Commonwealth War Graves in St Margaret of Antioch Churchyard

It was wonderful to see the restored and conserved War Grave Marker for Geoffrey Hobbs installed in St Margaret's Church, as it was dedicated at a service on 9th February.  For it to be effectively hiding in plain sight for so long and considered lost, then found by accident is such a fantastic story in it's own right, but the fact that it can add to the story of young Geoffrey Hobbs is very satisfying.

Geoffrey Hobbs crossJPG

All credit to the diligent work of St Margaret's History Society on this project over the last couple of years.  More of their hard work can be seen on their website,

The project was originally promoted by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) under the name ‘The Living History Project’. It was designed to commemorate the 300,000 commonwealth war graves located here in the UK.

That project actually ran for 141 days in 2016 to mark the 141 days of the Battle of the Somme (1st July - 18th November 1916).

  We have seven war graves in our churchyard, four from the First World War and three from the Second World War.  These are:

 Lieutenant John Monckton Case

Second Lieutenant Geoffery Brian Hobbs

Sergeant Frank Gordon

Private Arthur George Frederick Luff

Able Seaman Henry R Matcham

Private John Edward Kenway

Gunner Norman Leslie Pettitt

 All these men either died within the parish of St Margaret’s or had family ties with the village.  Recently, the CWGC have put up the traditional green signs at the entrance to churches in the UK where Commonwealth war graves are sited. This follows the practice in other countries that indicate where Commonwealth War Graves are to be found.

The History of the Commonwealth War Graves

The Imperial War Graves Commission was established in 1917 by Sir Fabian Ware, the name changed to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in the 1960’s to reflect changing times.  War graves are a standard size and are the same for all, there is no distinction between officers and other ranks. The style of the stones are regular 3 inch thick Portland stone slabs which have a distinctive gentle camber to the top edge, they are 33 inches tall and are 15 inches wide. There are some variations due to conditions in certain countries.  

The standard carvings start with the bearer’s regimental badge or in the case of the Royal Navy, a furled anchor or Royal Marines Badge.  Royal Air Force graves have the badge of the Royal Air Force carved on them. The Canadian war graves have the Maple leaf as their carving and Australian graves have The Rising Sun of the Australian Army.  The next line usually contains the number and rank of the casualty with the full name on the next line; this is normally in slightly larger lettering.  If the casualty had any decorations this would be added below or after the name.  The name of the regiment or the ships name is on the next line; below this is usually the date of death followed by the age of the casualty.  Between the lettering and the foot of the stone which might have a personal inscription added at the request of the next of kin, is carved an emblem of their religious faith, usually a cross, or the Star of David or none. However if the casualty held the V.C., this badge is carved in this space.  

The inscription at the foot of the stone was not compulsory but offered a maximum of 66 letters including spaces to be added at a cost of 3 1/2d. per letter.  There were rules associated with this inscription and it would appear that there were a number of set texts which the relative might choose, this is reflected in the amount of similar texts that appear on many war graves.

Owing to the high number of casualties, it was agreed that land would be given to create cemeteries near to the battlefield, and after this had been set up, no repatriations were allowed and soldiers of all ranks were buried together in the countries that they died in.  The practice of charging the Next of Kin for a personal inscription on the foot of the headstone was not popular, some could not afford it. The IWGC sometimes respectfully asked for the payment but did not pursue it if it was not paid.  By the late 1920’s the charge was dropped.  The inscriptions on headstones were designed to be read from a distance of 2 metres and headstones usually all face east although some religions were accommodated by the stone being positioned to face Mecca.

There was a cut-off date after the wars when a war grave could still be used; this was August 31st 1921 for the First World War and December 31st 1947 for the Second World War.  This was to allow those who died of wounds attributable to war service to have a war grave and to be commemorated.  There were certain circumstances where a war grave was used if the casualty was still in service between the end of the war and these dates. A local example is that of Private Arthur LUFF who was only 17 when he died in June 1921, and therefore was only 14 or maybe 15 years old when World War One ended.

Information on each of the servicemen commemorated in St Margaret's Churchyard can be found below. To help you, here is a map of the positions of each of our graves at St Margaret's Churchyard:

We will start with:-

Second Lieutenant Geoffrey Brian Hobbs R.F.C.

  Served with the Northumberland Fusiliers attached to Number 9 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. Died on 7th September 1915, age 19 years.

Son of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Hobbs, of Riding Mill, Northumberland.

Geoffrey Brian Hobbs’s war grave is situated west of the vicarage path near the south boundary. The stone has the badge of the Royal Flying Corps engraved on it. His rank of Second Lieutenant is on the next line followed by his name G.B. HOBBS.  Below this is inscribed Northumberland Fusiliers Attd. Royal Flying Corps. The next line has the date of his death, 7th September 1915. This is followed by a cross indicating his religious faith. There is no personal inscription added to this stone.

Geoffrey Brian Hobbs, of the Royal Flying Corps was the first military aviator to die in a flying accident at Dover. Early on Tuesday morning 7th September 1915, his machine crashed in a field to the east of the waterworks at Martin Mill. In a report in the Dover Express, a witness to the accident, who was the engineer in charge of the waterworks, a Mr Raymond Champion, said

I was on duty at the waterworks and watched a flying machine flying along at a height of about 3,000 ft., suddenly the machine shot round several times then turned over several times then crashed to the ground”.

