FREDERICK CHARLES SOUTHEY

Driver, 212962, 97th Labour Corps, Royal Army Service Corps
Died in hospital, Salonika, Greece, 2 January 1919
Buried Mikra British Cemetery, near Salonika, Grave 1123
 

War Memorial — Amesbury

Frederick Charles Southey was baptised at Figheldean near Amesbury in Wiltshire on 9 December 1888. According to the transcript, he was named Charles Frederick, but either this is an error or the names were quickly reversed in everyday use as he appears as Frederick Charles on the census returns and in the Forest Row Memorial Book. However, he enlisted simply as Charles Southey, so maybe this was the name he was known by. His parents were Francis Henry Southey, labourer, and his wife Lucy, née Canning, whom he had married in 1882. Frederick was the third child in the family, following older siblings Mary and Francis. Later, Louis, Amy, Alfred, Percy and Hedley joined the household.

The 1891 census, which records Francis senior as a carter, doesn't give a full address, but the surrounding entries are all for cottages in Figheldean. It seems likely that they were still in the same house in 1901, when the word 'Cottage' appears in the first column; Francis is still a 'carter on farm' and Frederick and his older brother are listed as 'ploughboys on farm'.

In 1911 the family is to be found at Countess Amesbury, in a household of nine in three rooms. Francis senior and Francis junior and Louis are all carters, but Frederick is simply recorded as a farm labourer, aged 22. However, he had already enlisted for four years' service in the 1st S.W.M. Brigade of the Territorial Force on 18 February, at Amesbury. He gave his age as 21, a little lower than his actual 22 years, but as he made his mark rather than signing the papers, perhaps his arithmethic was as lacking as his writing. He gave his place of birth as Amesbury, and described himself as a labourer in the employ of a Mr Blake.

The medical inspection pronounced him fit, with good vision and physical development, measuring him at 5' 6" and 37½" in girth with an expansion of 3½". However, despite his apparent willingness to 'go for a soldier' the record shows him to have been at home until 4 March 1916, a period of 5 years and 16 days. On 15 March a memorandum was sent from Exeter to Eastbourne requesting that attestation papers be completed for 'No T158. Dr Southey C., and as this was accompanied by a typed section stating:

Herewith attestation papers of Driver C Southey completed and returned please

I assume that Dr stands for driver in this instance and that he had already undertaken some training in this skill. The next page is an affirmation that Southey is willing to serve in the T A 8 Column 1st S W M Brigade outside the UK if need be, and was taken at Forest Row in October 1914. There was apparently some delay in the paperwork as Charles was on leave at this point. A further medical examination put his weight at 140 lbs, and recorded that he had been vaccinated as an infant and been inoculated in 1915. Vision was still good. His discharge from his earlier Territorial service, dated 4 February 1916, at Eastbourne, describes him as fair of complexion and hair — though inclined to baldness — to have grey eyes and be clean-shaven. He was of good character and intending to live at Forest Row. His rank was 1st class driver, receiving the 7th rate of corp pay.

His brother Francis also joined the Territorial Army on the same February day in 1911. Like Frederick, he gave his age as slightly less than it was. He was an inch taller than his brother, but capable of slightly less expansion. He was also employed by Mr Blake, but as a carter, which may explain why he served as a driver, apparently of ambulances in the Army Service Corps. He survived the war and was demobbed in May 1919 from Salonika and returned to Countess, where he was living in 1923. Maybe the brothers served together, for at least part of the time.

While in the T A, Frederick left Wiltshire, as when he married, in 1915, it was in East Grinstead Registration District. His bride was Ethel Martin, eight years his senior, and daughter of Forest Row blacksmith George Martin. His family lived at 5 Rose Cottages in Forest Row from at least 1881 until 1911 and possibly beyond. Ethel gave no. 4 Rose Cottages as her address when she submitted her husband's details for the Forest Row Memorial Book, so presumably she was living next door to her parents. The row of five cottages known as Rose Cottages was built on the London Road in Forest Row, not far from the bridge over the Medway. They date from the 18th century, and are currently listed as Grade II. They are of two storeys, with attics, and have attractive red brickwork mixed with grey.

Register of Soldiers' Effects: Driver Charles Southey

The Register of Soldiers' Effects shows Ethel to have been the sole legatee, receiving £36 17/11. It also shows that Frederick died at the 50th General Hospital in Salonika, although the cause is unknown. The Salonika (Thessalonika) campaign was notorious for the harshness of the terrain the men were fighting in, the extremities of the climate and the toll taken by disease. Malaria was the chief risk to health, and there were some 160,000 hospital admissions in three years. Given that this was almost as many men as were fighting there at any one time, this is an incredible statistic. It seems likely that malaria may well have been the cause of Frederick Charles' death. Alternatively, if he was an ambulance driver like his brother, he may have picked up some other infectious disease from one of the soldiers he transported. Hostilities in this area had ceased on 30 September 1918, after Bulgaria signed an armistice the day before. So Frederick did not die until fully three months after 'his' war ended.

The artist Stanley Spencer, who served on this front, created a series of moving paintings showing soldiers' lives in Salonika.

Southey's widow Ethel lived on as a widow for many years at 4 Rose Cottages, dying on 15 April 1951 at the Kent and Sussex Hospital in Tunbridge Wells.

War Memorial Dedication Plaque — Amesbury

Frederick Charles Southey also appears on the War Memorial in his home area at Amesbury. The Gravestone Photographic Resource notes the following details:

Driver Frederick Charles Southey T4/212962 Royal Army Service Corps Horse Transport. He was the elder brother of Lewis V Southey; son of Francis Henry and Lucy Southey of Countess Road; Amesbury.

His brother Lewis Victor Southey had joined the Wiltshire Regiment; he died of dysentery on 10 November 1918 and was buried at the Hadra Cemetery in Alexandria. The family was very unlucky to have two sons die of illness right at the end of hostilities.

Pam Griffiths