William Jesse Reginald Maggs
known as 'Reginald'
Lance Corporal 47244
|Died 29th April 1918|
Reginald Maggs' Parents
Reginald Maggs was the eldest son of Jesse Maggs and Eliza (née Oram).
Jesse Maggs grew up in Twerton, the son of a woodworker, with 5 siblings. In 1871, the family lived in Twerton High Street, but by 1881 (when Jesse was 17) had moved to 12 Ladymead, an address in Walcot Street near the centre of Bath. Jesse’s father (William) died in 1882, leaving Jesse's widowed mother Martha as head of the household.The 1891 census lists the family living in at 13 Angel Place on the Lower Bristol Road. Angel Place was a terrace that backed onto the railway viaduct near the Old Bridge (now Churchill Bridge), but changes to the road system in the 1960s saw most of the terrace demolished. The sole remaining house in Angel Place today is, coincidentally, number 13.
|13 Angel Place, home to Reginald's father in 1891|
In 1891, Jesse was listed as a hairdresser, with his eldest brother working as an iron moulder (probably at nearby Stothert & Pitt) and other siblings as a shorthand writer (possibly at the Pitman Press) and a Post Office official, respectively.
Jesse Maggs was mentioned in the newspaper in October 1891 as the victim of theft, when he had a pair of clippers stolen from his shop at 4 Upper Borough Walls. The villain of the piece was called George Barber! The article also mentions that Jesse had just left a shop in Claverton Street.
Reginald’s mother, Eliza Oram, was born in Edington, Wiltshire, in a part of the village known as Tinhead. She was there in 1871, aged 4, with her family headed by her father who was an agricultural labourer. Ten years later, Eliza was a few miles away in Poulshot, near Devizes, as servant to the family of a dairyman on a large farm. By 1891, she had moved to Bath and was domestic servant to a lodging house keeper at 16 Edward Street.
16 Edward Street, home to Reginald's mother in 1891
The Maggs Family
Jesse & Eliza married in 1892 at St Michael’s church in Broad Street.
|Jesse & Eliza first lived at 4 Upper Borough Walls, where Jesse carried on his work as a hairdresser. As markings on the wall still show, the boundary between St Peter & St Paul’s parish (Abbey parish) and St Michael’s parish runs between numbers 2 & 3 Upper Borough Walls, so the address at number 4 was in St Michael’s parish, hence the marriage was conducted at that church. The couple lived in Upper Borough Walls until 1903.|
Upper Borough Walls, where Reginald spent the early years of his life at number 4 (black shopfront). Parish border markings for St. Michael's Parish (St.M.P.) and St Peter & St. Paul's (Abbey) Parish (St.P.P.P.) are visible on the right at first floor level.
Reginald was born on 29th March 1893. He took the Christian names of his paternal grandfather (William) and father (Jesse), but was known by his third given name ‘Reginald’.
Five further children were born to the family during their time in Upper Borough Walls. Two of these died in infancy and they were therefore a family of six (plus a ‘general servant’) – as captured in the 1901 census – when the family lived briefly in Milsom Street. On the same census sheet (seemingly at the same address, 38 Milsom Street) is the famous Victorian photographer Graystone Bird, then aged 39 and living with his wife & mother-in-law!Reginald would have attended school between the ages of 5 and 12, so in the period circa 1898-1905. His early school years were spent at the Bathwick Parochial School (between Henrietta Road and St John’s Road; now converted to housing) and he would not have attended South Twerton until the family moved to 15 Claude Avenue in 1904. He is listed in the report of the December 1904 school prize-givings as being in Standard V and in 1905 he is listed among the “Standard VI & VII”. (Standard VII was the eldest class). In 1905 he was in receipt of 2nd Prize for ‘proficiency in scripture knowledge’, presented by the Dowager Lady Tweedmouth. Lady Tweedmouth was Fanny Octavia Louisa Marjoribanks, nee Spencer-Churchill, daughter of the 7th Duke of Monmouth and aunt of Sir Winston Churchill (she had died in 1904; the prize presented in her name outlived her).
In 1907 the family moved again to 84 Holloway. This was the ‘old’ face of Holloway, prior to its complete redevelopment in the 1960s/70s. Number 84 would have been a few doors below what is now called Paradise House, an upmarket B&B, but some of the housing in Holloway in general was anything but upmarket prior to its demolition.
An enigmatic photo resides with the descendants of Richard Maggs (Reginald's younger brother) and has been provided to us by Malcolm Curran, Richard's son. It shows the Maggs family group and features Constance (who is unmistakeable from comparisons with other family photographs) bottom left, in spectacles . She appears to be circa age 10; given that she was born in 1897, this would place the photo in circa 1907. Richard, her younger brother, is bottom right and appears to be 6 or 7 years old, which fits. Seated between them is Reginald's mother, Eliza. Behind these three are two men in uniform. Back left is an older man. A comparison with a later photo of father Jesse (shown near the bottom of this page) make it highly likely that this is him, based on the moustache and the shape of his face. The plain army uniform is topped off with a cap bearing the badge of what appears to be the West Kent Regiment. Back right is a younger man with a Somerset Light Infantry cap badge. Comparisons with the portrait photo at the top of this page would indicated that it is not Reginald, which mean it is likely Leonard, who would have been age 12 in 1907. Leonard went on to suffer from a condition called exophthalmic goitre, which mean his appearance is somewhat changed in other, later, family photographs, but this does appear to be him. The enigma here is why Jesse and Leonard (if it is them) would appear in army uniform in circa 1907. Why is the older man wearing the West Kents badge? And why would Reginald not be in the photograph? Perhaps he is the photographer?
Family photo circa 1907 showing Jesse(?), Leonard (?),
Constance, mother Eliza and Richard
[Photo supplied by Malcolm Curran, son of Richard Maggs]
After 1909 the family lived at 9 Dorchester Street, where father Jesse ran a hairdresser & tobacconist shop, with Reginald (aged 18) listed as a ‘tobacconist’s assistant’ in the 1911 census. It is in fact Reginald who completed the 1911 census form for the family, so we have a sample of his handwriting!
Father Jesse was again a victim of theft in 1909 when a Mr Charles Self stole a pipe from his Dorchester Street shop. And we know that Reginald worked in his father's tobacconist shop prior to the war and during the early months of the war itself.
Information supplied by Reginald Maggs' nephew, Malcolm Curran, reveals that Reginald had a sweetheart by the name of Mabel Russ, who was a Sunday School teacher at St Michael, Broad Street and who lived in Bathwick.
Reginald Maggs in WW1
1st Battalion, Somerset Light InfantryReginald Maggs
enlisted with the 1st SLI on 12th April 1915. the 1st SLI served in
14th Division (11th Brigade), which was a Division of Regular Army
(i.e. no territorials etc.).
However, we know from a newspaper report in February 1916 that Reginald had not joined his regiment. He was described in the newspaper as being 'an attested man' (i.e. he had joined up), but was at that time applying to the (military) recruitment tribunal for a certificate that would delay his call-up for a month. It said he was 'Group 10' and requesting to be put back to 'Group 20'. He is described at this time as the manager of a tobacconist's shop owned by [his father] Jesse Maggs. So it's possible that, although he enlisted in 1915, he didn't actually join an active unit until circa March 1916.
We know from the following photographs supplied by Reginald's nephew, Malcolm Curran, that Reginald was at a training camp with the Somerset LI in what appears to be the summer of 1916:
Reginald is in this photo, but it is hard to pick him out
[Photo supplied by Reginald's nephew Malcolm Curran]
Reginald Maggs is standing, third from the left
[Photo supplied by Reginald's nephew Malcolm Curran]
Reginald Maggs is fifth from the left in the middle row
[Photo supplied by Reginald's nephew Malcolm Curran]
Reginald is standing in front of the tent opening
[Photo supplied by Reginald's nephew Malcolm Curran]
Middlesex RegimentAt some point, Reginald transferred - probably still within the 14th Division - to the Middlesex Regiment (10th Brigade?), where he was a Lewis Gunner. The Lewis gun was a novelty in WW1 and was the first effective light machine gun. It had a circular cartridge on the top and a large shroud around the muzzle, which housed aluminium fins designed to take the heat away.
This was the kind of gun that could be carried by one man, although it was usually operated by a team of between two and six men, as the cartridges required manual loading and any technical problems could require a quick strip-down and rebuild under difficult conditions. Moving around also necessitated support personnel to carry ammunition etc.
The Lewis Gun
The Lewis gun was largely employed in the front line, to cover advances or to repel an attack. The gun was much more mobile than a larger, fixed machine gun emplacement. This video shows the gun in action.
We know that Reginald was with the Middlesex Regiment in Kent from the autumn of 1916 through until at least the spring of 1917, from where he sent postcards to his sweetheart Mabel Russ, back in Bath. These postcards are in the possession of the family and reveal the neat handwriting and sense of humour of an educated young man.
