Private Edwin Arthur Purton, Oxon & Bucks Light Infantry; 36989 Machine Gun Corps
Born on 6th December 1889 in Little Gaddesden
Died on 8th April 1966 in St Paul’s Hospital, Hemel Hempstead
Edwin Arthur Purton was born in Little Gaddesden, the second of the 6 children of Heber Purton and Elizabeth née Purton.
His siblings were:
- Ellen, born in 1888
- Reginald Purton, born 12th November 1892
- Frederick William Purton, born 23rd March 1895
- Daisy Agnes, born 25th September 1897
- Lizzie or Elizabeth, born in July 1900
As a child, Edwin first lived at Home Farm, Little Gaddesden, almost certainly in one of the Home Farm Cottages. His father was then an Agricultural Labourer at Home Farm.
Edwin attended Little Gaddesden School. On 18th November 1895 an entry in the School Log Book notes:
I am sorry to say, we have one or two decided cases of either Measles or Chicken Pox in the village & neighbourhood. Albert Boarder of Hudnall and Edwin Purton of L. Gaddesden are both sick & covered with spots. The Doctor has seen the former & says it is a case of Chicken Pox & that he must remain at home for a fortnight. I have sent the other brothers and sisters of the two families home to try to prevent the spreading of the disease thro’ the school children.
Unfortunately the plan did not work; chicken pox spread and, by January 1896, measles and whooping cough were also causing illness among the school children.
Moving to Hudnall 2
By 31st March 1901, the Census shows the family living at 5 Hudnall. Edwin’s father then worked as a Domestic Coachman and his mother and his sister Ellen, 13, were at home. Edwin, 11, Reginald Purton, 9, Frederick Purton, 6 and Daisy, 3, were at school; Lizzie was a baby aged 8 months. Next door at 6 Hudnall lived Edwin’s uncle and aunt James and Sarah Purton and his cousins Ernest Purton, 18, a Carpenter’s Apprentice, Bertie Purton, 15, a Domestic Garden Labourer’s Boy, Violet, 9, at school and James, 10 months.
Education (continued) 4
Little Gaddesden School had an annual Diocesan Inspection, during which the children were examined in Religious Knowledge. The children who distinguished themselves in this examination in 1901 and in 1903 included Edwin Purton.
In 1902 the Inspection was cancelled because of snow and the Inspector’s illness.
Edwin then left school on 9th February 1903. He was then aged 14 and had a Certificate of Attendance.
The 1911 Census shows 21 year old Edwin at 5 Hudnall, working as a Butcher. He almost certainly worked for Fred Janes, the father of Ernest Janes, just up the lane at 9 Hudnall (now Plum Tree Cottage). Also at 5 Hudnall with their parents were Reginald Purton, 19, a Bricklayer’s Labourer on the Ashridge Estate, Frederick Purton, 16, a Farm Dairy Lad and Daisy, 13 and Elizabeth, 10, who were both at school. Their cousins still lived next door at 6 Hudnall.
Brother Frederick Died of Accidental Injuries in France 5
Edwin’s younger brother Frederick Purton served in the 6th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment before transferring to the Royal Engineers. On 25th April 1916, Pioneer Frederick William Purton, 147225 Special Brigade, 5th (Mortar) Battalion, Royal Engineers died of accidental injuries. He had suffered burns and shock from an explosion at Audruicq and was recorded dead on admission to No 35 Lahore British General Hospital at Calais. He is buried in Calais Southern Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.
In the 3rd Quarter of 1916, Edwin Arthur Purton married Ada Baker. The marriage was registered in Grantham. Ada’s older sister, Lottie Baker was a laundry maid from Grantham, who worked for Lord and Lady Brownlow at Belton and Ashridge. In 1907 she married George Liberty who lived at 8 Hudnall. Ada sometimes came to visit her sister and therefore met Edwin, who lived close by.
An Absent Voters’ list entry for Spring 1919 shows Edwin Arthur Purton of 5 Hudnall serving as a Private in the Machine Gun Corps, Service Number 36989. For his War Service, Edwin was awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal. He was demobilised during 1919 and his Pension Ledger and Index Card shows that he was finally discharged on 28th January 1920. On demobilisation, he returned to his parents’ address, 5 Hudnall.
The original Little Gaddesden Roll of Honour lists an Edward Purton serving in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. However, no record of either Edward Purton or his service in that unit has been found. From Absent Voters’ lists and a Pension Ledger and Index Card it is known that Edwin Purton served in the First World War; it is possible that an abbreviation of “Edw.” was interpreted as Edward rather than Edwin on the original Roll. It is also very possible that, as with many men in the Machine Gun Corps, Edwin previously served in another regiment, in his case the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. On the Centenary Revision of the Roll, he is recorded as Edwin Purton, Oxon and Bucks L.I.; Machine Gun Corps.
