Eastleach War Memorial – Edward George Jefferies

Edward George Jefferies, the son of Edward and Annie Sophia Jefferies was born in Eastleach Turville in the first half of 1894. His father was a blacksmith, registered living with his family in Southrop in the 1891 census. Edward’s father, George, was also employed as a blacksmith having been born in Eastleach Martin around 1845. His wife, Ellen, was from Kempsford and there were six children, all born in Southrop, living at home, ranging from Edward aged twenty-two, down to Wilfred aged eight. By 1901, Edward was living in Eastleach Turville with his wife, Annie, born in Islington, London and their son, Edward George aged six. Perhaps they met because Annie came to work in the area, maybe in service on one of the large estates. Edward George was joined by a sister, Bertha, around 1904. Sadly, it appears that, towards the end of 1906, Edward died aged thirty-eight. Towards late summer 1909, Annie re-married Arthur William Richens, a farm labourer from Faringdon who was ten years her junior. By 1911, Annie Richens was a Sub Postmistress living at the post office in Eastleach Turville with husband Arthur, her son Edward George who was now sixteen and a Blacksmith Apprentice and Bertha aged seven. Annie had completed the census return, implying that she was more literate than Arthur. It could be that Edward George was apprenticed to his uncle, Frederick, who in 1891, was himself a blacksmith’s apprentice.

Quite when Edward George enlisted in Sidestrand, Gloucestershire is unclear but he joined the Royal Field Artillery as a Shoeing Smith. The use of horses to haul the heavy artillery was common and vast numbers of farm horses were requisitioned to keep supplies and weapons moving. A battery of six field guns would have had 228 horses so blacksmiths would have been a critical part of the infrastructure. The Royal Field Artillery ended up in attendance to 1st/1st Royal Gloucestershire Hussars in Syria. Edward died on 13th October 1918 and is buried in Damascus Commonwealth War Cemetery. It appears that this cemetery dates from the time that the Commonwealth forces entered Damascus on 1st October 1918. The first medical units arriving the following day found the Turkish hospitals crowded with sick and wounded and a few days later an epidemic of influenza and cholera broke out. The burials were mostly from these hospitals. Edward could well have been a victim of influenza or cholera. On 31st October 1918 an Armistice was signed on this front, too late to save Edward.

The Palestine campaign was little understood at the time even though it was consuming vast quantities of resources. Then, as now, there was a very complex situation in that area. The Allied forces were fighting the Turkish Ottomans supported by the Germans. The advance on Damascus was one of the last actions in Palestine. Allied forces advanced on the city in two separate columns, one the Australian and Indian cavalry, the other ad hoc militia led by T.E.Lawrence. The surrender was accepted on 1st October. During the campaign British losses mounted to over half a million but only a tenth of these were battle losses, the remainder attributable to disease, heat and other secondary causes.