Sunday, 13 May 2012

Percy Bertram Ivall (1879-1971), soldier in Boer War

Percy Bertram Ivall was a grandson of Robert Thomas Ivall (1812 - 1865), the elder brother of David Ivall (1816 - 1867), my great great grandfather.

Percy was born on 16 July 1879 in the village of Chalvey near Slough, in Buckinghamshire. He was the seventh child of Thomas Ivall (1837 - 1908) and Lucy Ivall nee Hobden (1845 - 1929). Thomas and Lucy went on to have a total of 15 children, 12 of which survived into adulthood, the last child being born in 1892. Thomas ran the Chalvey village bakery.

The 1881 census shows Thomas Ivall (aged 44, a master baker), Lucy (34), Walter (12), Annie Lucy (7), Harry Alfred (5), Catherine Dora (3), Percy Bertram (1) and Reginald (2 months) living at 1 Jordan Place Bakers Shop, Chalvey, Buckinghamshire.

In 1891 there was Thomas Ivall (aged 53, a baker), Lucy (43), Walter (22, an assistant schoolmaster), Annie (17), Harry (15, a baker), Catherine (13), Percy (11), Reginald (10), Charles (8), Margaret (8), Gilbert (6), Jane (4) and Philip (0.75) living at Church Street, 6 Jordan Place, Chalvey.

The Slough, Eton and Windsor Observer contains reports on various cricket and football teams that Percy played for. In July 1892 he played cricket for Chalvey Choir Boys who beat Slough Parish Choir Boys by 39 runs, Percy making a major contribution as both a batsman and bowler. He played for Chalvey juniors and scored the only goal of their defeat of Cippenham Juniors in April 1893. Percy took 11 wickets for Chalvey in a cricket match in June 1895. He played center forward for Chalvey Reserves against Farnham Royal in December 1896, the report saying “For the visitors Ivall, Bubb and Henry played well.” Percy was also a member of Slough Flying Club, who raced pigeons.

Percy joined the army (Scots Guards) on 6 December 1897 aged 18 years and 6 months. The record of his military service is in The National Archives at Kew. He signed up for short service ie 3 years with the Colours plus 9 years in the Reserves. If overseas after 3 years, the time with the Colours was extended to 4 years, with 8 years in the Reserves. When he enlisted, Percy was unmarried, height 5 foot 9 inches, weight 142 lbs and his previous occupation was gardener. He served from 6 December 1897 to 20 October 1899 in the UK, then was posted to S Africa to fight in the second Boer War.

The Boer Wars was the name given to the South African Wars of 1880-1 and 1899-1902, that were fought between the British and descendants of the Dutch settlers (Boers) in Africa. After the first Boer War the British granted the Boers self-government in the Transvaal.

The Boers, under the leadership of Paul Kruger, resented the policy of Joseph Chamberlain (the British Colonial Secretary) which they feared would deprive the Transvaal of its independence. The Boers declared war on Britain and had a series of successes on the borders of Cape Colony and Natal between October 1899 and January 1900. Although they only had 88,000 soldiers, the Boers were able to successfully besiege the British garrisons at Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley.

Army reinforcements arrived in South Africa in 1900 and relieved the garrisons. The British took control of the Boer capital, Pretoria, on 5th June. For the next two years groups of Boer commandos raided isolated British units in South Africa. Lord Kitchener, the Chief of Staff in South Africa, reacted to this by destroying Boer farms and moving civilians into concentration camps.

The British action in South Africa was strongly opposed by many leading Liberal politicians and most of the Independent Labour Party as an example of the worst excesses of imperialism. The Boer War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging in May 1902. The peace settlement brought to an end the Transvaal and the Orange Free State as Boer republics. However, the British granted the Boers £3 million for restocking and repairing farm lands and promised eventual self-government (granted in 1907). 22,000 British soldiers died in the second Boer War, many from dysentery and other diseases.

Percy returned to the UK on 21 July 1902 after 2 years 274 days abroad. He was paid a furlough (leave of absence) gratuity of £1 10s and a war gratuity of £5. Percy was awarded the S Africa medal. The medal roll at Kew (WO 100/165) shows that Percy (in the 1st Battalion Scots Guards) was entitled to clasps for the actions at Belmont, Modder River, Dreifontein, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill and Belfast. He was transferred to the Army Reserve on 16 September 1902 (having completed 4 years 284 days with the Colours) and discharged from the army on 5 December 1909.

The 1911 census shows Percy, aged 31 a store keeper in a foundry, iron works. He was living at 124 The Crescent, Slough with his widowed mother (64) and siblings Charles (28), Geoffrey (20) and Jane (24). Electoral registers show him at this address until 1915, when he moved to 11 Ragstone Road, Slough.

Percy was a quiet man with piercing blue eyes. He was a champion runner and a good cricketer. He married Mary Ann Foreman in 1917 in St Pancras. She was born on 4 November 1891 in Windsor and was a small, pleasant woman. At the time of their marriage he was aged 37 and she was 25. They had one child, Thomas Edward Ivall, who was born on 17 March 1926 in Chalvey when Percy was 46.

Electoral registers show that Percy lived at 1 Chalvey Road East, Slough from 1918 to 1963. His grandson Roderick Ivall (b1951) remembers visiting Percy and Mary there. It was the first house in a Victorian terrace beginning next to a railway embankment. Roderick remembers running down the long back garden parallel to the line, waving to the engine drivers ! The house is still there but now looks rather run down.

The 1939 national register shows Percy (a storekeeper) and Mary living at Chalvey Road East. 

Percy retired from his job at a local factory in 1950 at the age of 71. In 1963 Percy and Mary moved to a bungalow in Cippenham, which is about 2 miles NW of Chalvey. Mary died in 1970 aged 79 and Percy died the following year aged 91.

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