This is of course the season when each year we remember those who died in last century’s World Wars.
It’s quite a shock to be reminded of those men and their families who – had we been living at the time – would have been our neighbours and perhaps friends here on Fawnbrake Avenue during the First World War. We might have seen them leave; we would have witnessed and often shared the distress that the dreaded telegram brought to their families.
History, yes – but not that long ago, and still on our doorsteps.
We can understand this more easily these days because of the moving and detailed research conducted in recent years by members of the Herne Hill Society with help from the students of the Charter School North Dulwich and other local volunteers.
The result is an impressive memorial website which now contains over 550 full records of men (and two women) from Herne Hill who served and died in the First World War. The Remembering Herne Hill website captures not just the names but important background details about those who died, bringing them to life in our minds. The website also has an interactive map that lets us view local casualties from individual roads in Herne Hill and neighbouring streets.
The research, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund is largely complete. It establishes that there were at least seven of our then neighbours on this street alone who lost their lives in this war.
Alongside that online catalogue of names and personal details, there is now of course a physical memorial displayed prominently in our station.
Fawnbrake residents who died in the Great War
A list follows, with links to the more complete descriptions which can be accessed via the map on the memorial website.
12 Fawnbrake Avenue ~ Second Lieutenant Harold James Cryer, died 13 October 1917
Harold Cryer was born in Brixton in 1898. The family attended St Saviour’s Church, Herne Hill Road, where Harold became a choir boy.
He was killed on 13 October 1917, at the age of just 19, piloting his Sopwith Camel single-seat fighter at an airfield in England. (Accidents were common.)
His funeral service was held at St Saviour’s on 18 October 1917 and he was buried at West Norwood Cemetery on the same day (his address being recorded as 12 Fawnbrake Avenue, although the CWGC website gives his parents’ address as 24 Ferndene Road Herne Hill). Harold’s brother Leonard survived the war, married Clarice Brett in 1922 and died in 1961.
Full details about Lieutenant Cryer at https://tinyurl.com/y5ou35kh
20 Fawnbrake Avenue ~ Private James MacGregor, died 13 February 1916
James MacGregor was born on 3 February 1896, the second son of Frank MacGregor from Kinfauns, Perthshire, and Mary MacGregor from Wallacetown, Ayrshire. The first family home was at 57 Lowden Road. On 29 March 1896 he was baptised at Camberwell Presbyterian Church.
By the time of the 1901 Census the MacGregors had moved to 20 Fawnbrake Avenue. On 8 August 1905 James entered Jessop Road School, going on to study at Alleyn’s in Dulwich.
James MacGregor joined the 20th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). They landed in France in November 1915 and were transferred to 19th Brigade, 33rd Division.
Private MacGregor was killed in action near Cambrin on 13 February 1916 and is buried at Cambrin Churchyard Cemetery, about 24 kilometres north of Arras and eight kilometres east of Bethune.
Full details about Private MacGregor at https://tinyurl.com/y45rf36c
40 Fawnbrake Avenue ~ Lance Corporal Sidney Giles, died 1 July 1916
Sidney Giles lived at 40 Fawnbrake Avenue, the youngest of the five children of Herbert and Martha Giles.
Sidney was a Lance Corporal in the 14th Battalion (London Scottish) of the London Regiment. He fought in the war from January 1916 and was killed in action on the first day of Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916, aged just 22.
Having no known grave, he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, and his name is also on the St Paul’s Memorial Screen in Herne Hill.
Full details about Lance Corporal Giles at https://tinyurl.com/yxwadqz5
90 Fawnbrake Avenue ~ Lieutenant Reginald Dell, died 8 May 1918
Reginald Dell was born in Wells, Somerset in 1887. At some point he became a resident of Herne Hill. He married Hilda Margaret Fox in Wells in early 1918, but he was killed in May of the same year, serving in the Machine Gun Corps.
His military records cite his address as 90 Fawnbrake Avenue.
The 20th Battalion of the Machine Gun Corps was formed in March 1918 and fought at the Battle of St. Quentin and suffered heavy casualties at the Battle of Rosieres. In April the troops were withdrawn while they waited for new drafts. However, by this time, Reginald had clearly suffered fatal wounds and died on 8 May. He is buried in the Communal Cemetery of Avesnes-Sur-Helpe.
Full details about Lieutenant Dell at https://tinyurl.com/y2cxyano
107 Fawnbrake Avenue ~ Rifleman Herbert Walter Irons, died 12 February 1917
Herbert Walter Irons was born in Camberwell 1884 to William, a clerk, and Louisa. He was the eldest of their four children. The family lived at various addresses in Peckham but at some point they moved to 107 Fawnbrake Avenue.
Herbert enlisted as a rifleman with the London Regiment, 1/21st Country of London (First Surrey Rifles) but contracted nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys) whilst on active service in Belgium and he died on 12 February 1917 at the age of 33 years old. He is buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, in the West Flanders region.
Full details about Rifleman Irons at https://tinyurl.com/y6kwwntq
114 Fawnbrake Avenue ~ Driver Harry Cruse died 27 October 1918
Harry Leonard Cruse was born in Camberwell in April 1896. In 1901 the Cruse family was living at 90 Denmark Road, Camberwell but by 1911 the family had moved to 114 Fawnbrake Avenue. Harry, an only child, was a pupil at Alleyn’s School, which he left in 1912.
During the war Harry Cruse served in the Honourable Artillery Company as a driver. His unit saw active service at Aden and in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign from 1915 onwards.
Harry contracted malaria and died on 27 October 1918. He is remembered at the Damascus Memorial in Syria.
Full details about Driver Harry Cruse at https://tinyurl.com/y4owvh5n
129 Fawnbrake Avenue ~ Private Thomas Evans, died 16 September 1916
He was 30 years old when he was called up on 10 December 1915, joining the 23rd (County of London) Battalion of The London Regiment.
The second son and youngest child of Thomas (a King’s Messenger) and Ellen Augusta Evans, he and his older brother and two older sisters were all born near Morecambe Bay in Lancashire. An Architect’s Assistant, he married Eleanor Barber at St Leonard’s, Streatham, on 27 May 1916 and was listed as living at his parents’ house, 129 Fawnbrake Avenue. But with his battalion he was soon posted to France, and was killed in action on 16 September 1916 – one of many thousands killed in the heavy fighting during the Battles of the Somme in Summer/Autumn 1916.
His grave lies in the Warlencourt British Cemetery, near Bapaume in Northern France (Pas de Calais).
Private Thomas Evans’s details have not yet been entered on the database.