George William Stockwell
1879—6th October 1917
Captain George William Stockwell of the 5th Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment was Killed in Action on 6th October, 1917, in Flanders.
All four of George’s grandparents were born in the first decade of the 19th Century. The paternal side were from Fareham, Hampshire: bricklayer Thomas Stockwell married Sarah Tee on 6th April, 1820. Lewes in Sussex was home for the distaff side: carpenter Alexander Stronach married Harriet Luckin on 7 September 1828.
From these unions, George’s parents were William Henry Stockwell and Eliza Luckin Stronach, born in Fareham (1841) and Lewes (1838) respectively. Henry, as he chose to call himself, became a potter.1 Before their marriage on 5th September, 1863, Eliza worked first as a dressmaker (aged 13) and then, having moved away from home, as a domestic servant to a Bedfordshire Curate, in Cranfield (aged 23).
Henry is unusual in that we have a complete set of eight census records (1841 to 1911) covering his eighty-one years of life. Once he reached adulthood, Henry was constantly on the move and the documents plot his travels around southern England: Fareham, Hampshire (childhood, 1841 and 1851); Littlehampton, Sussex (1861); Portsmouth, Hampshire (1871); Cranborne, Dorset (1881); Freshwater, Isle of Wight (1891); Guernsey, Channel Islands (1901) and Hove, Sussex (1911).2 As their children were born, other places of residence are revealed in the record.
Nine months after Henry and Eliza’s marriage, their first child was born, the first of eight:3
Louisa Kate, b.1864, Littlehampton, Sussex
Mary E., b.1866, Maidstone, Kent
John Henry, b.1868, Billinghurst, Sussex
Agnes Margaret, b.1870, Portsmouth, Hampshire
Alick4 Stronach, b.1873, Weymouth, Dorset
Minnie Florence, b.1876, Fareham, Hampshire
Lily May (Lissie), b.1878, Fareham, Hampshire
George William, b.1879, Fareham, Hampshire
When George was seven years old, his mother Eliza died at the age of forty-eight (1886). This was during their time living at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight. Apart from the tragedy and sense of loss, it must have created severe practical problems for Henry. We don’t know if Kate and Mary returned home to look after the family, but we find that about eight months after his loss, Henry remarried.
In the Summer of 1887 Henry married Jane Pringle (née Willis) and Jane joined the family at Freshwater. For both it was a second marriage and Jane had one child, Thomasina, from her first marriage. Jane’s employer before this second marriage will be known to all readers. She had been working in Belgravia, London as a ‘Ladys Maid’ [sic] to Emily Tennyson. Head of the house was her husband Alfred whose occupation was listed as ‘Poet Laureate’.5 6 The typical Belgravia home at 9 Upper Belgrave Street, was the Tennyson’s town house. Thomasina went on to marry her step-brother John Henry Stockwell in 1903.
It may be entirely coincidental, but it is possible that Jane’s employment in the Tennyson household was instrumental in her meeting Henry. Alfred Tennyson and his wife lived for thirty-nine years at Faringford House, Bedbury Lane, on the edge of Freshwater. The couple rented the house 1853 and bought it in 1858. Queens Road, where the Stockwells lived, adjoins Bedbury Lane.7
Little is known about George’s schooling. At the age of 12 he is listed as a recipient of a certificate for good attendance at a Sunday School prize-giving.8 The event took place at Freshwater in the Isle of Wight.9 The prizes were awarded by Rev. John Cartwright, who was a Methodist minister in Freshwater, so it is reasonable to presume that the family were linked to the Methodist church, especially in the light of an absence of Anglican baptismal records in the family.
Rev. Cartwright, addressing the recipients, said,
‘it was the object of the teachers giving the prizes and certificates to stimulate the children to cultivate habits of punctuality and regularity, so that when they went forth to fight the battle of life they might prove themselves reliable and worthy of trust.’
We know from later college records that George excelled in his examinations, so it is a possibility that he may have gone to grammar school. Whether this was on the Isle of Wight or the Channel Isles we do not know.
George had elected to follow a career in teaching and to further this end, he secured a place at training college.
Training at Winchester Training College
The students wrote and published their own publication, The Wintonian, which was a potpourri of happenings in college life. George is recorded more than most, possibly signalling the impact of his character within the community.
In his first year, George seconded Mr. Miles in a debate entitled ‘Has Sport taken Too Great a Hold Upon the British People?’ He opposed the motion and it was reported that he made a well-reasoned speech. At the end of year, he was awarded a ‘First Division’ pass in his exams.
As a Senior—second-year student—George played the part of Bardolph in the production of Henry V put on by the Seniors—one wonders if his facial features unfortunately suited him for the part. He also won a doubles tennis tournament with Mr. G. E. Smith in a match against Hartley College.10
As with all pre-1908 students, George would have been enrolled into “I” Company of 1st Volunteer Battalion Hampshire Regiment—usually referred to as the College Company. This was mandatory and enrolment would have taken place around the second week of term. The uniform of Scarlet tunic and black trousers harked back to a previous military era and was far removed from the khaki he would eventually wear. There is a short history of the College Company here.
It would appear from the Wintonian edition after his leaving, that he moved first to a temporary appointment:
‘Mr. Stockwell who recently went to Portsmouth has been appointed Assistant Master at the Central District School Southampton’ 11
George must have spent only two years at the school. This was the minimum required after training, in order to become a Certificated teacher. His next teaching post would take him a long way from home: the Far East.
His new school was to be in what was at that time known as The Malacca Straits Settlements. This was a group of four British semi-enclaves12 on the tip and west coast of the Malayan peninsular: Singapore, Malacca, Dinding and Penang.
He arrived in Singapore in July 1903 and from there he wrote regularly of his exploits and experiences, to the editors of The Wintonian.
In 1904 he was listed as a Qualified Juror in Singapore and held the post of senior assistant master at the Raffles Institution, St. Andrew’s House, Singapore.13
George joined the Singapore Volunteer Artillery and initially held the rank of Gunner. On 23rd July 1904 took second prize at ‘The Singapore Bisley’ shooting competition with a score of 96/100. The report of the event comments that ‘the most pleasing incident in the day’s shooting was the excellent score put on by Gun. G. Stockwell who has only come to the fore within the last two or three months and looks as if he would be a man to be reckoned with in the future and a likely member of this year’s Interport Team.’ 14 He would be promoted in the Singapore Volunteer Artillery to Bombardier and, on 28th August, 1906, Sergeant.
An edition of The Wintonian covering the years 1904 to 1906 has a Personal Notes section which records, ‘A splendid series of snapshots received from Mr. W. G. Stockwell (99-01), Singapore, shows that teachers there manage to combine a good deal of pleasure in the way of shooting, fishing, etc., with their scholastic duties.’ The ‘etc.’ is covered in numerous press articles from his years in the Settlements. He played tennis at the Singapore Cricket Club, water polo at the Swimming Club15 and golf when in Malacca, at the Golf Club there. Also evident from the ships’ passenger lists carried in the newspapers, is the fact that he freely moved between the Settlements on a frequent basis. The picture painted is very close to the stereotypical view of British colonial life.
In the Summer of 1907, George moved the 125 miles northwest to the Malacca settlement, where he was appointed as one of four European Masters at Malacca High School, appointed by the Governor of the Settlement on 31st October, 1907.16 In 1908 he appears to have been ill. The Straits Settlements paid the sum of $132.50 as their share ‘in connection with the illness of Mr. G. Stockwell, European Master, High School.’17
The next we hear of him is that, on 1st October 1908, he was transferred from Malacca to fill a Second-Grade vacancy at Victoria Bridge School, Singapore, arriving there on the SS Carlyle the day before his new term.18 In 1910 he appears once more as European Master on the staff list at the Raffles Institution.19
Around this time, he may have returned to England for a brief visit. The Wintonian from the 1908-1910 period records,
‘Friends of Mr. Stockwell (1899-01), will be glad to learn that he is in good health at Singapore, and hopes shortly to be in England on leave.’