The witness informed the Royal Flying Corps authorities then went to the crash site. A Royal Flying Corps officer arrived with a medical orderly and lifted the crumpled machine clear of the pilot who was dead.  The deceased was taken to the Duke of York’s military hospital on a stretcher. Lieut. Hugh Roker Evans, R.A.M.C., stationed at the Duke of York's School, said that the body was brought to the hospital a little before seven o'clock on Tuesday morning. He examined the body, and found that death had quite recently taken place and had been caused by a fracture to the skull.

Lieut Hobbs had been flying a Martinsyde biplane, an aircraft he had not flown before, however the machine had been tested and flown the previous evening by two other pilots and was in good order.

An inquest jury returned verdict of ‘death by misadventure’, and they stated that they wished to express their deepest sympathy with the deceased's relatives and friends.

The funeral took place at St. Margaret's at Cliffe  Parish Churchyard on the next Thursday afternoon. The remains were encased in a coffin of solid oak with brass fittings, and bore the inscription, "Geoffrey Brian Hobbs, died September 7th, 1915, aged 19 years." It was covered with the Union flag and borne from the Duke of York's School upon a gun carriage. The procession included the Band of the Royal Fusiliers and a firing party supplied by the same regiment. Besides the family mourners - Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Hobbs (the parents of the deceased) and an uncle - there were also present Brigadier-General Bickford (Officer Commanding the Garrison), Major W. B. Chichester (General Staff Officer), Colonel H. C. G. Taylor, R.G.A., and in addition to a number of officers of the Royal Flying Corps and of the Royal Naval Air Service various officers from every unit stationed in the Garrison. En route to the Churchyard the band played Beethoven's and Chopin's Funeral Marches. The Rev. H. J. Aldis, C.E. (Duke of York's School), officiated. The first part of the service was conducted in the Church, the officers and men present attending, and at the graveside military honours were paid to the deceased.

The next commemoration we will look at is:

Serjeant Frank Gordon R.M.L.I.

Royal Marine Light Infantry RMRA/861. H.M.S. Powerful

Died 23rd February 1916 Aged 44 Years

Husband of Florence Gordon, of Science Block, Avery Hill College, Eltham, London.

Frank Gordon’s war grave is situated east of the vicarage path in the hollow close to the East boundary wall near the car park. The headstone has the badge of the Royal Marines carved on it. The next line has his service number PLY/4964 followed by his rank of Serjeant R.M.L.I. The next line has his name F GORDON. His ships name, HMS POWERFUL is on the next line followed by the date of death, 23rd February 1916. There is no age added to this stone. Below this in the space between the text and the foot is carved a cross, a symbol of his religious faith. There is no personal inscription added to his headstone. The spelling of the word “Serjeant” is how it appears on the grave and also in his paperwork. The stone is showing signs of wear with the text becoming slightly difficult to read. The location near the boundary is slightly overgrown.

Serjeant F Gordon was born in St Andrews, Fifeshire, Scotland on 24th June 1871. He was serving in HMS Powerful, an ex-Victorian cruiser used as a harbour training ship in Devonport dockyard to train boys when he died suddenly in Plymouth Hospital while undergoing an operation for appendicitis. The Dover Express for Friday 3rd March 1916 reported:

"The funeral took place at St. Margaret's Churchyard, with full military honours, of Sergeant F. Gordon. R.M.L.I., aged 44 years. The officiating clergyman was the Rev. E. C. Iliffe. The mourners present were Mrs. Gordon, Messr's. W. Finnis, C. Finnis and E. Finnis and Mrs. J. Finnis. There were a number of floral tributes, in addition to those from the family and friends; there were ones from the Serjeants' Mess. Plymouth Division, Royal Marines; Sergeants' Mess Depot, Royal Marines, Deal; and four from H.M.S. "Powerful." The funeral arrangements were carried out by Mr. Jell., of St. Margaret's."

Frank Gordon had married Florence Louisa Finnis of St Margaret’s in 1906. In the census for 1911, he is shown living with his wife Florence and two children also named Florence and Frank, at Avery Hill College, Eltham. Frank is shown as a Naval Pensioner and was a caretaker for London County Council. At the age of 42 when WWI started, he would have been too old for active service, hence his training role in HMS Powerful.

His wife Florence Gordon died in 1925 in Dover Hospital. His daughter Florence died in 1917 aged 7 years.

(RMRA/861, Royal Marine Reserve A/861?

In a publication “R.N. Roll of Honour of WWI 1914”, by Don Kindell, F.Gordon is listed with his number highlighted RMR then A/861, suggesting he was in the Royal Marine Reserve with a number A/861. This number is not inscribed on his headstone but is on his CWGC Commemorative Certificate.)

Below is a copy of the entry in the Monumental Inscription Book from the church records:

This work has recently become available and states there was an inscription as below on grave plot number 520 H15. The records state this was sandstone cross on a limestone base. There was no trace of this memorial when new research was undertaken in 2015 by Camilla Hartley.

The plot is to the West of Frank Gordon’s war grave which is in plot 519 H16.


PLY/4964 Sergeant RMLI / F GORDON / HMS Powerful / 23rd February 1916 /

520 H15

In / loving memory of / FRANK GORDON / who died at RN Hospital Plymouth / February 23rd 1916 / also of FLORENCE EDITH / dear little Muffie child of the above / who died at Eltham Cottage Hospital / November 29th 1917 / Lead kindly light /

A sandstone cross on limestone base

(No trace in 2015)


The Headstone for F GORDON

The next commemoration we will look at is:

Lieutenant John Monckton Case

Canadian Engineers, Regimental Depot.

Died on 9th November 1917, Age 42 years.

Son of the Reverend Frederic Case and Mrs Anna Case (Nee Monckton)

The war grave of John Monckton Case is situated west of the vicarage path near to the kissing gate. The stone has the badge of the Canadian maple leaf carved on it indicating the bearer was serving with the Canadian forces. Below this is his rank, Lieutenant and his name J. Monckton Case. The next line has Canadian Engineers and below this is his date of death, 9th November 1917. A cross is carved into the space between the text and the foot of the stone indicating his religious faith. . There is no personal inscription on this stone.

Lieut. John Monckton Case was the eldest son of the Rev. Frederic Case, vicar of St Margaret’s at Cliffe, from 1898 -1904, and Anna Monckton who died in 1878.

John married Miss Minnie Cotton Stapleton, the daughter of Mr. George Cotton Stapleton of St. Margaret's at Cliffe in 1904. George Cotton Stapleton was the founder of the

St Margaret’s Golf Club. John Monckton Case was born on 30th Oct 1875 in Warwickshire. His education included becoming a day boy at Tonbridge School from 1889-1891. He then became a Civil Engineer. He was a member of the Society of Engineers, and a Life Member of the British Association. After being employed on sea defence work on various parts of the coast, he went to South Africa, where he worked for the municipalities in both Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg.

In 1908 he went to Canada, which he thought would offer him greater opportunities, and settled in Kelowna, B.C. When war broke out he had for some years held a Government appointment in Victoria, B.C., and, although he was anxious to volunteer, it was not till late 1915 that the Government consented to his taking a commission. He actually declared his age as 37 when in fact he was 40. He came to England as a Lieutenant with the Canadian Engineers in August 1916, and whilst engaged in tunnelling operations during preparatory training before going to the front, received an injury that was to prove fatal, a piece of rock fell on his leg and set up phlebitis. He was for a long time in hospital, and when discharged was still not passed fit; however he never gave up hope of going to the Front. In October 1917, he became attached to the Royal Engineers, and was sent to Sandwich. There he was once more attacked by phlebitis and died suddenly in Sandwich Military Hospital on November 9th 1917. His transfer to the Royal Engineers as a temporary Lieutenant actually appeared in the Gazette on November 23rd, a fortnight after his death, the appointment being dated October 19th 1917, but in consequence of his death, this was cancelled. His one complaint during his illness was that it was preventing him from going to the Front.

He was buried at St Margaret’s at Cliffe, on the 12th November 1917. His wife Minnie was living in Royal Oak, Saanich, British Columbia. Canada


IWGC Grave Registration Report Form for Monckton Case and Hobbs RFC., the report states that the graves are not numbered. Also noted on the column “Type of Memorial” Monckton Case has P.P. this means a Private Permanent Memorial.

G B Hobbs has P.W. This means he had a Private Wooden Memorial

The following record is taken from the Church Monumental Inscription records 1980.


Lieutenant / J MONKTON CASE / Canadian Engineers / 9th November 1917 /

“In memory of Lieutenant JOHN MONKTON CASE CE My loving husband and our darling daddy who fell asleep November 9th 1917 aged 42 / Until the day break / (on kerb)”

The Headstone now seen on the grave is the traditional CWGC style stone. From the evidence above, it must have replaced the Private Permanent Memorial with the inscription as shown above. The new headstone does not have any personal inscription.

John Monckton Case’s Parents

Father: Frederick CASE, title: Reverend, born Apr 1849 in Maidstone (Kent), baptized 20 Apr 1849 in Maidstone (Kent), census 1851 at High Street, Maidstone (Kent), census 1861 at "The Limes", Boxley Road, Maidstone (Kent), census 1881 at 4 Park Terrace, Hampstead Lane, Hornsey, Middlesex., census 1891 at The Vicarage, Tudely-cum-Capel (Kent), census 1901 at The Vicarage, St Margaret's at Cliffe. (Kent).

Occupation 1881 Curate of St Michaels, Highgate, occupation 1889 - 1894 Vicar of Tudely-cum-Capel, occupation “1898 - 1904 Vicar of St Margaret's at Cliffe (Kent)”Died 18 May 1904 at The Vicarage, St Margaret's at Cliffe (Kent) - Aged 55, buried 23 May 1904 at St Margaret's at Cliffe. He married (Mother) Anna MONCKTON, 27 Jun 1874 at All Saints, Maidstone (Kent), born Mar 1845 in Maidstone (Kent), census 1851 at King Street, Maidstone (Kent), census 1871 at 70 King Street, Maidstone (Kent), died 28 May 1878 at Market Rasen (Lincs) - Aged 33. He married his second wife, Henrietta Nicholson MACROBIN, Dec 1881 in Edmonton, Middlesex, born 28 Sep 1851 in Aberdeen, Scotland, baptized 9 Nov 1851 at St Nicholas, Aberdeen, Scotland, census 1891 at The Vicarage, Tudely-cum-Capel (Kent), census 1901 at The Vicarage, St Margaret's at Cliffe. Died 28 July 1921 Aged 69, buried 1 Aug 1921 at St Margaret's at Cliffe.

Children by Anna MONCKTON:

John Monckton CASE, born Dec 1875 in Warwick, Warwickshire. The census 1881 at 4 Park Terrace, Hampstead Lane, Hornsey, Middlesex. Lieutenant - Canadian Engineers, died 9 Nov 1917, buried 12 Nov 1917 at St Margaret's-At- Cliffe. Nora CASE, (Sister) born About 1877 in Stratford on Avon, Warwickshire, census 1881 at 4 Park Terrace, Hampstead Lane, Hornsey, Middlesex, census 1891 at The Vicarage, Tudely-cum-Capel (Kent), census 1901 at The Vicarage, St Margaret's at Cliffe.

