105451 Private Francis John (Frank) Whitman, Hertfordshire Yeomanry
Born on 19th February 1895 in Little Gaddesden
Died on 16th May 1972 in Chase Farm Hospital, Enfield
Francis John (Frank) Whitman was born in Little Gaddesden, the youngest of the five children of George Whitman and Louisa née Hillier. His father was a Carpenter, later a Builder and then a Farmer.
His siblings were:
- Edith Hillier Whitman, born 24th August 1884 but died aged 1
- Lilian Mary, born 14th November 1885
- Frederick George, born 1st May 1887
- Hilda Ellen, born 5th June 1888
Frank’s family lived at 14 Little Gaddesden. The 1901 Census shows Frank, 6 and Hilda 12, at school while Lilian, 15 was a Monitress at school. Their father George was by then a Builder.
Frank attended Little Gaddesden School. The School Log Book records that on 13th June 1900, he and his sister Hilda were absent visiting Wiltshire. They returned on 3rd July, having not attended school while away. In 1906 Frank’s holiday in Wiltshire lasted from 9th May to 18th June.
On 9th September 1907, Frank left Standard 7 at Little Gaddesden School to attend Berkhamsted Grammar School. He was still at school, aged 16, in April 1911.
The 1911 Census shows that the family had moved; his father then farmed Hudnall Common Farm. Lilian, 25, was engaged in dairy work on the farm and Frederick, 23, also worked on the farm. 22 year old Hilda was a Dressmaker. However, Frank’s father George died at the beginning of October 1911.
Joining the Little Gaddesden Scouts 7
In January 1912, Frank Whitman aged 17 joined the Little Gaddesden Scout Troop and was made Patrol Leader of the Wolf Patrol. His cousins Arthur Whitman and Jim Whitman had already joined and Arthur was Patrol Leader of the Peewit Patrol. 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.
The Little Gaddesden Scout Diary includes notes on the military service undertaken by some of the older boys. By Frank’s name is written: “Serving with Herts T. Aut. 1914”. In the back of the diary a slightly scruffy list records: “F J Whitman Mesopotamia + Persia”.
“Middlesex Farming Personalities” Frank’s War – August 1914 – 1919 8
The extract below, entitled “Middlesex Farming Personalities” came from the Middlesex N.F.U. Record of June 1961 and was provided by Frank’s Grandson:
At the outbreak of the war in 1914, Frank joined the Hertfordshire imperial Yeomanry. This Cavalry Regiment spent the first 12 months or so of its war service on home garrison duties and Frank took advantage of this to spend some time on the farm by way of obtaining agricultural leave. It was whilst on these leaves during 1914 that Frank had his first experience with an Agricultural tractor……………………
Later the Imperial Yeomanry was sent to Mesopotamia. The Regiment with Frank along with it stayed in this area for the remainder of the war. To a cavalryman, Persia, Syria and Palestine were far from being the romantic places they are generally supposed to be, particularly when they are a theatre of war and more particularly when a cavalryman found himself in these arid regions without a horse, a position the regiment found itself in quite frequently. In 1919, The Hertfordshire Imperial Yeomanry returned home. Frank was demobbed shortly after and fulfilled his long standing ambition by taking over the tenancy of the Mile Barn Farm.
As Frank did not go to Egypt and Gallipoli in early 1915, it is likely that he served initially in the 2/1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Yeomanry. That Battalion was engaged in Home Service. However, we know that he transferred to the 1/1st Battalion and served overseas as he was awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal. He is shown in that Battalion on Absent Voters’ lists.
In 1916, the 1/1st Battalion Hertfordshire Yeomanry was split into its four Squadrons. D Squadron then moved to Mesopotamia, first serving on Lines of Communication. However, between July and December 1916 it provided Divisional Mounted Troops for the 13th (Western) Division. It then moved to the III (Tigris) Corps Cavalry Regiment and, in August 1917, transferred to the 15th Indian Division. Finally, in May 1918 D Squadron went to the Lines of Communication in the North Persia Force.
The Autumn 1918 and Spring 1919 Absent Voters’ Lists for Little Gaddesden shows Frank John Whitman of Hudnall Common Farm serving as a Private in the 1/1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Yeomanry, Service Number 105451. By Autumn 1919 he had been demobilised and returned briefly to Hudnall Common Farm, which was then farmed by his brother Frederick.
An addition to the Little Gaddesden Roll of Honour 15
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 Frank Whitman. His name has been added to the Centenary Revision of the Roll.
Frank Whitman has an uncle, Joseph Whitman, and eight cousins who are named on both Rolls. They are: Donald Goodman, Edward Hoar, George Hoar R.I.P., Richard Hoar, Samuel Oakins R.I.P., Stephen Oakins, Arthur Whitman R.I.P. and James Whitman.
Sister Hilda’s War 16
Frank’s sister, Staff Nurse Hilda Ellen Whitman joined Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve on 16th August 1917. A fortnight later she arrived for duty in Alexandria, Egypt where she remained for eight months. Then, on 9th May 1918, she entrained for Hospital Transport “Abbasich” to Salonica, where she disembarked on 16th May. In Salonica she nursed first in No 64 General Hospital, then, from 2nd September, in No 28 General Hospital. However, on 31st December 1918 she left for the Dardanelles, arriving in Constantinople on 2nd January 1919. There she nursed mainly in No 82 General Hospital, with time at No 52 General Hospital in April – May 1919.
On 26th November, 1919, the Supplement to the London Gazette included the following announcement:
The following are among the Decorations and medals awarded by the Allied Powers at various dates to the British Forces for distinguished services rendered during the course of the campaign: —
His Majesty the KING has given unrestricted permission in all cases to wear the Decorations and medals in question.
