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W. Gornall - B.E.F./Non Combatant Corps/Church Army?


BereniceUK
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The final Great War name inscribed on the Robertsbridge & Salehurst war memorial, in Sussex, is W. Gornall of the B.E.F.

The roll of honour in Salehurst church has William Gornall of the Church Army listed in the Fallen.

Could this be the same man as on the memorial and roll of honour? http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/659198/GORNALL,%20W

GORNALL, W

Rank: Private Service No: 543 Date of Death: 24/10/1918 Age: 26 Regiment/Service: Non Combatant Corps Grave Reference: PA. 62. Cemetery: BRIGHTON (LEWES ROAD) BOROUGH CEMETERY Additional Information: Husband of Mrs. C. A. Gornall, of 13, Southover St., Brighton.
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SDGW shows:

Name: William Gornall
Birth Place: Manchester
Residence: Brighton
Death Date: 24 Oct 1918
Death Place: Home
Enlistment Place: Chichester
Rank: Private
Regiment: Labour Corps, Non Combatant Corps
Regimental Number: 543
Type of Casualty: Died
Theatre of War: Home

Craig

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There are service records for 543 on Ancestry, showing he died of influenza at Southover Street while on leave. The records also show that he was an Evangelist by calling/trade, had been with the 1st East Lancs Field Company (?), attached to the French Army since October 1914, and subsequently landed at Boulogne in June 1916.

Mike

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Thanks, Craig and Mike. I feel the odds are that he's the right man but without checking the local newspaper I won't know for sure.

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Yes, he is the same man, William Gornall, but some clarification seems to be required.

As to the civilian trade or calling as Evangelist, this would fit the description as a full-time worker for the Church Army, an exclusively Church of England voluntary uniformed organisation on similar lines to the Salvation Army.

In that civilian capacity he seems to have served with the 1st East Lancs Field Ambulance, attached to the French Army, from October 1914.

With the institution of conscription in 1916, he needed to regularise his position, and appeared before a Military Service Tribunal as a conscientious objector; he was exempted only from combatant service, meaning that he was called up into the Non-Combatant Corps on 12 April 1916, and posted to France on 9 May 1916. Continuing to serve in France he was allowed home leave in October 1918, but succumbed to the influenza epidemic, with the apparent complication of a cardiac arrest, and died at home in Brighton on 24 October 1918.

Whether that history qualifies for the description BEF is for military historians to comment. What is clear is that the SDGW reference to the Labour Corps is erroneous.

Wiiliam Gornall is one of a relatively small group of conscientious objectors to be commemorated on local war memorials or rolls of honour.

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Thank you very, very much, Magnumbellum, so nice to get the facts straight on his war experience. He saw service in almost the entire war.

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Thank you very, very much, Magnumbellum, so nice to get the facts straight on his war experience. He saw service in almost the entire war.

Further to my earlier post, it has since been put to me that William Gornall's Army papers show his religious denomination as Plymouth Brethren, which would not square with the reputed Salehurst Church Roll of Honour description as belonging to the Church Army.

I assume that by "Salehurst Church" is meant the Salehurst Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, which apparently has two versions of its Roll of Honour: (1) a brass plaque, an indistinct photo of which is available online, not seeming to show any designations after names; and (2) a paper document, not accessible online. Is it the latter from which the Church Army reference is derived. If so, it would be helpful to know exactly how the description is made.

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Further to my earlier post, it has since been put to me that William Gornall's Army papers show his religious denomination as Plymouth Brethren, which would not square with the reputed Salehurst Church Roll of Honour description as belonging to the Church Army.

I assume that by "Salehurst Church" is meant the Salehurst Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, which apparently has two versions of its Roll of Honour: (1) a brass plaque, an indistinct photo of which is available online, not seeming to show any designations after names; and (2) a paper document, not accessible online. Is it the latter from which the Church Army reference is derived. If so, it would be helpful to know exactly how the description is made.

This is part of the roll of honour in Salehurst church.

IMG_3647-1.jpg

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This is part of the roll of honour in Salehurst church.

IMG_3647-1.jpg

Thank you very much for this.

Irrespective of any discrepancy with Gornall's Army record, which, not being an Ancestry subscriber, I have not been able to check, there is an oddity in the Roll of Honour description, in that, so far as I can see, all the other men on the Roll are described by their regiment, corps, ship etc, whereas Gornall is treated effectively as a civilian, whose sole affiliation at the time of death was the Church Army. Yet we know from the CWGC records that he died as a conscript in the Non-Combatant Corps.

There is a further oddity in that Robertsbridge War Memorial, which includes Salehurst, describes Gornall as "B.E.F." as against regiment, ship etc for the others. At the very least, it appears that compilers of both the Salehurst Church paper Roll of Honour and the Robertsbridge memorial relied upon vague rather than detailed information and came to differing conclusions as to appropriate description. The vagueness may relate to the fact that although Gornall was commemorated in Salehurst, at the time of death he and his wife were living in Brighton. My assumption is that Gornall had earlier lived in Salehurst, but, perhaps after his call-up, his wife moved to Brighton, and the Salehurst/Robertsbridge compilers had limited knowledge as to his precise position.

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The address at 13 Southover Street belonged to her father, George Henry Fowler, also an evangelist.

She was substantially older than Gornall, being born in Uckfield in 1882, and appears variously as Christina Agnes, Christiana and Christine. I've found her on the 1891 and 1901 census so far. In 1901, she was a ladies maid. Possibly, she was a visitor in Hove on the 1911 census.

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Irrespective of any discrepancy with Gornall's Army record, which, not being an Ancestry subscriber, I have not been able to check, there is an oddity in the Roll of Honour description, in that, so far as I can see, all the other men on the Roll are described by their regiment, corps, ship etc, whereas Gornall is treated effectively as a civilian, whose sole affiliation at the time of death was the Church Army. Yet we know from the CWGC records that he died as a conscript in the Non-Combatant Corps.

Was there a stigma attached to being a member of the Non-Combatant Corps? Did the people of Salehurst feel that his war service and his religious belief should, out of respect, be honoured by his being recorded as having served in the Church Army, even if that wasn't strictly accurate?

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The address at 13 Southover Street belonged to her father, George Henry Fowler, also an evangelist.

She was substantially older than Gornall, being born in Uckfield in 1882, and appears variously as Christina Agnes, Christiana and Christine. I've found her on the 1891 and 1901 census so far. In 1901, she was a ladies maid. Possibly, she was a visitor in Hove on the 1911 census.

Thanks for this, which tends to corroborate my guess that at one time the couple lived in Salehurst, but when Gornall was called up his wife moved to Brighton - we now know, to join her parents. That could account for vagueness in Salehurst/Robertsbridge as to what had happened.

Birth in 1882 would make Gornall's wife about ten years older than he. Nothing necessarily turns on that; it simply adds to the human story. If her father was also an Evangelist, the couple could have met at some Church Army gathering, impelling Gornall to move from Manchester, his origin, to join her.

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Was there a stigma attached to being a member of the Non-Combatant Corps? Did the people of Salehurst feel that his war service and his religious belief should, out of respect, be honoured by his being recorded as having served in the Church Army, even if that wasn't strictly accurate?

In some eyes there would certainly have been a stigma regarding being a conscientious objector, which was the only route to service in the Non-Combatant Corps, but the more usual way of implementing that stigma would have been for those compiling the names, either for the Roll of Honour or for the War Memorial, to have excluded the name altogether, rather than consciously selecting an alternative description. So I am more inclined to the view that, apart from hearing that he had died, no-one in Salehurst/Robertsbridge knew quite how Gornall had served in the latter part of the war.

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Hastings and St Leonards Observer 26 December 1914

SALEHURST CHURCH ARMY CAPTAIN IN FRANCE

Robertsbridge people will be interested to learn that Captain Gornall, who about two months ago relinquished his post as Church Army Captain at Salehurst in order to proceed to the Church Army Hospital at Caen, is in good health and happy in his work. etc etc

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Hastings and St Leonards Observer 26 December 1914

SALEHURST CHURCH ARMY CAPTAIN IN FRANCE

Robertsbridge people will be interested to learn that Captain Gornall, who about two months ago relinquished his post as Church Army Captain at Salehurst in order to proceed to the Church Army Hospital at Caen, is in good health and happy in his work. etc etc

Thank you for this further useful contribution. Unfortunately, the report gives no identifying initial, let alone full forename, for Captain Gornall, but on the reasonable assumption that he was the William Gornall, the subject of this thread, this is the first independent corroboration of the Salehurst Parish Church's Roll of Honour designation of him as Church Army.

As I understand it, the post of Church Army Captain at the Parish Church would have made him a member of the Parish pastoral term, alongside the clergy, and as such he would have had very modest remuneration, partly compensated either by accommodation provided or a subsidy towards rent. His volunteering in October 1914 (the newspaper date corroborates his 'previous service' reference in his Army papers) to serve with the Church Army in France could have entailed loss of accommodation, prompting his wife's move to her parents in Brighton. If she left Salehurst as early as that, it could well explain why the compilers of the Roll of Honour did not realise Gornall's change in status as a result of conscription, and assumed that at the time of death he was still serving with the Church Army. Alternatively, as that was how we was known in the parish, they could have seen it as outweighing his later Army role.

The compilers of the Robertsbridge War Memorial could have heard that he volunteered for France in 1914, and assumed that he went as a soldier, but without knowledge as to any regiment, simply designated him as B.E.F.

.

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Here are a few more, with an initial;

06 September 1913 - Hastings and St Leonards Observe

The party, numbering twenty-three, and accompanied by Miss G. Burgess, Mrs. Bates and Capt. W. Gornall (Church Army), left Robertsbridge by the 8.10 a.m. train for Eastbourne, and spent the day at the seaside

31 January 1914 - Hastings and St Leonards Observer

In aid of the fund for providing Capt. W. Gornall. of the church Army, with a bicycle enable him the better round the parish

30 July 1914 - Sussex Agricultural Express

At Mary's Churchyard, Salehurst, on Monday afternoon. The service was conducted by the Rev. C. Ward, Vicar, assisted by Capt. W. Gornall, Church Army

They didn't marry until 1917, so they may never have managed to live together before his death.

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Just a brief aside, Sidney Charles Harmer who appears as the last name on the left hand column of the Fallen actually served with the East Surrey Regiment and was killed on 5 May 1918 serving with the 8th Battalion.

Bootneck

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Here are a few more, with an initial;

06 September 1913 - Hastings and St Leonards Observe

The party, numbering twenty-three, and accompanied by Miss G. Burgess, Mrs. Bates and Capt. W. Gornall (Church Army), left Robertsbridge by the 8.10 a.m. train for Eastbourne, and spent the day at the seaside

31 January 1914 - Hastings and St Leonards Observer

In aid of the fund for providing Capt. W. Gornall. of the church Army, with a bicycle enable him the better round the parish

30 July 1914 - Sussex Agricultural Express

At Mary's Churchyard, Salehurst, on Monday afternoon. The service was conducted by the Rev. C. Ward, Vicar, assisted by Capt. W. Gornall, Church Army

They didn't marry until 1917, so they may never have managed to live together before his death.

Thank you very much yet again for these snippets, which now very clearly fill out the picture of Captain William Gornall, Church Army, as a loved and respected member of the Parish team at St Mary the Virgin, Salehurst, for at least a year before the war. They also corroborate my estimation that Gornall's pay would have been very modest, necessitating a fund to buy him a bicycle for his rounds of parish visiting. I now revise my supposition about his accommodation, and imagine him living in then conventional lodgings with a landlady providing meals, and the delay in marrying could arise from the question of affordable accommodation.

On that basis, my assumption is that his wife never lived in Salehurst, so that after he went to France in October 1914, there would have been little contact with the village.

The long-awaited marriage could have been prompted by Gornall having leave in 1917, with no convenient home to go to other than his fiancee's, which would not have been respectable without marriage. Doubtless plans for any future home together were put on hold until after the war

So the only times they would have had together as a couple would have been the leave in 1917 when they married, and the leave in September 1918, when Gornall succumbed to influenza and died.

Another poignant tale of war, but a century on, we remember.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Further to my post 7, I have now seen William Gornall's 'Casualty Form - Active Service', covering 1916-18, which clearly shows his religion stated as Plymouth Brethren.

Since this is so obviously at variance with the four local newspaper extracts published on this thread, all describing him as Captain William Gornall, Church Army (an organisation wholly within the Church of England), and thereby stating that as his religious denomination, corroborated by the designation on Salehurst Parish Church Roll of Honour, 'Church Army', I can only conclude that the Army form is in error.

Such forms at the period were not normally completed by the subject himself, but by a soldier acting as clerk, either asking questions or referring to other forms, and somehow a mistake must have been made. There are two possible clues.

One arises from the same form having a space for 'qualifications', which records Evangelist, being a description of his accredited work in the Church Army. Conceivably the Army clerk could recall Plymouth Brethren describing themselves as evangelists - nothing irregular about that - and, without checking elsewhere, made an assumption about Gornall.

The other, more remote, possibility arises from there being another William Gornall - William Henry Gornall - also a CO in the Non-Combatant Corps, called up around the same time, who was indeed a member of the Brethren, but considerably older than the subject of this thread, and from a different part of the country and placed in a different company of the NCC, with his own, quite separate, Casualty Form. .

We shall probably never know the whole story, but the moral seems to be that Army forms cannot necessarily be relied upon for every fine detail.

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For yet another snippet, the niece of Henry W A Akehurst holds the dubious distinction of being the youngest female casualty in WW2 in the Armed Forces (not Girl Guides etc) being just 16 when dying as an ATC of cerebral meningitis in WW2 Buried in Battle Cemetery. There are other "16" year old's but CWGC have accepted Violet as the youngest known.

Also many of these off the beaten track Sussex villages hold unexpected links to the "great and the good"

CECIL, GEORGE EDWARD, 2nd Lieut., 2nd Battn, Grenadier Guards, only son of Lord Edward Cecil, K.C.M.G., D.S.O. Brevet Col., Coldstream Guards, by his wife, Violet Georgina, 2nd dau. of Admiral Frederick Augustus Maxse, of Dunley Hill, Surrey, and grandson of Robert Arthur Talbot, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury. K.G., P.C.; Born 20. Arlington Street, W. on 9 Sept 1895; educ. Winchester, and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, where he took a prize cadetship in 1912, passing out at the end of 1913. He passed his examination for a French cadetship in Jan. 1914, and was gazetted to the 2nd Battn, Grenadier Guards, 25 February 1914. On the outbreak of war in Aug. 1914, the 2nd Battn. went to France with the British Expeditionary Force, and Lieut. Cecil acted as orderly officer to General Scott Kerr at the Battle of Landrecies. He was killed in the severe action fought by the rearguard of the 4th Brigade, near Villere-Cotterets, 1 Sept. 1914; unmarried. (de Ruvigny)

HARMSWORTH, the Hon Harold Alfred Vyvyan St George Awards: M.C. Captain, 2nd Battalion, Irish Guards. Died of wounds 12th February 1918. Age 23. Son of the Right Hon. Harold Sidney, Viscount Rothermere and Mary Lilian, Viscountess Rothermere. Buried Hampstead Cemetery. Grave WB620.

HARMSWORTH, the Hon Vere Sidney Tudor. Lieutenant, Hawke Battalion, Royal Naval Division, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Died 13th November 1916. Age 21. Son of 1st Viscount Rothermere, of Warwick House, St. James's, London. Ancre British Cemetery, Beaumont Hamel. Grave V. E. 19.

There are a few omissions:-

CARRICK, OWEN. Rank: Private. Service No: G/14919. Date of Death: 09/02/1917. Age: 38

Regiment/Service: The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment). "C" Coy. 1st Bn.

Grave Reference: I. H. 7. Cemetery: HEM FARM MILITARY CEMETERY, HEM-MONACU

Additional Information: Son of Charles and Catherine Carrick, of Westfield, Sussex; husband of Eva Izot Carrick, of 25, East St., Robertsbridge, Sussex.

CLARKE, THOMAS CHARLES. Rank: Private. Service No: 22756. Date of Death: 07/05/1917. Age: 34

Regiment/Service: East Surrey Regiment. 7th Bn.

Grave Reference: III. K. 19. Cemetery: DUISANS BRITISH CEMETERY, ETRUN

Additional Information: Son of Joseph and Sarah Clarke, of Elm Grove, Brighton; husband of Mary Clarke, of 5, School Terrace, Robertsbridge, Sussex.

COOK, N. Rank: Sapper. Service No: 534613. Date of Death: 20/01/1918. Age: 44

Regiment/Service: Royal Engineers. 499th Field Coy.

Grave Reference: E. 12. 14. Cemetery: COLCHESTER CEMETERY

Additional Information: Son of Mrs. Jane Cook; husband of Lillie F. Cook, of 160, Old London Rd., Ore, Hastings, Sussex. Born at Robertsbridge, Sussex.

LOVELACE, RONALD DESMOND WESTON (DICK). Rank: Second Lieutenant. Date of Death: 26/10/1917. Age: 19

Regiment/Service: Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment). 1st Bn.

Panel Reference: Panel 106 to 108. Memorial: TYNE COT MEMORIAL

Additional Information: Son of Henry James & Ruth Lovelace, of Peans Wood, Robertsbridge.

MARTIN, THOMAS ADAMS. Rank: Private. Service No: G/12131. Date of Death: 13/10/1918. Age: 30

Regiment/Service: Royal Sussex Regiment. 2nd Bn.

Grave Reference: III. A. 10. Cemetery: VADENCOURT BRITISH CEMETERY, MAISSEMY

Additional Information: Son of Maurice Martin and Ann Sophia Adams Martin, of Robertsbridge, Sussex; husband of Elizabeth Martin, of 52, Havelock Rd., Brighton.

McRAE, ARCHIBALD WILLIAM Rank: Captain. Awards: Mentioned in Despatches. Date of Death: 04/06/1915. Age: 36

Regiment/Service: 14th King George's Own Ferozepore Sikhs

Panel Reference: Panel 256 to 262. Memorial: HELLES MEMORIAL

Additional Information: Son of the late Col. John Graham McRae (Bombay Staff Corps) and of Mrs. McRae, of Brightling Mount, Robertsbridge, Sussex.

MOON, WILLIAM. Rank: Private. Service No: 3877. Date of Death: 05/08/1916. Age: 29

Regiment/Service: Australian Infantry, A.I.F. 22nd Bn.

Panel Reference: Memorial: VILLERS-BRETONNEUX MEMORIAL

Additional Information: Son of William and Sarah Moon, of Vinehall St., Robertsbridge, Sussex.

PACK, T. Rank: Private. Service No: 48382. Date of Death: 07/11/1918. Age: 19

Regiment/Service: East Surrey Regiment. 12th Bn.

Grave Reference: VII. D. 34. Cemetery: TERLINCTHUN BRITISH CEMETERY, WIMILLE

Additional Information: Son of Mr. and Mrs. James Pack, of Almonds Pit Cottage, Ticehurst, Sussex. Native of Robertsbridge, Sussex.

ROWELL, ARCHIE MIDDLETON. Rank: Lance Corporal. Service No: 5667. Date of Death: 08/07/1917. Age: 33.

Regiment/Service: London Regiment. 7th Bn.

Grave Reference: 26. 241. Cemetery: NORWICH CEMETERY, NORFOLK

Additional Information: Son of John E. and Fredrica S. Rowell, of Littleborough, Lancs; husband of Edith Rowell, of Lodge Farm, Robertsbridge, Sussex.

SELMES, ERNEST. Rank: Private. Service No: T4/216611.

Date of Death: 24/04/1917. Age: 25. Regiment/Service: Army Service Corps. "A" Coy.

Grave Reference: Screen Wall. B10. 5. 409E. Cemetery: Birmingham (Lodge Hill) Cemetery

Additional Information: Son of William Henry and Emily Selmes, of John Cross, Mountfield, Robertsbridge, Sussex.

SEWELL, FREDERICK CHARLES. Rank: Corporal. Service No: 33440. Date of Death: 15/03/1917. Age: 36.

Regiment/Service: Bedfordshire Regiment. 7th Bn.

Grave Reference: III. J. 24. Cemetery: Achiet le Grand Communal Cemetery Extension

Additional Information: Son of Richard and Fanny Sewell; husband of Mrs G. W. Robinson (formerly Sewell), of Langham Rd., Robertsbridge, Sussex.

Founder of the Bexhill Tradesmen's Stretcher Bearer Coy. for wounded soldiers.

SLADE-BAKER, ROBERT CUNYNGHAME. Rank: Lieutenant. Awards: M C. Date of Death: 19/08/1917. Age: 21.

Regiment/Service: Royal Berkshire Regiment. 1st Bn.

Grave Reference: I. A. 23. Cemetery: BEUVRY COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION

Additional Information: Son of Brig. Gen. Arthur Slade-Baker and Caroline Fisher his wife, of Peans Wood, Robertsbridge, Sussex.

STEVENS, GEORGE FREDERICK. Rank: Rifleman. Service No: 9891. Date of Death: 25/09/1915. Age: 21.

Regiment/Service: King's Royal Rifle Corps. 9th Bn.

Panel Reference: Panel 51 and 53. Memorial: YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL

Additional Information: Son of William Thomas and Eliza Stevens, of John's Cross, Robertsbridge.

WATERHOUSE, SIDNEY WILFRED. Rank: Sapper. Service No: 540785. Date of Death: 08/10/1918. Age: 32.

Regiment/Service: Royal Engineers. 183rd Tunnelling Coy.

Grave Reference: IV. G. 9. Cemetery: Naves Communal Cemetery Extension

Additional Information: Son of Thomas and Mary Jane Waterhouse, of Swales Green, Staple Cross, Sussex.

Native of Mountfield, Robertsbridge, Sussex.

The

WATSON, Reginald. Private G/15874, "C" Company, 9th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment.

Died of wounds 12th April 1918. Age 24.

LE CATEAU MILITARY CEMETERY. Grave I. B. 38.

Son of George and Mary Jane Watson, of 18, East St., Robertsbridge. Born Salehurst.

had a namesake

WATSON, REGINALD GEORGE. Rank: Private

Service No: 42505. Date of Death: 15/06/1918. Age: 18

Regiment/Service: Suffolk Regiment. 2nd Bn.

Grave Reference: Special Memorial at II Mem. Row. Cemetery: Choques Military Cemetery

Additional Information: Son of Reginald and Anna Ellen Watson, of Mountfield, Robertsbridge.

(Sorry, Berenice to hijack your query but it gave me an opportunity to add a little more to that lovely Memorial)

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  • 1 year later...

Welcome to the forum. It is very good of you to make contact. 

Are you familiar with the story of William and Christine?

 

Regards

CGM

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I was very young at the time but 13 Southover Street was the family home and where William died .They didn't have any children. Evangelism seemed to run through the family as where my grandfather and great grandfather .lt is wonderful to read their story .

I wish l could help you more .l liked the bit about the bicycle !!   It is also ironic that my Auntie Chris was born here in Uckfield -which l have just found out. We moved here16 years ago .They say it's a small world .

 

     Best wishes 

       Pam Rose

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 09/04/2017 at 10:03, Pam Rose said:

I was very young at the time, but 13 Southover Street was the family home and where William died .They didn't have any children. Evangelism seemed to run through the family, as were my grandfather and great grandfather .lt is wonderful to read their story .

I wish l could help you more .l liked the bit about the bicycle !!   It is also ironic that my Auntie Chris was born here in Uckfield - which l have just found out. We moved here16 years ago .They say it's a small world.

 

 

Again, welcome to the Forum.

 

If Christine Gornall, nee Fowler, was born in Uckfield, that was probably where her father was serving as a Church Army evangelist at the time.

 

William Gornall is remembered in a database of Britsh conscientious objectors maintained by the Peace Pledge Union, where particular attention is paid to the men who died as conscientious objectors or very soon afterwards.

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Christine's father George Henry Fowler was a Journeyman Miller and lived in Chailey. Later he became a baker at the Uckfield Cottage Hospital  where Christine was born in 1882.

He then moved the family to Portsea Hampshire.

He then became a Colporteur which is a Hawker of books especiallyemployed by a society to travel about distributing religious books and pamphlets.

      Regards, 

        Pam Rose.

 

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