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Geoffrey Paxton Ravenor

2nd Lieutenant Geoffrey Paxton Ravenor, 6th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment

 

Geoffrey Ravenor

2nd Lieut G P Ravenor

Geoffrey was born on 21 August 1893, the youngest of eight children born to Richard Ravenor and his wife Charlotte Christian (née Bland); he was their seventh son. Richard was a succesful local businessman running a plumbing and glazing company that evidently provided a very good income. The family home on Oxford Street in the Speenhamland area of Newbury was a very substantial residence, around 1935 it was purchased by Trust Houses and incorporated into the Chequers Hotel next door. He was also active in local government serving as Mayor of Newbury in 1885 and as a Borough councillor or alderman from 1878 (when Newbury's boundaries were extended to encompass Speenhamland) until his death in 1917.

 

Geoffrey was educated at Churcher's College in Petersfield and Newbury Grammar School (now incorporated into St Bartholomew's) before being articled in the Newbury Borough Surveyor's office. After completing his articles in 1913 he went to work for Messrs Tubbs, Messer & Poulter, architects and surveyors in their London office, they also had offices in Newbury and Woking. Senior partner, Cyril Tubbs (who lived at Snelsmore House near Newbury) had the middle name Bazett, suggesting he was related to the Bazetts of Newbury, two of whom also appear on the Newbury war memorial.

 

Geoffrey enlisted on 3 September 1914, one day less than a month after the outbreak of the war. He joined the Royal Fusiliers (no PS/805) serving in C Company of the 19th Battalion, also known as the 2nd Public Schools Battalion. The battalion spent over a year in training in England, during which time Geoffrey was promoted from Private to Lance Corporal (on 2 July). On 14 November Geoffery and the bulk of the battalion arrived in France.

 

After five months in the trenches Geoffrey was sent back to England; he had been spotted as officer material and was been sent to Officer Training, which he underwent in No 2 Cadet Battalion at Pembroke College, Cambridge. At the end of the course he was commissioned as a Temporary 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Berkshire Regiment and was posted to their 9th Battalion. The 9th was a reserve battalion and he was soon moved on the the 6th Battalion in France, which he joined at Guestraville on 27 August 1916.

 

His time with the battalion was short, towards the end of September the battalion was involved in an assault on the Schwaben Redoubt, a German strongpoint near the village of Thiepval. This is not a story of massive casualties as the battalion went over the top, in fact the assault went well, though they had to fight off a strong German counter-attack on 30 September and suffered casualties from heavy enemy shelling. There was more shelling on the 1 October and a bombing (grenade) attack on 2 October.

 

In general war diaries note the names of fallen or wounded officers on the day they are lost. The 6th Battalion war diary does mention the names of several officers who died in the entries for these days, but not that of G P Ravenor. However, he is named in a monthly list of casualties as having died on the 2 October. Historian F Loraine Petrie, in his regimental history The Royal Berkshire Regiment 1914-1918 p264 states that Geoffrey died on 30 September. Such confusion is unusual for the loss of an officer, even a very junior one in the comparatively light fighting conditions. The official date of death was set as 2 October.

 

Newbury Weekly News, 12 October 1916 - Local War Notes

War has laid a heavy burden of sorrow on a Newbury family. Within little less than a month, Alderman Richard Ravenor, of Oxford-street, has been bereft of his eldest and youngest sons. It is only a few weeks ago that we reported the death of Corporal H Ravenor, who was on service with the Australian Contingent. On Thursday the father received a telegram from the War Office conveying the sad news that his youngest boy, Geoffrey Paxton Ravenor, had been killed in France. This was followed by expressions of sympathy from the King and Queen. Geoffrey Ravenor was 23 years of age, and after being educated at Churchill’s College, Petersfield [Churcher’s College], was articled in the Borough Surveyor’s Office, subsequently being employed in the London office of Messrs Tubbs, Messer and Poulter, architects and surveyors. When the call came for men he enlisted in the Public Schools Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers and after training at various camps in England, he went out with his battalion to France where he served six months in the trenches. Returning to England he trained as a Cadet officer at Cambridge, and was gazetted to a commission in the Royal Berks Regiment, in which he was serving at the time of his death. Second-Lieutenant Ravenor was a young man of great promise, being a clever draughtsman, and some of his pen and ink sketches have been regarded as worth preservation. He had many friends who deplore his death, and sincere sympathy is extended to his father and members of the family in their loss.

 

Geoffrey's body was buried in Quarry Post Cemetery, Authuille Wood. In 1919 this cemetery was closed and the bodies of the 50 soldiers buried there were moved to Blighty Valley Cemetery nearby. The family were notified of the move after the event.

 

Letter 2 Dec 1919 - War Office to M[aurice] Ravenor

With reference to the information already sent to you regarding the place of burial of 2nd Lieutenant G P Ravenor, 6th Bn Royal Berkshire Regiment, I beg to inform you that it has been found necessary to exhume the bodies buried in this area and to re-inter them, and the body of the above mentioned Officer has been removed and buried in Blighty Valley, Authuille Wood, north of Albert, The new grave has been duly marked and registered in this office. The re-burial has been carefully and reverently carried out.

 

Frank's name on Newbury War Memorial

Geoffrey's name on Newbury War Memorial, above those of his brothers Herbert and Richard. (right)

Locally Geoffrey is remembered on Newbury's Town War Memorial and also on the Speenhamland shrine and a roll of honour at St Bartholomew's school, Newbury. His name was also included on the gravestone over his mother's grave in Speen churchyard. Sadly the stone has been broken and only a fragment remains.

 

His service record shows that his family were under the impression that he died intestate, but the War Office had a will he had made while still serving with the Fusiliers.

 

His brothers, Herbert and Richard Bland Ravenor are also remembered on the Newbury war memorial and their mother's grave. Herbert died serving with the Australian Infantry Force in France; Richard's passing is more of a mystery. Another brother, Cyril, served in the marchant marine and Royal Navy while Maurice was engaged on war work to do with the development of submarines. Another brother, Stanley Arthur, remained at home in Newbury taking on the business following his father's death; following the Military Service Act of 1916 he had been classified as 'C1' (fit for garrison service at home) and was liable for call up. He appeared at a series of local tribunals staving off a call up on compassionate grounds following the death of his father. In May 1918 he was granted a final two months reprieve, his argument that his call up meant the end of the once successful business went unheeded, thousands of others were in the same situation. It is not known if he was ever called up, the need for men on home duty was not as great as those who could be sent abroad.

 

Herbert had died a few weeks before Geoffery, a double blow that was believed to have broken they aging father; Alderman Ravenor died a few months later in March 1917. Unusually for the time the Alderman's body was cremated and his ashes were interred in his wife's grave (the first interment of ashes in Speen churchyard).

 

Another member of the family, Geoffrey's cousin Private Alexander Mitchelson Ravenor, who had lived for a period in Newbury, died on 11 March 1915, while serving in the Royal Berkshire Regiment on the western front.