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Herbert Guiver

Served with Essex County Constabulary from Oct 8, 1906, Southend Borough Constabulary from Apr 1, 1914 and died on Feb 17, 1916.

Herbert Guiver was born on May 30, 1882, at Padnall Corner, Ilford, Essex. He was the son of William Guiver, a general labourer, and his wife Harriet whose maiden name was Enticknap. After commencing his working life as a labourer, Herbert enlisted in the army at Stratford as Private 6648 1st Battalion Essex Regiment. He served in the Boer War and was awarded the South African medal and Cape Colony and Orange Free State clasps. On October 10, 1905, having completed his army service he was discharged whilst stationed in Bangalore. His conduct and character were described as 'Very Good'. He was placed on the reserve list.

On leaving the army he worked for a short period as a labourer and, in 1906 then twenty-four years old and just under six feet tall with a fresh complexion and grey eyes, he joined Essex Constabulary and was attested as constable 363 and patrolled the Shoeburyness area. In June 1908, he married twenty-one year old Minnie Mary Calvert who lived at "Ceylon", Honiton Road, Southend where they started their married life together. They had one child, a daughter, Phyllis born in 1911.

With the formation of Southend Borough Police, Herbert successfully applied for a transfer and, on April 1, 1914, became Constable 58. He had completed seven years and one hundred and ninety days with Essex Constabulary. Four months later, with the outbreak of war, Herbert was recalled to the Colours.

On August 6 together with other reservists he reported to Warley and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion Essex Regiment and appointed Sergeant 6648. The 2nd Battalion formed part of the 12th Brigade of the 4th Division, a regular army division.

Full mobilization was complete by 2.30pm August 7 and, on August 22 the battalion travelled to Southampton where they embarked on the SS Corsican landing in France at 10pm on August 23, 1914. By 8pm on the 24th, the division had been transported to Bertry near Le Cateau where they first saw action on August 25, taking up a position in the line between Fontaine-au-Pire and Wambaix. They took part in The Battle of Le Cateau (August 1914), The Battle of the Marne (September 1914) and The Battle of The Aisne (September 1914).

In October 1914, the division was withdrawn from the line to move north to Flanders to take part in the First Battle of Ypres. Over a quarter of a million British soldiers were to die over the next four years during the lengthy struggle for the Ypres Salient.

The First Battle of Ypres (October/November 1914) ranks as one of the great allied victories of the war. The Germans had massed 402 battalions between Armentieres and the North Sea, against which the allies had only 267. Moreover, the Germans were twice as strong in cavalry. The consequences of the battle and campaign were momentous. The Germans were denied Channel ports, but the small, victorious British professional army was almost destroyed.

The battle was also a landmark in the conduct of the war, for henceforth both sides dug in and a complex line of trenches soon stretched from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier. For three and a half years these lines would be advanced less than ten miles in either direction, and Allied strategy would be devoted to penetrating this formidable barrier.

The Germans, halted at Ypres, now adopted a defensive stance in the west while trying to reach a victorious conclusion in the east, where much of the military activity of 1915 was to take place.

The 2nd Battalion Essex Regiment were deployed on the outskirts of Ploegstreet Wood on October 21 and later marched to a position north west of Messines experiencing continuous heavy shelling and flooded trenches. They spent the evening of the first Christmas day of the war in the trenches.

During the Second Battle of Ypres, that took place between April 22 and May 13 1915, the battalion experienced their first gas attack - the third time the Germans had used gas - 'The Cloud of Death'.

"At 5 o'clock on Sunday 2nd May a thick wall of gas, greenish in colour, some 60 to 70 ft. high was observed creeping along the front of the trenches - absolutely overpowering, causing men to leave the trenches."
Losses amongst the Essex men were heavy with 23 killed, 67 wounded and 175 missing.

At the end of May 1915, the division moved south to the Somme area close to Doullens. They spent the winter of 1915/16 on the Somme mainly in the vicinity of Mailly-Maillet and were regularly deployed in the front line between Auchonvillers and Hebuterne facing Serre.