Reginald served with the Middlesex Regiment until September 1917, at which point he transferred to:
2nd Battalion, the Lancashire Fusiliers
Reginald Maggs' serial number of 47244 could be used to corroborate his date of joining this regiment, which was in 12th Brigade / 4th Division.
The unit diary for 2nd Battalion the Lancashire Fusiliers is available from the National Archive and we have a copy on record. Please get in touch if you would like more details than are shown here.
Having joined 2nd Lancs in September 1917, we know that Reginald would have been with them through the following engagements, some of which rank among the worst battles of the war, in terms of human loss and of the conditions in which the men had to survive:
On 1st January 1918, Reginald was commended for his 'good work and devotion to duty' by Major-General Torquhil Mathison, who commended 4th Division.
The beginning of 1918 saw Reginald’s battalion in ‘Monchy sector’ (Monchy-le-Preux), alternating between front line duty and reserve work.
On 11th January, the Battalion was relieved in the front line by the 1st Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry – Reginald may well have recognised some Bathonian faces – which was part of 11th Brigade (also in 4th Division). At this point 2nd Battalion Lancs Fusiliers moved back to Arras for a few days’ training.
2nd Bn Lancs Fusiliers were in action again at Wilderness Camp from 16th January until 5th February, going through reserve and support functions and headquartering somewhere called Fosse Farm. They relieved the 1st Bn, King’s Own Royal Lancashire Regiment (K.O.R.L.R) in the front line in ‘Brown Line’ on 23rd January, before they themselves were relieved on 27th.
They were again in the front line from 1st-5th February and on 6th moved via Arras to Bernaville (W of Arras). They remained at Bernaville for the remainder of February and until 11th March, mainly engaged in training. Battalion church parades, a field day, work at a shooting range and a boxing competition are all mentioned as battalion activities during this time away from the front line. The battalion remained in Bernaville until 11th April when they moved to Baudimont Barracks, Arras. They remained in billets in Arras until 18th, then relieved 1st Battalion the Scots Guards (Guards Division) at Stirling Camp.
Reginald’s battalion was in the line from March 19th in reserve and support functions. Then, on 28th March, while in Brigade support at Lemontr(?) there was significant fighting. From the War Diary of 2nd Battalion, Lancs Fusiliers:
28th March 1918
Enemy bombardment commenced. Very heavy. Three separate barrages on Front, Support & Reserve lines and on the open between. Continued till 7am when enemy launched a big attack. Front line held out till practically wiped out. ‘A’ company, in close support to front line battalion, was completely wiped out after a tremendous fight. The Battalion stopped the enemy from advancing beyond the front and close support trenches. ‘D’ company suffered fairly heavily, ‘B’ & ‘C’ company lightly. Battle continued till the middle of the day. Enemy stopped in our support line after suffering heavy casualties. Our casualties were:
Killed: 2 officers, 16 other ranks
Wounded: 2 officers, 87 other ranks
Missing: 1 officer, 120 other ranks
The scale of losses also gave rise to this entry on 29th March:
Battalion absorbed the remains of the Essex Regiment into their strength and became front line battalion.
They were relieved on 31st by the 1st K.O.R.L.R.
April 1st saw 2nd Lancs Fusiliers in support to the 1st K.O.R.L.R., who they relieved on 2nd April. They held the front line in an ‘unchanged situation’ until relieved by 7th & 8th Battalions of the Canadian Infantry.
On 8th April, the Battalion withdrew from the line to billets at Simencourt for ‘cleaning up and reorganising’, then on 21st were taken 40 miles north by bus to Busnes, where they slept in bivouacs by the side of the road on arrival, before taking billets the following day.
On 16th, the Battalion moved to where Reginald’s war ended, namely at Riez du Vinage, where they relieved the 1st Bn the Hampshire Regiment and remained in trenches until 24th. On 18th April they were instrumental in repelling a German attack (before breakfast!) in what is known as the ‘Battle of Bethune’ (part of the 'Battle of the Lys'):
1am: Enemy artillery began bombarding back areas and roads through Robecq and Riez du Vinage.
3am: Enemy bombardment very heavy.
3.45am: Enemy bombardment intense. SOS sent up by 1st King’s Own (Royal Lancashire Regiment) on our right. Battalion HQ in telephone communication with centre & left companies. Battalion HQ sent up SOS in response to call from companies. Artillery put down barrage on SOS lines. Learnt later from prisoner that they were caught by this barrage and attack stopped on Bn front. Companies reported OK 4am.
4.25am: Enemy shelling slackened
5.0am: Enemy shelling ceased.
7.0am: ‘B’ company report that enemy attack their right Lewis gun post and was driven off leaving about 20 dead.In touch with 1st King’s Own. Centre company observed movement in front of their line and sent a patrol who returned with prisoner.
