A Cavalry Sword On An East Kent's Grave

soleil

War Hero
Thank you to all of you who have contributed to this thread, your comments have been immensely useful and we are very grateful for them.

The restoration of Edwin's grave has been completed during the last few days.

Over the weekend, we have written a small piece about Edwin which incorporates not only things which we have discovered but also the comments which were made on the thread.

If anything in the piece reads oddly, do feel free to say so.
 

soleil

War Hero
Edwin Corrie Ongley was laid to rest on a cold winter's day in February 1917 in the churchyard of All Saints' Church in the small village of Brenchley in Kent.

In the years prior to his death, he had been a pub landlord, running the Mile Oak Inn close to Catt's Place, near Paddock Wood. His principal career, however, had been that of a soldier and this was echoed in his family's choice of headstone for his grave; a solid stone cross adorned with a carved sword, mounted on an equally solid block of stone.

Whilst at first glance, the sword on the cross might appear to be a cavalry sword, it is more likely to have been an infantry sword; it could have been similar to the sword Edwin would have carried himself as a Colour Sergeant; there is also the possibility that the design simply came from a selection made available via a catalogue.

Following a childhood spent in Gillingham in Kent, where he had been born in 1861, Edwin trained as a groom and then enlisted as a Private in the East Kent Regiment (The Buffs) in September 1881, attesting at Canterbury. He was 5 ft. 6 ins. in height, with a fresh complexion, brown hair and grey eyes.

After promotions to Lance Corporal, Corporal and Lance Sergeant, he was promoted to Sergeant in 1884. He was able to extend his service with the 2nd Battalion in 1888 'to complete 12 years' service with the Colours' and was promoted to Colour Sergeant in 1890 and posted to Canterbury before qualifying as a CSM at the Hythe School of Musketry. He re-engaged for the East Kent Regiment at Athlone in 1893 to complete a total service of 21 years, becoming a Colour Sergeant Instructor in 1896.

Edwin was 'permitted to continue in the Service after 21 years' service' in 1902, before being discharged at Cranbrook in November 1907, having seen service in Ireland, Malta and 'the Straits Settlements' and having been awarded his Long Service and Good Conduct Medals. At the point of his retirement, he was the Colour Sergeant Instructor for Adjutant Commanding 'E' (Brenchley) Company.

His 'conduct and character while with the Colours' was 'Exemplary' and he was described as 'thoroughly sober and reliable. Fit for employment in a responsible position'.

These qualities would go on to be of use to Edwin in his role as a pub landlord in the Brenchley area. He was already well known in the area before he left the Regiment; the Kent and Sussex Courier reports on a most convivial gathering of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion East Kent (the Buffs) in 1904 when one Sergeant Instructor E Ongley came third in the 'Annual Musketry Prize Roll'. During the evening, 'the Chairman ... proposed the health of Sergt. Instructor Ongley and said that they would not fully realise all that Sergt. Ongley had done for the Company.’

Edwin's profile in the area was also raised by his letter to the Kent and Sussex Courier in 1913 in which he railed against hop-pickers.

‘The Hop-Picking Season

To the Editor

Sir

The hop-picking season is here and so are the pickers, some amongst them who think they can commit any crime short of murder outright. A case from here on Tuesday last before the Tonbridge Bench of using obscene language and riotous behaviour was dismissed. These things are smothered over this time of the year to show a favourable report of the work of Missions amongst the pickers. The hard-working Kent Police are discouraged from doing their duty, very often carrying their lives in their hands, amongst thousands of these people who assemble yearly. The inhabitants of the Weald should see that justice is done to these as well as our own people and to see that our wives and little ones are protected from the disorder raging here at this season of the year and, if our J.P.s are not competent, petition for their removal from the Bench and see that the Police of this district receive the recognition due to them, so that they can give protection at this time of the year.

In future, as far as I am concerned myself, I shall carry protection and not hesitate to use it either.

E Ongley

Late Col.-Sergt. Instructor
2nd Batt. Buffs’

Edwin married his wife, Mary at St James' Chapel in Goff's Oak, near Cheshunt in December 1890. The couple had 10 children in total; Eva, William, Alfred, Hilda, Hector, Alfreda, Gladys, Harrold, Violet and Charles.

