First World War Project
Percy William CROWHURST (of Oare)
b. Q3(Oct-Dec) 1885
Private, Service Number 456
Census Data: In 1911 census, Percy was one of eight children (all but his eldest sister, Gertrude, were born in Oare), four other siblings died in childhood (including his twin brother, Charles). His father, Charles Ebenezer Crowhurst (born Preston, Faversham, Kent), living most of his life in Brents, he was a bargeman (captain) working for the Oare Gun Cotton Manufacturers. In 1901, he describes his employer as "Nitric Acid Makers", which may indicate his main cargo!). When old enough, both Percy and his sister "Nellie" (baptised Ellen) joined their father's employer as "factory workers" in the Gun Cotton Manufacturers at Oare.
The parental home in 1901 was Russell Place, Oare, and ten years later the larger family moved into No.2, Amos Cottages (six rooms), Oare. The local Voluntary Corps of Heavy Artillery [(1st Kent Royal Garrison Artillery (Volunteers)] was also based near Oare, which may have influenced Percy's initial bids to sign up.
In contrast with so many of our local casualties, Percy's military records have survived and illustrate a chequered path into active service overseas. Starting in 1912, Percy enlisted with Home Counties Royal Garrison Artillery Heavy Battery (this was a Unit of the pre-WW1 Territorial Force). In 1914, Percy is recorded as enlisting in Newcastle (!) with the Royal Garrison Artillery where he was again assessed "unfit". Finally, in 1915, he joined the Buffs and was assigned to the Special Reserve. It was in this Kentish regiment that he lost his life at a time when the Buffs were facing grim fighting near Ypres when all available men were drafted into the regiment at the Front.
So, what can we learn about Percy William Crowhurst from his military records? Firstly, he was very keen to 'join up' well before war broke out. Secondly, on the face of it, Percy was only just about fit enough to serve his country.
4th December 1912 - Home Counties Royal Garrison Artillery Heavy Battery
At the age of 17 years and 3 months, living in the parental home in Church Road, Oare, Percy applied to the Home Counties Royal Garrison Artillery Heavy Battery with the Regimental No.456. He was only 5 feet, 5 inches tall (165cm), his chest measurement was 34½" with a 2" expansion. Small in today's world but not so in 1912. His vision is "good" and physical was apparently "good". Curiously his Statement of Services simply says he was "present" in 1913. From the paperwork, it looks as though Percy was one amongst many who were identified for reassignment from the "Special Reserve or Territorial Force". He was discharged from the Territorial Force at the Faversham Station on 24th February 1914 with 1 year and 83 days reckonable service and of "good" character.
25th February 1914 - No.1 Depot, Royal Horse & Royal Field Artillery
Percy was attested into the R.H.R.F.A. at Chatham on this date but not finally approved until 2nd March 1914 when he was then sent to No.1 Depot R.F.A. Newcastle-on-Tyne. His records were then passed to the Royal Dockyard, Woolwich, for future custody. His "good" character was confirmed as were his other physical measurements. Eyes and hair were brown and his complexion described as "fresh".
The next document (Proceedings on Discharge), showing his Regimental Number as 76473 shows he was acting as a Driver. Now 18 years and 4 months old, 5 feet and 6¼ inches tall, a 35-inch chest measurement and 3 inches expansion. Weight 121 lbs. So, he responded well to the army life - the only distinguishing feature was the amputation of his 2nd finger on the left hand ("gun-shot wound left hand (before enlistment).") "Second finger deficient and a tender scar over 2nd metacarpal bone. Seen by M.I.R. on 31st March 1914. Recommended for discharge on A.F.B. 204." "Loss of middle finger (unable to hold reins)."
He continued to be assessed as of "good character" - "clean, punctual and steady." On 17th April 1914 (in Newcastle), he is discharged as "Not being likely to become an efficient Soldier" (Medically Unfit). Paragraph 392 (111)C, King's Regulations. Authority: Headquarters N. Command No. 35300/25/M. This decision was dated 6th April 1914. He was credited 52 days "Statement of Service".
3rd October 1914 - The Buffs (Special Reserve)
Working again as a labourer in the Gun Cotton Factory, Percy abandons the RGA in favour of three years short service - as a private. He enlisted at Canterbury into the Depot with Initial Regimental number 705, crossed through with S. 675 added. Ten days later (13th October) he was posted to the 3rd Battalion (Special Reserve). On 6th March 1915, he was posted with the 1st Battalion in which he served until he was killed in action on 20th July 1915. His records show reckonable service of 291 days.
His Army Form 5080 (Statement of Names and Addresses of all relatives) was witnessed by A. Dyer, Clerk in Holy Orders, Oare, Faversham. Confirms his father as Charles E. Crowhurst (christened "Ebenezer Charles") and his mother as Annie. Brothers he names as Sydney (21) and Ernest (17). Sisters he lists as Florence (19), Emily (14), and Dorothy (12). All are listed with the same address. His personal property was recovered and returned to his father. The value of his effects (wages etc) is recorded as £1 19s. 9d on 13th January 1916. His father also received £3 from War Gratuity on 9th May 1919.
A cross was erected on his burial in "La Brique Military Cemetery No.1. (IN FIELD ON THE NORTH SIDE OF THE "IN de GROOTE BRIE" CABARET. ON THE EAST SIDE OF THE YPRES-LA BRIQUE ROAD)." (Map Ref. Sh.28.C.26.d.65.15.).