My maternal grandparents – Herbert and Claudia Glasspool
My mother’s parents were a big influence in my life. We lived with them on and off for several years while I was growing up and my grandfather, Herbert Henry Glasspool, was someone I looked up to; after all, he had served in the Royal Navy. Grandad was born in Leytonstone, East London on 31st May 1890. He served in the territorials, the Royal Fusiliers and the London Regiment in 1907 and 1909 respectively; and in early September 1914, at the beginning of the First World War, he enlisted in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry; another regiment of the British Army. After training at the depot in Bodmin in Cornwall, he was posted to the 2nd Battalion in France where his unit was involved in action at Ypres, around Sanctuary Wood in late April 1915. There, while fighting, my grandfather was wounded by a bullet just above his right ankle. He arrived back in England in May 1915 and spent three months convalescing at a centre in Eastbourne before being discharged in 1916 as medically unfit due to his wounds. Before my grandfather enlisted in the army, he had trained as an accountant and he returned to book-keeping work after he was discharged. I’m not exactly sure when or how my grandparents met but I do know my grandmother, Claudia Florence Dyer, was also born and raised in Leytonstone, East London and that my grandparents married there on 24th July 1915 whilst Grandad was on convalescent leave from France.
It was after my grandfather was invalided out of the army and working again in ‘civvy street’ in London that he received some white feathers while travelling to and from work. White feathers were either given to him or put on his seat when he commuted on the train, indicating that he was a coward. People, particularly young women, just assumed that because he wasn’t wearing a uniform, he had opted out of doing his bit towards the war effort, when in fact he had done more than was ever asked of him. This must have affected him quite significantly because in early April 1917, Grandad enlisted in the Royal Navy and was commissioned as a Temporary Assistant Paymaster and reported to HMS Victory (shore base) at Portsmouth two weeks later. He underwent naval training in HMS Lion, a battle cruiser, followed by further training in HMS Eagle, before he served in HMS Sachem, an escort ship and HMS Cowslip, an escort sloop.
Around this time Grandma Glasspool, or Nana as I called her gave birth to a son, my Uncle Frank, who was born in Leytonstone on 5th July 1916. My grandfather was based at Valetta, Malta while he served in the armed boarding vessel HMS Partridge II, which was a Q-ship; a merchant ship with concealed four-inch guns, designed to lure U boats into making surface attacks. Nana along with Uncle Frank, age two, joined my grandfather in Valetta for about three months. In September 1919, when my grandfather was discharged from the Royal Navy, they returned to Leytonstone. My mother, Doreen Claudia Glasspool, was born on 17th July 1920 at her Glasspool grandparents’ house (my great-grandparents).
Herbert Henry Glasspool – DCLI and RN
WW1 Medal Entitlement:-
The Medal Index Card (MIC) for Herbert Henry Glasspool shows the following details:-
No. 12340, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, a Private at the time he went overseas.
Entitlement to the British War Medal & Victory medal under reference C/1/10B16 p1403. His rank on these medals would have been Private as this was his rank at the end of hostilities.
Entitlement to the 1914-15 Star, reference C/1/10B p380. Cause of discharge is not stated or dated on MIC. Herbert Henry Glasspool’s first service overseas was into France on the 24th of February 1915.
Reference C/1/10B16 p1403 is a page from the British War Medal & Victory medal roll for Other Ranks of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry and shows that Herbert Henry Glasspool served overseas only with the 2nd Bn. of this unit.
Reference C/1/10B p380 is a page from the 1914-15 Star Roll of Other Ranks of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry and confirms details on the Medal Index Card.
Herbert Henry Glasspool was entitled to the Silver War Badge, under reference C/40. He was issued with badge #4077 after being discharged due to wounds under Army Order 2 of the 9th of August 1916.
Enlistment & Service:-
Prior to WW1, Herbert served in the following units for which papers still exist:-
#5116, 7th Battalion (Territorial Force) Royal Fusiliers – enlisted at Woolwich on 3rd September 1907. Purchased his discharge on 21st September 1907.
#569, 12th (Territorial Force) London Regiment – enlisted in London on 6th February 1909 and underwent basic drill. He was present at the annual camps in Salisbury and Longmoor in 1909 and 1910 respectively. Purchased his discharged on 11th July 1911.
Herbert enlisted in London for the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry on 3rd September 1914 as No.13240 for 3 years in the colours. After training at the Depot, Bodmin, he is posted to the 2nd Battalion in France, arriving on 24th February 1915. This draft, with its three officers seems to join the 2nd Battalion in the line on 26th February 1915.
The diary of the 2nd Battalion (WO 95/2266) shows that in late April 1915 the unit was involved in the actions at Ypres around Sanctuary Wood – on 25th April 1915 Herbert is wounded by a gunshot to the right leg and sent back through the medical chain, arriving back in England on 8th May 1915 and posted to the Depot at Bodmin after 3 months at Eastbourne convalescent centre.
Herbert is discharged as unfit due to wounds and possible Valvular Disease of the Heart on 9th August 1916 and is awarded a disability pension of ¼ of a full pension.
On 2nd April 1917 Herbert enlists for the Royal Navy as a Temporary Assistant Paymaster and reports to HMS Victory at Portsmouth on 16th April 1917. His basic history is then:-
14th April 1917 to 3rd May 1917: HMS Victory
4th – 27th May 1917: HMS Lion for training
28th May 1917 to 7th October 1917: HMS Eagle for training and then HMS Sachem, an escort ship.
12th October 1917 to 1st January 1918: HMS Cowslip, an escort sloop.
1st March 1918 to discharge on 23rd September 1919 – HMS Partridge II – HMS Partridge in WW1 was an Armed Boarding Vessel, requisitioned by the Admiralty 1914-20, renamed HMS Partridge II from 1916.
Sometime during the mid to late 1920s, the family decided to leave London to improve my grandfather’s health. They moved to Rochford, a small village north of Southend-on-Sea, into a house they named Valetta after the place where my grandfather had been stationed in Malta. Grandad started working for E.K. Cole Ltd which made radios.
According to my mother, Grandad bought a dark maroon Austin 7 to travel to work, which was rather unusual in those days for a man of his pay grade. Uncle Frank tried to teach my grandmother to drive and she did quite well, except she just couldn’t reverse. This meant that every time Nana drove the car, she left it parked on the road ready for Uncle Frank to reverse it into the garage, so that when she took it out the next time, Nana only needed to drive forwards.
Soon after they moved into Valetta, houses started to be built nearer to where my grandfather was working, just outside Southend-on-Sea. So, they moved to a new house there and named it Penryn, after the place in Cornwall where my grandfather was stationed while serving in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. Uncle Frank had finished at Westcliff High School in Westcliff-on-Sea by the time the family were living in Penryn, but my mother was still attending the grammar school. The school consisted of strict separate sides; one for girls and the other for boys. Uncle Frank started work for the Admiralty based in London, the government department responsible for the Royal Navy. When my mother finished school, she completed a hair dressing apprenticeship, for which Grandad would have paid.
At EKCO some top staff, including several Germans, were focused on very important work. As soon as World War Two was declared the Germans returned home as the factory was now a target for the German Air Force. The UK Government decided to disperse various production units away from obvious bombing targets. The Southend-on-Sea factory was evacuated to Cowbridge House, Malmesbury, Wiltshire and my grandfather made the move too, with his wife and daughter in September 1939. Malmesbury is a small market town in the southern Cotswolds in north west Wiltshire. It’s the oldest borough in England with a charter given by Alfred the Great around the year 880. With her hairdresser aspirations thwarted by the new wartime environment combined with the family’s move to Malmesbury, my mother joined my grandfather in the accounts department at EKCO and worked in the wages section.
In the 1920s, Eric Kirkham Cole set out to power radio sets from the mains electricity supply rather than from batteries and started to manufacture battery eliminators. His factory was initially based in Leigh-on-Sea but after becoming a publicly listed company in 1930, EKCO expanded into a spacious new factory at Southend-on-Sea where the company concentrated on manufacturing mains powered radios. After launching its first car radio in 1934, the company introduced bakelite cabinetry for its radios. Initially these cabinets were made in Germany by AEG, but high import duties on the cabinets in 1931 led EKCO to establish its own bakelite moulding shop adjacent to its Southend-on-Sea works.
Following the outbreak of World War Two, the Southend-on-Sea factory was evacuated to Malmesbury, apart from the bakelite moulding shop as the large moulding presses couldn’t be moved easily. Less than a year later, the empty factory was re-equipped to make wiring looms for aircraft such as the Avro Lancaster. The factory in Malmesbury specialised in the top-secret development and production of the new radar systems as part of the ‘Western Development Unit’. Radar equipment produced at Malmesbury during the war included the Airborne Interception Radar Mark IV or AI Mk. IV for short, the world’s first operational air-to-air radar system; AI Mk. VIII air interception radars, and the ASV Mk. II air-to- surface vessel radars.
While Uncle Frank was working at the Admiralty in London, he started courting Phyl, who was born in New Zealand and worked for Lloyds Bank. When World War Two started in September 1939, Uncle Frank was transferred to Southampton with the Admiralty staff, and on 3rd December 1939 he married Phyl quickly, just in case he was called-up. The family counted themselves lucky that Uncle Frank was in a ‘reserved occupation’ and involved in very important work at the Admiralty, so it was unlikely that he would be called-up for military service; his boss explained he couldn’t be spared to go and fight, but one could never be sure.
