Sapper Bertie Purton, 17221 6th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, later 304909 Royal Engineers
Born on 22nd January 1886 in Frithsden near Berkhamsted
Died on 30th May 1958 in Tindal General Hospital, Aylesbury
Bertie Purton was born in Frithsden near Berkhamsted, the second of the 4 children of James Purton and Sarah née Godwin. His father was a Domestic Gardener.
His older brother Ernest Purton was born 4th March 1883, his sister Violet Ethel in 1892 and his younger brother James on 26th May 1900.
On 28th May 1889 Bertie Purton of Little Gaddesden started at Little Gaddesden School as an Infant, aged 3 years and 4 months. The family may have moved to Little Gaddesden very shortly after Bertie’s birth, as his older brother Ernest Purton started at Little Gaddesden School on 3rd May 1886.
The 1891 Census shows the family living at 8 Little Gaddesden.
Little Gaddesden School had an annual Diocesan Inspection, during which the children were examined in Religious Knowledge. Bertie Purton was one of the children who distinguished themselves in this examination in 1897 and 1898.
The 1901 Census shows 15 year old Bertie working as a Domestic Garden Labourer’s Boy; he still lived with his parents and siblings at 6 Hudnall. His father was a Domestic Gardener. His 18 year old brother Ernest Purton was a Carpenter’s Apprentice, while his sister Violet, 9, was at school. James was then a 10 month old baby.
Next door at 5 Hudnall lived his uncle and aunt, Heber and Elizabeth Purton, and six cousins: Ellen, 13, who was at home, Edwin Purton, 11, Reginald Purton, 9, Frederick Purton, 6 and Daisy, 3, who were at school and Lizzie, 8 months.
Bertie’s 1914 Attestation for the Special Reserve shows that he was then apprenticed to William Garrett, Bricklayer, of Ringshall; he completed his Bricklayer’s apprenticeship on 22nd January 1907, his 21st Birthday.
Joining the Volunteers 5
Bertie’s 1914 Attestation also shows that he served as a Volunteer in the 2nd (Herts) Volunteer Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, from which he was discharged on 30th October 1905. The length of his service in the Volunteers is not stated.
The Family in 1911 2
In the 1911 Census, 25 year old Bertie is a Bricklayer on the Ashridge Estate, still living at 6 Hudnall with his parents and three siblings. Ernest Purton, 28, was a Carpenter on the Ashridge Estate, Violet, 19, a Dressmaker and James, 10, at school. Their cousins still lived next door at 5 Hudnall.
On 22nd October 1913 Bertie Purton married Ethel Maud Gudgin at Hope Hall, Berkhamsted. Hope Hall was then the Plymouth Brethren Chapel, though Bertie’s family were Wesleyan Methodists. However, his 1914 Attestation states that he was then a Baptist.
Military Service 5
On 3rd September 1914, Bertie attested at Hertford, intending to serve in the Special Reserve for one year. His address was then Lower Mill House, Berkhamsted. He was posted to the Bedfordshire Regiment and, a week later, to the 6th (Service) Battalion in which he served as a Private, Service Number 17221. Private Charles Batchelor, Private George Cash, Private William Grant, Private William Wells and Bertie’s cousin Private Frederick Purton also served in that battalion.
His Attestation records that he was 5 feet 6¾ inches tall, weighed 144 pounds and had a 35 inch chest. His complexion was fresh, his eyes blue and his hair brown. He was considered to be fit for general service.
Bertie was one of 17 men on the Little Gaddesden Roll of Honour who volunteered for the Bedfordshire Regiment in the first month of the War. 12473 William Wells volunteered on 26th August followed by 12589 William Grant, 12591 George Cash and almost certainly 12593 Charles Batchelor on the 27th. 13330 Frank Dove R.I.P. and 13724 Horace Halsey then joined on or before 3rd September 1914 and a further 11 men attested on 3rd September. These were 13785 Edward Saunders, 14374 Harold Catt, 14452 Herbert Jacobs, 14532 John Mayling, 14553 Victor Collier, 14546 Frederick Purton R.I.P., 14557 Ernest Bearton, 14575 Arthur Maunders, 17221 Bertie Purton, 17231 Herbert Fenn and 3/8219 Jesse Holland.
However, on 5th November 1914 after two months’ service, Bertie was discharged “not likely to become an efficient soldier” because of gastritis and problems with his teeth.
Working for the Post Office 7
After his discharge from the Bedfordshire Regiment, Bertie worked as a Postman. By October 1917, he and Ethel lived at 160, Bank Side, George Street, Berkhamsted.
Service in the Royal Engineers 7
On 3rd October 1917 Bertie enlisted again, this time in the Royal Engineers. There is a note on his Royal Engineers’ record which reads “states he was discharged from army after 3 months for Chronic Bronchitis. At present his lungs are normal“. So maybe it was Bronchitis not Gastritis which had halted his service with the Bedfordshire Regiment in 1914? Sapper Bertie Purton, Service Number 304909, was a Proficient Bricklayer. With fitness category B1, he was engaged in Home Service with the Royal Engineers at Chatham until his demobilisation on 6th March 1919.
Bertie served at the Depot until 30th November 1917, then with the 1st Provisional Company, Royal Engineers until 17th August 1918. He then served with the 1st Reserve Battalion, Royal Engineers until 6th February 1919.
The original, pre-Second World War, wording on the left hand panel of the Little Gaddesden War Memorial on the village green, read:
This memorial is erected in honour of the one hundred and thirty six men who went from the villages of Little Gaddesden, Hudnall and Ringshall and served in the war of 1914 = 1918. The names of those who gave their lives for their country are cut on the stones here. The names of those who returned to England are preserved in the Church.
However, the Church Roll of Honour lists only 119 men; one of those omitted is Bertie Purton, possibly because he had moved to Berkhamsted before the War. However, his father remained at 6 Hudnall until at least 1929 and his mother until 1939 or later. His name has been added to the 2018 Centenary Revision of the Roll of Honour. His brother Ernest Purton and his cousins Edwin Purton, (who is recorded as Edward on the original Roll), Frederick Purton R.I.P. and Reginald Purton are named on both the original and the Centenary Rolls.
After demobilisation, Bertie returned to 160 George Street, Berkhamsted. His son Raymond Gordon Purton was then born on 2nd November 1919.
Bertie, Ethel and Raymond lived in George Street until 1929. However, the 1930 Electoral Register shows them living at 23 Charles Street, Berkhamsted.
Later Life 3
The 1939 Register then shows Bertie, Ethel and Raymond living at 53 Charles Street, Berkhamsted. Bertie was a Bricklayer, Ethel had “Unpaid Domestic Duties” and Raymond was recorded as a “General Clerk Motor Engineering”. He had also volunteered to be an ARP Messenger.
72 year old Bertie Purton suffered a cerebral thrombosis and died on 30th May 1958 in Tindal General Hospital, Aylesbury. His home address was still 53 Charles Street, Berkhamsted. His widow Ethel continued to live at 53 Charles Street but died at 47 Queens Mead, Aylesbury on 7th January 1962.
4. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906
8. Leonhardt, John (ed), 2002, A Century Remembered – a celebration of the Millennium in Little Gaddesden, Rural Heritage Society of Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Ashridge
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson