Pennyfather One Name Study

In search of the father of all Pennyfathers

Pennyfather, John

Male 1886 - 1968  (82 years)


Personal Information    |    Notes    |    Sources    |    All    |    PDF

  • Name Pennyfather, John  [1
    Born 28 Apr 1886  Clay Hill, Bushey, Hertfordshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Census 31 Mar 1901  Kensington Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Age: 14y 
    Address:
    46, St Katherines Road, Kensington 
    Census 2 Apr 1911  Kensington Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    Age: 24y 
    Address:
    8 St James Place W 
    Occupation 2 Apr 1911  Kensington Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    Private Army 
    Age: 24y 
    Marriage Index Dec 1915  Plymouth 5b 710 Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Pennyfather John Wills


    https://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/information.pl?r=134974471:5760&d=bmd_1470077884 
    0235 Marriage Certificate John Pennyfather I303
    0235 Marriage Certificate John Pennyfather I303
    Name Jack 
    ONS ID 0235 
    Died 30 Dec 1968  Freedom Fields Hospital, Plymouth Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Efford Crematorium, Plymouth Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I303  Pennyfather
    Last Modified 24 Aug 2016 

    Father Pennyfather, Henry,   b. 22 May 1853, Harrow Weald Middlesex Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 29 May 1920, 48 Stebbing Street, Hammersmith Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 67 years) 
    Mother Inns, Eliza Alma,   b. 27 Mar 1856, 8 Garden Grove, Queen Street, Hammersmith, London Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 29 Oct 1918, London County Lunatic Asylum, Norwood Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 62 years) 
    Married 25 Dec 1875  St John Notting Hill London Find all individuals with events at this location  [4
    Family ID F184  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Wills, Ruth Mary Ann,   b. 2 Dec 1885, 7 Stuart Road, Stoke Damerel, Plymouth Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 14 Aug 1940, City Hospital, Plymouth Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 54 years) 
    Married 30 Dec 1915  St Peters Church, Plymouth Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
     1. Pennyfather, Joseph William,   b. 1 Mar 1920, Alexandra Maternity Home, Plymouth Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 11 Sep 1980, 112 Woodford Avenue, Plympton, Plymouth Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 60 years)
    Last Modified 28 Jul 2007 
    Family ID F63  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Palmer, Doris May,   b. 28 May 1912, St Aubyn, Devonport, Plymouth, Devon, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 22 Nov 1969, Freedom Fields Hospital, Plymouth Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 57 years) 
    Married 27 Oct 1944  The Register Office, Plymouth Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Last Modified 28 Jul 2007 
    Family ID F274  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • John (Jack) Pennyfather 1886-1968:

      In the summer of 1986 my employers sent me to London to attend a week’s residential training course which was based in a hotel on the Brompton Road. Each evening I went out to explore. By the fourth evening I had had enough of museums, Victoria & Albert, Science and Natural History, and was just walking. Well, I just happened to walk past the Latter Day Saints London Temple and, seeing a sign about tracing ancestry, went in. Looking on the microfiche I found a lot of Pennyfathers but had absolutely no clue whether I was related to any of them. In fact I realised at that point that I knew nothing about my ancestry or even what my Parents and Grandparents had been or had done prior to my own recollections of them. I went back to the hotel and called my Mother, as she was the only person who could give me any information, my Father and Grandparents all being deceased. She told me John Pennyfather had been born in Bushey and had run away from home to join the Army.

      John had indeed been born in Bushey, Hertfordshire, on 28 April 1886 in the area of Clay Hill, to Henry and Eliza Alma nee Inns. Eliza’s second name probably came from the Battle of the River Alma, a victory in the Crimean War which ended the year before she was born. Henry was, at that time, described as a general labourer but had also worked as a potter. John was the ninth of the fourteen children born to John and Eliza. There were two sets of twins. Six of the children did not make it past their third birthdays, including three of the twins. By 1901 the family had moved to 46 St Katherin’s Road, Kensington and Henry was working as a carman (possibly something to do with the railways). John was still with the family but not for much longer.

