Reg Crane was one of four Great War veterans I met who lived in the Keene Memorial Homes in Broomfield Road, Chelmsford. I see from my notes that I interviewed Reg, and took the photo above, on the 9th September 1981. Reg, born on the 14th October 1896 would have been just short of his 85th birthday. I subsequently visited him many times until his death in January 1986 at the age of 89.
Despite my interest in the First World War it was not old soldier stories that drew me back to Mr and Mrs Crane. Of his First World War service with the 4th Royal Berkshire Regiment, Reg said nothing; his only words on the subject, "we were glad to forget it". He didn't tell me what his regimental number was - and may not have remembered it anyway - and I have been unable to find any reference to him whatsoever in medal index cards, medal rolls or service records.
Born in Newbury, Berkshire, Reg Crane had joined the 4th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment in 1913. The regimental museum in the shadow of Salisbury Cathedral has a single note that he was served Christmas dinner in 1913 and that he belonged to E Company which was the Newbury Company of this battalion; something Reg had told me. He was at Marlow Heights for the annual Territorial Force camp in August 1914 when war was declared and, volunteering for service overseas, after some weeks ended up in Fyfield in Essex and latterly in Chelmsford, Broomfield and Little Waltham where he met his future wife, Agnes. They would marry on the 19th April 1919; Primrose Day as it was known, the day which commemorated Disraeli's death. The photograph below, published in the Essex Chronicle on the 19th April 1985, celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary which, sadly, would also be their last anniversary.