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Annie Elizabeth Gibbs Home Page
Gillian Michell nee Walder is a present day grand-daughter of Herbert and Annie. Here is her article on Herbert and his family.
Herbert Walder 1867-1940
All I had left of the grandfather I had never seen was a serviceman’s writing desk, his Masonic apron and two photographs of him with his family, one taken in 1903 and one in 1914. He seemed a stern figure in his army uniform, but belying this, his arms were gently curled around his children.

His wife, Annie, dark-haired in 1903, looked grey and care-worn by 1914, surrounded by several children. As a child, I would wonder at my father, aged two in 1903, with his white dress and blonde curls, then look at his father, Herbert, feeling cheated because I had never met him. Other children had several grandparents – how was it that I had none?

As an adult I decided to follow Herbert up myself. He had been born in Hurstpierpoint in 1867, together with his twin, Mary, whom nobody had ever mentioned. Herbert’s father was a tin-plate worker who possibly left Sussex in search of work because in the 1871 census he appears as a lodger in Plumstead, Kent, where two of Herbert’s older brothers had been born, whereas the rest of the family was still in Hurstpierpoint.

By 1876 the family was together again, now in Woolwich where they stayed and where Herbert’s sister, Alice, was born. They lived in Glenalvon Street, later demolished, as did Herbert’s uncle and family. Woolwich was then was a teeming place, with all the industry connected with the huge Arsenal, whose buildings and the odd Victorian chimney still remain there today. Herbert’s father had nine children and a tenth, Herbert’s oldest sister, was also living there with her husband and baby - fourteen people in all. I found Glenalvon Street on an 1894 map in the Arsenal Heritage Centre. The houses were miniscule, judging by the tiny outlines on the map. Over-crowded houses were common in those days but it must have led to immense tensions. No wonder Herbert ran away when young to join the army.

Then I could find no information on him until 1892. By chance in the 1970s I was teaching on the Isle of Wight and while I was there I happened to speak to my aunt Dorothy, Herbert’s older daughter, who announced that he had married on the island. By a strange coincidence I had been to Matins the previous Sunday in the very church in Newport where the marriage had taken place. Herbert, then twenty-five, married nineteen-year-old Annie daughter of John Gibbs, retired soldier, later warden at Parkhurst Prison, then publican in Newport. Herbert’s regiment had been summoned there to quell a Parkhurst riot and was stationed in Carisbrooke Castle. Doubtless he enjoyed a drink in a local ale-house, especially one where the landlord had a pretty daughter. John Gibbs was Irish and Annie inherited his sociability and possibly a fiery temper. I know that on one occasion later she warned Herbert that if he repeated an annoying remark, she would throw the teapot at him. He did and she did. History does not relate how hot the tea was.

Two years after the marriage a son, young Herbert, was born on the island. Then in 1899, a second son, James, was born - in Mullingar, Westmeath Monaghan, according to the 1901 census. My father, Harold, was born on 11th March 1901 in Oxford where Herbert was stationed but by census date – 31st March - he was back with his mother and siblings in army quarters on the island, an “infant under one month”. In 1902 the whole family was back in Oxford as parish records show that the next son, Harry, was born there, then in 1906, yet another boy, Reginald. By 1907, however, Herbert, now aged 40, presumably stationed at Budbrooke, near Warwick, settled his family in Guy’s Cliffe Terrace, Warwick. At one point he was sent to Whitley Bay as Harold remembered visiting him there.

In 1907 Annie and Herbert produced their first daughter, Dorothy, then in 1908 another son, Eric Victor, and in 1911, their daughter Mary. By this time young Herbert had joined his father’s regiment as a boy soldier. His name features on a Jubilee Souvenir booklet produced for the regiment to mark the occasion at Nilgris, Southern India. In 1912 the family moved for a final time, as Kelly’s directory shows, to Paradise Street, Warwick - a little respectable Victorian terraced house.

Sadly in 1913 Herbert and Annie’s son Reginald died of peritonitis. My father, twelve at the time, often spoke of this. When I was a child we visited Warwick cemetery every Christmas to lay a wreath on Reggie’s grave. The lettering read, “And Jesus called a little child”. His full name was followed by his diminutive “Reggie” and his age - “seven and a half” emphasising the shock and disbelief felt by his death.