Edwin’s two brothers Frederick Purton, R.I.P. and Reginald Purton are also named on both Rolls, as is their cousin Ernest Purton. Ernest’s brother Bertie Purton has been added to the Centenary Revision of the Roll.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
Edwin’s War Service resulted in Malaria and Dysentery, the effects of which still caused 30% disablement at the time of his final discharge. He therefore received a pension of 12 shillings per week until October 1921. However, that was then reduced to 8 shillings per week from 27th October 1921, when his degree of disablement was re-assessed as 20%. Then, on 23rd November 1922, he was awarded a final allowance of 7 shillings and 6 pence per week for 35 weeks. By that time his disablement was considered to be 6% – 14%. Very surprisingly, his Pension Ledger and Index Card records him as a single man. However, his Service Number clearly matches that on the Absent Voters’ list for Edwin Arthur Purton of 5 Hudnall, who married in Summer 1916. Possibly he enlisted before his marriage and his records were not updated.
Edwin’s Pension Ledger and Index Card also lists his addresses, showing that he moved away from Hudnall soon after his demobilisation. In ‘A Century Remembered’, Edwin’s daughter Mary stated that Edwin was left an invalid after the First World War. He and Ada went to Grantham and he then worked on the railways in Nottingham. In January 1920, Edwin’s address was Chapel Street, Orston, Nottinghamshire, between Grantham and Nottingham. Edwin and Ada’s daughter Mary Elizabeth Purton was born in the 1st Quarter of 1921. Her birth was then registered in the Bingham District of Nottinghamshire, which fits with that address. The family later moved to 23 Austin Street, Shirebrook, just north of Mansfield and to Whaley Common, Langwith, Mansfield.
Edwin’s wife Ada died, aged 42, in 1935. Edwin and his daughter Mary then returned to Little Gaddesden and settled at No. 1, which Edwin’s father Heber Purton bought when the Ashridge Estate was sold in the 1920s.
The Second World War 3
In the 1939 Register, Edwin is recorded as a House Painter living at 1 Little Gaddesden with his parents Heber and Elizabeth. A note beside his entry adds “A.R.P. Little Gaddesden”.
In May 1940, Edwin volunteered for the Home Guard, first known as the Local Defence Volunteers. He is named on P.C. Parker’s hand-written list as an original member of No. 1 Section, based at Ringshall.
Other First World War veterans who were members of the No 5, Little Gaddesden, Platoon of B Company, 7th Hertfordshire Battalion, Home Guard included: Albert Boarder, Walter Bunn, Donald Goodman, Horace Halsey, Joe Hing, Harry Hucklesby, Sidney (Jubal) Jones, John Mayling, Arthur Maunders, William Newman, Reginald Purton, Frank Rogers and Edward Saunders.
The Platoon also contained young men, most of whom were subsequently called up for military service. Among these were George Halsey, son of Horace Halsey; Leonard Hing son of Lewis Hing; Raymond Hing, son of Joe Hing; Fred Hucklesby, son of Harry Hucklesby; Fred Liberty, son of George Liberty; John Oakins son of Steve Oakins; Gordon and Maurice Purton, sons of Reginald Purton and Arthur Whitman, son of James Whitman and named after his uncle Arthur Whitman.
In Capt. Alan St H Brock’s book, “7th Hertfordshire Battalion Home Guard, a History of the Battalion 1940-44”, Edwin Arthur Purton is named on the Supplementary List for B Company. That list named men who served in the Home Guard for a while but were not still serving when the Battalion was stood down in December 1944. As men could serve until the age of 65 and Edwin’s health was affected by his First World War service, he may have been discharged from the Home Guard on health grounds.
In the final Quarter of 1944, Edwin Arthur Purton married Daisy Clayton. They then lived at 1 Little Gaddesden.
On 8th April 1966, 76 year old Edwin Arthur Purton of 1 Little Gaddesden died in St Paul’s Hospital, Hemel Hempstead. His widow Daisy lived until 14th March 1976, but by then she had moved to 141 Ashford Road, Faversham, Kent.
4. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906
7. Leonhardt, John (ed), 2002, A Century Remembered – a celebration of the Millennium in Little Gaddesden, Rural Heritage Society of Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Ashridge
8. 1918-21 Absent Voters’ Lists Parliamentary County of Hertford, Hemel Hempstead Division, Great Berkhamsted Rural
11. Police Constable Parker’s list of Little Gaddesden’s Local Defence Volunteers, compiled in May 1940
12. ed. Brock, Capt. Alan St H, (1945?) 7th Hertfordshire Battalion Home Guard. A History of the Battalion 1940-44
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson