1918-2008: Ninety Years of Remembrance

Soldier Record

William Hartford

Contributed by: Patricia McCormack, on 2008-11-09

No portrait available
Rank
First Name William
Surname Hartford
Year of Birth 1896
Year of Death 1966
Regiment Royal Flying Corps
Place of Wartime Residence Abbeyleix, Ireland

William's Story

My father finished his apprenticeship as a carpenter on Lord de Vesci’s Irish estate in 1917. He and my mother married that October and came to England. My mother went to a big house in Chingford to work as a cook. My father travelled on to a camp on the Surrey Downs where his brother, Charlie, was serving with the ground forces of the Royal Flying Corps. My uncle later told me about the day he was watching someone climbing the hill to the camp, and thinking how like his brother this person looked. It was, indeed, his brother (my father) come to enlist.

My father was proud to serve his country

I think the camp was at Kenley, as my nephew remembers my father telling him he was working with Handley Page bombers and loved going on test flights because he was part of the maintenance crew. During my research I discovered that there were huge hangars in Kenley where the planes arrived from Croydon Assembly before flying to the front. This is, I believe, where my father trained and I have copies of two pages of his service records from the Public Records Office. These show that he served in France with the RAF from November 1918 till the summer of 1919 and that on the 19.8.19 he was transferred to RAF Reserve. We had at home two rifles and two tall vases that were empty cannon shells that my father had brought home from France and Belgium.

One story I remember my father telling us was of Christmas 1918 when the men were served dry biscuits and bully beef for their meal and they began banging their billy-cans with their spoons till officers came and appeased them by sending lorries into the French countryside to collect some more festive fare.

My father was very proud of his older brother, Edward, who was a young bank clerk in London when he joined the London Rifles in 1916 and saw service with the British Expeditionary Force in France, Salonika and Egypt. A photograph of Uncle Eddy in his officer’s uniform hung on the wall in my parents’ home.

The three brothers survived and their names are on a Roll of Honour that used to be displayed in the porch of the Anglican Church in Abbeyleix, where my grandfather worked for Lord de Vesci. Only recently have I learned that on Armistice Day, 1918 my grandfather, who had three sons serving in the war, hung the Union Jack from his house and next day all his cattle were discovered dead in his fields.

I am still trying to discover more about those years and I hope to visit Kenley.

Other memories

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