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 One Family at War

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The Home Front – WW1

While many of the family are at the front and dealing with the brunt of World War 1, those at home had a busy if not exciting time.

We have significant insight within the Dibdin Family form letters to Lionel and Cecily from various people.

At the beginning of the war William Joseph Dibdin was living at Belmont in Sutton with his wife and 2 daughters, Christine and Margaret and occasionally Marian and Family.

Margaret working in a bank and Christine ran a school locally but this closed during the war because of issues with the Landlord so she worked in an office at the newly formed Air Board, which coincidentally Lionel worked for after he was retired from the front in France after a gassing.

Ethel by now had married and presumably moved to America and Lettie, a singer, was travelling around England performing.

Cecily, Lionel’s wife had two sons to look after and obtained a job with the local Gas Company. Sadly in Jan 1917 Stanley Aglio Dibdin, her eldest son died of pneumonia. Lionel had already joined up in 1916 and at the time was at the front. What was sad about the incident was that that two days before his death a letter indicated that Stanley was getting better

Stanley Haycraft, Cecily’s brother, had joined up at the beginning of the war having recently arrived back from Egypt working as an engineer. He kept Cecily on the go buying items, such as photographic equipment and a gramophone and sending them to the front. Stanley did not tell Cecily to much about his day to day activities but did discuss details in letters to Lionel once he had joined up. Before the war and at the beginning Lionel was working for his father in the sewage treatment business but it appears that the work was getting lees and less and so this may have encouraged him, with help from his brother in law to join up. Rex, Lionel’s brother who by now was at home with war injuries advised against joining. By 1917 Rex was out of the army and had joined a bank but as is seem in the article about his life his did not settle and suffered extreme depression in the 1920’s.

Bearing in mind the horrendous effects of the bombing in World War 2 it is sometimes overlooked that London experienced bombing in WW1 during 1917.

In 1916-17 Marian was ill and managing 1 child and gave birth to another, while her husband, Paul Montford, the sculptor was finishing work in Glasgow.

In 1917, William Joseph, at the age of 67, was asked to work in the ministry of munitions in Manchester and not only found the work tiresome but also became very ill because of the working conditions.

Judging from letters various aunts were busy knitting socks for the soldiers and Cecily was regularly sending cakes.

During the war William Joseph was still working on sewage treatment and in one letter to Lionel he refers to problems with the system on Lord Knutsford’ estate. Apparently there had been damage done by a fallen tree an despite repairs Lady Knutsford still complained of the smell. Lord Knutsford (Sydney George Holland of London Hospital fame) informed William that he had no sense of smell – He sent his kind regards to William’s son, Lionel, who had been involved in the original installation.

Despite the horrors and chaos of the trenches there were elements of everyday life. Lewis Davis, a bank employee, who between 1911 and 1919 had three sons, all involved in WW2, was asked by Lionel to send to him, at the front, details of a particular variation of chess.

Sydney George Holland, 2nd Viscount Knutsford (19 March 1855–27 July 1931) was a British barrister and peer.

Knutsford was the eldest twin son of the Conservative politician Henry Thurstan Holland, 1st Viscount Knutsford, and his wife Elizabeth Margaret Hibbert. His grandfather was the physician and travel writer Sir Henry Holland, 1st Baronet. His mother died when he was three years old.

Knutsford was educated at Wellington College and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and was called to the Bar in 1879.[1] In 1888 he acted as Company Doctor to East and West India docks. He was a Director of many companies including an English, Scottish and Australian Bank, and the Underground Electric Railways Company. He was also a Director of City and South London Railway, London and Scottish Life Assurance Company and was an Honorary Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He was made a Chairman of Poplar Hospital in 1891 before becoming President in 1920 and he was Chairman of the London Hospital House Committee from 1896 to 1931. He succeeded his father as Viscount Knutsford in 1914.

London Hospital documents show what an important role he played in raising finance for the Hospital. (Documentary Drama "Casualty 1907-1909")

Lord Knutsford married Lady Mary Ashburnham, daughter of Bertram Ashburnham, 4th Earl of Ashburnham, in 1883. They had two daughters. He died in July 1931, aged 76. As he had no sons he was succeeded in his titles by his younger twin brother Arthur.

.......To be Continued