Britain’s declaration of war on Germany on 4 August 1914 brought a united response from HM Land Registry’s staff.
Chief Land Registrar Sir Charles Fortescue Brickdale recorded how:
“while enlistment was voluntary, every man of military age applied for and obtained leave to volunteer for active service.
“Afterwards, when the age limits were extended, there were only nine men of military age – all declared unfit for general service – who were not with the colours, all but one of these being over 30, four over 40, seven married, two not called up.”
Out of a total of 220 male members of staff of military age, 108 served on land and sea and in the air during the First World War, 20 as officers.
Many who were over military age or unfit joined the anti-aircraft or ambulance corps, or became Special Constables or volunteers.
Of those men who served, 13 died during the war and another of his injuries in 1921. A further 16 were wounded, one was taken prisoner and two were interned in Holland after the defence of Antwerp.
The men who died are all remembered on a memorial plaque in the foyer of our former Head Office building in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in central London.
The building is now in the ownership of the London School of Economics, but every Remembrance Day a group of people from HM Land Registry return to lay a wreath.
As it was our only office in August 1914, it’s likely that all the men who volunteered, served and died would have passed through the foyer.
The previous December a flag had been raised above the recently completed building by Sir Charles to mark its opening and the 50th anniversary of the organisation.
Little can he have then expected how soon government buildings would be lowering their flags in mourning.
The men remembered on the memorial
(We know more about some than others.)
Archibald Brasnett, attendant, reservist with the Royal Regiment of Artillery, died of wounds on 25 April 1917
Thomas Bull, attendant
Henry Ferguson, scrivener (drafted contracts and other legal documents)
Alexander Glen, joined the London Regiment, died in battle on 25 April 1915
Alexander Grindlay, assistant clerk, joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and then the Royal Scots, died on 24 March 1917
Reuben Hayns, joined the Manchester Regiment, died of injuries on 24 January 1918
George Kemp, clerk, joined the London Regiment, died in action on 6 December 1917
Leonard Kirby, joined the London Regiment, died in action on 28 March 1918
Ernest McDouall, clerk, joined the London Regiment, injured, discharged on 18 October 1918, died in 1921
William Mason, map labourer
William Peterson, clerk, joined the London Regiment, died on 7 October 1916
Arthur Smith, attendant, joined the Royal Engineers, died on 17 June 1917
William Webb, joined the London Regiment, died on 22 March 1918