Photographs (Francis left-most)
The photo on the left shows Francis with his brother George who served in the Royal Artillery. That on the right shows the oldest brother Arthur William (“Bill”) who served with the Rifle Brigade.
Both photos appear in the pamphlet Effingham & The Bookhams Royal British Legion : Some Photos of the Halls and War Veterans [Publ. by Frank Rice-Oxley, Roxley Models, 2006].
Name on Plaque
Connection with Effingham
He was very probably born in Effingham. In 1948 his parents and his brothers Arthur and George were living at 2, Victory Cottages in Effingham [1948 Electoral Register].
His grandfather Arthur James Biles was born at Buckland Newton, Dorset in 1851 [GRO Ref: Dorchester 8 45, 1851 (Q2)]. Arthur James married in 1874 to a woman with the very unusual name Christian Prince Gatehouse [GRO Ref: Blandford 5a 493, 1874 (Q2)]. She had been born in 1855 [GRO Ref: Blandford 5a 259, 1855 (Q2)] and baptised at Tarrant Gunville, Dorset on May 24th of that year [IGI: Batch C028550]. Her first name was registered as Christian on all three occasions of her birth, marriage and death, although she appears as Christina in at least one census.
Arthur James and Christian produced several children at various places just a few miles east of Shaftesbury around the Dorset-Wiltshire border, but by 1891 they had moved to South Stoneham parish in Hampshire (today subsumed into western Southampton):
“New Inn”, West End Road, South Stoneham parish, Hampshire : PRO Ref: RG12 Piece 924 Folio 87 Page 15
Arthur J. Biles : head : mar : 37 : innkeeper : Buckland Newton, Dorset
Christian P. Biles : wife : mar : 35 : — : Terrant [sic – Tarrant] Gunville, Dorset
Arthur Biles : son : unm : 13 : — : Hyde, Dorset
Emily Biles : dau : unm : 12 : — : Terrant [sic – Tarrant] Gunville, Dorset
Robert Biles : son : unm : 9 : — : Coombe, Dorset
Annie E. Biles : dau : unm : 7 : — : Coombe, Dorset
John Biles : son : unm : 4 : — : Coombe, Dorset
Susan Biles : dau : unm : 2 : — : Brookwater, Wiltshire
George E. Biles : lodger : unm : 79 : general labourer : West End, Hampshire
The son John Biles highlighted above was the future father of Francis. His birthplace “Coombe” refers to an almost uninhabited river valley about 2 miles west of the village of West End, the latter being about 3-4 miles east of Shaftesbury. He was born on February 3rd 1887 [GRO Ref: Tisbury 5a 198, 1887 (Q1)].
The 1901 Census finds John living with his parents in Bere Regis, about 18 miles south of West End:
“Bere Wood”, Bere Regis, Dorset : PRO Ref: RG13 Piece 1989 Folio 28 Page 6
Arthur Biles : head : mar : 43 : head gamekeeper : Buckland, Somerset
Christina [sic – Christian] Biles : wife : mar : 47 : — : Tarrant, Dorset
Arthur Biles : son : unm : 25 [or 23] : under gamekeeper : Bere Regis, Dorset
John Biles : son : unm : 14 : — : Coombe, Wiltshire
Susan Biles : dau : unm : 12 : — : Brookwater, Wiltshire
Edith Biles : dau : unm : 9 : — : West End, Hampshire
John’s future wife was Violet Eliza Taylor, born in East Horsley on October 5th 1894 [GRO Ref: Dorking 2a 146, 1894 (Q4)]. Her parents were Francis (“Frank”) Thomas Taylor and Jane Elizabeth (née Menchenton) who had married in 1875 [GRO Ref: Alverstoke 2b 691, 1875 (Q1)]. As a young man Frank had been a painter in the Royal Navy, as seen in this record:
“H.M.S. Egmont”, Rio de Janeiro harbour, Brazil : PRO Ref: RG10 Piece 5780 Folio 148 Page 3
among many other Petty Officers:
Frank Taylor : painter 2d [2nd class] : unm : 19 : Leamington, Warwickshire
Frank was born in Leamington in 1850 [GRO Ref: Warwick 16 588, 1850 (Q3)] to parents Thomas and Mary. By 1891 he had left the Navy and was living with Jane in East Horsley, still occupied as a painter:
“Park Gate”, East Horsley, Surrey : PRO Ref: RG12 Piece 558 Folio 51 Page 2
Frank Taylor : head : mar : 41 : painter : Leamington, Warick [sic – Warwickshire]
Jane Taylor : wife : mar : 38 : — : Shillington, Dorset
Charles Taylor : son : unm : 3 : — : Portland, Dorset
The above address Park Gate appears in the schedule immediately prior to Towers Horsley Park where the Earl and Countess of Lovelace were then living, so Frank may have been employed on the Lovelace estate. About three years after his daughter Violet was born, Frank died aged “47” [GRO Ref: Dorking 2a 90, 1897 (Q4)]. By 1901 his widow Jane had moved the family to Effingham:
“Lodge Gate”, Effingham, Surrey : PRO Ref: RG13 Piece 623 Folio 98 Page 6
Jane E. Taylor : head : widow : 50 : dress maker & lodge keeper : Shillington, Dorset
William Taylor : son : unm : 9 : scholar : East Horsley, Surrey
Eliza V. [Violet] Taylor : dau : unm : 7 : scholar : East Horsley, Surrey
By 1911 John Biles had left Dorset and come to work as a gamekeeper in East Horsley, boarding there with an Izzard family:
East Horsley, Surrey : PRO Ref: RG14 Piece 2993 Schedule 144
Henry Izzard : head : mar : 61 : carter on farm : East Horsley, Surrey
with his family and this boarder:
John Biles : boarder : unm : 23 : gamekeeper : Blandford, Dorset
John and Violet married at St. Lawrence Church, Effingham on April 7th 1912 [GRO Ref: Dorking 2a 389, 1912 (Q2)] and appear to have produced four children:
Arthur William Biles [GRO Ref: Dorking 2a 351, 1913 (Q4)]
George Biles [GRO Ref: Dorking 2a 353, 1916 (Q2)]
Francis Biles [GRO Ref: Dorking 2a 309, 1918 (Q2)]
Violet Edith Jane Biles [GRO Ref: Dorking 2a 324, 1928 (Q3)]
Arthur James Biles, who had remained in Dorset, died aged “69” in 1920 [GRO Ref: Blandford 5a 240, 1920 (Q4)]; his widow Christian survived him by 20 years, dying aged “85” in 1940 [GRO Ref: Blandford 5a 617, 1940 (Q4)]. Violet’s mother Jane probably died aged “91” in 1941 [GRO Ref: Surrey N.E. 2a 42, 1941 (Q1)].
Meanwhile Francis, who remained unmarried, had joined the Royal Navy as an able seaman. He died aged 23 in early March 1942 on H.M. Tug “Wo Kwang”. This 350-ton vessel was built in 1927 and called into naval service in 1940. By early 1942 it and four other vessels were formed into the Sunda Straits Auxiliary Patrol to assist in attempts to hinder the Japanese invasion of Sumatra. It appears that the “Wo Kwang” was lost, in uncertain circumstances, in late February or early March, according to this entry in the War Cabinet’s “Weekly Résumé (No. 132) of the Naval, Military and Air Situation from 0700 March 5th to 0700 March 12th, 1942″:
Feb 27 / March 5 : Wo Kwang [with 13 other vessels] presumed sunk by enemy action in the Java area
From the above it seems improbable that Francis’ body was found.
John Biles died on November 25th 1982 [GRO Ref: Surrey Mid.E. 17 200, 1982 (Q4), birthdate 03FE1887] and his widow Violet Eliza died aged “93” on March 21st 1988 [GRO Ref: Surrey S.W. 17 1365, 1988 (Q1)]; they are interred in the Effingham parish burial ground.
George married in 1979 to Brenda (“Rene”) Leonorah C. (née Waterer) Chitty [GRO Ref: Surrey S.W. 17 1038, 1979 (Q2)]. Brenda had been born on 1 June 1920 [GRO Ref: Epsom 2a 99, 1920 (Q2)] and first married in 1939 to Ernest Edward Chitty [GRO Ref: Surrey Mid.E. 2a 814, 1939 (Q4)]. Ernest was born on 4 December 1918 and registered in early 1919 [GRO Ref: Surrey S.W. 17 1405, 1919 (Q1)]; he died in 1976 [GRO Ref: Surrey S.W. 17 1405, 1976 (Q4)].
George died on May 7th 1988 and Arthur William died on January 7th 2001; they are interred next to their parents. Brenda’s death was registered in January 1998.
1. Service Record – not yet available
2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission Record
Date of Death
Royal Navy, H.M. Tug Wo Kwang
Son of John and Violet E. Biles, of Effingham, Surrey.
Panel 63, Column 1.
PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL