Edward John Croft

219160, Master-At-Arms, HMS Victory, Royal Navy

Died on the 30th March 1919 aged 33

Master at Arms Edward John Croft

Edward was born on the 5th September 1886, the son of Arthur William & Laura Croft of the High Street, Stevenage. He entered the Royal Navy as a Boy seaman in the Signals branch in 1904. By 1906 he had become a leading seaman and later in 1908-9 took part in the suppression of the Armenian massacres and the Messina earthquake rescues. In 1911 he was promoted to Petty Officer. He was selected for duty on HMS Renown and served on her between 7th September 1905 to 31st May 1906 where he was the personal Signal of the Prince & Princess of Wales, later to become King Edward & Queen Mary. In 1913 Edward transferred to the Naval Police and later served on HMS Invincible. He served in the super dreadnought HMS Agincourt from the outbreak of war until April 1915 after which he was posted to the light cruiser HMS Caroline as acting Master at Arms.

Whilst serving with this cruiser he took part in several actions and was involved in the Battle of Jutland during which he suffered shell shock and was sent to Haslar Hospital for recovery. In January 1917 he was posted to the shore offices of the Dover Submarine Flotilla and whilst there a bomb fell, during an enemy air raid, quite close to him causing a reoccurrence of the shell shock. He returned to Haslar hospital and gradually developed Locomotor Ataxia, which is described as an inability to precisely control one's own bodily movements. People afflicted with this disease may have developed it as a result of contracting tertiary syphilis. The chilling effects of this condition and its connection to venereal disease are vividly dramatized in the story "Love O' Women" by Rudyard Kipling. The condition eventually led to Edward’s death in March 1919.

He is buried in the Royal Naval Cemetery, Eastney, Southsea. (Grave Reference: H.10.24)

Charles Sydney Day

331036, Private, 10th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers.

Died Of Wounds on the 4th June 1918 aged 33.

Private Charles Sydney Day

Charles was the son of Charles & Caroline Day of White Hart Close, Stevenage. He married Agnes Oakley on the 14th July 1917 in Walkern, Hertfordshire. He had served for over three years in No.4 Company of the Hertfordshire Regiment and was later transferred to the Lancashire Fusiliers, possibly as a result of the losses suffered by the British army in the German Spring Offensive of 1918.

On the 4th June 1918 the Battalion was situated in Beaumont Trench near the village of Beaumont Hamel in the Somme sector of the Western Front. At 2.30am their positions were subjected to a heavy artillery barrage, under the cover of which the Germans launched a Trench Raid. Three raiding parties, containing approximately 40 men, attacked the British positions and initially overwhelmed one part of the trench. However, after a fierce fight they were eventually driven off leaving the Battalion with 13 Killed, 15 Missing and 21 Wounded, including Charles Day.

He died later that morning as a result of his injuries and is buried in the Acheux War Cemetery, France. (Grave Reference: I.D.24)

Medal Entitlement: 1915 Star, British War Medal & Victory Medal


Herbert Thomas Day

25426, Private, 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment.

Died of Wounds on the 1st November 1917 aged 23.

Private Herbert Thomas Day

Herbert was born on the 1st September 1894, the son of Thomas & Mary Day (nee Austin). Records show that the family lived in Alleyns Road, Stevenage, and that Herbert followed in his father’s footsteps by taking up an occupation as a House Painter.

He was to lose his life during the closing stages of the Third Battle of Ypres, commonly referred to as the Battle of Passchendaele. The offensive had been launched on the 31st July 1917 and continued until the fall of Passchendaele village on 6th November.  Although it resulted in gains for the Allies it was by no means the breakthrough General Haig intended, and such gains as were made came at great cost in human terms. The area had suffered the heaviest rains it had seen for 30 years and this, combined with intensive shelling from both sides, had turned the ground into a hellish morass.

His battalion were involved in an attack near Westrozebeke, which is North-West of Ypres. The assault commenced at 05.50am and the going was very bad with many men up to their knees in mud. To make matters worse, the Germans were expecting the attack and once it commenced they brought heavy shelling to bear on the advancing British troops. Even those who were not caught in the barrage could not move and were shot by German snipers while sticking in the mud. Little headway was made and the Battalion suffered some 234 casualties, including 157 wounded. Herbert Day was amongst those wounded and died the following day as a result of his injuries.

He is buried in the Dozinghem Military Cemetery, Poperinge, Belgium. (Grave Reference: XII.D.18.)

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

Thomas George Dodds

M2/045520, Private, 402nd M.T. Coy. Army Service Corps, attd. 184th Siege Bty Royal Garrison Artillery.

Died on the 30/08/1918 aged 28.

Son of Mr. and Mrs. T. David Dodds, of 5, Chapman's Terrace, Park St., Hatfield, Herts. Born in Walkern.

He is buried in the Faubourg D'amiens Cemetery, Arras, France. VII. E. 25.

Alfred William Draper

3/7915, Company Sergeant Major, 4th Battalion. Bedfordshire Regiment.

Killed In Action on the 12th April 1918 aged 37.

Company Sergeant Major Alfred William Draper

Alfred was born on the 2nd March 1881, the son of William & Rebecca Draper of Primrose Hill, Stevenage. After leaving school he worked as a Groom and a Domestic Gardner but by 1911 was employed as a Roadman for the Hertfordshire County Council. He married Annie Briars in 1908 and the couple lived at 9 Church Path, Stevenage.

