Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Frederick Clayton Bateman Strelley 1883-1955 Whose spoon is it?

Relative Greg Strelley insists his grandfather Frederick Clayton Bateman Strelley (1883-1855) joined the Grenadier Guards at the age of 14 and fought in the Boer War in South Africa. Greg claims his army number was 12367 and he was in the 1st. Grenadier Guards according to the information  stamped into the back of his grandfather’s spoon which Greg still uses on a daily basis. The only Boer War Medal Roll for a F Strelley is for someone who served 1899-1902 with a short service of 200 odd days with the service number 26452 in the 8th Squadron 4th Regiment of Imperial Yeomanry. I’ve joked with Greg that his granddad found the spoon marked IGG and everyone has continued to use a dead man’s spoon! 
The spoon is still used on a daily basis
However we know during the Second Boer War,  the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the Grenadier Guards were deployed to South Africa where they took part in a number of battles including the Battle of Modder River  and the Battle of Belmont, as well as a number of smaller actions. In 1900, 75 men from the regiment were used to raise a fourth Guards regiment, known as the  Irish Guards in honour of the role that Irish regiments had played in the fighting in South Africa.So this may fit with the regimental information of the mysterious  F Strelley above. 

We do know that young Fred lied about his age in order to be accepted in the army. He was a career soldier and became batman (or Aide de Camp) to Lord Loch until Loch was severely wounded in South Africa. 
Fred lied about his age

Here is a faded picture supplied by Greg with Fred on horseback wearing bandoleers and sporting a rifle. You used to be able to see Table Mountain in the background so it was taken in Cape Town S.A. 
Look carefully and the very faded picture comes spookily to life

Greg has many treasured letters written by Loch to his granddad while he was convalescing between the wars. You can read all about Major-General Edward Douglas Loch, 2nd Baron Loch CB, CMG, DSO, MVO (4 April 1873 – 14 August) a senior British Army officer and peer on Wikipedia. Perhaps Greg is using Lord Loch’s spoon because we do know he served in the Boer War in the first regiment of the Grenadiers. Just  teasing Greg.

Apparently Loch took a shine to the young boy who loved horses so much once he got to know about his rather illustrious family history, and regarded the lad as "one of his own class"......but called for him to be made his Aide de Camp to protect him from the battle as much as possible as he reminded him of his own son of a similar age.

Once Loch got badly injured in S.A. he was shipped home and Fred went with him as escort. Fred then became his personal assistant and looked after Loch's children in his house in Dublin, Ireland. There is a tale of how he used to drive the kids to school in a horse-drawn carriage, usually taking a short cut through Phoenix Park, a regular haunt of members of the I.R.A. As a serving British soldier (who still wore uniform whilst on duty) he was a natural target for these people, but got around the problem by carrying bottles of Irish Whiskey under the driving seat. His quote was "the Irish have a greater love of whiskey than they do of any cause" and this was to stand him in good stead once the locals got to know him.
Let’s assume the record referred to above isn’t Fred’s. Probably another thing that reinforces the Grenadier Guards theory is Fred’s marriage certificate lists his address as Wellington Barracks Westminster, the Headquarters of the Grenadier Guards. Fred married Georgina Torr on 26/12/1906.

The Boer War medals  housed in Fred’s brass tin received from Queen Mary are held by Greg’s cousin.

So this career soldier also survived the Great War. He entered the French theatre of war on 15/1/15 as Private and was quickly promoted to Corporal. The ASC on Frederick Strelley’s medal roll card for WWI refers to Army Services Corp. The T on his service number of T4/085073 probably refers to a transport role. 
Fred's medal card from the Great War.

Fred's time in the Great War was short lived as he was gassed at Ypres and lost a lung as a consequence. His letters and postcards sent back to his family from France would suggest he served from the early days of hostilities in 1914 until 1917 when he was sent home after the gassing. Sadly his wife Georgina’s brother Frederick Albert Torr was killed on the Somme in 1917.

Greg tells another anecdote about his grandfather's war experiences:

"The other story concerns the bloke he served with in WW1, guess is Ypres. Anyway the story goes like this.....Fred and his mate were sheltering the horses from the constant gunfire in a small copse when they came under heavy shelling.......the Germans had spotted them. As shells burst all around them Fred would simply not leave the horses to their fate alone, while his mate shouted "bugger this for a lark Strelley, I'm off!", whereupon he made a break for it across open ground back toward their lines. Unfortunately for him he took a direct hit from a Howitzer shell and was blown to smithereens.......and no trace of him could be found once the shelling stopped. A lucky escape for Fred!"

Princess Mary's Christmas gift  to the troops in 1914

Fred had a brass tin with Princess Mary's head on it, in which he used to keep all of his medals. These tins were a personal gift from the future Queen to each and every soldier who was serving in the British Army at Christmas 1914.

Georgina used to polish this tin religiously and take his medals out to show the grandkids on  visits to see her.

What a great archive and even a Boer War spoon!!
How wonderful that Greg still has his spoon, medals and these postcards from the Western Front.
Fred and Georgina live through another War

Lest we forget