7.30am: Situation unchanged and quiet. Remainder of daylight was quiet.
8.15am: Small enemy attack on the Bn on our left and the King’s Own counter-attacked and recaptured Riez du Vinage which they had lost in the morning.
Casualties: 4 other ranks wounded. 6 prisoners of war.
Things were relatively quiet in the ensuing days, but 23rd April saw another deadly encounter:
3am: ‘D’ company and one platoon of ‘A’ company under Lt N.D. Evans assemble to attack.
4.30am: Zero hour. Artillery barrage opened. Objective is road Q20b 7.0 – Q27a 0.8.
7.30am: Objective reported reached. Eventually turns out attacking troops lost direction and left a gap between La Pierre - Au Bierre and Riez du Vinage. [??] try to conform to this and several officer casualties from sniping. Enemy artillery bombarded new line all day and enemy sniping very active. Line withdrawn after dark.
Casualties: 2 officers killed, 3 officers wounded. 1 officer missing wounded. 48 other ranks killed, 120 OR wounded, 58 OR missing. Prisoners of war: 40 and 2 light machine guns.On 24th they ‘straightened out the line’ and were then relieved on 25th back to Gonnehem. There they were shelled while in billets.
Reginald Maggs' Death
From the Bath Chronicle & Weekly Gazette, 18th May 1918:
De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour states that Reginald Maggs was killed while at a rest billet on 29th April. His burial at Gonnehem fits with where his unit was at this time.
The unit’s war diary includes facsimiles of the following messages:
From General Horne, commanding 1st Army:
“Please accept and convey to units which have fought to-day my admiration of the skill and determination displayed by Commanders, Staffs and all ranks. A very heavy attack pushed home by vastly superior numbers has been repulsed with heavy loss to the Germans. The troops have shown a splendid spirit and may well feel proud of their achievement.”
From the Military Secretary:
“The Commander in Chief sends his congratulations to Major-General Matheson and all ranks of the 4th Division on the successful operations carried out by them on the 14th/15th and 17th inst, and on the way in which they have succeeded in advancing their line.”
Extract from The Times dated 25th April 1918:
“ESPECIALLY GALLANT 4th”
“The Commander in Chief has requested the Army Commander to convey his congratulations to all ranks of the 4th Division.
“(The 4th Div was mentioned in the official tribute by Sir Douglas Haig which appeared in The Times yesterday for “Especially Gallant” service on March 28th and the operations of April 14th/15th and 18th were also referred to. “I doubt if any division” wrote our special correspondent on 23rd inst “has killed more Germans than 4th”)”.
Reginald Maggs was 25 when he died. According to De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour:
"His Commanding Officer, in writing to his parents, spoke very highly of him, and of the splendid way he behaved during the severe fighting in March*, when the enemy tried to break through at Arras. he also spoke of the excellence of his work as a Lewis Gunner. L-Corpl. Maggs was thanked by the Major-General commanding the 4th Division on 1st January 1918 for good work and devotion to duty, and was congratulated by him on his fine behaviour."
Maggs is buried in Gonnehem British Cemetery.|
From the Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
"The cemetery was begun in the middle of April 1918, when the German front line came within 3.2 kilometres of the village. It was made by fighting units and by the burial officers of the XIII Corps and the 4th Division, and used until September."
Gonnehem cemetery [Source :www.cwgc.org]
Reginald Maggs' medal card does not survive, but he would have been awarded the British War Medal 1914-18 and the Allied Victory Medal posthumously.
|British War Medal 1914-18||Allied Victory Medal|
Reginald Maggs' nephew, Malcolm Curran, had also sent us a photograph of the 'Death Penny' sent to Reginald's family; these were issued to the kin of all men killed in active service in the war.
South Twerton School Memorial
In addition to his commemoration on the South Twerton School memorial, Reginald Maggs is commemorated as follows:
Bath War Memorial
See separate page for details of the Bath War Memorial. Reginald Maggs' inscription:
St. Michael's Church Memorial (now St. Michael & St. Paul, Broad Street)We know that Reginald Maggs' early years were spent living in the parish of St. MIchael's, in Upper Borough Walls. Whether this - or some other, later involvement with the church - qualified him for inclusion is unknown.The memorial is in the west aisle of the church.
St. Michael's church have done their own research on all the names included on their memorial and this was displayed in the church in 2014.
This memorial, with its winged St Michael slaying the dragon (replicated on the former church hall in Walcot St) and its very 'arts & crafts' feel, is a particularly attractive example.
