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Henry John Doe

Rank: Private

Lifetime: 1895-1916

Reference: 10851


Olive Doe, Henry John Doe's adoptive sister, is in the front row, third from left.

Private Henry John Doe (10851) of the 1st Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment died on 20 July 1916. He is buried at the Serre Rd No2 Cemetery.

Private Henry John Doe was apparently killed during the East Surrey’s attempts to attack and hold the strategic Mametz Wood during the Battle of the Somme. The unit war diary describes a desperate action carried out under very high explosive and gas shelling to capture a wood consisting, as the war diary says, “chiefly of bushes about breast high …and some rather knocked about trees”.

His birthplace is given in UK Soldiers Died in the Great War as Kingston and his residence as Hampton Wick. Henry Doe volunteered initially for the 4th Battalion of the East Surrey Territorial Army in April 1913. According to his Burnt Service Record which was damaged in a bombing raid in the Second World War and is now held by the National Archives, he passed his medical for the Territorials on 5 May 1913, having good vision and physical development and a chest measurement of 33½”. At the time he enlisted, he was employed by his uncle, George Walter Doe of 2 Hesley Cottages, High Street, Hampton Wick, as a milk carrier.

On 21 January 1914, now aged 18 and 295 days, he applied to join the East Surrey Regiment as a Regular Soldier. By the time he was accepted on 6 April 1914, he was 18 years and 364 days old (presumably he was born on 7 April 1895). He was 5’7¾” tall and weighed 116lbs. He embarked for France on 26 October 1914 where he served for twenty-one months before being killed at the Somme. His personal effects were despatched to Mrs Sarah Ann Doe (nee Sarah Ann(e) Wooley) who was married to his uncle, George Walter Doe, at 2 Hesley Cottages. Her moving acknowledgment of receipt for his personal effects couched in the following terms forms part of his Burnt Service Record:

Dear Sirs

With sadness & thanks we acknowledge receipt of small parcel sent on behalf of our dear Boy. We do & I shall miss him very much – a good lad to help. We have no other. He has given his life for King & Country & we are proud of him.

God Bless Him.

Mrs S. A Doe
2 Hesley Cottages
Hampton Wick

It seems likely that the writer of the letter was, in fact, his adoptive rather than his “natural” mother. Henry John Doe’s actual mother would appear to have been (rather confusingly) another Sarah Ann Doe, the sister of George Walter Doe, who had been born in Kingston sometime between April and June 1868 (source: Register of Birth, Death & Marriages). Sarah Ann Doe is recorded in the 1871 and 1881 Censuses as living in Kingston with her parents John and Mary Doe, her older brother, George Walter, and younger brother, Charles. By the time of the 1891 Census, the family (with the exception of her father who had died) were all living in Bittoms Lane, Kingston. Sarah Ann was 23 years of age and working as a housemaid. Her older brother, George Walter Doe, at 25 was employed as a porter. Henry makes his first appearance in the 1901 Census as a six year old. He is named as “Harry” and described, rather implausibly, as the six year old “son” of the head of the household, Mary Doe, who was by this time 69 and had been widowed by this date for at least ten years. It seems much more likely that he was, in fact Sarah Ann Doe’s son.

George Walter Doe was not living with the rest of the Doe family at the date of the 1901 Census. Instead he is recorded in that Census as living and working as a gardener in Shepperton where he had married Sarah Anne Woolley (Annie) on 6th October 1900. Shortly afterwards, in the third quarter of 1901, the Register of Marriages records that Sarah Ann Doe married William Makim in Kingston. At some point between the 1901 Census and that of 1911 Henry Doe moved to 2 Hesley Cottages, Hampton Wick. He lived there with his Uncle George Walker Doe and his uncle’s wife, Sarah Ann(e) Doe, and their two daughters, Lena and Olive, who had been born in 1903 and 1905 in Shepperton. It would appear that he was effectively adopted by his uncle and aunt.

This accords with the anecdotal evidence of a relative who reports that his grandmother, Olive Doe, had “an adopted brother who was killed in the First World War”. It also accords with information in his Service Record contained in a Declaration (now burnt and in part illegible) given by his uncle, George Walter Doe, on 14 March 1921. The Declaration lists all of Henry Doe’s blood relatives and was probably required because he died intestate. Oddly, on the form his father is named as William Makim and his mother as Sarah Ann Makim who lived at 11 Youngs Buildings in Kingston. Although John William Makim is listed as Henry Doe’s father, it would seem more likely that he was his step father as the form also includes a half-brother, John William Makim, aged 19 at the date of the Declaration born after the marriage so presumably a child of both William and Sarah Ann Makim. If Makim was Henry Doe’s father then John William Makim would be Henry Doe’s full brother and also William Makim might have been expected to have signed the Declaration rather than George Walter Doe (Henry’s Uncle). Clearly Henry Doe himself regarded George Walter Doe and Annie Doe and their family as his true family: he nominated them as his next of kin on his Attestation papers when he enlisted.

Henry John Doe remains fondly remembered by his family and we are indebted to Steve Thomas, his great nephew, for the school photograph which includes Henry John Doe’s adoptive sister. Steve’s mother arranged for Henry John Doe’s name to be read out at the Tower of London roll call on 14 September 2014.

The first phase of this Project is to gather information about the men commemorated on the Hampton Wick War Memorial who fought in the Great War, also known as World War I, WWI or the First World War.

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