Remembering

Ernest Boulton from Wanstead was killed on the Somme in 1916Ernest Boulton from Wanstead was killed on the Somme in 1916

As the nation marks the centenary of the Armistice, local historian Adrian Lee tells the story of some of Wanstead's WWI heroes, taken from his research into over 600 war dead.

Unlike Woodford's War Memorial, which has a general dedication, the memorial on Wanstead High Street bears a – sadly incomplete – list of names.

The story of Clement Charles Andrews is similar to that of his cousin Alfred Frederick Andrews. Clement was born in Woodford but by 1911 was a printer's errand boy, living at 26 Voluntary Place, Wanstead. Butcher's errand boy Alfred hailed from New Cross but lived in Woodford with his widowed mother. Both men joined the Royal Sussex Regiment in 1915, taking consecutive service numbers and serving with the 12th Battalion. On 16 October 1916, their battalion was ordered to occupy the newly captured Schwaben Redoubt near the River Ancre on the Somme. On the next day, German artillery furiously bombarded the location; as they had served together, so too the cousins died together, and neither has a known grave.

Albert Escott was another resident who met his end under shellfire, this time at Ypres. He left a widow and two small children, but was also missed by the patrons of Woodford Cinema on George Lane, where he had been the long-standing attendant.

Unlike the above, Captain Loscombe Law Stable was a career soldier with the 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, passing out with honours from Sandhurst during 1907. During the pre-war years in India, he proved an accomplished polo player, being in the team that won the 1913 Infantry Polo Tournament in Delhi. He was born on 21 March 1886 at Wanstead Lodge, the son of Daniel Wintringham Stable, barrister, secretary and later director of the Prudential Assurance Company, and former agent to Earl Cowley. Deployed with his battalion early in the war, he sustained a fatal gunshot wound to his side on 26 October 1914 while trying to bring the wounded Private Ellis back to a trench. Ironically, Ellis, who was wounded in the knee, managed to drag himself to safety. Russell Colin Stable, Loscombe's cousin, was killed in 1917 near Judge Wood during the Battle of Poelcappelle while serving with the Warwickshire Regiment. Both men are commemorated at Holy Trinity Church on Hermon Hill.

Henry John Riggs was the grandson of John Riggs, who established the 'Riggs Retreats' at various locations in Epping Forest. Henry was born at Theydon Bois where his father Thomas ran one of the family establishments. He was reported missing during the advance on the Hindenburg Line in April 1917 – the ferocious battle for Gavrelle nearly decimated 1st Battalion Honourable Artillery Company of which Henry was a member. With no known grave, his name appears on the Arras Memorial.

Ernest Boulton of 'Redlands' on Hermon Hill arrived in France with the London Scottish in June 1916, but within weeks was confined to hospital for two months suffering from shellshock. He was killed on the Somme during October. He had been a chorister at Christ Church, Wanstead and it was reported that he sang there before leaving Wanstead for the last time.

Mary Ilene Hack does not appear on the memorial. Born in Wanstead during 1894, she was the daughter of retired builder and contractor Walter John Hack and his wife Emily. In September 1914, she joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment and during April 1915 was appointed to the staff of Highams Auxiliary Military Hospital in Woodford Green. After 18 months, her health failed but after recovering became a driver with the Army Service Corps. Unfortunately, during her service she contracted tuberculosis and died aged 24 on 8 December 1918 at the family home on The Drive, Snaresbrook. She is buried beneath a pink granite cross in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin on Overton Drive.

And finally, someone who is both on the memorial and in one of the war graves at St Mary the Virgin churchyard. Frank Lucas was born in Wanstead during 1890, and for many years, 12 Camden Road was the family home to his mother, Caroline, and bricklayer father, Frederick. On 13 October 1909, Frank swapped his job as a clerk for a 12-year engagement as a stoker in the Royal Navy – dirty and taxing work in the coal-burning ships of the day. The census of 1911 found him among the crew of the Battleship HMS Duncan in the Grand Harbour, Malta. As a regular sailor, he participated in the war from the start and survived for three and a half years, but when the Admiralty sought volunteers "to perform a hazardous service", Stoker Petty Officer Lucas came forward. On 23 April 1918, he was among the skeleton crew of HMS Iphigenia, once a proud cruiser but now a designated blockship to be sunk as part of the raid on Zeebrugge, which was fiercely opposed and only partly effective. His record reveals it was not shell or shot which claimed him on 24 April, but "gas poisoning received in operations off the Belgian Coast." His wife Florrie received the news at 132 West Ferry Road, Millwall. Frank was returned to Wanstead, where he rests in the family plot with his parents. His devoted wife arranged for a small white memorial tablet to be placed on the grave, and her commemoration ends with the promise: "We will meet again."

Do you know of any former local residents killed in either world war or other conflict? Any information is welcome. Email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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