Another bitter blow came for Herbert and Annie in 1916 when young Herbert was killed in the Mesopotamia Campaign. Four hundred men died on the march during which he fell. I discovered from the Commonwealth War Graves site that his name is on a memorial which was moved for safety during the Gulf War. Ironically, the “safer place” was Basra. At least their son James returned from the war, although he suffered severe wounds and died young. Eric, in the Second World War, also survived but Herbert would never know it.

Annie died in 1922, aged forty-eight, in my father’s arms, her heart worn out. Herbert had retired from the army and was working in the Army Pay Corps Office in St John’s House, Warwick. Dorothy became the house-keeper. Herbert’s spinster sister, Alice, came to help but the lively family defeated her and she retired gratefully back to Sussex to her post as lady’s companion. The children had enjoyed playing tricks on their gentle, myopic and long-suffering aunt. Once they turned off the oven when a cake was cooking and on another occasion my father was involved in throwing rock-hard jam tarts round the kitchen. Poor Alice was definitely better off in Sussex.

When Dorothy married in 1931 and moved to Coventry, Herbert moved in with her and Fred. During the Blitz in Coventry in 1940, Dorothy’s house was damaged so Herbert, suffering from flu, was being taken by stretcher to a house nearby. However, it too took a direct hit and he was left in the cold night air as his helpers rescued other victims. They eventually found a vehicle to take him to my parents’ cottage in Warwick but he died of pneumonia a few days later. A sad end for an old soldier.

Herbert had come a long way from his beginnings in many ways. He had risen from being a boy soldier to quarter-master, captain and retired with the rank of major, according to the Army Lists at Kew.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Herbert, though, was the provision he made for his family. Three were in the army while Harry served an apprenticeship and became an engineer. My father was offered an accountancy course, though he refused the chance. But Herbert also provided for his two girls. Mary was sent to a Birmingham secretarial college for two years while Dorothy did some pupil teaching, then became a book-keeper. Herbert paid school fees for them at the best girls’ school in Warwick.

His reward was to be loved by his progeny. All his children whom I knew spoke fondly of him, as did his daughter-in-law, my mother.

That is the best memorial to have.

Herbert Walder bap. 4 Aug 1867 Hurstpierpoint m. 6 Nov 1892 Newport Isle of Wight d. 1940
Annie Elizabeth Gibbs b. 1873 d. 1922
    John 1833 George 1803 Charles 1773 John 1738 John 1704 Samuel

Herbert William b. abt. 1894
James Frederick b. abt. 1899 Millingar Co Monaghan Ireland
Harold b. 11 March 1901 Cowley Oxon.
Harry Patrick b. 1902 Cowley Oxon.
Reginald Alfred b. abt. 1906
Dorothy Elizabeth b. 20 Aug 1907
Eric Victor b. 28 Dec 1908 Warwick
Violet Mary b. 28 Dec 1911 Warwick
Census: 1871 1881


1871 Census -Plumstead Kent 1871110
Address Name Rel. Con Age Profession Where Born
2 Ma? Rd John Walder Lodger M 37 Tin Plate Worker Brighton Sussex

1871 Census -Hurstpierpoint 1871111
Address Name Rel. Con Age Profession Where Born
No 6 Townfield Cottages Ann Walder Head M 36 Tinman's Wife Pyecombe Sussex
John A Walder Son U 15 ?Tailers Apprentice Woolwich Kent
George Walder Son 13 Pot Boy Public House Plumstead Kent
William F Walder Son 7 Scholar Hurstpierpoint Sussex
Herbert Walder Son 3 Scholar Twins Hurstpierpoint Sussex
Mary Walder Dau 3 Scholar Twins Hurstpierpoint Sussex
Lizzie Walder Dau 1 Scholar Hurstpierpoint Sussex


1881 Census -Woolwich Kent 1881172/b
Address Name Rel. Con Age Profession Where Born
5 Glenalvon St John Walder Head M 47 Tin Plate Worker Brighton Sussex
[Brother Henry is at No. 13] Ann Walder Wife M 46 Pyecombe Sussex
George J Walder Son U 22 Cellarman Hurstpierpont Sussex
William F Walder Son U 17 India Rubber Worker Hurstpierpont Sussex
Mary Walder Dau 13 Scholar Hurstpierpont Sussex
Herbert Walder Son 13 Errand Boy Hurstpierpont Sussex
Elizabeth Walder Dau 11 Scholar Hurstpierpont Sussex
Charles Walder Son 9 Scholar Plumstead Kent
Alice M Walder Dau 4 Scholar Woolwich Kent
Edwin Walder Son 2 Woolwich Kent