Rochester Great War Report – 1 June to 31 August, 1915

Rochester Great War Report – 1 June to 31 August, 1915

All dates relate to the date of the publication – not the actual events. Words in [square brackets] have been added by the author based on additional research.

Anti-German Feelings Continue to Grow

The sinking of the Lusitania and reports of the ill treatment of British prisoners of war, has led to a growing resentment towards Germans who are thought, as previously reported, to still be in Kent.  The military were needed to quell a riot that started in Chatham when some drunken soldiers took it into their minds that there were still businesses being run in the town by Germans.

The impact of the Princess Irene explosion continues to be felt across Medway. Members of the Cadet Corp of the Mathematical School have been enlisted to search outlying areas for debris [remains and personal items] from the explosion, and the public have been requested to help with the identification of laundry and other marks on the recovered fragments of clothing.

Of particular concern are the reports of the appalling treatment of 600 Kentish men who are being held as prisoners of war by the Germans. The matter has been raised in Parliament and an appeal for goods and money to alleviate the suffering of the Kentish POWs is being coordinated by Mr. J L Spoor of Rede Court, Rochester. 

Women of Rochester

An outstanding contribution continues to be made to the war effort by the women of Rochester. An enthusiastic meeting of the Rochester Branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies was held at the Victoria Hall. The meeting, chaired by Lady Darnley, heard a talk by Mrs. Henry Fawcett, branch president, on “What women can do during the war”. [Millicent Garrett Fawcett was probably the president of the NUWSS at this time.] A collection at the end raised £4 for the Kent Prisoner of War Fund. 

The Executive committee of the Rochester & Strood Women's Unionist Association also recently met. The committee was pleased to hear that since the association set up working parties in October "for the purpose of making garments for little children who have lost their fathers in the war", 250 items have been made. 

Slackers, Renegades and Profiteers

Sadly though there are some who are not doing as much as they might to support the war effort. The Bishop of Rochester, speaking at Penge, gave a stirring call to national service stating that the burden of war must fall on all – not just our sailors and sailors; during his address he referred to slacking as renegades. There are also some amongst us whose actions maybe undermining the war effort. Amongst many is Frederick Buley (18) from North Street, Strood who was ordered by Magistrates to pay £5 compensation and 6s 6d costs, for absenting himself from work at the Medway Steel Works that is undertaking essential work for Admiralty. 

Another instance of adulterated milk was brought before Rochester Magistrates. Alfred Reeves, a milk vendor of 314 Luton Road, who had two previous convictions for a similar offence, was fined £15 for selling milk that contained 25.9% added water. It was stated that Reeves had supplied six quarts daily to the Fort Pitt military hospital. The magistrates reported that they were going to do all that was within their power to prevent the adulteration of milk.

Threat of Zeppelins

The threat from Zeppelin raids continues to grow and in turn undermine the morale of the public. The Secretary of the Admiralty recently reported that a Zeppelin raid took place on the Northeast coast of Kent in which 15 were killed, 15 were wounded and several fires were started. To reduce the chances of an area being targeted regulations have been issued under the Defence of the Realm Act requiring communities to extinguish or obscure all light at night.

John Ford, 14 Roebuck Road, was the first to appear before Rochester Magistrates for failing to prevent the escape of light from his house. He may well have just received a cautionary warning from the police constable had he not sworn at the officer. Ford apologised for his language and because he was the first to be bought before the court, it decided not to convict him – but the magistrates did endorse the actions of the constable. Samuel Osborne of 33 Roebuck Road was not so lucky – he was fined £1 for allowing light to escape from the Rochester Seamen's Institute, but he could have been fined up to £100. 

Should there be a Zeppelin raid it is possible that our fire service will not be able to cope with the outbreak of numerous fires. Local businesses should therefore develop their own arrangements. These should include all staff - male and female - undertaking regular fire drills and ensuring that fire buckets are kept full at all times. 

