Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Crawley’s Post Office Heroes

As a postman you would think it would be easy to get a photograph of a war memorial from a neighbouring office. Despite numerous requests I have had no luck until yesterday when I was sent to Crawley to deliver a round there. To my delight I was able to find the memorial straight away and what a special one it is too.

It was originally placed in the old Crawley post office building at the now disappeared Robinson road and has been hanging in its present position for approximately 40 years. The original hanging ceremony took place towards the end of 1919 and was reported as follows in the local press:

There was a large gathering at the Crawley post office on Sunday afternoon, when there was unveiled the war memorial erected by past and present members of the staff to the memory of their colleagues who made the supreme sacrifice in the war. In addition to the rector and the postmaster and many other local dignitaries, all members of staff and relatives of the fallen heroes were present.

Mr Clarke opened the proceedings in a brief speech in which he said that everyone should realise how indebted we were to the men who died giving their all that we might live to enjoy the heritage we did. England would have been a far different place in which to live had the enemy conquered. He knew all sympathised with the relatives left behind, and we should be grateful for what the men had done for us.

Charles King had served the post office nearly 15 years, William Joseph Thorndike (who was one of the ‘contemptibles’) and Herbert Tester about 5 years. At the outbreak of war the staff had 23 men eligible for the army, and of these 21 served, whilst the other was placed on most important and indispensable duties in a coast town. The hymn ‘Through the night of doubt and sorrow’ was sung, appropriate prayers were offered for the occasion and Mr C. J. Mitchell then unveiled the memorial, which had been covered with the Union Jack.

‘Let saints on earth in concert sing’ was the closing hymn, and this brought a brief but very impressive service to a close. The memorial consists of an oak tablet beautifully embellished by very fine carving, and bares the words ‘In proud and grateful memory of Charles King, Herbert Tester, William Joseph Thorndike, of the Crawley postal staff, who made the supreme sacrifice 1914-1918. Their name liveth forever more.’ Mr Harry Bacon executed the tablet, which hangs in the public counter.

Rifleman Charles King was with the Post Office Rifles when he was killed in action at Ypres on 20th September 1917 at the age of 38. His body was never found and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres.

Herbert Clark Tester was a rifleman with the London Rifle Brigade when eh was killed in action on 23rd September 1916 at the age of 19. His was body was also never found and he is commemorated on Thiepval memorial.

Serjeant William Joseph Thorndike appears to have survived his time as one of the Old Contemptibles and was serving with the Military Police Corp when he died at the age of 45 on the 21st March 1918 in Egypt. He is buried in the Kantara war memorial cemetery 50 kilometres south of Port Said.

Very happy to have passed another milestone in my quest to track down as many names of the Fallen of Crawley as possible.

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