Saturday 27 June 2009

Chelmsford's Old Contemptibles

Chelmsford in Essex, England, is my home town. I was born there and spent most of my life there, and it was in Chelmsford and its surrounding villages that I conducted the majority of my interviews with the veterans of WW1.

The photograph above originally appeared with an article headlined, The Last of the Few, in the Chelmsford & Essex Chronicle on Friday 19th November 1971. The seven Great War veterans, photographed on Remembrance Sunday that year, had just paraded their Old Contemptibles' standard for the last time. The men stressed that they were not disbanding, but with their numbers down to ten, they felt that it was the right time to call time on parading.

I met Stan Brown, pictured far right, ten years after this photograph was taken, and when I met him he was one of two surviving members of the Chelmsford Old Contemptibles' Association. Formed in 1928, at its peak the branch could count over 300. The men of 1914-1918 appearing in this photograph are, from left to right:

Charles (Charlie) Brand, Secretary OCA Chelmsford Branch, aged 82 (formerly M/29770 Army Service Corps)
George Balaam, aged 85 (formerly 8634, 2nd Essex Regiment)
Henry (Harry) A May, President OCA Chelmsford Branch (formerly 967, later 534022, 10th Royal Hussars)
Guy Hobday, aged 77 (formerly 16700 2nd Grenadier Guards)
Arthur Diggens, aged 78 (WW1 service unknown)
Albert George Cass, aged 86 (formerly T/20548 Army Service Corps)
David Stanley Brown, aged 75 (formerly 9732 1st Leicestershire Regiment and 32526 2nd South Staffordshire Regiment)

Service records for Stan Brown (who joined up in 1913) and Albert Cass (who joined up in 1903), survive in the WO 364 (Pension) series at the National Archives. Their records can also be viewed on line via which is currently offering a FREE 14 day trial.

The Chelmsford OCA wound up as a branch in 1977 and Stan Brown, of whom you can read more by clicking on his name, was the last of the Chelmsford Old Contemptibles to fade away. He died in 1987.

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