military Cross (MC) in December 1917, for repeatedly going out under heavy fire to help the stretcher bearers during an attack. Finally his Victoria Cross was awarded for outstanding bravery at Rossingal Wood on the Somme in April 1918.

Hoping to remove Rev’d. Hardy from further danger, the King suggested that he return home and become his  personal Chaplain.  Seeking to reward Hardy for his service, the Bishop of Carlisle offered him a Cumbrian parish with a magnificent rectory. But Theodore would have none of it; determined to stay with his men, he declined both offers and returned to his battalion.

In the spring of 1918, the Lincolns fought on the Somme, where Theodore's devoted and fearless actions on 5th, 25th and 27th of April 1918 resulted in him being awarded the Victoria Cross (VC).  On 27th April, he persuaded a Sergeant to help him rescue a wounded man who had fallen within 10 yards of an enemy pill box, the whole time under enemy fire. When told that he had been nominated for the VC Theodore said, "I really must protest".

On 10th October 1918 at night, Theodore was seriously wounded by machine gun fire while with the Lincolns as they were crossing a footbridge accompanying a fighting patrol of the 8th Somersets on 8th October 1918 on the Selle River near Cambrai. The first soldiers to reach Hardy remembered him saying quietly: 'I’ve been hit. I’m sorry to be a nuisance.' He was evacuated to No. 2 Red Cross Hospital at Rouen and died on 18th October, three days before his 55th birthday and less than four weeks before the Armistice.

The Reverend Theodore Bayley Hardy was buried in St. Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, France, Grave Reference:  block S, plot V, row J, grave 1. 

Presentation of the Victoria Cross to the Reverend Theodore Bayley Hardy, VC, DSO, MC by HM King George V (1865–1936) in France - painted by Terence Tenison Cuneo (1907–1996) - Royal Army Chaplains' Museum

Sources:  Find my Past, Wikipedia and

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Walter Tull (1888 – 1918) – professional footballer

With thanks to John Daniel for this information 

Born in Folkestone, Kent, UK, on 28th April 1888, Walter’s parents were Barbadian carpenter Daniel Tull and  his wife, Kent-born Alice Elizabeth, nee Palmer. His paternal grandfather was a slave in Barbados. His maternal English grandmother was from Kent. 

Walter began his education at North Board School, now Mundella Primary School, Folkestone.

In 1895, when Tull was seven, his mother died of cancer. A year later his father married Alice's cousin, Clara Palmer. She gave birth to a daughter Miriam, on 11th September 1897. Three months later, Daniel died from heart disease. The stepmother was unable to cope with five children so the resident minister of Folkestone's Grace Hill Wesleyan Chapel, recommended that the two boys of school age, Walter and Edward, should be sent to an orphanage. From the age of 9, Walter was brought up in the (Methodist) Children's Home and Orphanage (now known as Action for Children) in Bethnal Green, London. Edward was adopted by the Warnock family of Glasgow, becoming Edward Tull-Warnock; he qualified as a dentist, the first mixed-heritage person to practise that profession in the United Kingdom.

Walter’s professional football career began after he was spotted playing for top amateur club, Clapton. He had signed for Clapton in October 1908, reportedly never playing in a losing side. By the end of the season he had won winners' medals in the FA Amateur Cup, London County Amateur Cup and London Senior Cup. In March 1909 the Football Star called him "the catch of the season". At Clapton, he played alongside Clyde Purnell and Charlie Rance.

At the age of 21, Tull signed for Football League First Division team, Tottenham Hotspur, in the summer of 1909, after a close-season tour of Argentina and Uruguay, making him the first mixed-heritage professional footballer to play in Latin America. Walter made his debut for Tottenham in September 1909 at inside forward against Sunderland and his home Football League debut against FA Cup-holders, Manchester United, in front of over 30,000 people.

When the First World War broke out in August 1914, Walter became the first Northampton Town player to enlist in the British Army, in December of that year. He served in the two Football Battalions of the Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex) Regiment, the 17th and 23rd, and also in the 5th Battalion. Promoted to the rank of Lance Sergeant, Walter fought in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Walter was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on 30th May 1917  becoming one of the first mixed-heritage infantry officers in a regular British Army Regiment.

