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Charles Warrell aka "Big Chief I-Spy"


clive_hughes
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Charles Watson Warrell was born at Farnborough, Somerset on 23 April 1889. At the time of the First World War he was married (?probably to Elizabeth Gill ) and the Head Teacher at Higher Wych School, Whitewell, Flintshire.

At some later date he was Head at Pleasey Hill School, Notts. He came up with the very popular "I-Spy" series of childrens books, publishing them from 1948 onwards and assuming the guise of "Big Chief I-Spy". He retired in 1956 and handed over the mantle of Big Chief and the books (which after going through various hands and metamorphoses are apparently still in print).

He went to live at Budleigh Salterton, Devon, and died aged 106 at Matlock, Derbyshire on 28 November 1995.

I have been asked by his successor school (now in the County Borough of Wrexham) to find out something of his war service: apparently he asked for a half-day leave in about 1915 (possibly for a medical) and by the following week had gone, leaving his wife to head the school. His exact service is a bit of a mystery, however.

Someone might be able to help me if they will, by checking the National Union of Teachers printed war record, in case it mentions him or his unit?

Leaping to the assumption that he was in the Army and served abroad, I have had a look at the Medal Cards; and the only Charles W Warrell there is a Sapper 176700 RE, earned the usual 2 medals and also qualified for a Silver War Badge.

There are other plain Charles Warrells:

Pte 243162 3/4th RWest Surrey (BWM, VIC,SWar Badge) who served Oct 1916-March 1919

Pte 101644 Durham LI (BWM, VIC)

Pte DM2/162986 ASC (BWM,VIC)

(& a Pte West Yorks, but DOW April 1918)

Otherwise, any assistance you might be able to render in this enquiry would be most welcome!

LST_164

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Hi LST,

Can't help in making sure the MIC belongs to your Charles but there is a member on Ancestry who has a Charles Warrell married to Sarah Elisa D B Gill. Sarah was born 1889, Nunney, Somerset. I have sent the member a message to see if she has more info. Will let you know.

I presume you have seen this article http://archive.thenorthernecho.co.uk/2003/8/27/79116.html??

Warrell was 101 when the Daily Telegraph published his premature obituary, handsomely apologising with a crate of champagne. He finally died in 1995, aged 106, still known to the nursing home staff as Big Chief.

Hope he had a good sense of humour.

Regards,

Garry

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Thanks for the extra information - I might have a go at "Hawkeye" to confirm the WW1 angle, but anything else that can be gleaned from your contact would be appreciated.

LST_164

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  • 2 weeks later...

His entry in the DNB sums up his war service in one sentance: "Warrell joined the army in 1916 and served in Salonika, his wife acting as temporary headteacher in his absence."

Sources Culham Educational Foundation, Abingdon, archive · The Independent (30 Nov 1995) · The Times (1 Dec 1995) · log book, Higher Wych School, Malpas, Cheshire [now known as Borderbrook School, Talwrn Green, Malpas, Cheshire] · log book, Pleasley Hill secondary school, Mansfield, 1925–58, Notts. Arch., SL 109/7/2, book A · T. Wragg, ‘Year of the twerp and Big Chief I-Spy’, Times Educational Supplement (5 Jan 1996) · b. cert. · d. cert. · W. Whitewood, ‘Big Chief I-Spy’, MA diss., U. Nott., 2000 · private information (2004) [R. Whitewood, daughter; W. Whitewood, family]

Belinda Copson, ‘Warrell, Charles Watson (1889–1995)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/60370, accessed 27 March 2009]

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Thanks, per ardua

that takes us a bit further. I don't have a subscription to the Oxford DNB so couldn't follow up that link when I was googling.

His service record might be the next thing to try, but W surnames will be a while coming onto Ancestry yet. I tried the Pensions papers, with no result.

LST_164

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Fortunately my library has a subscription for the Oxford DNB, saves me a fortune!

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Just an update: I contacted the Flintshire County Records Office to see whether Worrall had one of the Flintshire war service index cards completed in 1919, under Whitewell parish (where the school and his Head Teacher's house lie).

Apparently not. I'll try the service roll in Whitewell church next, but even if he's on it, I know there will be no regimental details.

LST_164

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...there is a member on Ancestry who has a Charles Warrell married to Sarah Elisa D B Gill. ...

The obituary in The Independent sums up as follows:

"Charles Warrell, teacher, writer, publisher: born Farmborough, Somerset 23 April 1889; married Elizabeth Gill (deceased; two daughters), secondly Marian Tucker; died Matlock, Derbyshire 26 November 1995",

so that Ancestry entry could well be the one...

