Basil Hamley was born in Herne Hill in 1889, the third of five sons (and three daughters) of John and Annie Hamley, All five boys (John Dewitt, Harold, Basil, Wilfrid and Marcus) served in the First World War, although Marcus was under age at just 15. Basil was killed during the Final Advance in Artois on 4 October 1918, just a month before the Armistice. He is buried in Aubers Ridge British Cemetery, south of Lens.
Two of Basil’s nephews, David and Brian Hamley, still live in Herne Hill. A family story tells that Basil, a member of a machine gun group, went to rescue an officer who had been wounded and they were both killed. Another brother who was close by had to identity him. John Dewitt Hamley, the oldest brother (and father of David and Brian), suffered shell-shock but survived. They also recall that their uncle Harold was short of breath because he had been gassed.
In this eight-minute recording, made in September 2018, you hear the voices of first, Brian, and then David Hamley, speaking to Patrick Roberts and Colin Wight of the Herne Hill Society. You will also hear a neighbour who goes to the garden shed to find the entrenching tool!
There will only ever be one Centenary of the First World War Armistice. On Sunday 11 November 2018 — exactly 100 years after the guns fell silent and the slaughter stopped — we hope local people and visitors will join us for a brief commemoration at Herne Hill’s popular Sunday market.
In consensus with countless communities throughout the British Isles and overseas, the Herne Hill community will mark this unique and significant anniversary with two minutes’ silence at 11am at Herne Hill station.
Many British towns and villages have a civic war memorial where the names of the men who never returned are inscribed. But there is no civic war memorial in Herne Hill — although there are several church-based and small community memorials. Until recently, in fact, the true scale of our community’s losses in the First World War was not known.
In another token of the Armistice Centenary, and with the kind support of Southeastern Railway who operate Herne Hill station, there will be information panels installed in the ticket hall of Herne Hill Station. There will be similar panels at The Charter School North Dulwich and the Carnegie Library.
The fate of the RMS Lusitania, sunk by a torpedo from a German U-Boat on 7 May 1915 with the loss of almost 1,200 lives, is one still remembered today. It produced shockwaves across the country (and across the United States) and is probably the cause of a similar event six weeks earlier being now largely forgotten. In the sinking of the RMS Falaba on 28 March, one of the casualties was a resident of Herne Hill. Her name was Louisa Tearle and she is one of the very few women whose name appears on the national Merchant Navy memorial.
St Saviour’s Church in Herne Hill Road was demolished in 1981 but a memorial tablet survives. It includes the name F LUCAS.
Frederick Lucas was born on 4 September 1879 at Brimington [sic] Road, Peckham. (The street has since disappeared in redevelopment.) Fred was the third of nine children. The 1911 Census shows Fred with his family at 45 Kemerton Road, Herne Hill, and working as an “engineer’s turner”. Fred, who had served in the Second Boer War and then as a police constable, seems to have rejoined the army in 1914, and with his skills and experience went into the Army Ordnance Corps.
Throughout the Victorian and Edwardian eras Herne Hill and Denmark Hill had many residents of German origin. They were mostly merchants and bankers, able to afford pleasant villas in what were then semi-rural surrounds. The outbreak of war saw the freedoms of people of German (and Austro-Hungarian) origin – there were some 40,000 in London – severely curtailed. The businesses of those whose commercial activities depended on trade with Germany disappeared overnight.
The principal role of the monthly parish magazine was, of course, to support the church’s religious mission, but the First World War brought inconveniences and calamities that the magazine could not ignore. As part of the Heritage Lottery-funded “Remembering Herne Hill 1914-18” project we have been able to track the effects of the conflict on parishioners from its outbreak to the Armistice (with help from churchwarden Leigh Whittingham and administrator Derek Gibson).