Alfred would go on to join the Buffs himself, arriving in France with the 1st Battalion as a Lance Corporal in 1914. He appears in the London Gazette in 1916, when he was awarded the DCM for gallantry at Hooge.

‘Corporal A. V. Ongley, 1st Battalion, East Kent Regiment.

For conspicuous determination. After being buried by a shell bursting in the parapet he was rescued greatly exhausted, but in this condition he kept control of his men and continued to command them till relieved the following day.’

Another of Edwin's sons also served with the Buffs during the War.

Harrold died in a Flying Boat accident while serving with the RAF in 1931.

Alfreda sadly died from TB in 1922 and was buried with her father. The inscription for her on the gravestone says that she died 'whilst doing her duty as a nurse'.

And the inscription on the grave for Edwin himself?

‘Ever Proud And Honoured Memory Of Our Dad

Late Colr Sergt Instr.

Ongley

Who Died Suddenly

Feb 4th 1917 Aged 55 Years’
 
As I recall, infantry sword knots are wound about the basket as this one is and mounted knots hang free.
Nearly right.

Dismounted Infantry officers had (and still do have) their sword knot tied up around the basket to keep it out of the way. Field Officers, including the Adjutant, as mounted officers have their knot loose - its purpose in life being to go around the wrist and prevent loss in case one dropped it in action.
 
Edwin Corrie Ongley was laid to rest on a cold winter's day in February 1917 in the churchyard of All Saints' Church in the small village of Brenchley in Kent.

In the years prior to his death, he had been a pub landlord, running the Mile Oak Inn close to Catt's Place, near Paddock Wood. His principal career, however, had been that of a soldier and this was echoed in his family's choice of headstone for his grave; a solid stone cross adorned with a carved sword, mounted on an equally solid block of stone.

Whilst at first glance, the sword on the cross might appear to be a cavalry sword, it is more likely to have been an infantry sword; it could have been similar to the sword Edwin would have carried himself as a Colour Sergeant; there is also the possibility that the design simply came from a selection made available via a catalogue.

Following a childhood spent in Gillingham in Kent, where he had been born in 1861, Edwin trained as a groom and then enlisted as a Private in the East Kent Regiment (The Buffs) in September 1881, attesting at Canterbury. He was 5 ft. 6 ins. in height, with a fresh complexion, brown hair and grey eyes.

After promotions to Lance Corporal, Corporal and Lance Sergeant, he was promoted to Sergeant in 1884. He was able to extend his service with the 2nd Battalion in 1888 'to complete 12 years' service with the Colours' and was promoted to Colour Sergeant in 1890 and posted to Canterbury before qualifying as a CSM at the Hythe School of Musketry. He re-engaged for the East Kent Regiment at Athlone in 1893 to complete a total service of 21 years, becoming a Colour Sergeant Instructor in 1896.

Edwin was 'permitted to continue in the Service after 21 years' service' in 1902, before being discharged at Cranbrook in November 1907, having seen service in Ireland, Malta and 'the Straits Settlements' and having been awarded his Long Service and Good Conduct Medals. At the point of his retirement, he was the Colour Sergeant Instructor for Adjutant Commanding 'E' (Brenchley) Company.

His 'conduct and character while with the Colours' was 'Exemplary' and he was described as 'thoroughly sober and reliable. Fit for employment in a responsible position'.

These qualities would go on to be of use to Edwin in his role as a pub landlord in the Brenchley area. He was already well known in the area before he left the Regiment; the Kent and Sussex Courier reports on a most convivial gathering of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion East Kent (the Buffs) in 1904 when one Sergeant Instructor E Ongley came third in the 'Annual Musketry Prize Roll'. During the evening, 'the Chairman ... proposed the health of Sergt. Instructor Ongley and said that they would not fully realise all that Sergt. Ongley had done for the Company.’

Edwin's profile in the area was also raised by his letter to the Kent and Sussex Courier in 1913 in which he railed against hop-pickers.

‘The Hop-Picking Season

To the Editor

Sir

The hop-picking season is here and so are the pickers, some amongst them who think they can commit any crime short of murder outright. A case from here on Tuesday last before the Tonbridge Bench of using obscene language and riotous behaviour was dismissed. These things are smothered over this time of the year to show a favourable report of the work of Missions amongst the pickers. The hard-working Kent Police are discouraged from doing their duty, very often carrying their lives in their hands, amongst thousands of these people who assemble yearly. The inhabitants of the Weald should see that justice is done to these as well as our own people and to see that our wives and little ones are protected from the disorder raging here at this season of the year and, if our J.P.s are not competent, petition for their removal from the Bench and see that the Police of this district receive the recognition due to them, so that they can give protection at this time of the year.

In future, as far as I am concerned myself, I shall carry protection and not hesitate to use it either.

E Ongley

Late Col.-Sergt. Instructor
2nd Batt. Buffs’

Edwin married his wife, Mary at St James' Chapel in Goff's Oak, near Cheshunt in December 1890. The couple had 10 children in total; Eva, William, Alfred, Hilda, Hector, Alfreda, Gladys, Harrold, Violet and Charles.

Alfred would go on to join the Buffs himself, arriving in France with the 1st Battalion as a Lance Corporal in 1914. He appears in the London Gazette in 1916, when he was awarded the DCM for gallantry at Hooge.

‘Corporal A. V. Ongley, 1st Battalion, East Kent Regiment.

For conspicuous determination. After being buried by a shell bursting in the parapet he was rescued greatly exhausted, but in this condition he kept control of his men and continued to command them till relieved the following day.’

Another of Edwin's sons also served with the Buffs during the War.

Harrold died in a Flying Boat accident while serving with the RAF in 1931.

Alfreda sadly died from TB in 1922 and was buried with her father. The inscription for her on the gravestone says that she died 'whilst doing her duty as a nurse'.

And the inscription on the grave for Edwin himself?

‘Ever Proud And Honoured Memory Of Our Dad

Late Colr Sergt Instr.

Ongley

Who Died Suddenly

Feb 4th 1917 Aged 55 Years’
Hop pickers - Hop Picking was an early sort of package holiday back in the day. The Kent (and Kentish) Hop Gardens required the brief increase in labour for the hop-harvest so generally poorer townsfolk from the East End of London and parties of 'travellers' would traditionally descend on the County. The new-fangled railway assisted with their transportation.

My prep school was surrounded on three sides by hop gardens in the early '70s - the bines were still tied up in spring by chaps working on stilts and the Cockney hordes still came down in September to pick.
 
Hop pickers - Hop Picking was an early sort of package holiday back in the day. The Kent (and Kentish) Hop Gardens required the brief increase in labour for the hop-harvest so generally poorer townsfolk from the East End of London and parties of 'travellers' would traditionally descend on the County. The new-fangled railway assisted with their transportation.

My prep school was surrounded on three sides by hop gardens in the early '70s - the bines were still tied up in spring by chaps working on stilts and the Cockney hordes still came down in September to pick.

That must have been the very tail end of hopping.

My family were part of that cockney horde but they gave it up before I was old enough to be taken.
 
Nearly right.

Dismounted Infantry officers had (and still do have) their sword knot tied up around the basket to keep it out of the way. Field Officers, including the Adjutant, as mounted officers have their knot loose - its purpose in life being to go around the wrist and prevent loss in case one dropped it in action.

Would a colour sergeant have worn a sword?
 

Bubbles_Barker

LE
Book Reviewer
Nearly right.

Dismounted Infantry officers had (and still do have) their sword knot tied up around the basket to keep it out of the way. Field Officers, including the Adjutant, as mounted officers have their knot loose - its purpose in life being to go around the wrist and prevent loss in case one dropped it in action.
No, just right. If you're mounted it's loose, if you aren't then it isn't.
 
Would a colour sergeant have worn a sword?
That's a very good question. The truth is, I don't think so but at the moment I don't know! Company Sergeant Majors still wear sword belts, but no sword, but they are Warrant Officers. I'll get back to you.......
 
Last edited:

sirbhp

LE
Book Reviewer
What does that symbolise?
Well after some research the story goes like this .

In the middle east it can get quite warmish , so dead bodies tend to go off rather quick . They bury their dead asap , withing 24 hours if they can . Once a grave is dug there is a mound of soft earth left over on the top .
Wild Animals smelling the rotten meat tend to dig up your ancient relative for a quick easy meal , no hunting required.

In order to negate this the various relatives tend the graves ( 41 days for two religions at least ) and keep putting stones on top of the grave to prohibit the animal from digging up the recently deceased.

Thereafter every time the grave is visited it is tidied up and the stones replaces etc .

So when these cultures move abroad what they do is put a stone on the grave to indicate that the deceased is still remembered and has been visited.
there you go google was mi friend .
 
No, just right. If you're mounted it's loose, if you aren't then it isn't.
Not entirely. The sword depicted is shown 'slung' ie with the slings allowing the sword to hang as worn by a mounted officer. A dismounted officer would have his sword hooked up to keep it out of the way.
 
Would a colour sergeant have worn a sword?
That's a very good question. The truth is, I don't think so but at the moment I don't know! Company Sergeant Majors still wear sword belts, but no sword, but they are Warrant Officers. I'll get back to you.......

The belt worn by Warrant Officers with, and sometimes without a sword is a "Sword belt, Staff Sergeants".

Link with photos a short scroll down.

Does this go towards an answer?
 

soleil

War Hero
The restorer who has been working on the restoration of Edwin's grave tells me that he was recently approached by the BBC who asked whether they could include an item on his work on the local TV news.

I gather from what he says that the BBC is running a short piece on his work on BBC South-East today at 1.30 pm and 6.30 pm.
 
I think those Victorian cemeteries are a great reminder to us about our ultimate insignificance in the grand picture of things.

You walk around seeing these magnificent pieces of stonemasonry, genuine works of art many of them, carved with breathtaking skill by talented and gifted men. They have been raised to the glorious and immortal memory of someone, perhaps a local shopkeeper, lawyer, town councillor, or otherwise greatly esteemed member of his local community. The time, effort and money put in by the man's family to remember him are touching testimonies to the respect and love they had for him (or perhaps the family just wanted to outdo the Jones' grave to their father) and no doubt for a few years they annually gathered at his graveside to lay flowers and say a few prayers.

Now who has the faintest idea of who he ever was? His descendants probably live in a flat that they mortgaged their lifetime to own and in which he would have housed his servants. They speak English in a dialect he would be shocked to hear, they go on drinking holidays to places he would have thought barbaric and no place for an Englishman that did not wear the Queen's coat. The corner shop he once proudly ran sells some sort of frothy coffee drinks. And everything he did, everything he achieved, everything that he said and stood for are completely forgotten about.

And the expensive and very beautiful monument to his life and work crumbles amid empty beer cans and used condoms.
I love strolling around old cemeteries, especially ones with commonwealth war graves and other noteworthy graves and monuments, stopping and looking can reveal some interesting and emotional snapshots from a bygone life. On a recent getaway, I happened upon three CW war graves in a churchyard in a small hamlet, two from the pioneer corps and one from the RAOC, All three had died on the same day in February 1944.
One stark truth though always springs to mind, that for most of us our earthly legacy is at best, that of being four or five generations away from being a forgotten, untended grave.
 
I love strolling around old cemeteries, especially ones with commonwealth war graves and other noteworthy graves and monuments, stopping and looking can reveal some interesting and emotional snapshots from a bygone life. On a recent getaway, I happened upon three CW war graves in a churchyard in a small hamlet, two from the pioneer corps and one from the RAOC, All three had died on the same day in February 1944.
One stark truth though always springs to mind, that for most of us our earthly legacy is at best, that of being four or five generations away from being a forgotten, untended grave.
On a similar vain, here in Lowestoft there’s the grave of a Waterloo Veteran. He was a Lt in 1st Hussars Kings German Legion.
When I last looked at his head stone, it was looking decidedly dodgy. I have tried getting it preserved by a group dedicated to Waterloo graves, but as far as I know nothings been done.
3E7899E0-DB60-4285-88F8-71BAD7F51C85.jpeg
 

Helm

MIA
Moderator
Book Reviewer
On a similar vain, here in Lowestoft there’s the grave of a Waterloo Veteran. He was a Lt in 1st Hussars Kings German Legion.
When I last looked at his head stone, it was looking decidedly dodgy. I have tried getting it preserved by a group dedicated to Waterloo graves, but as far as I know nothings been done.View attachment 515916
Tell them he was black, it'll probably be remade in solid gold.
 
On a similar vain, here in Lowestoft there’s the grave of a Waterloo Veteran. He was a Lt in 1st Hussars Kings German Legion.
When I last looked at his head stone, it was looking decidedly dodgy. I have tried getting it preserved by a group dedicated to Waterloo graves, but as far as I know nothings been done.View attachment 515916
Good luck with your endeavours.
 

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