With the 23rd Battalion, Walter fought on the Italian Front from 30 November 1917 to early March 1918. He was praised for his "gallantry and coolness" by Major-General Sydney Lawford, General Officer Commanding 41st Division, having led 26 men on a night-raiding party, crossing the fast-flowing rapids of the Piave River into enemy territory and returning them unharmed.

The 23rd Battalion returned to northern France on 8th March 1918 and Walter was killed in action near the village of Favreuil in the Pas-de-Calais on 25th March during the First Battle of Bapaume, the early stages of the German Army's Spring Offensive. His body was never recovered, despite the efforts of, among others, Private Tom Billingham, a former goalkeeper for Leicester Fosse to return him to the British position while under fire.

Walter Tull Way in Northampton,  leading to the Cobblers Football stadium is named in memory of Walter. 

Sir Geoffrey Langdon Keynes (1887 – 1982) - British surgeon and author.


Born on 25th March 1887 in Cambridge, UK, Geoffrey’s parents were John Neville Keynes, an economics lecturer at the University of Cambridge, and his wife, Florence Ada, nee Brown, a successful author and social reformer. Geoffrey was their third child - his older brother, who became an economist, was John Maynard Keynes, he had a sister - Margaret, who married the Nobel Prize–winning physiologist Archibald Hill.

Geoffrey was initially educated at Rugby School, where he became friends with the poet Rupert Brooke.  Geoffrey went  on to study at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he earned a first-class degree in the Natural Sciences Tripos. He was later made an honorary fellow of Pembroke College. Geoffrey then qualified for a scholarship to become a surgeon with the Royal College of Surgeons in London.   However, he delayed his medical studies to serve during the war, when he served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps.  

Geoffrey began his career as a physician during the First World War, before becoming a doctor at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London, where he made notable innovations in the fields of blood transfusion and breast cancer surgery. 

After Rupert Brooke’s death n 1915, Geoffrey was appointed literary executor for Rupert's estate.


Colonel Richard Davies Garnons Williams (1856 – 1915) – Welsh Rugby International player and soldier

Born on 15th June 1856 in Hay, Breconshire, Wales, UK, Richard’s parents were Garnons Williams, an Anglican priest and Vicar of Brecon and Justice of the Peace for Breconshire, and his wife, and Catherine Frances Williams, nee Hort. 

Initially educated at Magdalen College School, Oxford, Richard went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge in October 1874. He represented Cambridge at rugby, but did not win a Blue. In 1881, Richard played in the first Wales international rugby union match.

Deciding to follow a military career Richard was accepted into the Royal Military College Sandhurst, and is also recorded as representing the Sandhurst rugby team. He completed his officer training in 1876, and was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant[ on 26 February. 

Richard was posted to the 38th Regiment of Foot, promoted Lieutenant on 17th January 1877, and a month later, on 17th February 1877, transferred to the 7th Regiment of Foot.

By February 1885 Richard had been promoted to Captain, and his unit had been renamed the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment).

In 1885, Richard married Alice Jessie Bircham on 8 January 1885 in Chelsea, London. They had a daughter, Frances Mary Barbara, born in 1890, and a son, Roger Fenton Garnons, born in 1891, who played first-class cricket and served in the army.

On 10th January 1887 Richard was appointed adjutant of the 4th Battalion of the regiment, the Militia unit of the regiment. He retired from the regular army on 4th May 1892. On 8th August 1894 he was commissioned Major in the 1st (Brecknockshire) Volunteer Battalion, South Wales Borderers, and on 1st  November 1895 was appointed Brigade Major for the South Wales Brigade of the Volunteer Force. On 12th July 1899 he was granted the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He resigned his Volunteer commission on 26 May 1906, retaining his rank and with permission to continue wearing his uniform.

Richard rejoined the British Army shortly after the outbreak of the First World War and was posted to his original regiment, joining the 12th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers as a Major on 26th September 1914.  He was promoted temporary Leutenant Colonel on 3rd October 1914, and transferred back to the South Wales Borderers to command the Brecknockshire Battalion.

Posted back to 12th Royal Fusiliers Richard was killed on 25th September 1915 while leading his Battalion at the Battle of Loos. He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial to the Missing.  At 59 years of age, he was the eldest of the 13 Wales International players to be killed during the First World War.

Sources: Find my Past, FreeBMD, Wikipedia

Friday 15 March 2024

Lou Phillips (1878 - 1916) – Welsh Rugby International and golfer

With thanks to John Daniel for finding this information for us 

Lou Phillips was a former Welsh rugby international who also won the Welsh Amateur Golfing Championship in 1907 and 1912

Lewis or Louis Augustus Phillips was born at Stow Hill, in Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales, on 24th February 1878.  His parents were Charles Phillips, a Cornmerchant, and his wife, Rose Phillips, nee Hancock. Lou had the following siblings: John Frederick Phillips, b.1874, Herbert Leonard Phillips, b. 1876 and Charles A. Phillips, b.1881.

Educated at Monmouth Grammar School, Lou went on to become an architect. In 1907 and again in 1912, Lou was Welsh Amateur golf champion. He was also runner-up for the Irish Amateur Open Championship in 1913, and in the following year he was beaten in the sixth round of The Amateur Championship. 

When the First World War started Lou enlisted in the 20th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, and, after refusing a commission, he served as a Sergeant. Posted to France with his unit on 16th  November 1915, on the night of 14th March 1916, while out with a wiring party, Lou was shot through the chest and killed near Cambrin, France. He is buried in Cambrin Churchyard Extension, Grave Reference:  L1 10B.

Note: The 20th Royal Fusiliers was one of four battalions of the regiment raised in 1914 by the Public Schools and University Men’s Force.

Sources: Information supplied by John Daniel, Find my Past, FreeBMD and Wikipedia

Thursday 14 March 2024

Sir John Reeve Brooke (1880-1937) - Staff Captain D.A.A.G. 1915-17, Vice-Chairman of the Electricity Commission, Principal Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Transport 1920-23; Secretary 1923-27


With thanks to Rupert Brooke Remembered Facebook Page for finding this information for us

John Reeve Brooke was born in London in 1880 – the birth being registered in the third quarter of that year.  His parents were John Reeve Brooke (1848-1932), a Barrister, and his wife, Charlotte Mary, nee Baldwin-Browne. John Reeve Brooke Senior was the son of the Reverend Richard England Brooke (1821-1900) and the brother of William Parker Brooke (1850-1910), Rupert Brooke’s father – the famous poet Rupert Brooke was seven years younger than his cousin John.    

Young John Reeve Brooke was educated at Haileybury College School in Hertfordshire before going on to study at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University.

On the 1911 Census we find John staying in Surrey and described as a Journalist.  He joined the National Health Insurance Commission in 1912 as secretary (assistant) to its head - Robert Morant - who had been given the unprecedented task of organising the registration and collection of insurance contributions from 15 million people. Morant also had to bring in agreements with doctors to implement a national system of general practitioners. The experience gained by Brooke working on the most ambitious Government project dependent on the collection of personal and other related information to date, would surely have had an impact on his approach to his  work for Fabian Ware.

Major General Sir Fabian Arthur Goulstone Ware, KCVO, KBE, CB, CMG.

During the First World War, Ware was too old to fight so instead he commanded a mobile Red Cross unit on the Western Front.  He was appalled at the number of casualties and his unit began to record all the graves they came across.   In 1915, this initiative was officially recognized by the British Government and was incorporated into the British Army as the “Graves Registration Commission”.

John worked with Major General Sir Fabian Ware from the early days of the Mobile Unit.  He joined the Unit on 2nd October 1914 and became the Unit’s Adjutant, or officer in charge of key elements of its personnel and financial administration. His role in the Mobile Unit, as well as recording much of the detail in the early surviving Unit Diaries, was that of administrator and financial manager. For example in a diary entry for Wednesday 16 December 1914 Brooke is recorded as having spent time sorting out longer term arrangements for the finances for the Unit with a Red Cross Official in Boulogne.

In common with the rest of the officers of the Mobile Unit, John was given a so called local rank (a temporary rank in the Army on the Western Front) in late February 1915 (Lieutenant) and then a formal Army commission as Captain at the end of September 1915, slightly ahead of the rest of the Commission with its transfer to the Army in October of that year.

