Frederick James Weatherley was born in Dartford in 1877, the youngest child of Thomas and Emma nee Fidgett . Both parents were born in Dartford, where they had been married on the 21st September 1862 in Holy Trinity, the parish church. They were then only 22 and 21, the groom already a bricklayer, son of a bricklayer. The bride had not signed her name.
Their first child was a girl called Emma who was baptised in Holy Trinity on the 27th May 1863, a private baptism, probably because the child did not look healthy. And it seems that most of the children had health problems. Emma died aged 12 in 1875. The 2 other boys showing on the 1871 census, Thomas born around 1866 and Alfred (birth not registered ?), aged 2, are not listed in 1881. Ten years later, none of these three children are with the parents : only Philip John born in 1873 and Frederick James are there. The year 1885 must have been particularly hard and sad for Frederick, who lost in a space of a few months his father at the beginning of the year, who was only 45, and his brother Philip aged 11. A few years later, just before the 1891 census, his mother Emma died aged 52. Frederick was the only one left alive. The census shows him as a lodger in Plumstead. He is only 13 and works as a carpenter.
Some happier events happened to Frederick in 1896 when he got married to Louisa Wilson, in the Woolwich district. By the census of 1901 they already had 3 children, all born in Plumstead like their mother, Louise, Ruby (1898) and Florence (1899). Two other daughters were born later, Millie in 1901 who died aged 6 months, probably in Welling, and Nellie Beatrice born in 1908.
In 1911, Frederick was living at 13, Orchard Road, in Welling with his wife and their 4 living daughters. The house had 5 rooms. He described himself as a carpenter in the building industry. In 1912, a son at last, Frederick Thomas, was born but he did not live long, birth and death having been registered in the same March quarter.
Frederick’s service records did not survive the Blitz, so we cannot tell exactly when he joined but he enlisted in Westminster and his first regiment was the Northumberland Fusiliers where he had the No 57523. Later on, he was moved to the Royal Engineers with a new number, 184293. He worked as a sapper with the 92nd Field Company.
The 92nd Field Company Royal Engineers was attached to the 18th (Eastern) Division, one of the Kitchener New Armies. A sapper was really the equivalent of a private in the infantry but usually they had a skill. Our Frederick was a carpenter it seems. Being tradesmen they probably got a little extra pay. A field company had about 217 officers and men. The most numerous were the Field and Signals Companies and they provided the technical expertise at the front line. By 1st August 1917 there were more that 29,500 men in the Royal Engineers.
On 21st March 1918 the Germans launched “Operation Michael” which was a huge attack along the whole of the front line between the River Oise in the south to the River Sensée in the north, an area known as the “Somme Sector”, Saint-Quentin being roughly in the Centre. The 18th (Eastern) Division as part of the 5th Army under General Gough was in the front line opposite Chauny. This was later known as the battle of Saint-Quentin.
Frederick Weatherley was killed in action on the 21st March 1918 and is buried in Chauny Communal Cemetery (British Extension) in the Aisne department in France. His name is Weatherly on the CWGC Roll of Honour, and on the local memorial in St John’s Welling his initial are P.J., the F having been misread by the engraver. At the time of his death, the family was living 6 Williams Place in Bellegrove Road (North side of the road, going westwards from the High Street).
Not long after his death, two of his daughters got married. Ruby married Frederick Charles Hills, a stoker in the Royal Navy, on the 27th July 1918 in St Michael’s Church. There is no mention in the parish register that her father was deceased. A Florence Weatherley, probably Ruby’s sister, married George E Evans that summer as well but we have not been able to find out in which parish in the Dartford district.
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Commemorated at Home
Welling War Memorial
Commonwealth War Graves Commission cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/328708/WEATHERLY,%20FREDERICK%20JAMES