St James Church Memorial
Reginald Maggs is also commemorated on a brass plaque that was originally displayed in St James Church, Bath. This church stood where Marks & Spencer is now at the top of Southgate Street, but was bombed in 1942 and burned out as a result. The plaque was rescued and is now on display in St Barnabas Church, Southdown, where it is on view in the porch. More details on this memorial can be seen here.
The St James Church memorial, now displayed in the entrance porch of St Barnabas Church, Southdown. 'Reg Maggs' appears in small letters in the second of the four small columns at the bottom.
Argyle Congregational Church Memorial
Reginald Maggs' inscription:
The second memorial in Argyle URC church is a personal one to Reginald Maggs:
Family Grave at St. James's Cemetery
Reginald Maggs is commemorated on the Maggs' family grave in Bath. That is not to say that his remains were returned to England for burial, but the gravestone in St James's Cemetery on the Lower Bristol Road bears a dedication to him.
If you wish to find the grave, it is just to the south-west of the chapels, across the roadway from the large obelisk memorial.
The inscriptions on the memorial include the words:
In loving memory of
my dear husband
who died Feb 12th 1919
aged 54 years
Also of Reginald
eldest son of the above
killed in action in France, April 29th, 1918
aged 25 years
Buried in Goneheim British Cemetery, France
The family also remembered Reginald in a memorial notice in the newspaper (3rd May 1919):
After the war:
Lancs Fusiliers Bereaved Fathers ReunionAmong the old photographs supplied by Malcolm Curran (Reginald's nephew) is a touching photograph of a reunion of bereaved fathers of men in the Lancashire Fusiliers (probably 2nd Battalion only), held late in 1918. Reginald's father Jesse appears in a boater towards the right-hand side of the photograph.
2nd Lancs Fusiliers Bereaved Fathers, Autumn 1918
[Photo supplied by Malcolm Curran, nephew of Reginald Maggs]
Jesse died a short time later, in February 1919. It is said in the family that he was heartbroken over the loss of his son and never recovered.
Reginald's father, Jesse Maggs
[Photo supplied by Malcolm Curran, Reginald's nephew]
Bathwick School Old Boys Reunion
An interesting article appeared in the Bath Weekly Chronicle & Gazette on 1st November 1919, describing the reunion of Bathwick School old boys who had returned from the war. The first part of the report details the ‘proud record’ of the ex-pupils during the war and the many distinctions, commissions and decorations that they had to show for their efforts. Mention was also made of the how early the lads had joined up and that several wore the ‘Mons ribbon’ (the 1914 Star, awarded only to soldiers who entered a theatre of war – usually France – before 23rd November 1914).
But those who had fallen were also remembered and Reginald Maggs was singled out for a mention in this regard:
“But there were some who had not come back: the old boys who had served their country with the best they could give; their own lives. In speaking of them he could do no better than quote the words of Rupert Brooke:
If I should die, think only this of me,
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England!
“These lines the Rector followed by reading the verses written by Mr. Henry Chappell about the death of one of their old boys: Reginald Maggs.”Henry Chappell was a porter at Bath GWR railway station who achieved widespread fame and many awards for his poem ‘The Day’, which was widely acclaimed when it appeared in a national newspaper. An anthology ‘The Day and Other Poems’ published in 1918 does not include any poem that would appear to deal specifically with Reginald’s life, military service or death.
Henry Chappell, as seen on the frontispiece of 'The Day and other Poems'
On Remembrance Day 2016, it was wonderful to receive an e-mail from Malcolm Curran, who is Reginald Maggs' nephew, the son of Reginald's youngest brother Richard. A few e-mails later, and Malcolm soon supplied numerous photographs and items by post, which are now reproduced in the biography above. They have provided fantastic additional insight and helped to piece together more details of this much-commemorated man who, through his work in an everyday tobacconists' shop and involvement in numerous churches etc., must have been known to many in Bath.
Around the same time, Malcolm's sister (Reginald's niece) Shelagh Padfield (who still lives in Bath) was kind enough to call in to the school and spend time talking to the Head, Mr Goucher as well as supplying further information.
We are extremely grateful for these contributions.
It would be great to hear from any other living relatives of Reginald Maggs. Three of his siblings survived into adulthood, as far as we know, and so there may be living descendants of:
Please get in touch!If you have any further information on Reginald Maggs, or want to suggest corrections / improvements for this page, please use the Contact page to get in touch.
All additions and further information will be credited appropriately.
AcknowledgementMany thanks to Mr David Carter for supplying the photograph of Reginald Maggs.