7308 Private William Reuben Munden, 1st Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, later 239863 Labour Corps
Born on 15th November 1881 in Hudnall
Died on 4th January 1961 in St Paul’s Hospital, Hemel Hempstead
William Reuben (Billy) Munden was born in Hudnall, then in Edlesborough Parish, the second of the 4 children of William Thomas Munden and Ann née Smith.
His older sister Nellie Jane was born on 26th March 1880, his brother Matthew George Munden on 2nd February 1884 and his sister Annie Elizabeth (Nance) on 15th June 1886.
When he was young, his family lived with his maternal grandmother Ellen Smith at 5 Hudnall. His father was an Agricultural Labourer.
William Munden started at Little Gaddesden School on 15th June 1885, when he was 3 years 7 months old. A later log book entry records that, on 28th May 1888, when he was aged 6½, it was decided that he should remain in the First Division of the Infants. However, by 18th October 1889 he was in Standard 1, but a weak reader.
The 1891 Census shows the family still living at 5 Hudnall. Nellie, 11, William, 9, Matthew Munden, 7 and Annie, 5 were all at school.
On April 18th 1894 William Munden left Little Gaddesden School with a Certificate of Proficiency. However, on 6th June he was re-entered on the School books. On 17th September his name was removed from the register again as he had employment on the Estate. However, he must have returned to school later that autumn because, on 1st January 1895 the entry reads: “Took W Munden’s name off the books; he has been absent now for some weeks & is in regular employment.“
By 1901, the family lived at 37 Little Gaddesden. 19 year old William and his father were both Farm Carters while William’s 17 year old brother Matthew Munden was a Blacksmith’s Striker. His sister Nellie, 21, was a Domestic Housemaid while his mother and his 14 year old sister Annie were at home.
The Family in 1911 2
The 1911 Census shows the Munden family still at 37 Little Gaddesden. William, 29, was still a Farm Carter, his father a Farm Labourer and his 27 year old brother Matthew Munden a Blacksmith’s Striker on the Ashridge Estate. His sisters Nellie, 31 and Annie, 24 had started their laundry at 37 Little Gaddesden, an enterprise which they then ran for many years.
On 22nd March 1913, William Reuben Munden married Mary Moore in the Parish Church of New Malden and Coombe, Surrey. William, 32, was a Horseman of 37 Little Gaddesden; Mary, 36, of Ventnor, Elm Road, New Malden, was the daughter of William Moore (deceased) who had been a Provisions Merchant.
Only William’s Medal Records and Absent Voters’ list entries have survived. His Medal Roll Index Card shows that he served in France with the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment from 27th April 1915. He was then a Private, Service Number 7308. He joined the Battalion in France shortly after they had lost approximately 100 other ranks killed and several hundred wounded in the Battle of Hill 60, south of Ypres. The Battalion Diary records the following entry for 5th May 1915:
At a little after 8 a.m. enemy attacked with asphyxiating gas laid on from two points opposite our trenches. Battn stuck to its trenches, though a few men killed by gas, & all were badly affected. Troops on right, however, were driven out of trenches & enemy captured Hill 60 & trenches on our immediate right. Our left trenches were then attacked but drove back enemy: our right trenches were attacked all day with bombs, rifles & machine guns. Desperate fight all day enemy & selves in same trench, both sides using hand grenades fiercely. Enemy eventually worked round our right flank & enfiladed our right, but men gallantly maintained their position.
Transfer to the Labour Corps
We do not know how long William served in the Bedfordshire Regiment. However, later in the War, he transferred to the Labour Corps, Service Number 239836. In the book “Little Gaddesden and Ashridge” William is described as “a First World War victim, crippled with arthritis“. Whether that affected him while he was still serving is unknown but, if so, it is a possible explanation for his transfer from the Bedfordshire Regiment to the Labour Corps.
William’s Autumn 1918 Absent Voter’s list entry shows him serving in 433 Agricultural Company, Labour Corps at Bedford. That service would have made good use of his pre-War trade.
William was demobilised and transferred to Class Z Reserve on 9th March 1919. For his War Service, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
Men who have answered their Country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper”
William Munden 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. He is listed in the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, in which he first served. He is similarly shown on the Centenary Revision of the Roll. William’s brother Matthew Munden, Royal Field Artillery is also named on both Rolls.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
Return to the Village 11
The 1919 Electoral Register shows William living at 28 Ringshall. However, from 1920 his address was 38 Ashridge Park, which is now part of Cherry Tree Cottage on Alderton Drive.
An entry in “Little Gaddesden and Ashridge” records that Billy Munden and his wife adopted children and brought them up at 38 Ashridge Park. Phyllis Munden is shown, aged about 7, on a 1930 Little Gaddesden School photo; Ann Munden, aged about 12, is shown in an early 1940s school photo. It is believed that Phyllis and Ann were Billy and Mary’s adopted daughters.
Mary Munden died aged 61 in June 1938. In the 1939 Register, William, a widower, is shown as a Gardener living at 5 Council Cottages (now Chapel Close), Hudnall.
On 4th January 1961 William Reuben Munden died in St Paul’s Hospital, Hemel Hempstead aged 79. He is recorded as “formerly of 37 Little Gaddesden”, the Mundens’ family home where his sisters Nellie and Annie were still living. He was buried in the old churchyard of St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden on 7th January 1961.
William’s sisters Nellie and Annie (Nance) lived at 37 Little Gaddesden for the rest of their lives. Annie died on 15th November 1965 aged 79 and Nellie on 23rd September 1974 aged 94.
4. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906
9. 1918-21 Absent Voters’ Lists Parliamentary County of Hertford, Hemel Hempstead Division, Little Gaddesden
10. Senar, H (1983), Little Gaddesden and Ashridge, Phillimore & Co. Ltd.
12. Leonhardt, John (ed), 2002, A Century Remembered – a celebration of the Millennium in Little Gaddesden, Rural Heritage Society of Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Ashridge
14. Little Gaddesden Burial Register 1938, 1961, 1965, 1974
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 email@example.com.
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson