A year ago, I told the story of the Willett family of Great Dunmow, and how local photographer and newsagent, Arthur Willett, often took photographs of the town’s happenings, including the photo below, which he captioned as “Military Funeral 1/12/14″
At the time of my post, I puzzled over whose funeral it was, as it appeared to be a funeral of a soldier from the First World War, but the date of the funeral did not match any man on the Commonwealth War Graves’ Debt of Honour for 1914. An eagle-eyed reader of my blog spotted the answer in a book written by Great Dunmow’s local historian from the 1970s, Dorothy Dowsett. In her book Through all the changing seasons, hidden amongst Miss Dowsett’s considerable writings about the town and its inhabitants, is the answer to my conundrum.
The Military Funeral shown in the postcard was not that of a First World War casualty, but the funeral of a war veteran from the Second Boer War (1899-1902), Private William Gibson of the First Grenadier Regiment of the Foot Guards.
Private William Gibson, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, was the first soldier to be give a funeral with military honours in the town. He died at the age of forty-six in 1914, and was buried at the parish church. During his service he gained the Khartoum Medal, the South African Medal (1901), the Transvaal/Cape Colony Medal and the Sudan Medal. William Gibson served in the London expedition of 1898 under Major-General Lord Kitchener.
Dorothy Dowsett, Through all the changing seasons, p171
Harry Payne’s postcard of the Grenadier Guards
1911 Census – Star Lane, Great Dunmow
William Gibson, Head, Married, aged 39, born 1872 Essex Stebbing, occupation Gas Stoker.
Sarah Gibson, Wife, Married, aged 42, born 1869 Essex Dunmow.
Charles Chevallier, Stepson, Single, aged 15, born 1896 Essex Dunmow
Ivy Chevallier, Stepdaughter, aged 11, born 1900 London Lambeth.
Sarah Gibson (nee Sarah Mead, b1871-d1955) married William Gibson in 1910. Prior to her marriage, she had been married to a man with the wonderful name of Temple Edgecombe Chevaillier, who according to this website about the Mead family of Great Dunmow, either divorced or abandoned her by 1899/1901. If you are interested in seeing a picture of Sarah Gibson, wife of the Boer War hero, the first man to be given a military funeral with full honours in the Essex town of Great Dunmow, do take a look at the Mead family website.
Star Lane, Great Dunmow. Home of William and Sarah Gibson. If you know Great Dunmow, you will know that the lane is very much the same as it was in the early 1900s. The houses on the left are still there, but the tree has long since been cut down.
Follow-up December 2013: Shortly after publishing this post, I bought at auction a series of postcards of Great Dunmow. Amongst the postcards was another (different) photo of the 1914 Military Funeral. My post Great Dunmow’s 1914 Military Funeral – A follow-up tells the story.
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