Lest we forget…

20180914_124543What follows is more of a publication than a Blog.

With the help of 3 boys and 4 girls whilst they were in year 10, we have successfully met the challenge given to us by the National Trust at Cliveden to find out something about the 15 Cliveden Estate workers, who lost their lives in the Great War 1914-18, and whose names are commemorated on a Brass plaque on the Octagon chapel at Cliveden.

From a range of evidence arising from research carried out over a 3 month period, we were able to provide the National Trust with the following information, for release as an original publication to commemorate the 100 year’s anniversary of the Armistice declaration on 11 November 1918.

The boys and girls are participating in a special event at Cliveden on Sunday evening, by invitation only. We are very proud and thankful of what we have been able to achieve.

Cliveden pamphlet copy

There are 15 estate workers names to be found on the Octagon Chapel memorial plaque,




MM indicates award of the Military Medal

Sjt is short for Serjeant, the official spelling of the rank at the time in the British Army

James Edwin Marjoram

James Edwin Marjoram was born in 1891 in Binfield, Berkshire. He was a footman for the Cliveden Estate. Nancy, the wife of Waldorf Astor (the future Lord and Lady Astor) who owned the Cliveden Estate, loved her footman being really tall and big built. This implies that he must have been a handsome young chap. His last known address was in Windsor, Berkshire, where he lived with his beloved wife Edith Rose and daughters, Nora and Edna. When the war broke out he volunteered for service, 2 years before he would have been obliged to sign up due to conscription. His service number 11728 tells us that he joined the army at the beginning of the war (1914). He enlisted in Maidenhead,  joining the Royal Berkshire Regiment (the 1st Battalion) and arrived in France on 29th November 1914.

James was obviously a good soldier, because he was awarded the Military Medal.  Promoted Serjeant, unfortunately, he was killed in action, on 8th October 1918, in front of Forenville, during the Second Battle of Cambrai (one of the last battles in the war, only a month before the Armistice). So it must have been devastating for his family; he had survived four years of battle, only to die tragically at the last hurdle. James died at the young age of 27 and is buried at the Forenville Military Cemetery, Nord, France. They have a memorial here at Cliveden in the Octagonal Temple for Sjt Marjoram.

Freddie Hurn

Frederick Everett Hurn was born in 1864. Formally known by his middle name (hence E Hurn on the chart), he had been a ‘regular’ in the Royal Berkshire Regiment of the British army before the First World war, evident from his army service number, serving in Egypt in the early 1890s before returning to Cliveden after the death of his first wife, Sophia in 1893. By this time, he had a four year-old son, also called Everett, who was cared for by maternal grandparents until Freddie got back. Freddie lived on the Cliveden estate and had worked as a night watchman at Cliveden for William Astor before enlisting in the 1890s; it seems that he was a reliable employee, whom Astor was willing to re-employ on his return. Freddie’s job as night watchman would have been to make sure all was well on the Cliveden estate after dark, a job for which he would have needed a degree of bravery, for sure! In 1901, Freddie married for a second time: Clara, the sister of his first wife.

Even though he was 50 when war broke out in 1914, Freddie volunteered to serve again in the 6th Battalion of the Berkshire Regiment. His previous service obviously counted for something, so he became a sergeant; we might imagine him as the ‘old soldier’ setting an example to the raw recruits in his care, and them looking to him for reassurance. By 1915 he was at the front again and during 1916 he was Mentioned in Dispatches. By late June 1916, the men of the Berkshire Regiment were in position for the big battle about to take place: the Somme. On 1 July, when the battle began, Freddie’s regiment advanced with some success, despite finding themselves at the mercy of enemy fire; but Freddie was killed on the first day of this campaign, which would eventually end at colossal loss of life in late November. He was awarded the Military Medal posthumously.

By this time, William Astor had gifted Cliveden to his son and daughter-in-law, Waldorf and Nancy. When Freddie left for France, and subsequently died in battle, Waldorf ensured that Clara was able to remain in Taplow in decent housing, a respectable war-widow. Until her death in 1934, Lord Astor paid her rent: a mark of the respect with which Freddie Hurn and his family was surely held by his former employer.

