2334 later 105646 Private Archie Wells, Hertfordshire Yeomanry
Born on 17th March 1898 in Dagnall, Buckinghamshire
Date of Death: Unknown
Archie Wells was born in Dagnall, Buckinghamshire, the second of the 3 children of Charles Wells and Susan née Rogers.
His sister Florence (Flora) Wells was born on 30th August 1896 and his younger brother Herbert (Bertie) Wells on 8th October 1899.
In the 1901 Census, the family’s address is recorded as Barracks Yard, Dagnall. Archie’s father was then a Domestic Garden Labourer.
On 2nd September 1901, Archie Wells started at Little Gaddesden School as an Infant aged 3½ years old.
On 2nd March 1903, the Little Gaddesden School Log Book notes that:
The Rector came in this morning at ½ past 11 and gave Prizes away to the boys and girls who had made the best attendance during the past year. The following received Prizes, all having made the full number of attendances.
On 14th March 1904, Archie and Flora Wells, together with eight others including Walter Bunn, Godfrey Bunn, Bernard Phillips and Arthur Whitman were again awarded prizes of 2 shillings for full attendance during the past school year. The Log Book entry then notes:
The following prizes were also given away from the money earned by the children at the last Concert – Two prizes were given in each Standard to those who obtained the greatest number of marks in the four quarterly examinations.
The list included: Infants Division 2 1. Archie Wells: 1 shilling and a handkerchief; 2. Kathleen Jones: 6 pence and a handkerchief. In Standard 1, Archie’s sister Florence tied for the prize with Florence Goodedge; each was awarded 1 shilling and 3 pence.
Absent with a Rash 4
On 8th July 1907, an entry in the Little Gaddesden School Log Book recorded that Archie and Bertie Wells had a rash. Fortunately, this turned out to be nettle or heat rash. However, the anxiety was that it might be measles, which was then a very serious illness capable of closing the school for several weeks at a time.
On 23rd June 1910, Archie Wells aged 12 passed his Standard 5 Labour Certificate Exam. However, he stayed at school until 1st March 1911, when he left from Standard 7, shortly before his 13th Birthday.
The 1911 Census shows 13 year old Archie working as an Office Boy on the Ashridge Estate. His family then lived at 39 Little Gaddesden. His father Charles was a Gardener, his mother Susan and his sister Florence were at home and his brother Herbert Wells, 11, was still at school.
Joining the Little Gaddesden Scouts 5
Archie Wells joined the Little Gaddesden Scout Troop at its start, October 26th 1911. He was a member of the Wolf Patrol, Patrol Leader Francis (Frank) Whitman. The Scouts first met in the Reading Room at John o’Gaddesden’s House. However, meetings soon moved to the Armoury, at 27 Little Gaddesden, the home of their Scout Master, Harry Temple, who was assisted by 17 year old Bernard Phillips. Miss Bridget Talbot was the Scouts’ President and Mr Humphrey Talbot their Treasurer.
Scouts in the other Patrols who served were: Stanley Austin, Albert Basford, Sidney Bellamy, Edward Bunn, Philip Collier, Kenneth Edge, Donald Goodman, Francis Green, Gerald Green, Arthur Halsey, Frank (Henry F) Johnson, Arthur Pinnock, George Pinnock, Arthur Whitman and Jim Whitman.
Boy Scouts’ Cook’s Badge – First skin your Rabbit 5
The Little Gaddesden Scout Diary records that, in Autumn 1912:
14 boys of the LG Troop were examined in the Park at Ashridge for their cook’s badges. Lord Brownlow presented a rabbit apiece to each boy. Fourteen fires were then lit, made up on some bricks + each boy proceeded to skin and boil his rabbit, adding vegetables + dumplings into his stew. The judges on this occasion were Lord Brownlow, Mrs Temple, Mrs Bridle, Mrs Flowers + Mr Jim Rodgers. Mr J Parsons presented 3 prizes for the best 3 saucepans of rabbit stew. Arthur Pinnock won the 1st prize.
We do not know who won 2nd and 3rd prizes, but the diary records that Archie was one of the 14 boys awarded his Cook’s Badge. Other Scout Cooks included Albert Basford, Edward Bunn, Francis Green, Gerald Green, Bernard Halsey, Percy Hobbs and Frank (Henry F) Johnson.
The Little Gaddesden Scout Diary includes notes on the military service undertaken by some of the older boys. By Archie’s name is written: “Herts Yeomanry 1915“. That suggests that Archie may have joined up under-age at 17. In the back of the diary a slightly scruffy list records: “A Wells Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Turkey in Asia“.
