J. C. Terrett
Service no. 2746
Private, London Regiment, “C” Coy. 1st/23rd Battalion
Killed in action on 26 May 1915, aged 40
Enlisted at Clapham Junction; lived in Brixton
CWGC: “Son of Mrs C. Terrett, of 58 Dalyell Road, Stockwell, London; husband of Mary Anne Terrett, of 187 Arthur Street, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.”
Remembered at Le Touret Memorial, France
British Army WWI Service Records 1914-1920
When Joseph Charles Terrett joined enlisted on 8 September 1914 at St John’s Hill, Clapham Junction he left behind a wife, Mary Ann, and three boys: 14-year-old Joseph, 10-year-old Reginald, and Geoffrey, who was 2.
The Service Record file for Joseph Terrett does not contain much information about him. We know that he was 39 and that had previously served in the 4th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment, but the file includes no physical description of him or his medical state, his behaviour or his movements other than that he joined his “service battalion” on 12 November 1914.
There is a torn scrap of paper listing some of his effects: photo, knife, torch, mineral (a lump of unusual rock, I am supposing)
Most of the file is taken up with letters concerning the whereabouts of Joseph’s widow Mary Ann Terrett in order that the authorities could forward her husband’s medals. Efforts to find her via her solicitors, the rather wonderfully named Balderston, Warren and Pothecary of Bedford Row, W.C.1, drew a blank, as they were not even sure who Terrett was. On 3 April 1922 they wrote to the Infantry Record Office: “Shall be glad if you will give us any further information re the identify of Private Terrett. We do not appear to know him but our address may have been give on..” and here the letter ends – the bottom has been torn off. Another small mystery.
It appears that back in 1920 Mrs. Terrett’s neighbour at Knowle Road (that letter is torn too, so we cannot be sure of her name but it looks like she may have been a Mrs. Lawrence) put the authorities right: “Mrs. Terrett has sailed with the children for Canada June 18th 1920,” she told them. She had given Mrs. Lawrence permission to open her letters. “I know that she will be glad to receive any decoration that may be awarded to her late husband. … I have also written to her.”
These small scraps (literally) of documents do not together tell much of a narrative. Perhaps, however, they illustrate in a personal way how the war caused, not just loss of life on an unprecedented scale, but disruption and and dispersal. Would Mary Ann Terrett have taken her three sons to Canada at her time of life (she was nearly 50) if Joseph had not died and options for her in London been limited? We may never find out.
Mary Ann died in Canada in 1948.
Information from the censuses
Joseph Charles Terrett, who was 36 in 1911, was a school attendance officer working for London County Council. He lived with his wife, Mary Ann Terrett, 38, at 65 Knowle Road (now gone but Knowle Close, at the back of Wynne Road, remains), Brixton, where they had four rooms. There were two sons: Joseph St. John Terrett, 10, born in Wandsworth and Reginald St. John Terrett, 6, born in Clapham. Another child born to the couple had died, and a son was born shortly after the 1911 census. Ten years previously, Joseph Charles Terrett was described as a “gas meter index taker”. He was born in Bermondsey. At that time he, Mary Ann and son Joseph lived at 122 New Kent Road, Newington. In 1891 he worked as a printer’s assistant. His father, also called Joseph, was an envelope cutter, from Newington (married to Caroline Terrett, from Southwark, the Mrs. C. Terrett on the War Graves database).