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We are extremely delighted to have been sent a set of photographs and other interesting paper artefacts belonging to Rifleman Henry Stephens, who served with the London Irish Rifles during the First World War.
These fantastic documents have been donated to us by Henry’s granddaughter, Katy de Rooy, and she said in a note to us:
“I wonder if you would be interested in some memorabilia that I have come across whilst going through my late mother’s possessions. Her father, Henry Norton Stephens (my grandfather, born in 1897), was a Rifleman in 2/18th (Reserve) Battalion London Regiment and had obviously kept some artefacts from his time. These include several photos, a postcard, a pass-card, a discharge certificate, a newspaper article and what looks like notebooks from training camps (Scouting Notes?) and diary entries. He has also listed the camps/barracks where he was based between 1914 and 1916, although the print is sadly somewhat faded in much of these.
I would love for them to go to someone/somewhere that could archive them for future reference and wonder if your Association may like them?”
From an initial review of Rifleman Stephens’ papers, it is clear that he was living in Stamford Hill when he joined up in September 1914. Henry was immediately posted to the 2/18th Battalion (2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles) and trained with them for nearly two years in the UK before the battalion travelled to the Western Front at the end of June 1916, along with the rest of 60th (London) Division. At that time, the Division would be positioned in front line trenches near Vimy Ridge and, thankfully,. they missed the massive assaults at the Somme at the start of July.
From studying the LIR’s own records, it then appears that Henry was hospitalised at the end of September 1916 while in France, before being discharged from hospital in early 1917. Those dates make it clear that he did not travel with 2/18th Battalion to Greece in November 1916 but we are not able to trace other elements of Henry Stephens’ army service at this time.
We certainly know that Henry made it through the war to return to his family in north London, as Katy went onto tell us:
“After the war, he worked for a printmakers near Fleet Street and we have several leaflets documenting the workers (men only) annual coach trips to such hot spots as Clacton, Margate and Brighton.
Good to know he survived France to enjoy such pursuits ! I will let you know if I find anything else of interest in the family vaults.”
We have included a selection of Henry’s photos below and shall continue to study the other associated paperwork in the hope that we might be able to uncover further details about his time with the London Irish Rifles.
We would like to thank Katy de Rooy and her family for passing this fascinating set of photographs over to us.
We’ve recently received a note from Kieran Saunders about his great uncle, Rifleman Frederick Curnow, who was killed in France during May 1916:
“My Great Uncle Frederick James Curnow was with the London Irish Rifles in the First World War and was killed in action on 11th May 1916, aged 21. I have attached a photo of him in uniform and also a group photo including other unknown comrades, he is standing second from left. I believe his body was not found and he is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.
He was the eldest son of Frederick & Annie Curnow born 1895 in Chelsea, London and the family say his mother was so broken hearted that her son was killed that she died just 9 months later.”
We were recently visited by Paul Grist, the nephew of Rifleman George Grist, who was killed on 31st August 1918 while serving with the 1/18th Battalion in France and is buried at Rancourt CWGC Cemetery.
Rifleman Grist, who was 19 years of age when he was killed, had joined the Royal Irish Rifles in 1917 and it seems he had been attached to the London Irish Rifles along with a number of others following the heavy casualties suffered by the battalion during March/April 1918.
During his visit, Paul Grist shared with us some very moving letters that had been received by his family in London following his uncle’s death, a remarkable testimony to a brave man.
We were delighted to be visited recently at the museum by Stephen Foot, the grandson of CSM Richard Fuller who served with the 1/18th Battalion on the Western Front during the First World War.
Stephen kindly brought along his grandfather’s Distinguished Conduct Medal, which was awarded to him for his remarkable actions at “Happy Valley” in France on 22nd August 1918.
Rather unusually CSM Fuller was also awarded the Belgian Order of Leopold, which was only given to three men in total from the 47th London Division.
Following his distinguished service with the London Irish Rifles, Richard Fuller joined the Royal Irish Rifles and served for several years with that Regiment – he even joined up again with the Home Guard in 1939.
A remarkable man and we have now some most remarkable memories to treasure.
Service Number 593990
18th Bn. London Regiment (London Irish Rifles)
Son of Andrew Berling, of 15, Albert Square, Clapham, London; husband of Dora Annie Berling, of 9, Rue Fontaine, Paris.