1847 Private Vernon Batchelor, 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment
Born 29th January 1894 in Studham
Died of Wounds 25th July 1916 in France
Vernon was the eldest of the four children of Alfred Mark Batchelor and Jane, née Ginger. His father was a Domestic Coachman in 1901 and a Horseman on a Farm in 1911. Vernon’s siblings were: Mabel, b. 1897, Archibald, b. 1902 and Lillian, b. 1907. His family were Wesleyan Methodists.
There is no apparent relationship between Vernon Batchelor and Charles Batchelor, who is also remembered in these pages, but there were so many Batchelors in the area that they might well have been cousins of some degree.
By 29th May 1899, when he was admitted to Little Gaddesden School as an infant, Vernon’s family were living at Hudnall. He stayed at the school until 14th December 1900 when his name was taken off the Registers as he had left the neighbourhood. In the 1901 Census, he and his family are recorded living at 12 Nettleden. On 26th October 1903, Vernon Batchelor, Standard 3, was re-admitted to Little Gaddesden School and his sister Mabel Batchelor, an Infant, was admitted. It would seem that the family had moved back to Hudnall. He left the school from Standard 6 on his 14th Birthday, 29th January 1908.
In the 1911 Census, Vernon was shown as a 17 year old Farm Labourer, living at Hudnall with his parents and siblings.
In late 1911, Vernon had attested for the Hertfordshire Regiment at Ashridge as a Territorial Volunteer. His place of residence was recorded as “Berkhampstead”, though he lived at Hudnall. He 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 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 5
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, dated 30th 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
Arthur Whitman is seated fifth from right and Joe Hing (uncle of the yet-to-be-born Leonard Hing, who was to perish in the Second World War) far left. The group may include Vernon; others who may be shown are Harry Cutler, William Fenn, Richard Hoar and Herbert Impey.
To France with the “Herts Guards” 7
On 5th November 1914, the 1st Hertfordshire Regiment left Bury St Edmunds by train, embarking aboard the “City of Chester” at Southampton, sailing for Le Havre at midnight and arriving in France 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.
Christmas 1914 in France 5
According to the Hemel Hempstead Gazette of 16th January 1915, Vernon went into the trenches on Christmas Eve 1914 and spent a week there. This extract from his letter has been included in ‘The London Gunners Come to Town’.
We are up to our knees in mud and water…Well what sort of a Christmas Day did you have, better than we did, I hope? I was busy looking through loop holes watching for Germans to come up. They 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 5
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 V Batchelor.
Illness and Injury 8
On 22nd March 1915, 21 year old Vernon was admitted to No 4 Stationary Hospital, St Omer, France suffering from “I.C.T. Head”. The term I.C.T. was sometimes used for suppurating skin diseases (pyodermia), which were common as the result of the conditions in which the men lived. Vernon left hospital and returned to duty on 4th May 1915.
Ten days later, he was admitted to the same hospital with a gunshot wound to the left elbow. He was discharged to the Sick Convoy on 17th May.
Death in France 9
On 25th July 1916, 22 year old Private Vernon Batchelor died of wounds in No 1 Stationary Hospital, Rouen, France. The 1st Hertfordshire Regiment had been involved in the Battle of the Somme, spending 16 days in the trenches in the Givenchy-Cuinchy and Festubert sections from 12th July.
Burial in France 9
Vernon is buried in St Sever Cemetery, Rouen, Seine-Maritime, France. His grave reference is A.37.9.
Beneath the badge of the Hertfordshire Regiment, the inscription on his headstone reads:
25th July 1916 Age 22
Beneath the cross are the words:
Gone but in our hearts
You will live always
By the time the CWGC Grave Registration Reports were compiled in the 1920s, Vernon’s parents had moved from Hudnall to 64 Shrublands Avenue, Berkhamsted.
We will remember them 7
Vernon Batchelor is commemorated on the War Memorials on the village green and in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden. He is also named on the Roll of Honour in the church.
He was posthumously awarded the 1914 Star with Clasp, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
2. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906
5. 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.
Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson