Maurice William Steer was born between April and June in 1897 and was the eldest child of William and Agnes Mary. His parents were both born in around 1874, William in Edenbridge, Kent, and Agnes in Kingston, Surrey. William’s father was a farmer labourer and sawyer, but William became a servant and by 1891 lived with and worked for the Auston family – Sydney Auston was a medical practitioner, and the household was a large one with his wife Sarah and their six adult daughters. They employed two other female servants who also lived at the house. William and Agnes married in the spring of 1897 and Maurice was born around a year later, the eldest of five children.
By the time Maurice’s brother Charles Howard was born the following year (between July and September 1899) the family were living in Croydon, possibly because this is closer to where Agnes’ family lived. The 1901 Census records the family as living at 1 Grove Place; it appears that Maurice’s father was now a market worker. Maurice’s sister, Ruth Fanny, was born on the 20th March 1902. There is a gap of around four years before his next sibling, Stanley, is born, in around 1906. His youngest brother, Ronald Frank, was born on the 3rd March 1907 (although his birth was registered in 1908).
The family were living at Newhouse Farm Cottage in Edenbridge, Kent by 1911 and Maurice’s father was working as a cowman on the farm. There were two other farm labourers living with the family in the cottage – William Everest and Walter Willmer. Maurice was 13 years old by then and was attending school along with the rest of his brothers and sister, expect for Ronald who was only three years old.
Nothing is known of Maurice’s life between leaving school and the outbreak of the war, when he was just 17 years old. Maurice served as a Rifleman with the 20th Battalion of the King’s Rifle Corps, which was formed in London on the 20th August 1915 by the British Empire League Pioneers. He enlisted at Woolwich, where a large number of men serving with the Battalion came from, it is likely that he enlisted in November 1915 – almost 800 men joined in the same month. The battalion moved to Wellingborough towards the end of February 1916 and had to train in the snow. They left for France on the 27th March 1916 and landed at Le Havre on the 30th March.
The Battalion’s first action was in the Ypres Salient. It was involved in the Battles of the Somme, including the Battle of the Ancre (13th to 18th November 1916). In 1917 the Battalion saw action in the Arras Offensive and associated actions which took place between the 9th April and the 16th June 1917; the Battles of Ypres (the “Third Ypres” or Passchendaele) which took place between the 31st July and the 10th November 1917; and the Cambrai Operations between the 20th November and the 30th December 1917. It is not known exactly what battles the Battalion was involved in during 1918, but it seems likely that it was involved in the Battles of Lys in April 1918 and the final advances from the end of September 1918. As part of the 3rd Division it advanced into Germany and formed part of the Occupation Force.
Maurice died seven days after the Armistice on the 18th November 1918, he was 21 years old. He died at home of wounds, although there are no details of how he was injured. Maurice is buried at Neath (Llantwit) Cemetery, in Port Talbot, South Glamorgan. It is unclear why he would have been buried in Wales, it could be that he was treated for his wounds at the 3rd Western General Military Hospital, which was based in Cardiff, South Glamorgan.
Maurice Steer has been researched as his name was added to the tablet in the Memorial Hall. We have no known connection for him to East Wickham and Welling.
This story has been researched by volunteers. We have taken every effort to ensure its accuracy. If you are related to this soldier, or if you have any further information, please do get in touch.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2759964/STEER,%20MAURICE