Walter and Maude Vesey
In 1911 Maud Mildred Told was 19 years old and an elementary school teacher living with her parents and sister (Ruth Lillian) in Emsworth Villa, Rushmere Road, Ipswich. Maud and Ruth were born in Friern Barnet and daughters of an army pensioner. Ruth was a drapery shop assistant.
Walter Frank Vesey was also a teacher and living at 59, Tomline Road, Ipswich in 1911 with his widowed mother. He was the same age as Maud and they worked together at Bramford School. Maud started teaching at Bramford on the 21st September 1910 and Walter a year later on the 9th September 1911. Walter had a friend, Horace Cooper who, in 1911, was a student teacher. Horace lived at Hop Gardens, Rushmere with his family.
It is probable that Walter and Horace met through their employment and became friends. Through this friendship Horace met Mauds sister Ruth although all lived close to each other so they may have met by other means.
Early in the First World War Walter and Horace enlisted together in the Royal Army Medical Corps (Territorial) in Ipswich. Walters service number was 2345 and Horace was number 2346.
Both were in a draft of twenty men being sent out to reinforce the 1st East Anglian Field Ambulance in the Dardanelles. Their troopship, the “Royal Edward”,was due to sail from Devonport on the 30th July 1915.
The couples decided to marry before the men left the country and a double wedding was arranged a few days before they sailed.
The Bramford School logbook records that Mrs Vesey was absent from her duties on the day her husband, Private Vesey, was “leaving for foreign service”.
After stopping at Alexandria on 11th August 1915 the ship sailed towards the harbour of Moudros on the island of Lemnos in the Aegean Sea. This port was used as a staging point for ships in the Dardanelles but as the ship passed the island of Kandeloussa she was hit in the stern by a torpedo from a waiting German U-Boat, UB-14.
She sank within six minutes but had managed to get off an SOS call. A number of ships responded to the call but according to reports the death toll was over 900 of a total of 1600. The high number of casualties was thought to be due to the crew just having completed a boat drill and the men were stowing their gear down below decks.
Among those missing, presumed drowned, was Walter Frank Vesey and his friend Horace Cooper. The casualties that day included John Dennis Hayes, also in the RAMC, a former pupil at Bramford School, and who is commemorated on the Bramford Great War memorial.
The men’s medal cards confirm their entry into the war zone on 11th August 1915 when they landed at Alexandria. A note on the cards indicates that neither set of medals were ever claimed or delivered to the widows and authority to dispose of them was sought on 3rd January 1923 by the Officer in Charge of RAMC records.
The Bramford School logbook notes that on 24th January 1916 Mrs Vesey was again absent from the school due to “urgent business with the War Office” and on 28th February that year Mrs Vesey left Bramford School to take up and appointment at Kelsale.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records state that Walter was the son of M. Vesey, of 63, Hutland Rd., Ipswich, and the late Henry William Vesey; husband of Maud Mildred Vesey, of 2, Clarkson Villas, Station Rd., Saxmundham, Suffolk. Horace was the son of Harry Cooper of Hop Gardens, Rusmere and husband of Ruth Lillian Cooper of 2, Clarkson Villas, Station Road, Saxmundham, Suffolk.
Both men are commemorated on the Helles memorial in Turkey. Walter is on the Ipswich memorial in Christchurch Park and Horace on the Rushmere St Andrews Parish memorial.
An article in the Suffolk Chronicle and Mercury of the 10th September 1915 covering the sinking of the Royal Edward and in particular reported, among others, on Walter and Horace:
“The cases of Private W. F. Vesey, 63 Hutland Road, Ipswich, youngest son of Mrs Vesey, late of Tomline Road and Private H. Cooper, Rusmere, are particularly sad ones. They married only a few days before sailing, the wedding being a double one, and the brides sisters, – the Misses Told of 75 Rushmere Road. Both men were school teachers. Vesey started at Bramford Road School* and then went to Rusthall, Tonbridge. He had just taken a school at St Albans, when he enlisted. He was 23 years of age. Mrs Vesey is now a teacher at Bramford Road School*. Cooper was the son of a Rushmere market gardener, and had recently taken a school at Chelmsford.”
*A reporting error, as it is known that both Walter and Maud were at Bramford village school.