On February 11, 12 and 13, 1916, the men were out of the line in Billets at Bertrancourt where they were able to relax and to undertake repairs to trenches in the support line. They returned to the front line on the evening of February 14 and were positioned in trenches close to the four copses named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The following is an extract from the War Diary of 2nd Battalion Essex Regiment:

"15th February.
Enemies artillery was active all day, especially in the afternoon and late at night. At 9.30pm the enemy opened heavy fire on our front trenches, with field guns and heavy trench mortars. The service trench to the right of John Copse was blown in and also a machine-gun emplacement. Casualties 2 killed and 5 wounded.
16th February.
A quiet day. Casualties 2 wounded.
17th February.
From 11.30am to 12.30am, the enemy opened a heavy bombardment on our trenches between John Copse and Mark Copse. Our artillery retaliated and eventually silenced hostile trench mortars and field guns. About 10pm one of the enemy surrendered. He belonged to the 66th Regiment 52nd Division and stated that he was the only Pole in his regiment. Prisoner when questioned gave some very useful information with regards to the dispositions of the enemy etc. Casualties 3 killed 2 wounded.."
Herbert Guiver was one of those men killed on February 17, 1916, he was thirty-three years old. He was killed instantly when a shell exploded in his trench. He was described by his commanding officer as "One of my keenest non-commissioned officers."

He is buried in Sucrerie Military Cemetery, Colincamps. The cemetery is enclosed by a low brick wall and shaded by tall trees. It is secluded, located in arable farmland and approached from a lane leading from the main road. Only the lone farmer diligently at work on his tractor, the occasional passing car and the never ceasing bird song endorse the tranquility of the cemetery.

Visiting the scene today, where Herbert Guiver died, the four copses no longer exist in their former state. Matthew Copse has completely disappeared but Mark, Luke and John Copses have now been joined together to make one long piece of woodland. Along the edge of the woodland a trench line can still be clearly seen. The copses were located in the area that is now known as Sheffield Memorial Park. Luke Copse British Cemetery is located close by.

Following his death a local newspaper published the following article:

THE DEATH OF SERGEANT H GUIVER
Further particulars have been received concerning the death of Sergeant H Guiver, 2nd Essex Regiment, who was killed in action in France on February 17th. Sergeant Guiver who for ten years was connected with the Essex Police Force, being stationed both at Shoeburyness and Southend, met an instantaneous death by the bursting of a shell. He was 33 years of age. Mrs Guiver of Ceylon, Honiton Road, Southend, received a letter from Captain Irwin of the 2nd Essex Regiment in which he says: "I greatly regret to have to tell you that the news you have received of your husband is true. Your husband was killed by a shell. I was standing near to him at the time and I am glad to be able to tell you that death was instantaneous and that he could have suffered no pain. It is not within my power to offer you due consolation but it will be more comforting to you to know that with his death I lose one of my keenest non commissioned officers and it has left a place that I cannot easily refill. He is mourned by myself and my whole company."
On March 15, 1916, the death of Constable 58 Herbert Guiver was reported to the Watch Committee. The Town Clerk was directed to convey the regret of the Watch Committee to Mrs. Guiver.

The same month, Mr Kerslake the Chief Constable wrote to the Army Council at the War Office to determine the amount of pension that Mrs. Guiver would be paid for herself and Phyllis. There is now no record of any reply that was received.

Herbert Guiver is also commemorated on Romford Town Memorial which is located close to the Town Hall. His name is shown as H W Guiver. The limited records that have been researched only refer to his name as Herbert Guiver. His father's forename was William.

In January 1957, following the change to the Police Pension Regulations a police officer spoke to the widow of Herbert Guiver who was then Mrs. Minnie Sparke of 60, Leamington Road, Southend. She informed the officer that, following the death of her husband, she then married Percy Cuthbert on March 27, 1920, but he had been drowned at sea on October 20 in the same year. She had then married Arthur Sparke on October 4, 1923, but Mr. Sparke had died from thrombosis in 1954. Sadly, even though she was then once again a widow, she was not entitled to a police pension because she had remarried.

Phyllis, her daughter, was annoyed that mistakenly the officer who had spoken to her mother had suggested that she may be eligible for the enhanced pension and this had needlessly raised her expectations. She wrote to the then Chief Constable, William McConnach:

" My mother was widowed in the First World War and was left with me a child of five. No police pension and a sum of 25/- a week from a grateful Government for herself and her child. -----
Because of this intrusion into my mother's life, which has only brought her disappointment and has upset her, I feel extremely bitter. The only thing that stands out in my memory as far as the Police Force is concerned is that it offered to put me in an orphanage after my father had been killed!
Matthew Copse
Here lovers stole unseen at deep'ning eve,
High-tide within their hearts, love in their eyes,
And told a tale whose magic never dies
That only they who love can quite believe.

Now'mid thy splinter'd trees the great shells crash,
The subterranean mines thy deeps divide;
And men from Death and Terror there do hide -
Hide in thy caves from shrapnel's deadly splash.
Sgt. John W Streets
(Died 1916 near Matthew Copse)

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