The only estate worker for whom we have a photograph is Private Herbert Abdey, also of the Royal Berkshire Regiment who died with the Royal Berkshires on 15 October 1915 following their engagement in the Battle of Loos. We also have a photograph of his brother Private Alfred Abdey, who had joined the Royal Berkshires before the war and died in an Aldershot hospital on 5 August 1914, war on Germany having been declared the previous evening.   

Abdey H J

Herbert Abdey

Abdey Alfred

Alfred Abdey

Original photos here – http://buckinghamshireremembers.org.uk/casualties/m5745.html


The Royal Berkshire Regiment and the Battle of the Somme.

Two of the estate workers, Serjeant Reginald Comley and Serjeant Freddie Hurn lost their lives fighting with the 6th Battalion, Royal Berkshires on the first day of the Somme, 1 July 1916. A third, Private Albert House, a reservist who had been in France with the 1st Battalion since September 1914 was killed at the end of July during the Battle of Delville Wood, one of the many subsidiary engagements of the Somme Offensive.

On 1 July 1916, Serjeants Hurn and Comley along with the 650 other soldiers of 6th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment (6 RBR) were entrenched in the Somme valley, near Carnoy.  Part of 53rd Brigade, itself a constituent of 18th Division, the Battalion was tasked with seizing the road between the villages of Mametz and Montauban and beyond to a distance of some 3000 metres. 6 RBR was fortunate in being under the divisional command of Maj-Gen Ivor Maxse whose training methods were at the forefront of those in the BEF.  Consequently, the two Berkshire assault waves left their trenches even before the British barrage was due to end but such was the adrenalin rush that the lead company was caught by the late detonation of a huge mine at Casino Point, a German machine gun nest. As the Germans emerged from their deep dugouts they found 6 RBR already in their forward trenches and not disposed to take prisoners.  Within two hours, the Battalion had secured its secondary objective and by 6.30pm reached its final objective some 2500 metres from its starting point. On the day, this was exceptional and matched only by the similar advances of 30th Division and the French 6th Army just to the south of 18th Division.

Elsewhere, the day did not go as well for the British – with 60,000 casualties of which over 18,000 were deaths, it is still ranked as the worst day in British military history.  Among 78 killed in 6 RBR that day were both Hurn and Comley. Along with 6 other ranks from 6 RBR, the grave of Reginald Comley is to be found in Dantzig Alley British Cemetery, Mametz, while Freddie Hurn’s body was never found and his name is recorded among the 72,000 to be found on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing in the Somme sector.

Medals awarded to the Cliveden 15:

Soldiers who served in France or Belgium as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) between August and November 1914, had their service recognised in 1917 by the award of the ‘1914’ Star medal (known as ‘Pip’), carrying a clasp across the ribbon marked ‘5th Aug-22 Nov 1914’. The 1914-15 Star (which did not have a clasp but was also known as ‘Pip’) was awarded to all those soldiers not qualifying for the 1914 Star but who had served between 1914 and 31 December 1915. Thus was acknowledged the service of most who had joined the colours voluntarily before conscription was begun in January 1916. Both Stars were always awarded with ‘Squeak’, the British War Medal* and ‘Wilfred’, the Allied Victory Medal*, so were worn in a row of 3. Soldiers only eligible for the War and Victory medals wore them as a twosome, nicknamed ‘Mutt and Jeff’, all names being drawn from popular cartoon characters of the 1920s. These ‘campaign’ medals would be worn with any other gallantry or service medals that the wearer was entitled to.

Pip, Squeak and Wilfred

Pip, Squeak and Wilfred

*The recipient’s service number, rank, name and unit were impressed on the rim of the two medals. The same details were impressed on the rear of the Star.