The next commemoration we will look at is:

Arthur George Frederick Luff

No 6192714. Served with the 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment

Died on 1st June 1921. Aged 17 years.

Son of Mrs. Minnie Luff, of 128, Cottenham Rd., Upper Holloway, London.

Arthur George Frederick Luff’s war grave is situated west of the vicarage path nearly opposite the Emden vault; it is three rows in from the path. The headstone is inscribed with the regimental badge of the Middlesex Regiment. The text follows with his service number 6192714 and his rank of Private. His name, Arthur George F Luff is on the next line and his date of death, 1st June 1921 Age 17 is underneath. This is followed by a cross indicating his religious faith. At the foot of the stone there is a personal inscription which reads: “Although Dead/ He Lives Within Our Hearts/ Our Memories Hold Him Dear”. This inscription would have been added by the next of kin at their own expense of 3 ½ old pence per letter, and was just within the maximum allowed 66 letter limit.

Arthur Luff was a private in the 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment stationed at Swingate Aerodrome. On Wednesday the 1st June 1921 he was off duty and on the cliffs between Dover and St Margaret’s when he decided to climb down the cliff to gather some seagull’s eggs, he descended down and retrieved one egg then climbed back successfully, there were other soldiers in the area who witnessed this and warned Luff of this dangerous practice. Luff disregarded the cautions from the other servicemen and once more descended about 50 feet down to gather more eggs but, he lost his footing and fell to his death. Other soldiers who had witnessed his fall contacted the Coastguard who used a cliff path to get to the bottom and recover the body. The point at which he fell was approximately 300 yards south of the “Preussen” wreck where the cliffs were almost perpendicular. Dr. Molesworth. M.D., F.R.C.S., said he examined Luffs body and found that death was due to shock following his injuries.

An inquest on the tragedy was held in St Margaret’s and a lengthy report was printed in the Dover Express on 10th June. The many witnesses gave their evidence and a jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure. The foreman of the jury made a suggestion that the military should be warned as to the dangerous nature of the cliffs in this district, and the Coroner asked the officer representing the Military Authorities to ask the Adjutant at Swingate Aerodrome to issue a warning as to the danger.

A funeral took place at St Margaret’s churchyard on June 6th 1921.

Private Luff automatically qualified to be commemorated with a war grave because he died in service between the 4th August 1914 and 31st August 1921. At only 17 years old, he would have been only 15 years old when WWI ended.



6192714 Private / ARTHUR GEORGE F LUFF / Middlesex Regiment / 1st June 1921 / aged 17 / Though dead /He lives within our hearts / Our memory holds him dear /

139 is the grave number in the churchyard register, and L 7 is the grid location

The grave registration report for A.G.F.Luff. This shows the grave number as 703, this is the plot number from an earlier church grave plot plan.

Below is the comprehensive personal headstone inscription form for Luff and Gordon.

Additional Information: Dover Express - Friday 10 June 1921

SOUTH FORELAND TRAGEDY. JURY'S RECOMMENDATION TO THE MILITARY AUTHORITIES. The second death within three weeks by falling from the South Foreland cliffs was the occasion of an inquest at St. Margaret's on Saturday afternoon, by the East Kent Coroner (Mr. Rutley Mowll). The deceased was a private in the 1st Batt. Middlesex Regiment named Arthur John Frederick Luff. The Coroner, before opening the inquest, said that this was another of those terrible accidents occurring on the cliffs. In this case, a young soldier lost his life whilst trying to reach some seagulls' eggs which he had seen down the cliff. The Coroner said he did not know whether there was anything that could be done to stop this kind of thing.

Company Sergeant-Major Henry John Grey, of "C" Company, 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment, stationed at Swingate Aerodrome, identified the body as that of Private Arthur John Frederick Luff, of the same company, aged eighteen years (CWGC state his age is 17). Witness last saw him alive on the afternoon of June 1st. He was then in camp, and was in the best of health. He was not aware that the deceased was keen on getting seagulls' eggs. In reply to the Coroner, witness said that soldiers were not allowed to go on to the cliffs unless they were properly dressed.

Private Arthur John White, of "A" Company, 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment, gave evidence to the effect that on Wednesday, the 1st inst. he saw the deceased down the cliff between 7.30 and 8 p.m. Witness was walking along the cliffs between Dover and St. Margaret's. There were two or three older soldiers coming along, and he told them there was a fellow down the cliffs by himself. This was opposite some old houses. Shortly afterwards the deceased came to the top of the cliff, and had one egg with him. He was entirely unaided. When he came up he spoke to them. Witness did not know him, but Private Batt, who was with the witness, did know him. Afterwards the deceased looked over the cliffs and saw some more nests and said he was going down after the eggs, but he was cautioned. Disregarding their caution, he again descended and about 50ft. down, he slipped and fell. As soon they saw him fall they went to the Coastguard Station, and after warning them they descended by the cliff path (a railed pathway approached through a private fence). When they reached the bottom they had to swim and wade round until they got to the body. It was in the water, three to five yards out. When they found the body it was just underneath the place where the deceased fell over. There was no pathway where the deceased was descending. He descended to within about 4ft. of the nests. He (witness) could see them. In reply to the Coroner, witness said that he understood that the boy was getting the eggs with the object of eating them.

Private Henry John Batt, of "C" Company, 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment, nineteen years of age, corroborated the previous witness' evidence. Witness said he was not on the spot until the deceased had actually fallen. He knew nothing of Luff's habits. The foreman of the jury asked witness if had seen anyone in the camp with seagulls' eggs? The witness said No. A member of the jury said that it had been a practice for people to go down the cliffs after the eggs for some time. An Artilleryman had been killed in that way some years ago.