In 1920, John married Dorothy Lamb (1887 – 1967) who worked for various British Government Departments during the First World War. 

John Reeve Brooke was knighted on 16th February 1928 - dubbed at Buckingham Palace. 

He died in 1937.

Original Source:  Post on Rupert Brooke Remembered Facebook Page:

Additional information from:

 Find my Past, FreeBMD,

Obituary in the “Hampstead News” of 08 April 1937

Sir John Reeve Brooke (1880-1937)

Find a Grave

Wednesday 13 March 2024

Jack Warner, OBE (1895 - 1981) - British actor

 Jack Warner, OBE (born Horace John Waters; 24 October 1895 – 24 May 1981) was a British actor. He is closely associated with the role of PC George Dixon, which he played in the 1950 film The Blue Lamp and later in the television series Dixon of Dock Green from 1955 until 1976, but he was also for some years one of Britain's most popular film stars. 

Born Horace John Waters in Bromley-by-Bow, Poplar, London, UK on 24th October 1895, his parents were Edward William Waters, a master fulling maker and undertaker's warehouseman, and his wife, Maud Mary, nee Best.  Jack's sisters, Elsie and Doris Waters, became comediennes who usually performed as "Gert and Daisy”.

Educated at the Coopers' Company's Grammar School for Boys in Mile End, Jack went on to study automobile engineering at the Northampton Institute (now part of the City University, London) but being more practical than academic he left after a year to work at the repair facilities of F.W. Berwick and Company in Balham.

During the First World War, Jack served in France as a driver in the Royal Flying Corps and was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in 1918. He returned to England and the motor trade in 1919, driving hearses and occasionally racing cars at Brooklands, where he maintained and sometimes raced Henrietta Lister's Aston Martin. 

Jack became a professional entertainer in music hall and in radio shows. In 1933, Jack married company secretary Muriel Winifred ("Mollie"), daughter of independently wealthy Roberts Peters

By the early years of the Second World War, Jack had become nationally known and starred in a BBC radio comedy show.  He died in 1981 and his role of Dixon of Dock Green in the television series was held in such high esteem that officers from Paddington Green Police Station bore the coffin at his funeral.

Friday 8 March 2024

Jack Benny (1894 – 1974) – American entertainer

Born Benjamin Kubelsky on 14th February 1894 in Chicago, he was the son of Meyer Kubelsky (1864–1946), who was from Poland, and his wife Emma Sachs Kubelsky (1869–1917), who was from Lithuania.  The family lived in Waukegan, an industrial suburb of Chicago, Illinois, USA.  Benny began studying the violin when he was six years old.  

However, he was a dreamer and poor at his school studies, and was expelled from high school.   In 1911, he began playing the violin in local vaudeville theaters.

Benny left show business briefly in 1917 to join the United States Navy during World War I, often entertaining fellow sailors with his violin playing. One evening, his violin performance was booed by the sailors, so with prompting from fellow sailor and actor Pat O'Brien, he ad-libbed his way out of the jam and left them laughing. He received more comedy spots in the revues and did well, earning a reputation as a comedian and musician.

HJack Benny's radio and television programmes, popular from 1932 until his death in 1974, were a major influence on the sitcom genre. Benny often portrayed his character as a miser who played his violin badly and ridiculously claimed to be 39 years of age, regardless of his actual age.

Jack Benny died on 26th December 1974. 

George Burns (1896 – 1996) – American comedian, actor, writer, and singer,

Born Nathan Birnbaum on 20th January 1896, in New York City, he was the ninth of 12 children born to Hadassah "Dorah" (née Bluth; 1857–1927) and Eliezer Birnbaum (1855–1903), known as Louis or Lippa.  

Drafted into the United States Army when the United States of America entered the First World War in 1917, he failed the physical examination because he was extremely nearsighted. By the early 1920s, he adopted the stage name "George Burns".

He met actress Gracie Allen in 1922 and they first performed together at the Hill Street Theatre in Newark, New Jersey, continued in small town vaudeville theaters and were married in Cleveland on 7th January 1926,

George Burns was one of the few entertainers whose careers successfully spanned vaudeville, radio, film and television.  

After a long and very successful career, George died on 9th March 1996.