Timeline of the deaths against the battles mentioned

Untitled drawing
human interest narrative about the work they did on the estate

Footman (Marjoram): The first footman lays the table for each meal, serves the family breakfast either on trays in the different rooms or in the breakfast or dining room, and attends the door during the morning. In households where but a butler and one footman are kept, the two alternate in tending the door.

Gardener at the Cliveden Estate (Cheshire, Cowley, House brothers, Grey, Price)        The gardeners at Cliveden house maintained the 375 acres of land. They did this using only metal and copper tools as machinery such as electric lawn mowers had not been invented yet. They also planted flowers, in particular they planted a seasonal mix of bulbs, annuals and shrubs such as gladioli, hollyhocks, tulips, pansies and azaleas.

Stable lad (Millership)
A groom or stable boy is a person were responsible for the management of horses and the care of the stables themselves. They would sweep the stables clean and prepare the horses with the correct equipment for riding. Cliveden’s stables were rebuilt during the ownership of the 1st Duke of Westminster (1868-1893), an important ‘stud’ farm for many years subsequently. .


Assistant electrical engineer (Waugh)
An electrical engineer designs, develops and maintains electrical equipment, solves problems and tests equipment. They would have worked with all kinds of electrical devices, from small items to big. After the disastrous fire 1849, which destroyed the house, Cliveden was completely rebuilt  in 1851 and then extensively remodeled by Lord Astor in the 1890s who gave the estate to his son, Waldorf on his marriage to Nancy Langhorne Shaw in 1906. Nancy proceeded to redecorate the house and modernise it with electricity which became an important service throughout the house. Waugh was assistant at Cliveden to his father, Thomas.

Night watchman at Cliveden Estate (Hurn): At Cliveden Estate, a night watchman’s job would have been to guard the main building at the estate around it.

Other trades: Woodman (Pheby), Oddman (Kitchener) otherwise categorised as ‘working at Cliveden Estate (Jewell, Wells). Abdey‘s occupation at Cliveden  is not known, but his parents were ‘carters’.


David Bilton, Reading in the Great War, 1914-1916 (Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2016) n.p.
Smales, N (2015). Taplow moments : a unique history. Bicester: Words by Design.

Underwood, J.&.P. 2005. Buckinghamshire Remembers. [Online]. [June 2018]. Available from: http://buckinghamshireremembers.org.uk/memorials.htm

The Royal Berkshire Regiment Great War Project.  [Online]. [September 2018]. Available from: http://www.purley.eu/RBR0000.html.

Battalion War Diaries 1914-1919, Royal Berkshire Regiment.  Transcribed. The Rifles Berkshire & Wiltshire Museum. [Online].  [September 2018]. Available from: http://www.thewardrobe.org.uk/research/war-diaries/search.

Census returns, various, England & Wales. Ancestry.co.uk. [Online]. [June 2018]. Available from: https://search.ancestry.co.uk/search/db.aspx?dbid=1543

Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  Cwgc.org. [Online]. [June 2018]. Available from: https://www.cwgc.org/.

Imperial War Museum.  Livesofthefirstworldwar.org. [Online]. [June 2018]. Available from: https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/home.

“Lincoln’s End,” Hitcham & Taplow Society Newsletter, #107, Spring 2017, 16b. Online edition, http://www.taplowsociety.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Newsletter-107-screen.pdf, accessed 25 Sep 2018
Wikipediaorg. [Online]. [29 June 2018]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cliveden.

Grateful thanks to:  Katherine Gwyn, Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies who provided details on the estate workers from the Cliveden Pay Roll book ref D158/29) AND Nick Forder, Curator of the Maidenhead Heritage centre for the medals and advice

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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2 Responses to Lest we forget…

  1. Peter Kitson says:

    Well done to you and your pupils James.

    In this day and age, I feel that it is still important and relevant to remember those who sacrificed so much.

  2. Royal Casino says:

    Your style is really unique in comparison to other folks I have read stuff from.
    Thank you for posting when you’ve got the opportunity, Guess I’ll just bookmark this page.

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