Private Arthur Riley, of "B" Company, 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment, said that he saw several fellows looking over the cliffs on Wednesday evening, and he joined them. On looking over he saw Luff down the cliff. He heard a few reservists shouting to the deceased to come back. They said it was not safe enough, but the deceased said that he thought he would be safe. He said he would get a few eggs and then come up again. Witness saw him take two eggs from the nest, put one in his hat and one in his pocket. When he started to climb up witness saw Luff's foot slip from under him and he went down feet foremost.

Private Harry Ball, of "A" Company, 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment, said that he was walking along the cliffs on Wednesday evening when he saw the deceased getting down the cliff. Witness walked over to them and looked over the top. He heard someone shout "He's gone." He picked up the deceased's coat, which had been left at the top the cliff. It was stated that the cliff was practically perpendicular at this point.   Dr. Molesworth. M.D., F.R.C.S., said he examined the body on Thursday morning, and found that several ribs on the right side were fractured and the right arm was also fractured. There were also some bruises about the face. Death was due to the shock following the injuries. There was nothing to indicate that the spine was injured. Petty Officer George Townsend, of H.M. Coastguards, stationed at St. Margaret's, said that the point where the man went over was opposite the old houses and about 300 yards south of the "Preussen." At the point, witness said, the cliff was perpendicular.

The Coroner: It is absolutely foolhardy for anyone to descend without a rope? He said it seemed that this youngster was keen on getting the eggs, and in doing so ran a great risk of losing his life, and lost it. The boy seems to have gone down in the presence of a number of people much older than him. The case before them seemed a simple one, the deceased not intending to take his life but losing it whilst running a great risk. He evidently died by misadventure. He (the Coroner) supposed that the desire to possess oneself of seagulls' eggs was not a new one.

The jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure. The foreman of the jury made a suggestion that the military should be warned as to the dangerous nature of the cliffs in this district; and the Coroner asked the officer representing the Military Authorities to ask the Adjutant at Swingate Aerodrome to issue a warning as to the danger.

Mr.Eliff, a member of the jury, said he thought something could be done to stop this kind of accident. The gulls' nesting season was only for a month, and he would suggest that the Coastguard Force during that time should be strengthened to prevent people from descending the cliffs.

The next commemoration we will look at is:


John Edward Kenway

D/12527, 6th (H.D.) Bn., The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)

Died on 24 March 1941 Age 41

Son of George Harry and Jane Kenway, of St Margaret's at Cliffe; husband of Jessie May Kenway, of St Margaret’s at Cliffe.

John Kenway’s war grave is situated west of the vicarage path close to the Southern churchyard boundary. The headstone is inscribed with the regimental badge of The Buffs, Royal East Kent Regiment. His service number D/12527 and his rank of Private is followed by his name, J.E. Kenway. The Buffs is inscribed below his name and on the next line is the date of death, 24th March 1941 and Age 41. This is followed by a Latin cross indicating his religious faith. At the foot of the stone there is a personal inscription added which reads:

In Ever Loving Memory/Of A Dear Husband And Daddy/Died After Much Suffering/Patiently Borne.

John Edward Kenway was born in St Margaret’s. He was a private soldier in the 6th ( H.D.) Battalion The Buffs, Royal East Kent Regiment. The H.D. indicates Home Defence, it was usual for regiments to raise extra battalions of men for home defence duties. He died on 24th March 1941 in a Surrey Military Hospital. The funeral of John E Kenway was reported in the Dover Express on the 4th April. The report says that members of “A” Company of a Battalion of The Buffs acted as pall bearers and also sent floral tributes. The mourners amongst who were Lieutenant A.M. MACLEAN representing officers and NCO's of "A" Coy. H.D. Battalion of The Buffs and Company Sgt Major M CHORLEY. Also in that issue for 4th April, there was the formal death notice, the account of the funeral and an acknowledgment from the Kenway family thanking people for their sympathy. It is interesting to note that the ordinal number of the Battalion of The Buffs was not included due to wartime reporting restrictions.

John Kenway was born in St Margaret’s at Cliffe on 15th September 1899. He was the youngest son of George Harry and Jane Kenway of St Margaret’s. George Kenway was a master painter and ran a local house decorating business in the village. He employed his six children in his business, his sons as tradesmen and his daughters as book keepers and saleswomen. John was a carpenter working for his father in the business. John Edward Kenway married Jessie May Relf of Burwash, East Sussex in 1927. They were living in Park View, Nelson Park, St Margaret’s at Cliffe, in 1939 when war was declared.

As a local man he is remembered with honour in the church on our War Memorial.


John Edward Kenway’s CWGC grave located in plot 88 –D4. Burial register No 158.

The grave plot with the CWGC Stone is in front of John’s parents and his sisters graves.

The Grave Registration report for the three WWII Commonwealth War Graves in the churchyard. The P.I. in the remarks section denotes that a Personal Inscription was added.

Additional Information.

The Kenway family are a village family who had a decorating and house improvement business in the village for many years. They also employed other village tradesmen.

Until fairly recently their store stood opposite the Portal House. It was a long single story grey pebble dashed building next to the chapel. From the 1939 National Register - Sea street , St Margaret's at Cliffe schedule 79a Painter's Shop. Owner, George H KENWAY, master painter born 30th August 1865. The building was demolished when redevelopment took place to construct Beech Tree House. They also had a small shop that sold painting materials and hardware, this was next to the Quality bar (Café) also in Sea Street opposite Portal House. John Kenway’s sisters, Lilian and Nora ran the shop which was also their home. John Kenway had three sisters, Jessie, Lilian and Nora. He also had two brothers, Albert and George. John Edward KENWAY had his banns read in St Margaret's 28th Sept and 2nd & 9th October 1927 for him and Jessie May ROLF of Burwash, Sussex.