… Decorations conferred by HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF THE HELLENES.
… Greek Military Cross
… 4th Class
… Sister Hilda Ellen Whitman, Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve).
In her QAIMNS Nursing Record this medal is recorded as the Greek Medal of Military Merit. For her War Service, Hilda was also awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
Hilda embarked for the UK on 21st May 1920, arriving on 3rd August. Then, on 11th August 1920, she was demobilised because: “Owing to reduction in establishment your services are no longer required”. The letter informing her of that also stated:
I am directed to express grateful appreciation of all the good work performed by you whilst serving on the nursing staff of the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve.
However, Hilda continued to nurse, mainly at the North Middlesex Hospital, Edmonton, until her retirement in 1955.
From 1920, Bedfordshire Electoral Registers show Frank and his brother Frederick farming Mile Barn Farm, Studham though living at Hudnall Farm. By 1921, Frank was living at Mile Barn. Then, on 5th September 1921, Francis John Whitman married Kathleen Rachel Darby at St Mary’s Church, Studham.
Frank and Kathleen had three sons: David George Whitman, born 10th February 1922, Michael John Whitman born 19th May 1924 and Peter James Whitman, born 12th March 1926.
However, in 1922, the lease on Mile Barn Farm was terminated because of a big fall in corn prices. Frank then spent two years as Farm Bailiff at Leagrave Farm near Luton, followed by two years, 1924 – 1926, as Farm Bailiff at Holwell Court Farm in Essendon near Hertford. Then, between 1926 and 1928, he worked as Farm Bailiff to Lord Rosslyn at Hungry Hill Farm, Horsham, Sussex.
However, Electoral Register entries between 1929 and 1939 show Frank working at the hospital known initially as the London County Mental Hospital, then the Hanwell Mental Hospital and, from 1937, St Bernard’s Hospital. Further information about Frank’s work as Farm Bailiff there is noted in the June 1961 Middlesex N.F.U. Record “Middlesex Farming Personalities“.
The job carried enormous responsibility. Under Frank’s control were the Hanwell Hospital Farms. He controlled also a team of gardeners who looked after the gardens, grounds and playing fields in his area. He was responsible also for a large acreage of market gardens and greenhouses. Part of the job was to provide food for the 2,500 patients and 500 staff at Hanwell hospital. Vegetables were grown for this purpose and 100 milking cows were kept to supply milk.
Unfortunately, development gradually took over the farm land and the London County Council reduced its farming activities.
The 1939 Register 2
The 1939 Register shows Frank farming Warren Farm, Windmill Lane, Southall, Middlesex, which was a St Bernard’s Hospital farm. His son David was assisting him while Kathleen had “Unpaid Domestic Duties” and Peter was at school. However Michael, also at school, was an evacuee at 32 Regent Street, Aylesbury staying in the household of Cyril and Catherine Evans.
Frank continued to farm. However during 1939 he ceased working for St Bernard’s Hospital and took the lease on Park Farm in Hadley Road, Enfield, Middlesex (now in Ferny Hill, Barnet, Hertfordshire). Then, on 10th September 1941 he also took on the adjoining Parkside Farm. By 1945, London Electoral Registers show Frank and Kathleen living at Parkside Farm, Hadley Road, Enfield; by 1948 their sons were resident at Park Farm. In 1949, Frank and Kathleen moved to Park Farm though the family continued to farm Parkside Farm. Frank ran the two farms as one business, with his sons Michael throughout and David between approximately 1962 and 1971. From 1963, Frank and Kathleen lived at 51 Hadley Road, a newly built house on Parkside Farm land. Michael lived at Parkside Farm and David at Park Farm.
Kathleen and Frank, who remained at 51 Hadley Road until their deaths, died within three weeks of each other in the Spring of 1972. Kathleen, aged 71, died on 27th April and Frank, aged 77, on 16th May.
At the present time Parkside Farm, Hadley Road is farmed by Frank’s Grandson Richard, operating as F.J. Whitman and Sons.
Postscript: Frank’s Brother Frederick George Whitman 15
Frank’s brother Frederick George (Fred) Whitman became a well-known local builder in the Little Gaddesden area. From 1929, after the Ashridge Estate was sold, until about 1960, his firm built a number of the ‘new’ village houses, for example in Hudnall Lane, Hudnall Common, Grovells and Gatesdene Close. He employed local craftsmen including carpenters Sidney (Jubal) Jones, Steve Oakins son of Stephen Oakins and Bob Willmore brother of Percy Willmore.
5. Little Gaddesden Burial Register
6. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906 and 1906 – 1934
7. Little Gaddesden Scout Diary 1912 – 1922, HALS, Hertford, Acc 3131
8. Middlesex N.F.U. Record (June 1961) “Middlesex Farming Personalities“
10. 1918-21 Absent Voters’ Lists Parliamentary County of Hertford, Hemel Hempstead Division, Little Gaddesden
15. Leonhardt, John (ed), 2002, A Century Remembered – a celebration of the Millennium in Little Gaddesden, Rural Heritage Society of Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Ashridge
16. National Archives Catalogue Reference: WO/399/8932. Nursing record for Staff Nurse Hilda Ellen Whitman, Q.A.I.M.N.S., b. 5th June 1888
18. Page 14641 | Supplement 31659, 25 November 1919 | London Gazette | The Gazette Sister Hilda Ellen Whitman
22. Personal correspondence with Frank’s grandson Andrew Whitman
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson