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Interlude from service
On 11 August 1913 and 12 February 1913 Robert was medically examined in Chichester and pronounced as fit for service in A category of the Reserves. An infantry regiment had only 50 in Section A reserve. The section A reservist had to be of good character (on a scale of exemplary, very good, good, fair, indifferent, bad, very bad). They also had to have the best musketry qualifications and were paid the full pay of 1s a day. They could only be in the category for two years and were given no further training.
Although Robert was passed for Class A reservist I have no proof that he was in fact put in this category. If he wasn’t then he would be in Section B which consisted of all men working out their reserve engagement, paid 6d a day quarterly. These reservists were liable to be called out for 12 days training or 20 drills annually and permanently in case of a proclamation of war and (unlike the Territorial Force) in aid of the civil power.
Section 15 of the Soldier’s small book which every soldier carried dealt with civil employment on discharge or transfer to the army reserve. Jobs it felt ex-soldiers were eligible for were pensioner messengers in government departments; watchers in custom service; park keepers (royal parks); prison warders; police; postmen; civilian army posts; railway porters etc. Men could register a year before leaving (so I presume there was some sort of vacancy service offered). On census returns some men gave their occupation as army reservist or army reservist combined with some other job.
I have no idea where Robert went on his discharge. I assume he returned to Yapton though I have no evidence to support this. I would at least have visited his family. His mother and stepfather Bessie and John Hughes were now living in Rope Cottage one of the Black Dog cottages so named as they were adjacent to the Black Dog public house. Rope cottage stood in front of the old workhouse and presumably at one time was used for rope making (it looks a long building), perhaps by inmates of the old workhouse. The pub is still there though renamed the Olive Tree Branch but the cottages have gone. The 1911 census records John and Robert’s brothers Joe Hill and John Hughes as bricklayers working for a builder and 16 year old Len Hughes as a bricklayer’s labourer. Sister Ethel Hughes at 13 was still at school. There was also a boarder. The property was six roomed so would easily have accommodated them.
If Robert did return to Yapton his family members now well established in the building trade would probably have found no difficulty in finding him work with them.
Robert would not have had to travel far to visit his other sisters. Sister Bessie was back in Sussex. By 1911 she was living in Westergate as housekeeper and servant to widowed Albert Terry, a baker, and his son Frank. Albert was the brother of Aunt Ellen Terry’s husband George. Sister Rose, she now preferred Rose to Rosa, may have been living in Westergate too, by 1913. Robert had of course missed Rose’s marriage on the 23rd August 1908 in Yapton parish church. Her husband was William, Bill, Wakeham. Bill was born in Amberley in 1875; by 1901 he was a bricklayer, and boarder living in Bognor. Rosa was also working in Bognor as a maid in a hotel. They could therefore have met through them both living in Bognor or possibly Bill worked with Rose’s stepfather and brothers. A year later in 1909 Robert became an uncle for the first time when Rose had a son William. The 1911 census found the Wakehams as tenants of The Hope Inn, St Pancras Chichester. Bill is also recorded as a bricklayer so much of running the pub probably fell on Rose. It is possible they were still there when Robert returned to England as the 1913 electoral census still lists them in St Pancras. They are not listed in 1914 electoral register and the 1915 electoral register shows them in Westergate.
As well as meeting a new brother-in-law and nephew Robert would also have been introduced to Joe’s fiancée Nellie Jane Blunden, in 1913 or early 1914. Nellie who was 28 the same age as Joe lived on Slindon Common with her widowed father William Blunden, a woodsman, and her younger brother Charlie. Joe’s work as a bricklayer would have taken him up to Slindon, building was taken place on the Common, and Nellie had a small shop there selling tobacco, soft drinks and sweets. The date for the wedding was set for Thursday 27th August 1914 in Slindon parish church and the banns had already started to be read before war broke out.
There would also have been opportunities for a reunion with his sailor brother Bill. From Robert’s return until 27 March 1914 Bill, now an able seaman was stationed on HMS Fisgard, a training ship off the Pembrokeshire coast. During this time he would have returned to Sussex on leave. On the 28th March Bill was transferred to Victory I Portsmouth (a shore base) and from there on 2 April he was released from the service, and transferred to the Royal Naval Reserve. I am pretty sure Bill returned to live in Yapton. Bill’s mobilisation came earlier than Robert’s. On the 1st August 1914 Germany declared war and invaded Belgium and naval reservists mobilised. On the 2nd August became a crew member of HMS Vindictive. Back in October 1913 it had been decided on financial grounds not to have the usual naval manoeuvres in 1914 but a test mobilisation of the 3rd Fleet and this began on 10 July and the fleet assembled at Spithead between 13th to 17th July. So by chance the navy was in a good position when the war broke out.
Mon 3 August was a bank holiday, was a hot day with clear skies and sunshine, the next day mobilisation. Regardless of which reserve category Robert had been placed he was liable for mobilisation. When he left the army he would have been given information which told him where to report to and what to take with him; his “small book”, life certificate, identity certificate and if a regular reservist parchment reservist certificate. The identity certificate contained instructions for obtaining the sum of 3s as advance on pay in the form of a postal order endorsed ‘negotiable only on mobilisation’ and a railway warrant. Policemen delivered the mobilisation telegrams which started going out at 4pm on the 4th August. War was declared 11pm on that day
Robert would have had to make the journey to the Chichester barracks again. The scene is described by The Chichester Observer
‘The Sussex reservists
All day Wednesday Chichester was the scene of great animation. By every train there arrived in the city parties of reservists of the Royal Sussex and many others came by road. In groups they made their way to the Barracks and there they received their kit preparatory to leaving to join the 2nd Battalion at Woking. It was nearly 10 o’clock in the evening when at last they left the barracks but large crowds awaited them in North and South Streets and all the way they were greeted with cheers. The batch numbered just 400. Another party of reservists who arrived later left Chichester to Woking on Thursday pm shortly after 2 o’clock’