Harry Cutler

1848 and 265161 Serjeant Harry Cutler, 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment, later 525905 and WR177472 Royal Engineers

Born on 13th January 1893 in Little Gaddesden
Died on 29th September 1970 in Perivale, Middlesex

Family and Home 1, 2, 3, 4

Harry Cutler was born in Little Gaddesden, the youngest of the four children of Frederick Thomas Cutler and Elizabeth née Mayling. He was baptised in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden on 29th March 1893.

His sister Alice was born in 1883, his brother Frederick James Cutler on 5th May 1886 and his brother John Cutler on 20th February 1889.

Harry’s family lived in Lamsey Lane and his father was an Agricultural Labourer who, their address indicates, worked on Church Farm for Mr Underwood.

Education 5

On 6th September 1897 Harry Cutler of Cold Harbour started at Little Gaddesden School; he was then aged 4½. Bertram Gentle of Little Gaddesden was re-admitted the same day, his family having returned from Northchurch.

On 4th March 1898, the Headmaster reports:

I am sorry to say that Harry Cutler of Berkd. Common has Whooping Cough: he has not been to School since Feb. 10th, so I hope it will not spread. He has not caught it in Little Gaddesden School.

1898 was not a good year for Harry. On 8th August the School Log Book entry notes:

Mrs Cutler has just called to say that her little boy Harry (6yrs Inf.) has cracked his collar bone. He was playing with his brothers at home when he met with the accident. The Doctor advised his mother to keep him at home for a fortnight.

The 1901 Census confirms the family’s address as Cold Harbour, Ashridge. Harry’s father was by then a Farm Stockman and his 14 year old brother Frederick Cutler a Farm Cowboy. 12 year old John Cutler and 8 year old Harry were at school. His sister Alice, however, was a Parlour Maid at the Manor House, Little Gaddesden in the household of Colonel Wheatley, father of Philip Wheatley.

Harry hoped to leave school in May 1906, but did not pass his Labour Examination. However, the Log Book entry for 17th January 1907 records that he had left as he was “over 14 years”.

Employment 4

The 1911 Census then shows 18 year old Harry living with his parents, who had moved to 16 Ringshall, and working as a Blacksmith’s Striker.

Volunteering for the Territorials 6

On 11th March 1912, Harry, attested for the 1st Hertfordshire Regiment, Territorial Force at Ashridge, while living in Little Gaddesden. His Service Number was 1848. He was 19 years 1 month old, 5 feet 11 inches tall and had a 35½ inch chest. Harry was then a Blacksmith working on the Ashridge Estate for Earl Brownlow. He was not the only Little Gaddesden man to attest for the Territorials that day: 1847 Vernon Batchelor R.I.P., 1849 George Hoar R.I.P., 1951 Walter Lee and, almost certainly, 1854 Horace Ruffett did too.

The Outbreak of War 7

Harry was at Annual Camp at Ashridge at the start of August 1914. The week was planned to include parades, drills, skirmishes, night exercises, camp sports, inter-company football and boxing and a tattoo with massed bands – not to mention a visit to the Ashridge Flower Show. However, at 5am on Monday 3rd August, the order was received to strike camp. All thoughts of the tattoo, the boxing finals and the football cup match forgotten, the men of F Company then returned home to await further orders. These arrived next day, instructing them to report to Company HQ at The Bury in Hemel Hempstead on 5th August.

Training for France 7

From Hemel Hempstead, F Company moved to Hertford to join the rest of the regiment before moving on to Romford and then Bury St Edmunds, where they trained for two months.

This is a copy of a postcard from Horace Ruffett (seated far right) to his brother Ernest Ruffett, dated 30th August 1914.

Photo of F Company, 1st Herts batallion, in training
Men from F Company, 1st Hertfordshire Regiment training at Bury St Edmunds in August 1914.

It was given to Michael McCaul for the Little Gaddesden Archive by Ernest Ruffett’s son E H Ruffett in 1996/7.

The postcard reads:

F Com. 1st Herts
Dear E I thought you would like one of these. It is a good one. You will know them nearly all. It is very hot here today. Yours H

“You Will Know Them Nearly All”

Arthur Whitman is seated 5th from right, armed with sandwich and mug of tea; Joe Hing (uncle of the yet-to-be-born Leonard Hing, who was to perish in the Second World War) is seated far left. If Harry is in this photograph, he is likely to be the tall man sitting to the left of Arthur Whitman. Other men who may be in this photo are: Vernon Batchelor, William Fenn, Richard Hoar and Herbert Impey.

To France with the “Herts Guards” 7, 8

However, on 5th November 1914, the 1st Hertfordshire Regiment left Bury St Edmunds by train, embarking aboard the “City of Chester” at Southampton. They then sailed for Le Havre at midnight and arrived in France on 6th November 1914. Over the next 5 days, they proceeded via St Omer to Ypres, where the regiment saw its first action during the First Battle of Ypres. According to Vernon Batchelor from Hudnall, the Battalion spent Christmas 1914

up to our knees in mud and water… They (the Germans) were busy singing at midnight and playing some sort of whistle; of course our side was singing as well. We were only 15 yards away from the Germans in one place, and between two and three hundred yards away in others, so you see we are not very far from the enemy.

