Bob Whittington

Photograph

Memorial Plaque

SGT B. WHITTINGTON D.C.M
         3RD WORCT REGT
               26 AUG. 1916

Connection with Effingham

He was born in the village, as was his father, and was evidently still living here at the time he enlisted.

Genealogy

His father was Charles Whittington, born in Effingham in 1845 to parents John and Mary [GRO Ref: Dorking 4 122, 1845 (Q4)]. John, an agricultural labourer, was born in Kirdford near Petworth, West Sussex, whilst Mary was born in Great Bookham; all of their children were born in Effingham.

Charles married Ellen (née) Brush in 1873 [GRO Ref: Croydon 2a 304, 1873 (Q4)]. At that time she was calling herself “Ellen Maria” but the “Maria” does not appear in the civil record of her birth [GRO Ref: Hereford 6a 398, 1855 (Q3)]. She was born to parents William and Ann in Fownhope, Herefordshire.

It is not known how Charles and Ellen came to meet, nor why they married in Croydon. At the time of the 1871 Census Charles was still living with his parents in Effingham, at or near Pond Cottage, and was occupied as a grocer [PRO Ref: RG10 Piece 829 Folio 103 Page 9], whilst Ellen was in service as a kitchenmaid at Tanhurst House in the Broadmoor part of Wotton Parish [PRO Ref: RG10 Piece 827 Folio 101 Page 23].

By 1881 Charles was back in Effingham and working as a carpenter’s labourer, having so far produced four children in, variously, Leatherhead and Croydon; his widowed father John was living next door:

1881 Census
The Village, Effingham, Surrey : PRO Ref: RG11 Piece 796 Folio 115 Page 4

John Whittington : head : widowed : 64 : labourer : Kirdford, Sussex

next household:

Charles Whittington : head : mar : 35 : carpenter’s labourer : Effingham, Surrey
Ellen Whittington : wife : mar : 25 : — : Fownhope, Herefordshire
Elizabeth Whittington : dau : unm : 7 : scholar : Leatherhead, Surrey
Kate Whittington : dau : unm : 5 : scholar : Croydon, Surrey
Fanny Whittington : dau : unm : 4 : scholar : Croydon, Surrey
John Whittington : son : unm : 2 : — : Croydon, Surrey

Ten years on, he and Ellen had produced five more children – all in Effingham – and were both working in the laundry business. They were now living at Westmoor Cottage, as also were the parents of Arthur Wells:

1891 Census
Westmore [sic] Cottage, Effingham, Surrey : PRO Ref: RG12 Piece 576 Folio 90 Page 8

Charles Whittington : head : mar : 45 : laundry man : Effingham, Surrey
Ellen M. Whittington : wife : mar : 35 : laundress : Fownhope, Herefordshire
Kate Whittington : dau : unm : 15 : — : Croydon, Surrey
Fanny Whittington : dau : unm : 14 : — : Croydon, Surrey
John Whittington : son : unm : 12 : — : Croydon, Surrey
Nellie Whittington : dau : unm : 8 : — : Effingham, Surrey
William Whittington : son : unm : 6 : — : Effingham, Surrey
Mary Whittington : dau : unm : 4 : — : Effingham, Surrey
Janney [sic – Jenny] Whittington : dau : unm : 1 : — : Effingham, Surrey
“Infant” Whittington : dau : unm : 3 days : — : Effingham, Surrey

In 1895 their son Bob, their eleventh child, was born in Effingham [GRO Ref: Dorking 2a 164, 1895 (Q2)]. He was registered as “Bob”, not as “Robert”.

Bob was not to know his father for long – Charles died in 1898 [GRO Ref: Dorking 2a 93, 1898 (Q2)]. By 1901 Ellen was raising seven children on her own:

1901 Census
West Street Laundry, Effingham, Surrey : PRO Ref: RG13 Piece 623 Folio 96 Page 1

Ellen M. Whittington : head : widow : 46 : laundress : Townhope [sic – Fownhope], Herefordshire
Nellie Whittington : dau : unm : 18 : laundry maid : Effingham, Surrey
Mary Whittington : dau : unm : 14 : — : Effingham, Surrey
Jennie Whittington : dau : unm : 11 : — : Effingham, Surrey
Sally Whittington : dau : unm : 10 : — : Effingham, Surrey
Dick Whittington : son : unm : 7 : — : Effingham, Surrey
Bob Whittington : son : unm : 6 : — : Effingham, Surrey
Margurrite [sic – Marguerite Edith] Whittington : dau : unm : 2 : — : Effingham, Surrey
Celia Botting : servant : unm : 24 : laundry maid : Nuthurst, Sussex

The 1911 Census finds Ellen, widowed now, still in Effingham. All her children except the youngest daughter had left. Her son Bob had left home to serve in the Worcestershire Regiment, 3rd Bn., having apparently signed up at age 16 or younger:

1911 Census
Westmore [sic] House, Effingham, Leatherhead, Surrey : PRO Ref: RG14 Piece 3192 Schedule 4

Ellen Whittington : head : widow : 56 : laundress : Fownhope, Herefordshire
Marguerite Whittington : dau : unm : 13 : school : Effingham, Surrey
Ceridwin Hopkins : servant : unm : 21 : general domestic : Swansea
Rose Reed : servant : unm : 22 : laundry maid : London

1911 Census
3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, Shaft Barracks, Western Heights, Dover Castle
40th Company, Royal Garrison Artillery: PRO Ref: RG14 Piece 4617

among numerous other soldiers:
Bob Whittington : unm : 16 : musician : Effingham, Surrey

The significance of “musician” in the latter record is not yet known, but may indicate that Bob was (for example) a bandsman or a bugler or a drummer. In the War he served as a stretcher bearer in this same battalion, with Service Number 12133. He must have displayed some merit very soon into the action: on October 19th 1914 the Supplement to The London Gazette [Issue 28942, Page 8354] included him in its list of those “Mentioned in Despatches” as follows:

No. 12133 Lance-Corporal R. Whittington

He achieved greater distinction the following year, as described in this extract [pages 64-66] from Capt. H.F. Stacke’s book The Worcestershire Regiment in the Great War [Publ. G.T. Cheshire & Sons Ltd., Kidderminster, 1928]:

Attack on Spanbroek Mill [at Lindenhoek, Belgium on March 12th 1915]
[much preceding text, then …] 

The defence was maintained until dusk. Lieutenant C. G. Martin (Royal Engineers officer who volunteered to lead a small bombing party against a section of the enemy trenches which was holding up the advance. Before he started he was wounded, but, taking no notice, he carried on with the attack which was completely successful. He and his small party held the trench against all counter-attacks for two and a half hours until a general withdrawal was ordered) showed great bravery (Lieut. Martin, R.E., was awarded the V.C.), and Sergeants Ince and Drinkall were conspicuous for ability and determination, grimly holding an improvised sandbag block under a continuous fire of bombs (Sergeants lnce and Drinkall were awarded the D.C.M.). Outside the trench efforts were made to rescue the wounded. Two of the Battalion stretcher-bearers, Corporal B. Whittington and Pte. W. Suffolk crawled forward across the open under heavy fire and brought back stricken men from the German wire entanglements (Corpl. Whittington and Pte. Suffolk were awarded the D.C.M.).

Darkness closed down, and a report on the situation was carried back by Sergeant Ince and Private J. C. Wooton, who returned to Lieut. Martin bearing orders to evacuate the captured trench. The General had decided to accept the failure rather than uselessly to sacrifice more lives. The little party under Lieuts. Martin and Holland made their way back. Game to the last, they sent back all their wounded (the work of removing the wounded was carried out by Sergeant Ince, who personally rescued several men.) before they finally withdrew.

The losses in that disastrous attack were severe. The two attacking companies were almost annihilated.  The casualties of the Battalion were nearly 180, including nine officers killed.
[and further text …] 

His award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal for this action was duly reported on June 3rd 1915 in the Supplement to The London Gazette [Issue 29180, Page 5363]:

12133 Acting Corporal Whittington, B. 3rd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment
For gallant conduct and devotion to duty at Spanbroek Molen on 12th March, 1915, when he crawled through a gateway which was under very heavy machine gun fire, and bandaged the wounded who were lying only 30 yards from the enemy’s trenches.

A year later he was killed in action, on August 26th 1916.

Military Records

1. Service Record – not found

2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission Record

Name
Rank
Regiment
Age
Date of Death
Service No.
Additional info.
.
Grave/Memorial Ref.
Cemetery

WHITTINGTON, BOB
Serjeant [sic]
Worcestershire Regiment, 3rd Bn.
21
26/08/1916
12133
Son of Mrs. Ellen Maria Whittington,
of 12, Victory Cottages, Effingham, Surrey.
Pier and Face 5 A and 5 C.
THIEPVAL MEMORIAL

3. “Soldiers Died in the Great War” Record

This adds that he enlisted at Guildford but misleadingly gives his birthplace as Leatherhead. It states that he died in “France & Flanders”. 

4. Medal Record