Private Raymond Charles Painter, killed in action on June 27th 1917, age 25 years.
Raymond Charles Painter was born in Wootton Bassett in 1892, the second of the three sons of Francis Frederick Painter, a general labourer, and Sarah Ann nee Heavens. By 1901 they had put down roots at 20 Coxstalls, and this house remained in the famiy for over 5 decades. Raymond’s father Francis appears to have travelled widely to find work, sometimes leaving his wife and young family living at home with members of her extended family, and sometimes taking the family with him. Raymond was baptised in Faringdon, Berkshire, which may have been due to one of his father’s contracts. In 1911 Raymond, his parents and his brothers, were all living at home. Raymond was 18, and working as a baker. His older brother Francis was an iron founder with the GWR, (a few years later he was a haulier and he later served in the Grenadier Guards). His younger brother Frederick was an errand boy.
Raymond married a neighbour from Coxstalls, Mary Elizabeth Edwards, on October 14th 1913, in Wootton Bassett. The young couple moved into 27 Coxstalls, owned by Alfred Ricks Humphries. Their first child, named Raymond Charles Edward Painter, was born in Wootton Bassett on March 7th 1914. At this time Raymond was still working as a baker. He was a member of the “Rose of Independence” Oddfellows Lodge, a branch of the Oddfellows friendly society which was based in Wootton Bassett.
Soon after the birth of baby Raymond, Raymond and Mary moved to Wellingborough. It is not known why they moved there, but there could be a connection to the family’s later move to Blisworth, or he could have found employment through his Oddfellows connections. Baby Raymond died at the beginning of 1915. Their second son Walter Percy Painter, was born in Wellingborough later in 1915.
Raymond probably attested earlier in the war and may have been called up when living in Wellingborough. He was allocated to the 13th (Service) Battalion (West Ham) of the Essex Regiment (28030), some time between November 1915 and July 1916. This was largely a pals battalion, consisting mainly of West Ham football supporters, and including many former employees from the Thames Ironworks, hence the nickname ‘The Hammers’, and their battle cry, “Up the Irons”. At that time the 13th (Service) Battalion (West Ham) were part of the 6th Brigade of the 2nd Division.
Raymond probably took part in the Battle of Delville Wood (15 July – 3 September 1916), the Battle of the Ancre (13–18 November 1916), followed by the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, the First Battle of the Scarpe, the Battle of Arleux (9 April to 16 May 1917), and the Second Battle of the Scarpe (23–24 April 1917). The battalion then entered a period of relative quiet.
On 20th June 1917 the 13th Essex were given orders to relieve the 2/6th Lancs Fusiliers in the reserve area for the Gorre and Givenchy sector. Their first week at the new billets was mainly given over to training and supplying working parties as required. On the night of the 26th June, completing at 1.15am on the 27th, the battalion moved into the lines, relieving the 17th Middlesex Regiment in the left subsector of the Givenchy sector. According to the war diary the enemy were very quiet in this sector, except for snipers and machine guns active on the right, where A Company were posted under Lieut F H Austin. Here Raymond lost his life. He was 25 years old. His death is mentioned in the war diary, but with no name or details. Raymond was the only man in the battalion to be killed in action in a period of over 5 weeks.
Raymond was buried in Gorre British and Indian Cemetery, grave reference 4 C 7. His wife and family did not request any special wording for his cross. However, he is remembered on the War Memorial tablet in St Bartholomew’s Church in Wootton Bassett. His name is not included on the Wellingborough War Memorial.
Raymond is also commemorated on the Oddfellows War Memorial, 5 Maryport Street, Devizes, along with Edwin Helps.
Raymond received the Victory Medal, and the British War Medal.
Raymond’s widow Mary returned to her family in Wootton Bassett, and settled temporarily in Wood Street. (The Commonwealth War Graves Commission index incorrectly records Mary E Painter, of 84 Wood Street, Wootton Bassett, as Raymond’s mother). She remarried in 1930, to Alfred William Thompson, a railway signalman, and they moved to West Ham, where they had a son, John C F Thompson. Perhaps Arthur was an Army contact of Raymond’s, for I can find no other connection to draw Mary to West Ham.
By 1939 Mary and her son John had moved to 26 Courteenhall Way, Blisworth, Northamptonshire, a newly built council estate. The 1939 Register shows that she shared a house with her sister Winifred and her husband; next door were her sister Kathleen and her family, and just down the road was her brother Richard. It is not clear from the Register whether her husband Arthur moved with her.
Raymond and Mary’s son, Walter Percy Painter, remained in West Ham a little longer. In 1939 he can be found working as a Baker’s roundsman alongside his future wife, Elsie Slack, a confectioner. They soon moved to join Walter’s family in Blisworth, and here their son Walter Raymond, probably known as Raymond after his grandfather, was born in November 1940.