Later, George wrote to his Alma Mater of having left schools work:
‘[We] received a long and interesting letter from Mr G Stockwell (1899-01), who… has now relinquished the teaching career and “gone into” rubber. (Address: Tannah Merah Estate; via Jasin, Malacca.)’ He was a rubber plantation manager20 or planter.21
Daily work on a rubber plantation and the social life of the British colonial in the Far East must have seemed far removed from the gathering threat of war in Europe. And yet it was not entirely disconnected: many of the expatriate community were forces personnel. Water polo matches and swimming competitions tended to be against the Royal Garrison Artillery or the crews of visiting naval ships, and many of George’s friends held military rank. The Empire was, at its heart, maintained by its military, and so the call to arms would have been clearly heard.
Back to Blighty
To that call, George responded. He left Singapore on 26th January, 1915 ‘The P. and O. steamer Nankin leaving for home this afternoon will take away quite a number of men from Malaya who have been promised commissions in Kitchener’s Army, or are applying for them upon arrival in England, There are already quite a number on board from Shanghai, Manila and Hongkong, and they will be augmented by the following from the Straits and the F.M.S.: …G. Stockwell (Penang)…’ 22 Nankin docked in London on 8th March, 1915.
He started his wartime service with a bewildering succession of changes and promotions. By the 11th March he received his Commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the 13th Service Battalion Hampshire Regiment.23 He did not stay long at that rank: on 29th March he was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant and moved from the Reserve (Service) Battalion to a Regular Battalion.24 A belated notice in the London Gazette edition of 15th January 1916, tells us that George was transferred from The Hampshire Regiment to The Dorsetshire Regiment on 5th September. He would serve throughout his wartime service with the 5th Battalion Dorsets. After 4 days in his new Battalion, he received a further promotion to Temporary Captain. From this time on, George would alternate between Lieutenant and Temporary Captain, as needs of his Battalion demanded. He would be promoted to Temporary Captain no less than four times.25
George would have travelled out to Gallipoli to join the 5th Dorsets; they had been there since 11th July, when they had landed at Suvla Bay. Compared to many Battalions in that theatre, they lost relatively few in fighting, but sickness took a heavy toll. In the month George joined them, sixty men were hospitalised with disease. By mid-October they were losing five percent of their fighting strength per week. The general withdrawal from this failed campaign came in January 1916. The Battalion were redeployed to Egypt, where they remained for six months, digging defences against an expected Ottoman attack which never materialised.
In July 1916 the 5th were sent to France, joining VI Corps in the Third Army. The Somme offensive had begun at the beginning of the month and George’s Battalion first went into the front line in the quieter sector south of Arras. In September, the Battalion moved south, to just below Thiepval at Mouquet Farm—a much more active section. Just before moving to this new area, he wrote to a friend back in Singapore, reported in The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 12 October 1916. The tenor of the letter is clearly bluff triumphalism, colonial, and of the era—a mode of expression which no doubt George picked up during his time in ex-pat communities of the Far East. This is evident in his other letters and it does not fall easily on today’s ear; it is also an attitude that is uncommon among his fellow Wintonians on the memorial roll:
BRITISH ON TOP.
WHAT A SINGAPORE OFFICER SAYS.
Capt. Geo. Stockwell of the 5th Dorsets writing from France after having been in the Dardanelles and in Egypt, to a friend in Singapore, says: I forgot when, where and what I wrote you last. Here we have no abiding city, in other words we are continually on the move and between moves we work or scrap like hell as occasion demands. I believe I told you I was in France. We’ve have [sic] done one 22 days’ spell in the front line, and have lost several good pals—including the closest friend I had in the battalion, a fine soldier and one of the best in every way. We are very shortly going into about the the hottest corner of the lot… [ellipsis in original] Our men are in fine fettle and I am confident will make a name for themselves in the show. Everybody is very confident and cheery here, which is much more than can be said for our squareheaded opponents. In the air we have and overwhelming superiority. Don’t take any notice of the ‘toshy’ home papers. We see. [sic] It is nothing to see 20 30 [sic] of our ’planes going over together, while the Boche plane is a very timid bird, who invariably flies at a very great height. Our artillery too is easily ascendant and improves in weight and accuracy daily. As for the men, well they are practically invincible equally as regards disregard of hardships or ‘frightfulness.’ I shall be jolly glad of course when I can get back East. Home is all right but… [ellipis in original]
PS. Have just completed one full year Aug. 28th 1915 Aug. 30th 1916 on active service.
At Mouquet Farm, Thiepval, a number of attacks on the farm, which was very strongly defended, resulted in huge losses. The approaches to the farm were visible to German artillery observers, who directed fire on the attackers, from three sides of the salient that had developed. In this action, two thirds of the 5th were killed or wounded.
In the bitter Winter of 1916/17 they sustained heavy losses again in the Battle of Ancre, near Beaucourt. One of those losses was the wounding of George. A report in The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (Weekly), of 16 November 1916, carries the story: (see image right) 26
We do not know how long it took George to recover and resume duties, but he was promoted once more to Temporary Captain on January 8th, 1917. This probably indicates that he had returned to active service at the front.
May and June of 1917 saw the 5th Dorsets in action at Messines. On 16th August, near Ypres, they launched a successful attack near Langemarck from which they emerged with relatively light casualties, for that time, of thirty killed and 120 wounded. In early October they lost more heavily attacking Poelcapelle in the closing phase of the bloody Third Battle of Ypres, also referred to as Passchendaele.
The account in the regimental history provides the detail. Here is its account of the 6th October:
‘The enemy’s artillery was active and his snipers very much in evidence, paying special attention to Gloster Farm, which the two front companies had chosen for their headquarters. However, several casualties had occurred here, another of the company commanders being killed. This was Captain Stockwell, an excellent officer who had joined the 5th at Gallipoli and had served with it ever since … No more officers had been killed, but Lieut. Colonel Stephenson and the Chaplain, the Rev. W. H. Kay, were wounded. In all thirty men were killed or died of wounds, fourteen were missing, one hundred and twenty wounded.’27
The Reading Mercury carried an obituary
‘CAPTAIN G. STOCKWELL
Captain George Stockwell, Dorset Regiment, killed in action, aged 38, was the youngest of nine sons of Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Stockwell, 21, Carnarvon Road, Reading. He was educated at Winchester, and subsequently went to the Malay States, where he occupied a lucrative position as manager of a rubber plantation. His lieutenant-colonel writes:— “He was one of my best officers, and his place will be very hard to fill. He was without fear, and ever since he joined the battalion in 1915 he had done fine work. His company was devoted to him. He has set a fine example of patriotism.” 
George’s grave is unknown. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, West Flanders, Belgium (Panel 92). He was survived by his father and step-mother. He never married.
Researcher and Author: John Vickers
 Up to and including the 1871 Census he is recorded as a Journeyman Potter, in 1881 as a Potter, in 1891 as a Master potter, in 1910 as a Flower Pot Manufacturer (employer), and in 1911 as Living on Private Means. The qualifier ‘Journeyman’ means that he was time-served and therefore fully qualified but being paid by the day. The term does not signify travelling but is derived from the French and Latin (journée and diurnum).
 Henry was recorded as living in Reading, Berkshire, in November 1917
 The Places of Birth listed are not reliable. Different children are recorded as born at different places on the various census returns. It would appear that Henry, if he were responsible for writing the return, could not reliably remember where his children were born, but the list gives a general idea of the breadth of home addresses
 Recorded as Alic on some records. He later became a Captain in the Army Pay Corps
 The only other family member in the house is their son Hallam Tennyson, named after Tennyson’s close friend and subject of his epic lament In Memoriam A.H.H. (Arthur Henry Hallam, 1 February 1811 – 15 September 1833)
 Jane’s daughter, recorded as ‘Tomasina’ is also at the Tennyson’s home on census day 1881, recorded as a visitor. Her name is incorrectly recorded as ‘Josina W’ in the 1991 Census. She was born in 1872 at St. Pancras, London. Her full name was Thomasina Wilhemina.
 In the Census of 1891 the Tennysons were living in their Isle of Wight home and the Stockwells were living a quarter of a mile away. By this time, he was a Peer of the Realm.