Alfred arrived in France on the 30th August 1915 and served with the Battalion in many actions on the Western Front.

The German Spring offensive in March 1918 sent the British Army in the Somme region into complete disarray. The speed of the enemy advance often left units cut-off and the fighting was both confused and bitter. During the period 22nd - 27th March the Battalion had been in continuous action and it was during this time that that their commander, Lieutenant Colonel Collings-Wells received the Victoria Cross. Alfred had been in the thick of the fighting throughout the entire time with only a short period of rest.

On the 3rd April 1918, after some re-organisation, the Battalion took over the sector on the Mesnil Ridge. Here, over the next few days, they were again involved in heavy fighting with German troops who were still attempting to break through the British lines. Alfred was killed, probably as a result of shellfire, when the battalion were in the line at Forceville, South of Mesnil. His younger brother, George, had been killed in the same sector of the Somme two years earlier.

Alfred is buried in the Aveluy Wood Cemetery, Mensil-Martinsart, France. (3.G.4.)

Medal Entitlement: 1914/15 Star, British War Medal & Victory Medal

Ernest Albert Draper

39546 Private 1st Essex Regiment (112th Brigade. 37th Division)

Killed In Action on the 23rd August 1918.

(Formerly M/304620 Army Service Corps)

Ernest was the husband of Louisa Draper (nee Leggett) who lived with his in-laws at Admirals Walk, Hoddesdon. At the outbreak of the Great War he enlisted at Broxboune and his trade as Coachman led him into service in the Army Service Corps. He was later transfered into the Essex Regiment and served on the Western Front.

On the 23rd August 1918 the Battalion were positioned in Halifax Trench near the village of Fonquevillers, in the Somme sector. At 3.50am they moved to forward positions near Achiet Le Petit in readiness for an assault on German trenches near the village. As the attack got under way they were met with very heavy enemy artillery, machine gun and rifle fire. This soon held up the assault and support was requested from British Tanks. Only one Tank was available and this was used to quell some of the enemy fire, which it managed to successfully achieve. However, the Battalion had suffered considerable casualties with 4 Officers and 86 Other Ranks either Killed or Missing.

Ernest is buried in the Foncquevillers Military Cemetery, France. 

George Draper

4/6668, Private, “A” Company. 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment.

Missing In Action on the 30th July 1916 aged 20.

Thiepval Memorial, Somme.

George was the son of Mrs Rebecca Draper of 35 Haycroft Road, Stevenage. He joined the 1st Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment and was posted to France on the 8th November 1914, and was later transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment and served continuously on the Western Front until his death during the Battle of the Somme. His older brother, Alfred, was killed two years later whilst fighting in the same sector of the Somme.

The Battalion were part of the 30th Division and on the 30th July 1916 were ordered to make an attack due East to capture the German second line of defence between Falfemont Farm and Guillemont. The task was a big one where, in one place, the 89th Brigade had to advance for a distance of over a mile of big rolling countryside. Prior to the general advance a subsidiary attack was planned on Maltzhorn Farm. At 22.00 pm on the 29th July the battalion moved up to its assembly positions South of Bernafoy and Trones Wood. The Germans shelled the battalion with Tear Gas and a new sort of Gas that caused violent stomach pains and headaches amongst the men. "A" Company attacked Maltzhorn Farm with a battalion of French troops and although they did not hold the Farm the attack was deemed a success. About 70 to 80 German troops were taken by surprise in a trench running North to South through the Farm and were, with one exception, all killed. "A" Company returned to the battalion having suffered about 30 casualties of which George Draper was one.  Another Stevenage man, Alfred Forder, was also to lose his life in the same assault later in the day.

George Draper has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France. (Pier/Face 2C.)

Medal Entitlement: 1914 Star, British War Medal & Victory Medal.

Henry Collins Draper

5433, Corporal, 64th Company. Machine Gun Corps (Infantry).

(Formerly15592 Bedfordshire Regiment)

Missing In Action on the 14th July 1916 aged 20 .

Thiepval Memorial, Somme.

Henry was the son of William John & Elizabeth Sarah Draper of St Pringes Cottage, Aston. After leaving school he worked as a Garden Labourer.

On the 14th July 1916 , shortly after the commencement of the Battle of the Somme, the Battalion were located in a place called Bottom Wood. Here they were in support of an attack by the 110th Infantry Brigade on Mametz Wood. It is not known at which point Henry Draper was killed but the action on this day was very intense.

Henry has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France. (Pier/Face 5C.) 

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

William Stanley Draper

330769, Private, 1st Cambridgeshire Regiment.

Died Of Wounds on the 4th July 1918

On the 4th July 1918 the Battalion were located in Martinsart in the Somme sector. They had taken over these positions from the 6th Queens Regiment on the 22nd June and were involved in a minor operation to capture machine guns and prisioners. Once they went forward they came under heavy fire from both machine Guns and Trench Mortars. Eventually, after three hours they were forced to return to their positions after 1 Officer and 3 Other Ranks had been wounded. One of these was William Draper who lost his battle for life later that day.

William is buried in the Harponville Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France. (Grave E.13.) 

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal