Roll of Honour


Charles William Claret, born on 20 July 1896, was admitted to the Alexandra Orphanage at the age of two following the sudden death of his mother. He left the Orphan Working School (OWS) aged 14 and became a salesman. Within two months of the start of the First World War, and three weeks after his 18th birthday, Charles volunteered to join the Army. One year later, on 4 October 1915, Private Charles Claret, of "A" Company, 11th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, died of wounds sustained in battle on the Western Front in France.

Private Claret was one of the nine million soldiers, sailors and airmen, from more than twenty nations, killed in the First World War. On average, more than 5,600 soldiers died on each day of the War which, for Britain, started on 5 August 1914 and ended on 11 November 1918. Nearly three quarters of a million British servicemen gave their lives. On 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 20,000 British soldiers died. [1]

Two hundred and twenty former OWS&AO scholars are known to have joined the Army or Navy by mid 1916, the latest date for which data exists in School records; many more will have enlisted without the School being aware. Forty three former scholars and one member of staff are known to have lost their lives; more will have perished but their deaths were not notified to the School. Those who enlisted before 1916 were volunteers: most were in their teens. One third of the ex-OWS&AO casualties died before their 21st birthday. Twenty of the forty four are commemorated on Memorials near the battlefield on which they died, because their remains could not be retrieved or identified for burial in a cemetery.

Martin Gilbert, in his book 'The First World War - A Complete History', quotes commentator Meir Ronnen who wrote in 1993: "Millions died or suffered in the mud of Flanders between 1914 and 1918. Who remembers them? Even those with names on their graves are by now unknown soldiers".

Until now, our only record of the 44 known OWS&AO casualties of the so called "Great War to end all wars" has been a Roll of Honour Board in our Chapel, containing surnames and initials, and a list of first and surnames which is read out annually at our Remembrance Service. By retrieving as much biographical information as it has proved possible to piece together into a recollection of each of their lives, we can ensure that our own First World War dead will be much better remembered, now and in the future.

[1] Statistics taken from 'The First World War - A Complete History' by Martin Gilbert

This document has been compiled by John Billingham, Trustee, Governor and ex-scholar of the Royal Alexandra and Albert School, Gatton Park, Reigate, Surrey.
January 2013

Research Sources
Admission Registers and Annual Reports for Orphan Working School and Alexandra Orphanage
UK Census Records 1891, 1901, 1911
Forces War Records website
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919
British Army WW1 Service Records 1914-1920
British Army WW1 Medal Roll and Index Cards 1914-1920
Du Ruvigny's Roll of Honour 1914-1924
Regiment websites
'The Long, Long Trail' website
'The First World War - A Complete History' by Martin Gilbert
The Channel Islands and the Great War website
The Surrey History Centre

Abbreviations used
AO - Alexandra Orphanage
OWS - Orphan Working School
OWS&AO - Orphan Working School and Alexandra Orphanage
(In 1906 the separately located AO and OWS were brought together under one roof and their separate titles combined into a single title OWS&AO)
[1891C, 1901C or 1911C] - denotes that information has been taken from National Census data

Compiler's Note: The information contained in the following biographies comes from the various sources listed above. The biographies can only be as extensive as the information so far discovered and as accurate as the content of each source. If these biographies are accessed by anybody with a family or other connection to one or more of the deceased, and who can contribute additional information on any aspect of the life of the deceased, including more detail of their military history, such information will be received gratefully. Should anybody know of any other ex-scholars of the Orphan Working School and Alexandra Orphanage who lost their lives in the First World War, the present Royal Alexandra and Albert School would wish to add them to the Roll of Honour.

Revised: 4 March 2014

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