 Isle of Wight County Press and South of England Reporter – Saturday 17 January 1891
 The location may be entirely coincidental, but it is possible that Jane had retained some links with the Tennysons. Alfred Tennyson and his wife lived at Faringford House, Bedbury Lane, on the edge of Freshwater, for thirty-nine years. The couple rented the house 1853 and bought it in 1858. Queens Road, where the Stockwells lived, adjoins Bedbury Lane. See also Footnote 7.
 Hartley College, Southampton: opened as Hartley Institute in 1862 by P.M. Lord Palmerston, initially it was for the study and advancement of the sciences. It became Hartley College in 1883, Hartley University in 1902 and finally the University of Southampton in 1952.
 Central District, Argyle Road, built in 1879 for 898 children; average attendance, 372 boys, 340 girls & 279 infants; James Ewing, master; Miss Laura A. Fry, mistress; Mrs. Eleanor James, infants’ mistress (Source: Kelly’s Directory of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, 1898. p.436)
 Semi-enclave: entirely surrounded by another territory but with an open sea border
 from a List of Qualified Jurors, Singapore, 1904 published in The Straits Settlements Government Gazette, October 21, 1904.
 The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (Weekly), 8 October 1908, Page 240
 He was elected to the Swimming Club Committee in 1911. The Club had a membership of 392 at that time. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 23 March 1911, Page 8
 Colony of the Straits Settlements Blue Book 1907, pp.130, 161
 Colony of the Straits Settlements Blue Book 1908, p.C49. The evidence of this book is uncertain. He appears once as ‘C. Stockwell’ and twice as ‘G. Stockwell’. He is also listed as being both at Malacca High School and the Raffles Institute.
 The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (Weekly), 8 October 1908, Page 240
 Colony of the Straits Settlements Blue Book 1910, p.177
 Obituary, Reading Observer, Saturday 10 November 1917
 Obituary, The Straits Times, 7 December 1917, Page 8
 The Straits Times, 26 January 1915, Page 9. Penang is listed not as his home but where he boarded the ship. F.M.S.—Federated Malay States. Nankin had begun its voyage in Yokohama and called at Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Port Swettenham (now Port Klang, Malaysia), Penang, Calcutta, Colombo, Port Said, Malta, Gibraltar, and Marseilles. (Itinerary source: ship’s Passenger List)
 The Malaya Tribune, 19 May 1915
 London Gazette entry of 19th April 1915 gives the promotion and London Gazette entry of 11th November 1915 marking a simultaneous transfer from Reserve to Regular Battalion
 9/9/15, 21/12/15, 8/8/16 and 8/1/17
 The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (Weekly), of 16 November 1916, Page 314
 C. T. Atkinson, History of the Fifth Battalion, The Dorsetshire Regiment, 1914-1919, in: History of the Dorsetshire Regiment, 1914-1918, Part III, The Service Battalions (Dorchester: Henry Ling, ca. 1932), pp. 70-71. See also: http://poelcapelle14-18.be/5thdorsetshire
 Reading Mercury, Saturday 10 November 1917
Ancestry (2018). Home page. [online] Available at: www.ancestry.co.uk [Accessed 12 March 2018].
Archive.org (1907). Colony of the Straits Settlements Blue Book 1907. [online] Available at: https://archive.org/stream/bluebookforyear1907stra/bluebookforyear1907stra_djvu.txt [Accessed 12 March 2018].
Atkinson, T. (ca. 1932). History of the Dorsetshire Regiment, 1914-1918, Part III. (Dorchester: Henry Ling.
British Newspaper Archive (1891). Isle of Wight County Press and South of England Reporter – Saturday 17 January 1891, p.5. [online] Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/search/results/1891-01-17/1891-01-17?basicsearch=stockwell&somesearch=stockwell&retrievecountrycounts=false&sortorder=2&newspapertitle=isle%2bof%2bwight%2bcounty%2bpress%2band%2bsouth%2bof%2bengland%2breporter [Accessed 12 March 2018].
British Newspaper Archive (1917). Reading Observer, Saturday 10 November 1917, p.6. [online] Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/search/results/1917-11-10/1917-11-10?basicsearch=stockwell&somesearch=stockwell&retrievecountrycounts=false&sortorder=2&newspapertitle=reading%2bobserver [Accessed 2018].
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Imperial War Museum (2018). Men of the Royal West Kent Regiment receive their pay from an officer in a shell hole near Mouquet Farm, October 1916, Q 1429. [online] Available at: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205072725 [Accessed 2018].
The Keep Military Museum (2018). The 5th (Service) Battalion The Dorsetshire Regiment in World War One. [online] Available at: http://www.keepmilitarymuseum.org/history/first+world+war/the+dorsetshire+regiment/the+fifth+battalion [Accessed 12 March 2018].
National Union of Teachers. (1920). War Record 1914–1919. A Short Account of Duty and Work Accomplished During the War. London: NUT.
NewspaperSG (1908). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (Weekly), 8 October 1908, p.240 col.2. [online] Available at: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/singfreepresswk19081008-220.127.116.11?ST=1&AT=filter&K=stockwell&KA=stockwell&DF=&DT=&Display=0&AO=false&NPT=&L=&CTA=&NID=&CT=&WC=&YR=1908&QT=stockwell&oref=article [Accessed 12 March 2018].
NewspaperSG (1911). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 23 March 1911, p.8. [online] Available at: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/singfreepressb19110323-1.2.45?ST=1&AT=filter&K=stockwell&KA=stockwell&DF=&DT=&AO=false&NPT=&L=&CTA=&NID=&CT=&WC=&YR=1911&SortBy=Oldest&filterS=0&Display=0&QT=stockwell&oref=article [Accessed 12 March 2018].
NewspaperSG (1915). Malaya Tribune, on 19 May 1915, p.9. [online] Available at: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/maltribune19150519-18.104.22.168?ST=1&AT=filter&K=stockwell&KA=stockwell&DF=&DT=&Display=0&AO=false&NPT=&L=&CTA=&NID=maltribune&CT=&WC=&YR=1915&QT=stockwell&oref=article [Accessed 12 March 2018].
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NewspaperSG (1917). The Straits Times, 7 December 1917, p.8. [online] Available at: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/straitstimes19171207-1.2.41?ST=1&AT=filter&K=stockwell&KA=stockwell&DF=&DT=&Display=0&AO=false&NPT=&L=&CTA=&NID=&CT=&WC=&YR=1917&QT=stockwell&oref=article [Accessed 12 March 2018].
Poelcapelle14-18.be (2018). 5th Dorsetshire Regt. [online] Available at: http://poelcapelle14-18.be/5thdorsetshire [Accessed 12 March 2018].
Rose, M. (1981). A history of King Alfred’s College, Winchester 1840-1980. London: Phillimore.
Vickers, J. University of Winchester Chapel Memorial Rail image.
|University of Winchester Archive – Hampshire Record Office|
|47M91W/||P2/4||The Wintonian 1899-1900|
|47M91W/||P2/5||The Wintonian 1901-1902|
|47M91W/||P2/6||The Wintonian 1903-1904|
|47M91W/||P2/7||The Wintonian 1904-1906|
|47M91W/||P2/8||The Wintonian 1905-1907|
|47M91W/||P2/10||The Wintonian 1908-1910|
|47M91W/||P2/11||The Wintonian 1910-1914|
|47M91W/||P2/12||The Wintonian 1920-1925|
|47M91W/||D1/2||The Student Register|
|47M91W/||S5//5/10||Photograph of 5 alumni in Mesopotamia|
|47M91W/||Q3/6||A Khaki Diary|
|47M91W/||B1/2||Reports of Training College 1913-1914|
|47M91W/||Q1/5||Report and Balance Sheets 1904- 1949|
|47M91W/||R2/5||History of the Volunteers Company 1910|
|47M91W/||L1/2||College Rules 1920|
|Hampshire Record Office archive|
|71M88W/6||List of Prisoners at Kut|
|55M81W/PJ1||Managers’ Minute Book 1876-1903|
|All material referenced as 47M91W/ is the copyright of The University of Winchester. Permission to reproduce photographs and other material for this narrative has been agreed by the University and Hampshire Record Office.|