Officers of the 10th London (Hackney) Regiment
(Lt Cranmore, back row, third from left,)
Late last year (during November 2022), the Storrington Community Partnership received a request from a charming Frenchman in Toulon, called Bruno Perez, who had been desperately searching, unsuccessfully, for a current family descendant of a WW1 hero, namely Lieutenant George William Cranmore.
The reason for this was because Bruno had inherited from his grandfather, Joseph Perez, a British WW1 Compass engraved with the name “G.W. CRANMORE”.
Joseph Perez had fought throughout WW1 for the 1st. Algerian Tirailleurs Marching Regiment.
Lieutenant Cranmore had joined the Territorials of the 10th. Battalion of the London Hackney Regiment at the beginning of the war but was only sent to fight on the Western Front late in 1917.
Having investigated War Diaries online remotely from Toulon, the only link Bruno could find was that of Cranmore’s posthumous War Medal being sent to his wife at 2 Myrtle Cottages, Storrington in June 1923. Therefore, the Partnership passed the enquiry onto Storrington Museum. The Storrington Local History Group realised that he was not on the local “Roll of Honour” and therefore he had never himself resided locally. So, why Storrington?
The war grave of Lt Cranmore which was visited by the Storrington Local History Group
Mystery No.1! His widow, along with their 5 children, were presumably “staying temporarily” at 2, Myrtle Cottages in June 1923, as there was no record of her being there in the 1921 Census nor on the 1924 Local Blue Register. At the time of Lieutenant Cranmore’s death in 1918, a newspaper obituary quoted Mrs Cranmore as having only 4 children, but sadly, they may both have been unaware that Mrs Cranmore was in the early stages of expecting their fifth, as later records show her having 5 children as at the end of 1918.
Mystery No.2 – where was 2, Myrtle Cottages? Did the house even exist back then? = Yes, BUT never having been recorded at that time under that name neither in Censuses nor Registers. Further research discovered that the then 2 Myrtle Cottages is now called Willow Cottage, 8, Amberley Road and, just to confuse the issue, the currently named “Myrtle Cottage” is actually next door but numbered 6, Amberley Road!! This row of 8 semi-detached cottages, were all built between 1910 & 1920 and originally numbered as 1 through 8 Myrtle Cottages. Further research discovered that Cranmore’s widow was obviously in the process of moving with her family from Farnham to Hove, where descendants still reside locally.
Mystery No.3: – How did Bruno’s Grandfather, Joseph, acquire Lieutenant Cranmore’s compass? This has not been so easy to answer and remains a mystery, as their respective regiments were fighting at different ends of the Western Front. There are, however, 3 possibilities –
- Grandfather, Joseph Perez had fought throughout WW1 on the Western Front in France for the 1st Algerian Tirailleurs Marching Regiment, mainly to the east around Rheims. Whilst George W. was fighting on the Somme and killed in action on 19/7/1918 (as sadly was his younger brother Owen Jack, previously in March 1918), his other elder brother, Stuart James, survived and was also fighting on the Front, nearby, and apparently attended George’s burial in Bavelincourt Cemetery. Therefore, it is possible that Stuart was handed the compass and later met Joseph Perez fighting on the Front. Unlikely though, as Stuart was injured (again) shortly afterwards, and was sent home at the request of his mother who had pleaded not to lose yet another (i.e.. 3rd) child.
- Lieutenant Cranmore had joined his Regiment at the start of the war and had been wounded in 1916 but was sadly killed in action on 19/7/18.
- However, whilst Joseph Perez fought consistently around Rheims at the opposite end of The Front, as a result of the French Army’s ‘revolt’ during 1917 they were subsequently allowed regular “Rest Breaks” which resulted on one occasion in Joseph’s French regiment being rested close to where Cranmore’s regiment had arrived at Villers Bretonneux during early 1918.
There are pictures of British and French fighters “relaxing” playing cards together during their “Rest Times”.
Could Joseph Perez have been better than Cranmore at Poker and won a compass?!
A distinct possibility, but less likely as Joseph was allowed to return to Algeria during that “Rest Time” to get married and then swiftly return to the Front to see the war out!!!
How brave is that? Not to mention that of his new wife!
- The final, most likely, answer is that Joseph acquired the compass as an artifact from one of the many auctions held following the war that he had proudly survived the full five years of fighting in.
Whatever the actual solution to these mysteries, the Storrington Local History Group did manage to locate in Hove the great granddaughter of Lieutenant Cranmore, Bella, and also her father Robert, both of whom it turns out happen to have strong local connections, namely; –
Robert had taught locally and later became the maintenance man, and subsequently a Trustee, of The Windlesham School.
Bella, meanwhile, was actually educated at The Windlesham School.
During March, on behalf of Bruno, Storrington Museum hosted Robert and Bella Cranmore in person and Bruno, virtually on-line, to facilitate Bruno handing over the Compass and its case, which he had so generously and carefully despatched all the way over here at his own expense.
An emotional occasion, enjoyed by all, which identified one final twist…. Robert’s brother, Bella’s Uncle, lives in Southern France…. not ten miles away from Bruno on the other side of Toulon!!!
Who could have predicted such an amazing series of mysteries and coincidences arising from such a century old longshot generated by Bruno’s sincere generosity to commemorate recognition of the sacrifices made by his grandfather, the Cranmore Family and all the allied troops during WW1.? Both families have requested that the Compass and it’s case be displayed in Storrington Museum, where it can be viewed by all.
The compass which is on view at the museum