Thank you for the Christmas Parcel 7

Then, on 30th January 1915, the Hemel Hempstead Gazette published a letter from 76 men of F Company, Hertfordshire Regiment, to thank the people of Hemel Hempstead and district for the Christmas parcel containing many good things. Among the signatories was Private H Cutler. Others included Private V BatchelorLance Corporal W Finn (sic), Private J HingPrivate R HoarPrivate H ImpeyCorporal H Ruffitt and Private A Whitman.

Promotions 6

All Harry’s Service until 12th April 1917 was with the 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment; he was promoted as follows:

  • 29th June 1915 – Acting Lance Corporal (unpaid)
  • 15th November 1915 – Acting Lance Corporal (paid)
  • 16th February 1916 – Acting Corporal
  • 22nd March 1916 – Corporal
  • 23rd July 1916 – Acting Sergeant
  • 23rd August 1916 – Sergeant (Service Number 265161)

Transfer to the Royal Engineers 6

However, on 12th April 1917, Harry transferred to 33 Light Railway Operating Company, Royal Engineers. His Service Number was then 525905 and he served initially as an Acting Sergeant. The “Trade and Special Qualifications” page of his Service Record shows that he proved himself a “very superior” Fitter. On 1st April 1918 he was promoted to Sergeant.

Marriage 6, 8

On 20th August 1918, Harry Cutler, 25 married Daisy Ethel Thickbroom at the Church of St John–at–Hackney. Harry was a Soldier and the son of Fred Cutler, a Farmer. Daisy was a Spinster,of 296 Dalston Lane, Hackney and daughter of Alfred William Thickbroom, Traveller. Harry is recorded at the same address though he was still serving in the Royal Engineers.

Demobilisation 6, 9

Sergeant Harry Cutler served until 12th April 1919, when he was demobilised and transferred to Class Z Reserve. By that time his Service Number was WR177472. For his War Service, Harry was awarded the 1914 Star, British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal. His address on demobilisation was 42 Mildenhall Road, Clapton, London E5.

Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper” 10

Harry Cutler is named on the 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. The unit listed for him is the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment, in which he first served. He is similarly shown on the Centenary Revision of the Roll. Harry’s brothers Frederick Cutler, Mechanical Transport and John Cutler, Veterinary Corps, are also listed on both Rolls, as are his cousins John Mayling, 10th Bn. Bedfordshire Regt. and William Mayling, 3rd Bn. Hertfordshire Regt.

Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver

Although Harry and his brothers moved away from Little Gaddesden, his parents stayed at 16 Ringshall. His father then died there in 1928 and his mother stayed until at least 1930.

Birth of a Son 1, 3, 11

Harry and Daisy’s son, Desmond Cutler was born in the 3rd Quarter of 1920

By 1930 Harry and his family lived at 21 Davis Road, Acton. However, by 1935 they had moved to 100 Rydal Crescent, Ealing, Middlesex. At that address in the 1939 Register, Harry’s occupation is recorded as “Fitter Aero Engineer”.

Death of his Son at Dunkirk 12

Harry and Ethel’s son, Signalman Desmond Cutler, 2585086 44th Div. Signals, Royal Corps of Signals died aged 19 on the retreat to Dunkirk. His date of death is recorded “between 28th and 29th April 1940” and he is commemorated on the Dunkirk Memorial, Column 30.

Photo of the Dunkirk Memorial
Dunkirk Memorial, courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Later Life 13, 14

Harry then lived at 100 Rydal Crescent for the rest of his life. He died aged 77 on 29th September 1970. By that date the address was recorded as 100 Rydal Crescent, Perivale, Greenford, Middlesex. His widow Daisy, then, stayed at that address until her death in 1977.


1. https://www.findmypast.co.uk England & Wales births 1837-2006 Transcriptions

2. Little Gaddesden Baptism Register 1813 – 1947

3. https://www.ancestry.co.uk The 1939 Register

4. https://www.findmypast.co.uk 1891 – 1911 England, Wales & Scotland Census Transcriptions 

5. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906 and 1906 – 1934

6. https://www.ancestry.co.uk British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920

7. Reynolds, Bertha & Chris (1995) “The London Gunners Come to Town”, Life and Death in Hemel Hempstead in the Great War, Codil Language Systems Ltd in association with Dacorum Heritage Trust.

8. https://www.ancestry.co.uk  London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932

9. https://www.ancestry.co.uk  British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards 1914-1920

10. https://www.findmypast.co.uk Electoral Registers 1832 – 1932

11. https://www.ancestry.co.uk  London, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1965

12. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2771337/cutler,-desmond/

13. https://www.findmypast.co.uk England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007

14. https://www.ancestry.co.uk National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations) 1858 – 1995

Do you have any questions about the information recorded here? Or do you have any further information that you can share with us about those from Little Gaddesden who died or fought for their country? In either case, please contact Jane Dickson at war-remembrance@littlegaddesdenchurch.org.uk.

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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson