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Welwyn in World War I

Welwyn and District

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Ayres, Frank - On joining the Bedfords in 1916, undergamekeeper Frank Ayres gave his address as Dowdell’s Wood. He had been born at Offley, near Hitchin in 1884. He joined the 7th Battalion in France and was shot in the knee in November 1916. He was again wounded in 1917 in a grenade accident, when a Mills bomb accidentally fell from a box being carried to the front line and exploded. He was demobilised in March 1919 and died in 1933.



Beaumont, F - Enlisted in the Territorials before the war and in 1915 was sent to the Western Front with the 18th London Regiment (London Irish Rifles). He was wounded at the Battle of Loos. He fought at Ypres and was gassed in July 1017. In March 1918 he was taken prisoner in the second Battle of the Somme but escaped in the September. His residence was given as Mill Lane.



Belton, Leslie James - Leslie Belton lived in Bethel Lodge, where his father James was Pastor. He was born in Brighton in 1897, the eldest of seven children. He served in the 19th Battalion London Regiment and in 1918 was a PoW in Germany. He was Minister of the Aberdeen Unitarian Church from 1927 to 1931, after which he lectured in English at Leipzig University. He died in Wuppertal, Germany in 1949, where was working on the re-organisation of the German education system after World War II.



Bennett, Herbert Alfred - Herbert Bennett was born to George and Mary Ann Bennett on the 20th July 1891 and baptised in the Parish Church on the 6th September. The family lived in the Old Rectory in Mill Lane where Herbert worked firstly as an Errand Boy and then as a Greengrocers Assistant. Along with his brothers George and William he attended Welwyn Evening School during 1907-8. Herbert served in the Rifle Brigade.

His brother Ernest Bennett died at the Somme in 1916.



Bennett, William Charles - William Bennett was born to George and Mary Ann Bennett on the 2nd December 1893 and baptised in the Parish Church on the 4th February the following year. The family lived in the Old Rectory in Mill Lane where William worked as a Blacksmith’s Striker. Along with his brothers George and Herbert he attended Welwyn Evening School during 1907-8. William joined the Army Service Corps in August 1914 and was sent to France in October as a lorry driver. He served with various units but was finally with the 498th Siege Battery. He served in the Retreat from Antwerp, at La Bassee, Armentieres and on the Somme. He returned home and was demobilised in 1919.

His brother Ernest Bennett died at the Somme in 1916.



Bent, James Clark - James Bent was born 1880, in Norfolk. He worked as Caretaker at Wendover Lodge in Church Street, home of the Scott-Gatty family, whose son Charles died whilst serving with the Hertfordshire Regiment. He also served with the Hertfordshire Regiment, before being transferred to the 6th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry. In 1918 he was being held as a PoW in Germany.



Berry, George Henry - George was born in 1887 in Hertford. His father, also George worked as a Gasworks Stoker in the Welwyn Gas Works. This was at the bottom of Welwyn Hill, where the family also lived. In 1901 George junior was also working at the Gasworks as a Labourer., But by 1911 he had left home and was working in London as a Chauffeur. In April 1918 when George joined the Grenadier Guards he was living and working in Watford as a Police Constable. He was not posted overseas before hostilities were over and was demobilised in 1920. His brother John (below) served in the RFA.



Berry, John William - This soldier served in the Royal Field Artillery and was a younger brother of George Henry (above). He volunteered in September 1915 and the following year saw action against Turkish forces in Mesopotamia. He was demobilised in March 1919.



Betts, Francis Samuel - Francis Betts was the son of a Welwyn publican, William Betts, who was landlord of The Boot on the corner of Mimram Road and the High Street, now Country Properties Estate Agents. Francis had already served in the South African War when he re-enlisted, aged 35, into the Army Post Office Corps in March 1913. He was one of the first to be sent to France in August 1914 and soon after he was promoted to Sergeant. He served in Salonika from 1916 to 1919 after which he was demobilised. A letter sent to his uncle in Hertford reveals a little about his experiences in Salonika.



Biffen, William Edmund - Born in 1884 in Hammersmith, William Biffen worked as a Journeyman Carpenter. In 1907 he married Fanny Sarah Beechener of Welwyn in the Parish Church and lived in the Codicote Road. William served initially in the Queen’s Regiment but was transferred firstly to The Middlesex Regiment before being moved to the Royal Engineers. He served in France from the beginning of 1916 until being demobilised in June 1919, at which time he was registered as living at the Frythe Lodge, with Fanny’s parents.



Blow, Harry Nevil - Blow is a well known family name in Welwyn, Harry Nevil was born in Mill Lane to Harry, an Insurance Agent and his wife Blanche on the

6th August 1899. He is one of the few Welwyn men who served in the fledgling Air Force. He joined the Royal Naval Air Service in August 1917 as a Motor Mechanic and became part of the new Royal Air Force on the 1st April 1918. He married Ethel Maud Moss in 1926 and died in Bedford in 1990. His cousin Herman (below) also served in the RAF and survived the war.



Blow, Herman Dubois de Dunilac - Herman Blow, cousin of Harry Nevil (above) was born in Welwyn in 1874. His builder father George had married Swiss born Louise Marie Dubois de Dunilac in 1871. Herman worked as a carpenter and in 1906 married Ellen Taylor in Welwyn. They lived in Mill Lane with their four children born from 1907 to 1918. Herman was serving in the army, when in 1916 he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, and then to the RAF in 1918. He was transferred to the Reserve in 1919 and discharged in April 1920. He died in 1939.





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Mill Lane

Recruiting for the Army Service Corps.

Wendover Lodge

‘The Boot’ was half way down the High Street on the right hand side

Codicote Road