Remembering the men from the Kingsdown and Creekside Cluster
who gave their lives in the First World War
On the centenary of their death, we remember
Sidney Francis KITE
b. Jan/March 1881 (christened 1st May 1881);
d. 7th January 1915, "On Home Service" (Lenham), Aged 33
3rd Battalion, the Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment
- formerly, 5303 - East Kent Regiment (The Buffs) -
Remembered with Honour
Sidney Francis Kite was one of eleven children of Amos and Mary ("Annie") Ann Kite (née Gilbert). Sidney Francis Kite was born and lived in Doddington, Kent. He had seven older siblings - Ellen Ruth, Amos William Gilbert, Edwin George, Frederick John, Fanny Maud, Bernice Lina, and Ernest Robert; his three younger siblings were Dennis A, Mabel Ethel and Phoebe Lilian.
In April-June 1912, Sidney Kite married Florence Croucher at Hollingbourne, Kent. Florence (born in the third quarter of 1890 in Wychling, Hollingbourne Registration District) was the daughter of John (General Dealer with shop) and Harriett Croucher. In 1891, 9-month old Florence was the youngest of six children in the family cottage on Old Lenham Road, Wychling. In 1901, the family still lived in Wychling at Broom Hill (her father was by then a farmer and fruit grower on his own account; her brother, William, was a Game Keeper). By 1911 she is recorded as a general servant in the farm household of Scotsman, William Veitch, of Parsonage Farm, Bredgar). This is almost certainly where Francis and Florence came into contact with each other.
Following the death of Francis Kite, Florence remarried to Albert Wood and lived at 4 West End, Doddington.
Chelsea Pensioners, British army service records 1760-1913 and Militia Service Records show he was first attested in 1898, (Service Number 5303) giving his age as 17 years and 4 months. At that time, he joined the Buffs (East Kent Regiment) - 3rd Foot (also "3rd Battalion"). This was ahead of the Second Boer War (1899-1902) and the 2nd and 3rd Battalions returned to Britain before May 1902. Of 31 soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, The Buffs, who died during the 2nd Boer War, only 2 died in action, the remaining 29 died of disease.
Anyone with military service experience of this kind was quickly recalled to active service on the outbreak of World War 1. Older re-recruits were frequently assigned to Reserve Battalions (serving at home) in order to release other soldiers for service at the Front.
Francis Kite re-enlisted in Sittingbourne as a private (Regimental number: 3173) serving in the Buffs (East Kent) Regiment and by the time of his death was serving in the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, the Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment (Regimental Number G/3050). The 3rd (Reserve) Battalion was a regular army battalion (as distinct from a Territorial Battalion set up after the outbreak of war). As the invaluable website, The Long Long Trail, records it:-
"3rd (Reserve) Battalion [Queens (Royal West Surrey Regiment)]
August 1914 : in Guildford. A training unit, it remained in UK throughout the war.
Moved in August 1914 to Chattenden, went on in November to Rochester.
Moved to Sittingbourne in February 1916."
This map shows the remains of what was Chattenden Barracks on the north bank of the River Medway, north of Rochester (on the south bank). A "brown field site" at one time designated SSSI because 1,000 male skylarks have adopted the site for breeding! This was a training camp for the Kent Engineers.
An extract from the newsletter (Summer 2013) of "The Western Front Association" sheds some light on the significance of this site, arising from aerial photography:
"A network of World War I trenches has been discovered on the Hoo Peninsula in Kent. Invisible from the ground, they were identified through aerial images of the area next to the former Chattenden Barracks. The discovery has led historians to rethink the training soldiers received before being sent to the front as some of the features of the trenches were the same as those used in Belgium. Soldiers were not just practising trench building at Chattenden, they were experimenting, with new ways to keep the soldiers as safe and effective as possible.
The Hoo Peninsula was seen as a forgotten backwater, but aerial archaeology has established it was at the centre of the development of military technology. Much of the work done here was top secret and very few records were kept. Experiments in trench design, airship construction and explosives all took place here and they had a profound effect on the course of WWI."
It is worth speculating that Sidney might have been involved in training, or guarding of the site. This may explain why this soldier died on "home service" at the age of 33 (too old for Front Line service at this stage of the war) - thanks to a visitor to this page, a return to grave registration records tells us that Sidney died of pneumonia.
The Register of Effects places his death in Lenham, registered in Faversham (there was a military hospital in Faversham) and he is buried in Doddington, where his remarried wife then lived. Only five miles away sat the Hollingbourne Isolation Hospital for infectious diseases - primarily for Smallpox (six beds in December 1914) but also Scarlet Fever following a plan to distribute infectious diseases between Hollingbourne and Maidstone. Other infectious diseases were transferred to Maidstone. He was almost certainly moved to the Kent County Sanatorium Lenham Chest Hospital - constructed in 1914 (since developed as an estate called Highbourne Park, off Rayners Lane. These geographic connections confirm that he died of infectious disease rather than an injury (which would almost certainly have placed him in Faversham or Gillingham (Military) Hospitals). Maidstone Rural Council, reported on 20th February 1915, "during the month [January] there were reported nine cases of scarlet fever, five of diphtheria, and two of tuberculosis. The Isolation Hospital contains nine scarlet fever and five diphtheritic patients [February].
The calculation of his "war service" (in spite of his lengthy experience) was below the 6-month threshold that qualified for a War Gratuity (calculated in 1920)! The War Gratuity also depended on overseas service during the War. This would have been a brutal judgement for his widow. His effects were valued at £2 2s. 9d with an additional "Vote" of £2 5s. 0d. for his wife. Curiously, £1 10s of his effects was given Sidney's "father-in-law, John".
In contrast to his military records, census records give his name mainly as Francis Sidney Kite, with variations in spelling of "Sidney". He was christened Francis Sidney Kite.
The following incidental notes were also found while looking into the life and sacrifice of Francis Kite. Included here for interest.
Dennis A. Kite (a gate maker and wood-cutter by trade) was the youngest son of Amos and Mary Ann Kite. By the time he was attested in Sittingbourne (6th December 1915) he was married (Ch.ofE.) to Lilly (née Croucher) and had a son, Amos John Kite (less than 4 years old as he is not shown in the 1911 Census). The family lived in Temple Cottage, Doddington. Lily was one of four daughters of John Croucher, farmer and fruit grower of Broom Hill, Wychling. Her younger sister, Florence Croucher, married Denis's brother, Sidney Francis Kite!
His Statement of the Services show he was moved into the Army Reserve on 7th December 1915 and mobilized a year later on 29th December 1916. However, the next day, he was relegated to Class W Reserve (WR/40363) till called for. He was finally posted on 24th January 1917 and embarked with the B.E.F. on 10th February.
His Military History shows he was Home from 20th January to 9th February 1917. He then joined the British Expeditionary Force from 10th February to 7th October 1917. He was then Home again 8th October to 20th April 1918. This return Home followed injury through a gunshot wound to his right thigh on 27th September 1917. As a consequence of this "sickness", he was Discharged on 23rd April 1918 as "no longer physically fit for War Service."
Older brother to Francis Kite (b.1878) who lived on to 1940 when he died at the age of 62. However, there is no corroboration that this is the same person in the surviving Medal Cards. Records for "Ernest R. Kite" show as a Private in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Posted 27th September 1915 to France. He would have been 37 years old.
Reported in the Kent Messenger of 19th December 1914, p.4:
LENHAM'S LUCK - SOLDIERS' RECIPROCITY.
On Thursday, the 19th November, about 500 men of the First London Royal Engineers, with their officers, arrived at Lenham, and were lodged in the "jam factory," which had been commandeered by the Government for military purposes. The factory had been empty for several years. The soldiers arrived in a snowstorm from Crowborough, Sussex, and were in a very wet condition. As there were no fire-places or stoves in the factory, there were no fires or heating arrangements at which they could warm themselves or dry their clothes, nor were there any lamps or other lights. They had a wretched time for the first two or three days after their arrival, until lamps and stoves were procured. It is due to them, however, to add that no complaints were made by them; on the contrary, they said they preferred their existing surroundings to being under canvas at Crowborough. A day or two after their arrival about half were ordered away, but the remainder have been occupied in digging trenches and redoubts in the neighbourhood of Lenham. Owing to the wet and tempestuous weather which has prevailed almost ever since their arrival, they have mew with much sympathy from the inhabitants.
With the view of evincing this sympathy and providing for their comfort in the evenings, the Rev. F.M. Etherington, the Vicar of Lenham, placed the schools at their disposal when not otherwise occupied, and had the rooms well lighted and warmed. In this he was efficiently assisted by Mr. Underwood, the schoolmaster. On Saturday, the 28th November, and the two succeeding Saturdays, Mr. W.H. Cortlandt Mahon, of Boughton Malherbe, assisted by his daughter, Miss Nita Mahon, Mrs. Kitchin, and others, provided musical entertainments for the soldiers, several of whom took part.