Soon after they were married, the Germans started to bomb Southampton prompting all Admiralty staff to be moved to Falmouth in Cornwall. Uncle Frank was involved in ‘degaussing’ ships i.e. neutralising their magnetic field so that they wouldn’t activate magnetic mines. Aunty Phyl joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service, known as the WRENS; the women’s branch of the Royal Navy. My mother thought that Phyl was so lucky as she received first class training as a driver. After training she was employed as the driver of one of the top officers who travelled around checking on various projects for the Royal Navy. Apparently, one time when Aunty Phyl was driving a senior naval officer, the car had a puncture and it was he who jumped out and changed the tyre!
Women’s Royal Naval Service – WRENS
Popularly and affectionately known as the WRENS, the organisation was formed in 1917 in response to the First World War. WRENS included cooks, clerks, drivers, wireless telegraphists, radar plotters, weapons analysts, range assessors, electricians and air mechanics. By the end of the First World War five and a half thousand women had joined the organisation, five hundred of them were officers.
The WRENS was disbanded in 1919 and revived in 1939 at the beginning of the Second World War. The list of allowable duties was extended to including flying transport planes. In 1944 at its peak it had seventy-five thousand active servicewomen. One of the slogans used in recruiting posters was, ‘Join the WRENS—free a man for the fleet.’ During the Second World War a hundred WRENS died in service.
The WRENS remained in existence after the war and was finally integrated into the regular Royal Navy in 1993 when women were allowed to serve on board navy vessels as full members of the crew.
My paternal grandparents – Eugene and Emily O’Riordan
Eugene O’Riordan, my paternal grandfather, was the eldest of eleven children who were all born in Ireland. My great-grandfather was a bootmaker and a Roman Catholic, the norm in Ireland; his wife and children were Catholics too. Eugene was born in Tower just north of Blarney in County Cork on 12th June 1878. He lived at a time when Ireland was part of Great Britain and people moved freely between the two islands. However, the English were doing their best to anglicise all things Irish. So, while my grandfather was born Eugene Reardon, he died as O’Riordan (the Gaelic spelling) because by then, January 1957, Ireland had broken away from the United Kingdom and become an independent republic.
I suspect that Eugene came across to England when he was quite a young man, probably because he couldn’t find work. He may have figured he’d do better if he made the move over to the mainland and did his best to anglicise himself. He was an Irishman with an affinity for horses and eventually he became the head groom at Castle Combe Manor House, near Chippenham. Ireland was very tough in the late 1800s; nearly all his siblings ended up in America.
Eugene moved to Chippenham where he met and married my grandmother, Emily Alice Carter, who was born on 28th June 1883. Together they produced three children who were all born in Chippenham. Nora was the eldest, born on 31st March 1911; followed by my father, John Timothy, born on 4th June 1913 – the same day as Suffragette Emily Davison was trampled by the King’s horse on Epsom Derby Day. The youngest, Ethel Eugenie, was born on 31st March 1916. Once he had left Tower and moved to Chippenham there appeared to be little or no contact with his siblings – I wonder if he was literate. (The 1901 Irish Census shows that all the family could read and write.)
My grandfather, Eugene O’Riordan, also served in the First World War. He was thirty-nine years old when he enlisted for the Remounts Division of the Army Service Corps on 15th November 1915. His duties included the preparation, training and wellbeing of the army’s horses and mules, both of which were heavily used on the Western Front. He was based at Romsey, near Southampton, until 6th January 1917 when he boarded Mona’s Queen and disembarked at Le Havre, France the following day. He was posted to the 2nd Base Remount Depot and remained with this unit in France until 25th April 1919. Records show that this unit’s role was to purchase and train horses and mules for the army. Grandad O’Riordan was finally discharged on 25th May 1919 and returned to his family in Chippenham.
Eugene Riordan – Army Service Corps.
WW1 Medal Entitlement:-
The Medal Index Card (MIC) for Eugene Riordan shows the following details:-
No. R4/144518, Army Service Corps, a Private at the time he went overseas.
Entitlement to the British War Medal & Victory medal under reference RASC/101B98 p9990. His rank on these medals would have been Private as this was his rank at the end of hostilities.
Reference RASC/101B98 p9990 is a page from the British War Medal & Victory medal roll for Other Ranks of the Army Service Corps and shows that Eugene Riordan served overseas but does not state with which unit.