Archie’s Medal Records confirm that he served as a Private in the Hertfordshire Yeomanry and his original Service Number, 2334, would fit with an attestation date of 1915.
As Archie served abroad he must have been in the 1/1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Yeomanry. When the Battalion was divided into Squadrons in 1916, Both A and B Squadrons served in Egypt and in the 1917 – 1918 Palestinian Campaign, in which battles were fought in Ottoman Palestine including parts of present day Israel, Syria and Jordan. The Scout Diary phrase “Turkey in Asia” may well refer to that part of the Ottoman Empire.
In common with other units of the Territorial Force, Hertfordshire Yeomanry Service Numbers changed from 4 digit to 6 digit in early 1917. Archie’s Service Number then became 105646. For his War Service, Archie was awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
105646 Private Archie Wells, 1/1st Hertfordshire Yeomanry is named as an Absent Voter of 39 Little Gaddesden in Autumn 1918 and Spring 1919. He was demobilised during 1919.
Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper”
Archibald Wells, Hertfordshire Yeomanry, is named on the original Roll of Honour, which hangs in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden and lists 119 men from Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Hudnall who served in the 1914 – 1918 War. On the Centenary Revision of the Roll, his name is amended to Archie, as all records found use that form of his name. In addition, his unit is more precisely identified as 1/1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Yeomanry. The name of his brother Herbert Wells, 9th Bn Royal Fusiliers, has been added to the 2018 Centenary Revision of the Roll.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
On 10th December 1919, Mr A Wells, age unspecified, is named as a British passenger leaving London for Cape Town. He was sailing aboard SS Goorkha on the Union-Castle Mail Steamship Co. Ltd London to South Africa Service. He is listed as a Police Recruit and his intended country of residence is Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.
Archie then remained in Rhodesia as a Policeman until May 1925. Then, aged 27, he returned to England from Cape Town. According to the passenger list, he planned to settle back in the UK. He arrived at London aboard SS Balranald on 6th June and his intended address was given as Ashridge, Great Berkhampstead, Herts, which was then his family home. However, he stayed in England for only three months.
Archie Wells aged 27, then left London on 1st October 1925 aboard SS Baradine on the P&O Australia via The Cape Service. His profession is recorded as “P.S.A. Co.” and his country of intended permanent future residence is South Africa. However, the next record found for Archie shows that he returned to Southern Rhodesia and became a Civil Servant. An unattributed press cutting dated 14th December 1928 records that he worked as “Senior Clerk, Native Department, Darwin” and was appointed a Justice of the Peace for the Colony. Then, on 20th February 1931, a subsequent press cutting noted his appointment to act as Assistant Magistrate for the magisterial district of Bulawayo at Filabusi when the Assistant Magistrate could not preside at the court.
Visiting England with his Wife 13
On 1st August 1938 Archie Wells aged 40, a Civil Servant and Jessie Falconer Wells aged 25, his wife, resident in S Rhodesia, were passengers aboard SS Edinburgh Castle. They were travelling on the Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company Ltd Service and arriving at Southampton. They had boarded at Cape Town and the intended address for their visit to the UK was the Regent Palace Hotel, London. Archie and Jessie then stayed in England until 30th September 1938.
Archie’s Children 12
The only reference to Archie’s children is found on the passenger list of SS Capetown Castle on the Union-Castle Line Southampton to South Africa Service, 4th November 1948. Passengers on that voyage included: Mrs J F Wells aged 36, who was travelling unaccompanied by her husband, Miss P Wells aged 7 and Master R Wells aged 3. They had been staying c/o 13 Buckingham Gate, London SW and their country of residence was S Rhodesia. This indicates that Archie had a daughter born in 1941 and a son born in 1945.
On 6th September 1953, Archie Wells aged 55, a Civil Servant and Jessie Falconer Wells aged 41, his wife, resident in S Rhodesia, arrived in London aboard SS Kenya Castle on the Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company Ltd Service from South and East Africa to London. They boarded at Cape Town and their intended address while staying in the UK was c/o The High Commissioner for Southern Rhodesia, London. Then, on 1st October 1953, they returned to Cape Town from Southampton aboard SS Stirling Castle, for onward travel to Southern Rhodesia. That is the last record found for Archie.
4. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906 and 1906 – 1934
5. Little Gaddesden Scout Diary 1912 – 1922, HALS, Hertford, Acc 3131
11. 1918-21 Absent Voters’ Lists Parliamentary County of Hertford, Hemel Hempstead Division, Little Gaddesden
15. Press cutting from “Daisy Thorn’s Scrapbook”. A miscellany of village information now held in the village archive.
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson