Thomas Attrill in about 1955.

This account is regrettably incomplete. It covers the time from my Grandfather's earliest memories until his service in the 3rd Wiltshire regiment in the First World War, where be took part in the battles of the Somme, Arras, Ypres and Cambras and where he was wounded twice. He was demobilised in February 1919 and awarded the General Service and Victory medals. He eventually retired from the Cooperative Bakery in Farlington,  Portsmouth and bought a bungalow in Cowplain opposite my parents' house in Longwood Avenue. He died at the age of 89.

THE EARLY YEARS (1888 - 1909) I have added further information in brackets.

George William Attrill and Martha Lanaway (Lee) Attrill - taken in 1889.

I was born at Gosport in Hampshire on June the 8th, 1888 at approximately 12.20 p.m. so robbing my Mother of a nice dinner of boiled bacon. My Father was a member of His Majesty's Navy (George William Attrill, leading Stoker on HMS Volage - awarded the Good conduct and long service medals. Later, he served aboard HMS Temeraire as a stoker in 1881. ) and my Mother was Martha Lanaway Lee - (see photo of George William and Martha with the baby Thomas -at left taken in 1889 - click on the photo for a larger version)


My Father was from the Isle of Wight. As far as I can remember there were eight or nine in the family who lived on to a good age and also some who did not survive many years (see photo of his Sister Caroline who died at the age of 17 - click on the photo for a larger image)

  At the age of four years, I remember all the family moving to Portsmouth as my Father had the offer of work in a rope factory as a stoker. This was after he was invalided out of the Navy eight months before his time had expired which resulted in his pension being reduced, which was very little those days. (He also served aboard one of Baron Krupps yacht's. The gratuity he received at the end of this service enabled him to buy in 1906 the licence of the 'Admiral Drake' - opposite the Portsmouth ferry port in Stamshaw .)

 

Thomas and Edith Attrill in 1940. Thomas would have been 51 at the time. This photo taken at the marriage of my parents Ronald and Joyce (Fielder) Attrill. Click on the photo for a big image (25Kb) of the wedding group which also includes my other grandparents Lt. Frederick Fielder and his wife Alice Louise.


As time went on some of my sisters started work as servants to the big houses. My eldest sister stayed at home to help my mother. There was not much money and they took on ironing and washing. Those days it was possible for all to have at least one good meal at mid-day. I started school at the age of five and altogether went to five different schools. 

At the age of seven (1895) it was my job before school to buy the vegetables and meat for the six of us as the rest went out to work. Two pennyworth of veg. was enough for our dinner plus one pound of beef cuttings, which cost four pence. Bread was 2 pence for a 2 pound loaf and butter was 10 pence a pound and margarine 4 pence a pound. Cake, if you could afford it was 2 to 4 pence a pound. This was regarded as a weekend luxury for us all.

As time went on there was very little change in living conditions, but work was often scarce and one had to be contented with life as it was. There was no dole, but you could occasionally get a bowl of free soup. This was regarded as charity as it was usually provided by the church.

Later, we began to move around a bit as my Father was often changing his job when there was the opportunity of a little more money. We were a very happy family and were contented with our way of life.

At the age of eleven (1899) I used to do a little wood-chopping and tie it up in bundles for an hour every evening and on Saturday afternoons for one shilling and sixpence a week. I was given 2 pence out of my wages for sweets etc. On one occasion I decided to try my hand at smoking. I bought a packet of cigarettes called 'Lucky Star' which cost a halfpenny for three. One Saturday afternoon I was sitting down in the wood store enjoying a smoke when my Father passed by. He spotted me smoking. He called me out and off home I ran dropping the cigarettes down the nearest drain. He gave me a good lecture, and said that if he caught me again I would get a good belting. This threat was enough for me and I never touched another cigarette until about the age of fifteen years.

So much for my early days. I was very good at school and helped to form the first fife and drum band at the last school I attended. We used to march around the adjoining streets on Friday afternoons after which the headmaster used to give us all a few sweets. Finally, at the age of twelve years (1900), I could go no further at school and the headmaster saw my Father about me going to work. He obtained a job for me with a local builder as an office boy. I started at the age of twelve for two shillings and sixpence per week with a dinner each day.

These people were very good to me in many ways but I found the job very monotonous and began to get restless. Finally I persuaded my parents to let me leave, although my employer even offered me secondary education two evenings a week, which my parents could not afford to give me

I finally went to an entirely different type of work. This was at a wet and dry fish shop. I used to take a cart at five O'clock three mornings a week to the fish market situated at the Point, in Old Portsmouth to collect the fish, which was sold there - a trip of about 2 miles each way. After getting the fish I was given a roll and a cup of coffee. Back at the shop I was given my breakfast. I then had to clean the shop and get it ready for the fish to be put on the slabs to sell.

To complete this part - bottom of page 4

During my last week I succeeded in obtaining another job. This time at a fried fish shop. This lasted for around seven months and finally I looked around for something different where I might settle down for good. I gained this opportunity as an apprentice to the bread and confectionary trade at the local Co-op. I went along with my father and was indentured for a period of four years. I was thirteen and a half years of age but managed to pass for fourteen. At last I began to settle down to this job. The wages were four shillings a week for the first year, with a rise of two shillings each year until I finished my apprenticeship. After completing my apprenticeship, I remained at this job for only a few months at fifteen shillings a week, then transferred to the bread section for further training in the manufacture of bread. After emerging as a qualified bread baker, my wages increased to one pound a week.

After a period of two years, which made my training complete, my wages rose to twenty five shillings for sixty hours work which was two weeks night shift and one week days. At the age of eighteen years I had my first test and was accepted as a fully qualified Baker and Confectioner. I became a member of the Bakery and Confectionary Union, of which I am still a member (when retired)

The trade of the Bakery increased over the next few months and I was asked to take over the Confectionary Department on the night shift. I accepted this as it meant an increase of ten shillings in my wages

MARRIAGE, FAMILY AND WAR.

Eventually my life took on a new task - that of finding a partner which was not very difficult. I started a partnership and decided to get married. I married Edith Bryant at St Stephen's Church in Portsmouth on The 25th of June 1909. I was 20 and she was 21 (born to Tom and Ellen Amelia Bryant of Gunner Street, Landport, Portsmouth on November 20th, 1887).

Our first child, a daughter named Vera was born in the year 1910, on March 17th - St. Patrick's Day. This was a coincidence as, following my Father's death, my Mother had remarried an Irishman John Driscoll (see photo at left - click on photo for a larger image)  and they both came to our wedding. Things went on fairly well and our son  Ronald Alfred George Attrill was born on November 19th, 1912.

 Life went on happily until the First World War in 1914. I was transferred back to the Bread section, so that my employers could get an exemption from active service. Eventually I was called up for service in the forces in June 1916. I was first sent to Aldershot as a Baker in the AS Corp, but due to differences with the 'top dog' I was transferred to the Wiltshire Regiment. Nevertheless I got on well. I did my training at a camp at Bincombe near Weymouth, so I was able to get my wife and children lodgings in Weymouth until I was posted overseas. That finally came early in August. 

We left Southampton at night and arrived in France in the early morning where we camped for a day in a church at Calais. The next day I was sent to a post in a reserve position a few miles from Poperhinge near the fighting line. It was not long before I got a taste of what was to come as the Germans started to give us bursts of intense shelling. I remained in this position, which later became part of the front line  for some weeks and finally got used to it.

Later there came an opportunity to go away for a few days for special training in observation work and shooting which I gladly took to get away from the front line. In the competition for sniping which I entered, I emerged the winner. I was given a prize of one hundred Francs and permitted to wear the crossed guns and laurel. Little did I know at that time what my job would finally be.

I was transferred to Brigade Headquarters for Observation and Sniping. This turned out to be a dangerous job, often to a post some distance from the front line and sometimes to observation posts up trees. this was dangerous but i seemed to have a charmed life and on three occasions I lost my mate. It was usual for us to work in pairs at this job.

As time went on I eventually went into action with the Regiment and was very fortunate to get out alive. In our first engagement we lost heavily and had to bring reinforcements from the rear camps. During my service I was in five major scraps and got wounded once in the left hand whilst on sniping duty. 

The next spell came when I was buried in a shell hole and just managed to survive in a Hospital at a monastery. After fifteen months, I finally got home for a spot of leave which was fourteen days. I returned to France and it was about four days before I rejoined my Brigade HQ. It was not long before I was back in action and this time it was a real hot spot. This was the first time we were attacking a post held by the Germans. The artillery was behind us and firing over our heads. the guns kept up this barrage for half and hour and finally we got orders to advance and attack.

Unfortunately my Grandfather did not complete this diary.