Enlistment & Service:-
Eugene Riordan, a 39 year old resident of Chippenham enlisted for the Remounts Division of the Army Service Corps on 15th November 1915 at Southampton for the duration of the war, where he would have been based at Romsey. The basic outline of the Remounts of the ASC can be found here:-
Eugene remains on home service until 6th January 1917 when he boards ‘Mona’s Queen’ at Southampton and disembarks at Le Havre the following day. Eugene is posted to the 2nd Base Remount Depot and remains with this unit for his entire period in France. His unit was employed producing horses and mules for the army.
Eugene returns to the UK for periods of leave but is posted back to the UK on 25th April 1919, being discharged to the class ‘Z’ reserve on 25th May 1919.
I remember Grandma O’Riordan’s particular method of slicing a loaf of bread; she would cut off the crust at one end, butter the end of the loaf, and then cut a slice horizontally. Then butter the end and cut that etc. Her apple chutney recipe is still in use today. Right across the road lived my Aunty Ethel and Uncle George. Uncle George was a gentlemen’s hairdresser and built his own salon next to their house. They didn’t have any children and I stayed with them for a fortnight one summer when I was nine years old. My other aunt, Aunty Nora, lived with her parents, married very late in her life and didn’t have any children either. I remember one time I bent down to pat a random, stray dog on the street, and it bit me on the cheek; it obviously didn’t like being patted! The doctor gave me an injection, but it left me with some temporary swelling. It is the only memory I have of spending any time in Chippenham with my O’Riordan family.
My parents – John & Doreen O’Riordan
Because many of the EKCO staff had either been called up or volunteered for military service, the firm advertised in a Chippenham newspaper for men with the necessary qualifications. There were several applicants and my father, who was one of them, was interviewed by Grandfather Glasspool and other EKCO staff who had travelled ten miles or so to Chippenham to assess the potential new recruits. My father was offered the job on the spot. It was when he came into the accounts office to return change from cash given to him for travel expenses (something which hardly ever happened) that he encountered my mother in my grandfather’s office. Grandfather Glasspool remembered my father because of his unusual name and told my mother, “He’s a nice young man.”
“I don’t like him nor the way he speaks!” my mother replied.
“Oh! You’ll have to get used to that – it’s the way Wiltshire people talk, and he has quite a touch of Irish as well; he is half Irish and half Wiltshire.”
My father had started his working life as an apprentice at Westinghouse Brake and Signal Company, a British supplier of railway signalling and control equipment to the rail industry worldwide. Its head office was in Chippenham where it manufactured a variety of electrical and mechanical railway signalling equipment. He was trained as a sheet metal worker and he worked for several employers in that role throughout his life. At ECKO he started working in the machine shop and when my mother needed to see the foreman with queries, she always stopped to chat with him. Apparently, she found excuses that allowed her to make these trips daily. This eventually led to my father asking her out to Castle Combe, a beautiful Wiltshire unspoiled village where my father had lived when he was very little, and where Grandfather O’Riordan was head groom at the Manor House. My parent’s courtship started in January 1940, and after many outings and walks in the Wiltshire countryside they became engaged on 19th October 1940. They were married on 12th July 1941 in Saint Aldhelm’s Roman Catholic Church in Malmesbury.
As my father could have been called-up at any time, my mother wanted to have children straight away. I was born in the Cottage Hospital in Malmesbury on 29th November 1942. It was around this time that Grandfather Glasspool found another job as an accountant for a department store, Camp Hopson, in Newbury, which is about fifty miles east from Chippenham, where they bought a semi-detached house, 30 Westgate Road. My mother hadn’t been in contact with babies before, so her parents decided it would be best for her to join them in Newbury, while my father returned to live with his parents in Chippenham and continued working at EKCO. My father visited my mother most weekends despite the petrol rations that were taking effect. Then EKCO offered him a prefabricated bungalow, one of a number allocated to the manufacturer for its staff in Chippenham to provide instant housing for young married couples.
Westinghouse Brake & Signal Company Ltd
For most of the 20th Century the Westinghouse Brake & Signal Company Ltd, manufactured: railway air braking; signalling; mining and colliery equipment, industrial automation and power rectifier equipment in the engineering works in Chippenham, Wiltshire, England and in Melbourne, Australia. The company’s main factory of around thirty-five acres was located immediately north-east of Chippenham railway station on the Great Western Railway.
The company allotments outside the north gate supplied the various company restaurants. Support activities included a well-equipped and staffed medical centre and apprentice training school and hostel. Apprentices fell into Trade, Craft, Student and Graduate categories. There was an immense amount of leading edge work undertaken in railway vacuum brakes and numerous mechanical, electrical and electronic signalling innovations were created.