Alfred George Stevens and Reginald Victor Stevens

Alfred George Stevens, Reginald Victor Stevens
Alfred was born in 1875, Reginald in 1887, both in St Ives. They were from a family of twelve children, one of whom died in infancy. Their father, Jacob, ran his own butcher's shop from the family home on The Quay, St Ives. The business was inherited from his father, one of St Ives' oldest residents when he died in 1913. Their mother was Frances (née Levett).

Both brothers were sporty and capable oarsmen. A report in the Hunts Post of 29 August 1913 mentions Reginald as part of the St Ives crew racing against St Neots.

Arthur George Stevens
George, as he preferred to be called, worked as a printer's apprentice in the Hunts Post offices. At some point he moved to Vauxhall, London. He had joined the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment by June 1915, reported in the Hunts Post on 4 June 1915, enlisting at St Pauls Churchyard.

George enlisted when he was at least aged 40yrs. Although compulsory conscription was introduced, this was not until January 1916 for single men aged 18yrs to 41yrs. Within a few months married men were included. So George signed up to go to war voluntarily.

Surviving some of the fiercest battles of the War, in July 1917 George had the sad duty of burying his younger brother. Reginald was on his way to several days of rest when he was hit in the head by shrapnel from a German shell and killed instantly. George happened to be in the neighbourhood and was allowed to help collect and bury his brother's body. George then went on leave, returning to St Ives to bring the news of his brother's death to his mother.

Exploding artillery shell
A German shell explodes near a British first aid station
In early June 1918 George's Battalion were in the front trenches, German artillery shelling their position. Although there were no casualties from gas, casualties from direct hits and shrapnel were seven killed and eight wounded.

On 4 June 1918 the Battalion was relieved and moved into billets at Steenbecque. There followed eight days of rest and training, periodically interrupted by German shelling. The Battalion were back in the front trenches on 12 June 1918, casualties incurred from heavy German shelling.

On Saturday 15 June 1918 George spent his birthday in the front trenches, German shelling even more intense. That day the war diary reports '1 OR killed, 5 ORs wounded.' George was the other rank killed, aged 43yrs. Shrapnel from a German shell hit his head and killed him instantly, the same cause of death as his brother. He is buried at Tannay British Cemetery, France.

George's death was reported by the Hunts Post on 28 June 1918. The Chaplain of the Bedfordshire Regiment wrote to his mother 'Few men, I imagine, were more faithful for or more devoted to his mother than he was...' George's mother requested the inscription 'Faithful Unto Death' on his gravestone. She also inserted a memorial to both brothers in the Hunts Post of 11 October 1918.

Do you have a photograph of George or any additional information? If so, please get in touch via the make contact page.

Reginald Victor Stevens
Reg (as he was known) was tutored at Holloway's music establishment and worked as a music teacher and piano tuner, playing in local concerts.

Volunteering in September 1915, Reg also joined the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment. He was trained as a stretcher bearer, one of the more hazardous occupations of the War, serving through some of the fiercest fighting. It was Reg's duty to go into no-man's land searching for wounded soldiers.

Trained in first aid, it was the first time medical skills were applied in the battlefield. The journey back with a wounded soldier carried on a heavy stretcher was dangerous, dodging German machine gun bullets and coping with slippery mud and shell holes. Tommy Crawford's poem 'The Stretcher Bearer' indicates the despair for men constantly called upon to recover wounded colleagues.

Stretcher bearers WW1
Stretcher bearers recover a wounded soldier
The Battle of Passchendaele was launched in the early hours of 31 July 1917. British and Canadian soldiers found themselves fighting not only the Germans, but a quagmire of stinking mud that swallowed up men, horses and tanks. After three months of brutal warfare, by November 1917 one third of a million British and Allied soldiers had been killed or wounded in some of the most horrific trench warfare.

Reg was injured in the first month of Passchendaele. Returning from no-man's land with a seriously injured soldier, a wounded German shot Reg through the shoulder. He spent his few weeks of recovery at a dressing station bandaging the wounded. Part of the letter to his mother was published on 13 July 1917.

By the beginning of October Reg was back on duty in the trenches, subject to fierce German shelling. His Battalion incurred heavy casualties. On Wednesday 10 October 1917 they were relieved and on the road to a few days of rest. Even far behind the front line they were in danger from enemy artillery.

A German shell exploded and Reg was hit in the head by shrapnel. He was killed instantly, aged 29yrs, an identical death to that of George. He is buried at Ridge Wood Military Cemetery, Belgium. Reg's death was reported on 19 October 1917. A death notice was published on 26 October 1917. Reg's mother inserted a memorial to both brothers in the Hunts Post of 11 October 1918.

His brother, George, had the sad duty of burying his younger brother. George happened to be in the neighbourhood and was allowed to help collect and bury his Reg's body. George then went on leave, returning to St Ives to bring the news of his brother's death to his mother.

Another brother, Ernie, was reported missing on 19 April 1918. A postcard then arrived confirming he was a prisoner of war in Germany, published on 3 May 1918.

Do you have a photograph of Reg or any additional information? If so, please get in touch via the make contact page.

Source materials
Click any of the links below to view original source materials.
1891 Census
1911 Census - Reg
War diary June 1918 (George), 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment
War diary October 1917 (Reg), 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment
Medal Rolls Index Card - Reg
Commemorative Certificate - George
Commemorative Certificate - Reg
Commonwealth War Graves Register - George
Commonwealth War Graves Register - Reg

No comments:

Post a Comment