The story of Farrier Sergeant Owen Whitlock
Wartime Ryburgh became the home to combatants and their families sometimes through marriage to Ryburgh girls. Their names however were not included on the Roll of Honour. The story of Owen Whitlock is one of those that can be quite comprehensively traced and it is because of his army career that he came to live and be part of the community in Little Ryburgh
Great Ryburgh Nov 19th 1914:
Revd F.H.Tatham records in his “Preacher’s Book” (Norfolk Record Office)
“About 400 of the Bucks Hussars with headquarters staff attended this service.
Trooper played organ, Last Post sounded.”
In the December Issue of the Ryburgh Parish Magazine F.H.T writes:
As seen in the extract above, their presence had an immediate impact on the village and it caused not a little disruption one way and another. Headteacher Albert Foster writing in the School Log Book records the following:
Page 159. November 1914
There is no confirmation here of their leaving because the school was closed for Easter. However in the Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press on 17th April 1915 the following letter from one, A.F. was published with thanks to the British Newspaper Archive for permission to reproduce the article:
Schoolboy Fred Whiteside recalled the Royal Bucks Hussars Visit in 1914
on BBC Radio Norfolk’s “Village Voice” from which the following transcript was made:
“The beginning of the First World War we had the first Yeomanry Regiment stationed in Great Ryburgh Royal Bucks Hussars and then we had a lot of scouts here and the Highland Light Infantry* and it was very interesting in the village. And the Royal Bucks Hussars they left and went. They came in the November of 1914 and they went away after Easter the following year. All the horses were taken away and they all had to be issued with bicycles except they had mules for the transport and that was the biggest joke of the lot cause when they got them they couldn’t get them in the place and away they go they jumped over peoples hedges in the gardens. But (when) we used to go there they had one (that) was a lovely black mule and very quiet and one of the men he used to, who was lodging with my uncle further down the village he used to let us ride on it. And we used to go there and it was very entertaining for those and well then all the different regiments** came here, they now took over the Maltings and they have a cookhouse down there and all sorts of things, you know it was very interesting . (Q) Once all the military was gone it must have been very quiet. Very quiet again then yes but there was things going on , I mean we had our annual fair and we used to go round to others and at that time of the day there wasn’t much money about ………..”
*The Parish Magazine for April 1919 makes the following reference:
**The 2/1 Lincolnshire Yeomanry were briefly here in 1916. Officers stayed at the Rectory on the night of 23rd. March:
School Log Book March 1916:
See also the postcard on this page sent by an Officer billeted here on 23rd March 1916
Amongst a small collection of postcards and photo’s once belonging to Lena Smith former Pupil Teacher at the school, (daughter of village butcher Charles Smith) and now in the possession of Steve Hall, are 3 clearly treasured notes of name and address, not perhaps “billet doux” but nevertheless of special significance and remembering the Bucks Hussars visit.
The reason these were kept is revealed by Cpl. Thomas’ Medal Index Card, his only easily found record. Is this man remembered on any War Memorials, he surely should be?
Lena Smith never married.
The internet often turns up interesting items and this one recently appeared for sale on Ebay and shows a soldier outside the Boar in 1914 with a bicycle. Is he a Bucks Hussar……..quite probably?
Officers and their servants were billeted at the Rectory a hundred yards from where this photo was taken and the Rectory Visitors’ Book confirms Ralph Thomas’s dates of their sojourn precisely:
November 17th. 1914 - April 7th 1915
Recently I have been able to look at a collection of cards and photographs some of which relate to the family of Marshal and Ellen Bone. It would seem that at least one of the RBH was billetted with their family as there was a post card sent to Mrs Bone from Cairo in 1915 of Pte.Francis Bates resplendent on his mount:
Meanwhile in Silverstone
near Towcester, Northamptonshire:
Owen Fredrick Whitlock, born 1893 enlisted on March 1st 1913,
aged 19 years and 9 months, in Buckingham.
Thereafter he was 807 Pte. Whitlock O., of A Squadron, Royal Bucks Hussars.
Owen’s Hussar’s Busby and Cap Badge.
The 1911 Census immediately give us a picture of a family that had known the sorrow of losing children. The return filled in by eldest son and teacher, Dennis is perhaps an indication that the parents didn’t read or write too well?
This photo must have been taken c. 1913 when Owen and younger brother George
had both joined up. Elder brother Dennis also joined the Bucks Hussars
probably in 1914.
George and Owen Whitlock, front row left, possibly in training at Hamilton.
Caption reads: 4H150 RBH A1 Hamilton 1914
It is entirely possible that all three brothers were with the Bucks Hussars when they came to Ryburgh. Owen and Dennis were both drafted to Egypt immediately after their stay in Ryburgh on April 21st. 1915. George’s record is less complete and rather more ambiguous to be sure if all three remained together. They all certainly seemed to have survived the War.
Owen in Egypt (far right) but why theScots wear?
Owen was recorded as “wounded in action” but the date is now illegible in his surviving service record. His wound stripe however, is still with the various artifacts that have been kept by the family :
Out in Egypt his record shows that Malaria and Dysentery were recurring problems but he progressed from Shoeing Smith to Farrier Sergeant by April 1917 and transferred to the Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry).
His brother Dennis who had been a teacher before the war was promoted to 2/Lt. and transferred to the 5th Dragoon Guards. George has been harder to trace and it is as yet not known where he fought.
Some of Owen's uniform and the photos he took to war.
As we have already seen, there was inevitably some romantic interest taking place in Ryburgh during the four and a half months of the RBH’s posting. We next hear of Owen in the St Andrews Registers. On 30th July 1918 in St Andrew’s in Great Ryburgh, whilst on three weeks leave from his posting in Egypt, Owen Frederick Whitlock married Beatrice May Long, daughter of William and Sophia Long farmers of Little Ryburgh. The Longs were married at St Andrew’s on May 15th 1885 and Beatrice May, known as May was born in 1892 and baptized on September 21st that year.
Surely the happy couple on their wedding day?
By this time Cpl. Ralph Carrington Austin Thomas had died. He too had been posted to Egypt at the same time as the Whitlocks. Was Owen the one who had to break the news to Lena Smith………….we are unlikely to ever know.
Lena Smith (c1900?)
When his 3 weeks leave was up, it was back to Egypt until 1919 after the end of the War. Two further images have survived:
“Our tea party at the Barrage week ago today the 12.5.18”
The Ship on which he returned
and the message on the back
Owen and May
William Long, May, Betty and Owen Whitlock
Owen was a Little Ryburgh Parish Councillor for more than 20 years from 1934 as had his father-in-law, William before him. May’s mother Sophia had died in September 1920 at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital soon after Owen’s return from the War. She never knew little Betty who was born on November 6th 1928. William Long died in 1931.
He signed for his Medals on November 10th 1920
(The medal ribbons have been put onto the wrong medals!)
Betty grew up at Blue Tile Farm and married Bob Grimmer from further along The Street. Bob’s sister Hazel still lives at the Grimmer family home and has been kind enough to share all this fascinating history with us.
May and Owen at Blue Tile Farm in the 1950’s
May died in October 1964
Owen in October of the