Angela

(ex-ISpy member!)

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  • 12 years later...

Update, some years on from my last post...

I had a look at the pensions cards, and there is indeed a matching one for Actg. Corporal Charles Warrell, 162986 Army Service Corps.  Resident at School House, Iscoyd, Whitchurch, Shropshire (postally, but the school was actually in former Flintshire, now Wrexham).  Admitted to pension 1.3.1920 at 8 shillings a week until at least 1.2.21.  

Medal rolls for British War & Victory Medals as Pte. DM2/162986 ASC.  No service papers seem to survive.  The Silver War Badge was for a different Charles W.Warrell RE.  

Clive

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On 26 April 1920 region 5 (Wales) applied to the HQ section in London for Charles' pension file (the initial case was opened in London and then transferred to the region).

He moved shortly afterwards as his case was moved to region 6 in June 1920 (The Whitchurch address).

Looks like this may have been him moving to take the job.

In Dec 1920 his pension was dropped below 20% and was settled with a 35 week pay off.


image.png
https://www.fold3.com/image/644526251

Craig

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Thanks Craig,

I didn't spot his ledger entry, only the card.  Intrigued to know what the debility or condition was, there's no mention of its cause.  I suspect also that you're right - that he moved from London Area to be a teacher at Higher Wych.  The way it was told to me, years ago, he was already a teacher up here and interrupted his career to serve in the Forces; but seemingly it didn't happen exactly that way. 

Clive 

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The ASC number looks like having been issued during February(ish) 1916.

Near numbers (and there are very few with service records), suggest attestation  followed by quick attendance at Osterley Park, again in February, home for a few weeks, then re-attending Osterley in April or May to qualify as a driver.

The nearest I've found is DM2/162974 DT Frost

163091 is a December 1915 attestation, arriving in Osterley March 1st 1916.

ASC numbering is a dark art...

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Mention of a brother here:

"Mr Charles Warrell, a brother of Mr Arthur S Warrell, well-known in Bristol musical circles, has written a useful handbook on one aspect of agricultural and horticultural work, and it is published by Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons Ltd. Mr Charles Warrell is head-master of the Higher Wych School, and lecturer on agricultural science and farm arithmetic to the evening classes under the Flintshire Education Committee His title is "The Science of the Soil," and the book is intended for farmers and land workers. Within a comparatively small compass Mr Warrell gives a large amount of information about the composition and fertility of the soils, the use of artificial manures, seeds and seed testing, plants and their growth, and a number of other subjects. The book, therefore, is of great value to all interested in the land, and is as useful to the small gardener as to the large farmer."

Western Daily Press, Friday 9.7.1920

--------------

A curiously-worded postcard has been received by Mr. C. Warrell, the headmaster of Pleasley Hill School, through the agency of the Flintshire Education Committee, under which Mr. Warrell formerly served. The request was for a copy of a book which he published at that time.

The postcard was thus addressed: "England in Flintshire (Wales). Over Intelligence Office. To Sir Charles Warrell, lecturer on agricultural science, Flintshire Education Committee, Educational.

The message reads: "Russia, 19th February. 1931. "Dear Sir.—Respectable lecturer, C. Warren. I you demand to send us, when scientific offering (a copy; sending mones impossibility, extremely difficulty) 'Poste Register d' copie of your book; Warrell, 'The Science of the Soil.' 150 pages (oldish copy). Announcement vary to the interested students and professors Higher School of Agriculture at North Caucasus. We demand your swift reply to the letter. Ours cordial academical kindness and gratitude.

"Respectfully, ALEXIS DMITRIEU."

Nottingham Evening Post, Friday 13.3.1931

--------------

Granting Frank Marchant, of 105, Berry Hill-road. Mansfield, a decree nisi on the grounds of his wife’s adultery with a former Mansfield headmaster, Charles Warrell, at the Nottingham Divorce Court to-day, the Special Commissioner, Judge A. C. Caporn, declared:

"The parties are well-known in Mansfield. In case there is any misunderstanding, it is only fair to point out that there is no evidence that they were committing misconduct at the time they were engaged by the local educational authorities. The evidence is that they had ceased to be so engaged when misconduct took place."

Nottingham Evening Post, Tuesday 19.8.1947

 

Edited by BereniceUK
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Thank you all,

Curious what turns up when we start digging, isn't it?  

Clive

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