(My thanks to Ruth Nicol for the additional information, and the Dover Express)

The next commemoration we will look at is:


Norman Leslie Pettitt   


1077978, 540 Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery who died on 01 August 1942, Aged 31

Son of Charles William and Rosalind Ethel Pettitt, of Hampstead Garden Suburb, Middlesex.


Norman Leslie Pettitt’s war grave is situated seven rows in from the vicarage path on the western side. The headstone has his service number followed by his rank of Gunner inscribed on it. His name N.L. Pettitt is followed by letters ARCA. This indicates he was an Associate of The Royal College of Art. His regiment, the Royal Artillery is on the next line. The date of death, 1st August 1942, with his age 31, is inscribed next. The Royal Artillery was one of the regiments that chose to have a broad cross inscribed on their headstones instead of the thinner Latin crosses seen on most CWGC stones. N.L Pettitt has this broad cross on his war grave which indicates his religious faith and also contains the badge of the Royal Artillery carved into its centre. There is no personal inscription on the foot of this headstone.

Gunner Norman Pettitt was a member of 540 Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery. The Regiment was responsible for three batteries of coastal guns in our area, Fan Bay, Wanstone and South Foreland. He died as a result of a fall from the cliffs at South Foreland. A report on the incident appeared in the Dover Express on Friday 07 August 1942.

It read:-

An inquest was held at the Eastry Institution, on Tuesday 4th August, on the body of Gunner Norman Leslie Pettitt (31), of Golders Green, who was killed as the result of his falling from the cliff at the South Foreland, a distance of nearly 300 ft. Mr. Rutley Mowll (Coroner for East Kent) conducted the inquest without a jury. Evidence of identification was given by Captain Richard Frederick Adrian Mallinson, R.A., who said that the deceased was a Gunner in his section

Gunner Cyril Bassett said that he in was in the same section as deceased. On Saturday, 1st August, between 3 and 4 o'clock, he was sunbathing on the cliff top at South Foreland. Gunner Pettitt came along and spoke for a while, and asked witness to go down the cliff with him. They went down by a rope, which was about 30ft. long, fastened to a stake in the ground.

There was a ledge protruding from the face of the cliff, to which they descended. Three of them went down, including witness and deceased, who often went to the ledge to read a book. He took them along to a ledge protruding about 10ft. above, and said, "I've always wanted to climb this." They told him not to as the chalk was loose, but deceased made no reply, and commenced climbing. Witness walked along the ledge, and when he had turned to come back, he saw the chalk the deceased's foot was on break away.

He hung for about 5 seconds by one hand, and then he fell, hitting the side of the cliff, and then disappeared. Cartmell (the other Gunner) and witness, went back up the rope. Looking over the top, they could see deceased at the bottom, with his head in the water.

Gunner Douglas Charles Cartmell said that he was sunbathing at the cliff top, and got up and walked to the cliff edge. The deceased had already gone down, and called for witness to go down. Witness went down, followed by Bassett, and they made their way round the ledge, which protruded two or three feet from the face of the cliff. They walked in some parts, and crawled where it steeped sharply. They went about 20ft. along the ledge until they reached the piece of cliff which jutted out about 10ft. high. Deceased said that he had always wanted to climb it, but witness advised him not to as the chalk was cracked and loose in places. He made no reply, but began to climb. Suddenly, he said that he was falling, and the chalk under his feet gave way. He fell feet first, and turned over, hitting the side of the cliff, and vanished from view. Witness and Bassett then returned to the cliff top. They could see deceased lying on the bottom face downwards, with his head apparently in the water.

Gunner Reginald Henry Mardell said that he was a Gunner in the same unit, and was lying on the cliff top by himself. He had been talking to deceased, who had said that he thought that he would go down the cliff. Witness thought he used to go down there reading. The last witness saw of deceased was going down. Witness knew the others were going down, but did not notice them going. Witness was lying on the cliff when he heard a scream, and a falling of chalk. Witness got up, and looking over the top, saw deceased lying face downwards on the bottom.

P.C. Horace George Feasey, K.C.C., stationed at Kingsdown, said that the body was recovered from the sea by a member of the crew of an R A.F. rescue launch sent from Dover. The body was taken to Dover, and conveyed to St. Margaret's by ambulance.

Dr. D. M. M. Fraser, Eastry, said that he saw the body on August 3rd. There were multiple abrasions over the body, and lacerations of the right hand and right knee. Death was due to a fracture of the base of the skull. There were no fractures of the limbs at all.

The Coroner returned a verdict of death by misadventure, and expressed sympathy with deceased's relatives and with the regiment.

He was buried in St Margaret’s Churchyard on the 6th August 1942.

Norman Leslie Pettitt attended the Royal College of Arts 1932 - 1935 graduating ARCA (Associate of the Royal College of Art) He attained a Diploma in Painting.

(Information courtesy of the College.)

Norman Leslie PETTITT. ARCA. Headstone

Grave number 77 located at G4 in St Margaret’s at Cliffe churchyard.

Finally, the last commemoration we will look at is:

Able Seaman

Henry R Matcham

C/JX 213321, H.M.S. Daedalus, Royal Navy Who Died 08 September 1944, Aged 54.

Son of George and Elizabeth Matcham; husband of Charlotte Winifred Matcham, of St. Margaret's-at-Cliffe.

Henry Matcham’s war grave is situated on the west side of the vicarage path almost opposite the Emden Vault. The stone has the badge of the Royal Navy, a furled anchor within a circle carved into it with his name, H.R.Matcham below. The next line has his rank, Able Seaman followed by R.N. and his number C/JX213321. The next line has his ship’s name,

H.M.S DAEDALUS. The next line has his date of death, 8th September 1944 and his age 54. A Latin cross is inscribed next indicating his religious faith. This grave has a personal inscription which reads: - Farewell Dear One/ Until We Meet/ For Ever In Our Thoughts.

Henry Richard Matcham was born at Ringwould, Kent on the 5th July 1890. He worked as a farm labourer and a gardener as a young man. 1n 1908 he joined the Royal Navy as a boy seaman where he signed up for twelve years, he progressed through the ranks to Able Seaman serving in many well-known ships including HMS’s Magnificent, Dominion, Caesar, Formidable, Queen, and Dido as well as several shore bases. On the 7th May 1913, he was posted to HMS Hermes and shortly after this on the 17th May was selected for the course of instruction in flying at the Central Flying School. On 7th September 1913 he transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service, still serving in HMS Hermes which was a “Highflyer class” cruiser converted to an experimental seaplane carrier. This posting lasted until December 1913. On the 1st July 1914 he was promoted to the rank of Air Mechanic. During this period, Henry was flying in a plane that had to make a forced landing on the cliffs at St Margaret’s and subsequently caught fire. He and the pilot walked in pouring rain to the Cliffe Hotel in the village where they reported the incident and were well cared for. Henry returned a few days later to see the pretty waitress, Charlotte Goldsack who he had met working at the hotel and who he fell in love with. They were married on December 26th 1914 at St Margaret’s Parish Church by special licence. Henry and Charlotte made their home at No 5, Wellesley Terrace, Kingsdown Road, St Margaret’s. They had three children, Richard, Vera and Ronald.

As WWI progressed, Henry was involved in land operations. In a book called “Fights and Flights” by Air Commodore Charles Sampson, he is mentioned as being part of a small party of eight men carrying out raids in the Third Battle of Cassel on the 4th September 1914. Commander Sampson had armed his personal car with a Maxim gun and ambushed a German car near Cassel. These armoured cars were eventually developed into the Royal Naval Armoured Car Division (RNACD) of the Royal Navy.

Henry Matcham’s service records show that he was involved in land operations several times during WW1. The records also show that he rose through the ranks from air mechanic to leading air mechanic to Chief Petty Officer.

In 1917 he was posted to RNAS Killingholm, Lincolnshire which was the major seaplane base in the country during WW1. In early 1918 he served at HMS Daedalus (Dover) for a short period and then in France. He was transferred to the Royal Air Force in March 1918. The Royal Air Force came into existence on the 1st April 1918 when the Royal Naval Air Service merged with the Royal Flying Corps. The personnel of both services then came under the control of the RAF and Henry was one of these. This amalgamation continued until 1924 when the Fleet Air Arm of the RAF was formed. It was not until 1939 that the Admiralty took back control of the Fleet Air Arm.

His records do not show when he was actually discharged from service however some notes found on a service book dated 1923 suggest that he was still in the RAF until at least this date.

On being discharged, with a disability pension of 11 shillings and sixpence, Henry trained in saddlery and leather work which he practiced in the village. However, Charlotte and Henry decided to take on the Carriers Arms Public House (April 1931-July 1932) now the Smugglers, in the village but the venture was unprofitable so Henry left, and again took up gardening. He worked for Admiral Sutton at “Southolm” in Lighthouse Road and later for Lord and Lady Astor who were living at “The Hermitage”, now South Sands House. This position also brought with it accommodation in the form of the Hermitage Cottage, a four bedroomed house with a garage underneath for the chauffeurs, the building is now used as the St Margaret’s Museum.

When WW II started, Henry and Charlotte in company with many other residents of the Bay were given 48 hours’ notice to leave the house. Henry, being desperate to serve again, contacted his old commander and was privileged to be able to re-join the Royal Navy in July 1940, but, because he was in receipt of a pension, he could not retain his old rank of CPO so had to re-join as an AB. (Able Seaman) Henry served at HMS’s Pembroke, Peregrine (RNAS Ford) and HMS Daedalus from where he was posted to 765 Naval Air Squadron. Whist at HMS Peregrine, RNAS Ford in Sussex, the station was bombed, Henry suffered shrapnel wound to his buttock and a broken alarm clock!

In September 1940 Henry was awarded a Hurt Certificate, probably due to his shrapnel wound. A Hurt certificate was issued for wounds or minor injuries; it would enable the recipient to claim a better pension on discharge. The Admiralty often tried to buy back a Hurt certificate to save paying out this extra pension cost and Henry’s certificate appears to be one of these as his records also show that he was paid a War Gratuity. (Usually about £20.00)

765 Squadron RNAS was the Basic Seaplane Flying and training pool squadron, it moved to RNAS Sandbanks in Poole Harbour, Dorset in 1941, still under control of HMS Daedalus. They were operating the Swordfish, Walrus and Seafox seaplanes and the American Vought Kingfisher at that time. It was whist serving at RNAS Sandbanks that Henry caught Pneumonia and died in Haslar Naval Hospital, Gosport on 8th September 1944.   The funeral took place at St Margaret’s Parish Churchyard on September 12th 1944. As a local man, He is remembered with honour on our war memorial in the church.

Henry Richard Matcham

Dover Express 15th September 1944

Funeral of H.R.Matcham.

The funeral took place at St Margaret’s Parish Churchyard on September 12th, of Henry Richard Matcham, of 5 Wellesley Terrace, St Margaret’s, who was serving in the Fleet Air Arm, and who died at the RN Hospital, Gosport on September 8th at the age of 54 years. The mourners present were:- Mrs Matcham (widow), Richard and Ronald Matcham (Sons), Mrs Luker (Daughter) Mr W Matcham, Mr G Matcham and Mr A Matcham (Brothers), Mrs Smith (Sister) Mrs W Matcham, Mrs G Matcham and Mrs Goodban,(Sister’s in Law)Miss W Drayson, Mrs Carey, Mrs T Mould, Mrs L Cox, CPO Blackmore and Leading Seaman Higgs representing ship’s company of HMS----- ( Ships name withheld due to wartime reporting restrictions)

Henry R Matcham’s headstone located at plot number 168 J5

in St Margarets churchyard

CWGC Headstone inscription contract report, Schedule A for H.R.Matcham.

The Graves registration report form containing details of all WWII burials including Henry Matcham, J.E Kenway and N.L.Pettitt. The remarks section shows a P.I. Personal Inscription was added to H.R.Matcham and J.E. Kenway’s headstones, can be seen on the report for J Kenway.

The text of this inscription was chosen by the family.

Additional Information

Royal Naval Armoured Car Division (RNACD)

The Royal Naval Air Service engaged in inter service rivalry on land as well as in the air, possessing for a time the UK's only mechanised land forces in the form of the RNAS Armoured Car Section made up of squadrons of Rolls-Royce Armoured Cars. Commanded by Commander Charles Samson, the section was originally equipped with unarmoured touring cars and intended to provide line of communications security and to pick up aircrew that had been forced to land in hostile territory. Samson saw the possibilities when he armed one vehicle with a Maxim gun and ambushed a German car near Cassel on 4 September 1914. He then had shipbuilders in Dunkirk add boilerplate to his Rolls Royce and Mercedes vehicles. The new armoured car squadrons were soon used to great effect forming part of Naval mechanised raiding columns against the Germans. By November 1914 the Section had become the Royal Naval Armoured Car Division (RNACD) eventually expanding to 20 squadrons. As trench warfare developed, the armoured cars could no longer operate on the Western Front and were redeployed to other theatres including the Middle East, Romania and Russia. In the summer of 1915 the RNACD was disbanded and the army took over control of armoured cars, with the units soon coming under the command of the Motor Branch of the Machine Gun Corps.

However RNAS experience of the Western Front would not be lost; No. 20 Squadron RNAS was retained under naval control to further develop armoured vehicles for land battles, these personnel later becoming the nucleus of the team working under the Land ships Committee that developed the first tanks. Tanks were abbreviated to HMLS, His Majesty’s Land Ship (s) and originally painted warship grey. The RAF later inherited some ex-RNAS armoured cars left in the Middle East, and during the Second World War, the Number 1 Armoured Car Company RAF played an important role in the defence of RAF Habbaniya when the base was attacked by Iraqi nationalists.

(With thanks to CWGC website, Internet searches Mrs Vera Luker, Mrs J Jones.)

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The Unremembered of WW1

The Unremembered” commemorates the bravery and sacrifice of the Labour Corps throughout the First World War. The Labour Corps supplied the army with weapons, ammunition, food and fodder as well as water and fuel. They built and maintained roads and railways, all essential to the war effort. British and Allied Forces struggled to cope with the demand for manpower after the huge losses of men during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. From January 1917, manpower was drawn from the UK, China, India, South Africa, Egypt, Canada, the Caribbean and many other places within the British Empire. Tens of thousands travelled thousands of miles to defend freedom, and although they rarely saw service in the frontline, many died or were seriously injured. Today their contributions and sacrifice are all but forgotten.

On 9th September 2017, a tribute was held locally for the WW1 Labour Corps at the Shorncliffe Military Cemetery at Folkestone. Shorncliffe Camp itself was used as a staging post for ferrying British and Commonwealth troops across the Channel to the Western Front, and earlier this year, tributes were paid to those who lost their lives when the “SS Mendi” sank in thick fog when bringing Labour Corps members from South Africa. This was one of the largest maritime disasters in English waters, the ship was struck by the “SS Darro” just 10 miles off the Isle of Wight. More than 600 men of the 5th Battalion the South African Native Labour Corps (SANCL) were killed, some by the collision itself, but the majority drowned.

A traditional Chinese Festival of remembering the ancestors, called Qingming, took place on 4th April 2017, Liverpool FC and Everton FC jointly visited the five Chinese Labour Corps graves at Anfield Cemetery where they learned about the Labour Corps and Chinese Customs.

We are all familiar with the term “the unknown Soldier” because of the nature of warfare in WW1, yet, despite careful searching, not all the dead were found. There were incomplete records kept before the age of the computer. As a result of groups like “In from the Cold” matching records and computer lists, names are still being added to the main war memorials, and when found, remains are being repatriated. There was a cut-off date of 31.8.1921 for combatants who died as a result of their injury; some may not be on any War Memorial.

Then there is the element of “hidden in plain sight” bringing us straight back to St Margaret’s. When St Margaret’s School visited the CWGC the graves, several of the children were fascinated by an old WW1 wooden cross. Christine Waterman of St Margaret’s History Society is looking into having the “G.B. Hobbs R.F.C.” marker preserved and displayed.

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We are indebted to Margaret Scott, Alan Poole, Christine Waterman, Camilla Harley and St Margaret's History Society for their dedication and marvellous work in compiling these histories and adding to the rich body of cultural and heritage information that we have here at St Margaret's.