Local Impact of the War

Councils across Kent are having trouble in obtaining the tar and stone required to maintain the roads. This is due to the scarcity of craft capable of bringing materials into Rochester.

In order to reduce costs the Council has decided to dispose of the peacocks that live in the castle grounds, and to have their house pulled down. 

The Gravesend and Rochester Agricultural Association decided at its general meeting at the Bull Hotel Rochester, not to hold the ploughing match and horse, sheep and root show this year. This was in part due to the lateness of the harvest but also because there are insufficient men and horses, due to the war, being available for the ploughing competition. 

The tighter Licensing laws led to Joseph Giles of the Ordnance Arms, High Street Rochester [now the Britannia, 376 High Street] being fined £10 for selling liquor from unlicensed premises – his residence on the opposite side of the road to his pub. Those found drinking were fined 10s each.

Role of Honour

Latent William Edmondson (28), a Rochester Solicitor, was injured whilst fighting alongside two fellow schoolmates at the Dardanelles.

The death toll continues to grow. We have heard that Lieutenant Meyrick Bingham Whistler Smith-Rewse, grandson of the late General GW Powlett Bingham, of the Vines, Rochester, was killed in action on 22 May 1915. 

Reports have also been received that Sergt. George Kill (21) has been killed in action by shrapnel. Born in Rochester he occasionally assisted Rochester in Kent football League matches and won a number of prizes in Rochester Swimming Club races.

On a Lighter Note

The delayed marriage between John Acheson of Rochester and Miss Florence Phyllis Darling, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Darling of the Rising Sun Inn [6 Delce Rd] finally took place at St. Peters. The marriage had been postponed as QMS Acheson was unable to get leave. After a short honeymoon in London the bridegroom returned to France.

Mammoth remains have been discovered on Upnor Hills. Dr. Andrew of the British Museum, who is excavating the find, believes it to be the “completest” set of mammoth remains unearthed in England. The tusks measure 9ft in length and it’s believed the animal was 13ft tall. 

Rochester also recently hosted what is believed to have been the largest muster of Kentish Freemasons ever known. The meeting of the Provincial Grand Lodge of the Kent Freemasons was held at the Mathematical School in the High Street, and was followed by a banquet in the Corn Exchange. 
Geoff Ettridge
War Correspondent


War Report Update 

Update on 1 June to 31 August, 1915 - Newsletter 2015

Erratum - In the previous newsletter (June / August 1915) there was a miss-spelling of the name of Lieutenant Meyrick Bingham Whistler Smith-Rewse. I’m grateful to Simon Shreeve of The Old Roffensian Society Ltd for the correction.


Further to the report of George Kill being killed in action, we have received additional information from Angela Watson, his Great Niece.

George Frederick Kill, was killed in action on the 1 June 1915. He was one of five brothers from an Army family all of whom were serving soldiers in the First World War; their father, Samuel James Kill re-enlisted into the Royal West Kent Regiment and was based in Maidstone.   George’s four brothers returned safely home - his youngest brother, Albert Jubilee, enlisting on the day that George was killed.

“George’s fiancee, Nellie L Upton*, was nursery maid to Dr White’s three children, John, Emily Monica and Mary, where George’s sister Daisy also worked, at 22 Star Hill Rochester – the big white house with double stone steps leading up to the front door.   Many years later I remember Monica White, who taught for many years at Rochester Grammar School which I attended, telling me that as a child she remembers Nellie standing at the nursery window reading a letter with tears running down her face.”

Nellie’s subsequent life was also linked with tragedy.  Nellie married John William George Sampson at Medway Register Office in November 1915 ; John was the driver of the bus that, on the evening of 4 December 1951, drove into a troop of 52 Royal Marine Cadets Corp, killing 24 of them, in Dock Road. Nellie would then have had to endure the trauma of this event and the subsequent inquest and trial of her husband.

George features in the 1915 display at MALSA. 

* Nellie’s registered name was Helen Upton.

Geoff Rambler