      The first photograph I have of my Grandfather shows a handsome young man seated on a rattan chair. He has the typical slicked down, immaculately parted hair and a small moustache. He is wearing a khaki uniform with shorts and puttees above his heavy ammunition boots and he is holding a sola topee.

      The picture has been sent "to Minnie with love from Egypt". John had joined the Army, to be precise, the 1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment (48th Regiment of Foot) and it was in India on the Northwest Frontier. In March 1908 the Battalion moved from Jullundur to Poona and in July and August was in Bombay (Mumbai) keeping order during the trial for sedition of Bal Gangadhar Tilak. In 1910 the Battalion split, with two companies going to Aden for a year and two companies being left at the base at Ahmednagar. John stayed at Ahmednagar and two group photographs from that time show him in the winning inter-section football team and on a rifle course. By March 1911 the Battalion was back together in England at South Raglan Barracks, Devonport. I am sure that at this time John renewed his acquaintance with Minnie as she was a Plymouth girl. During 1911 the Battalion was employed on guard duties in Nottingham, Derby and Lincoln during a strike. Generally, the time passed in the normal routines of a peacetime army, until August, 1914.

      To call my Grandfather an "Old Contemptible" is not an insult but great honour. These were the men of the regular Army (Britain’s contemptible little army - Kaiser Wilhelm II) who went to France and the Low Countries at the very start of the Great War. These were the men, those who survived, who proudly wore the 1914 Star with the bar showing the dates 5th August - 22 November 1914. The Battalion fought and died at Mons, the Marne, the Aisne, Langemarck, 1st Ypres, Nunne Bosschen and Givenchy in 1914. In 1915 at Givenchy again, Cuinchy, Aubers Ridge where the Battalion led the attack and out of 26 officers and 750 men only 4 officers and 60 men returned unscathed, Loos where the Battalion lost 10 officers and 279 men and won a Victoria Cross, and the Hohenzollern Redoubt. Sometime in 1915 John was wounded and was sent to hospital in Lincoln to recover before being sent back to the front. It was probably during this convalescence that he and the patient Minnie, Ruth Mary Ann Wills, were married on 30 December 1915. 1916 brought more fighting and dying at Albert, Bazentin, Pozieres, Flers-Courcelette and Morval. On 10th July 1917 the Battalion, together with half the Battalion 2nd Kings Royal Rifles was trapped on a narrow strip of sand at the mouth of the Yser near Nieuport, Belgium by a large German force with considerable heavy artillery. At the end of the day the Battalion had lost 20 officers and 570 men killed, wounded or captured. Just over 30 men escaped my swimming to safety. I do not know whether John was captured at this point or if he was one of the few escapees or if he was not even there. The records cannot be found. However, Family remembrances seem to indicate that he fought later that year at Passchendaele. The indisputable fact is that he was captured by the Germans and ended the war in Grossenvedermoor POW Camp. It is probably just as well he was captured as he was really bucking the odds by then. During the War the Battalion, nominally some 750 men, suffered 5091 men killed (1,682), wounded (2,837) and captured (572). For his actions during the War Company Sergeant Major John Pennyfather was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal. The circumstances behind the awards are not known. Mother seemed to remember something about saving a friend from No Man’s Land whilst under fire and something about sticking up for POW rights. This last is backed up by a certificate from the War Office dated in 1920 and signed by Winston S Churchill as Secretary of State for War recognising that he was mentioned in the London Gazette for valuable services whilst a prisoner of war. Unfortunately, the London Gazette states the awards but does not provide the citations.

      John returned to England in 1919 and settled in Plymouth with Minnie finding such work as he could as a general labourer. On 1 March 1920 my Father, Joseph William, their only child was born. I know little of what John did between the wars. He seems to have got work with Plymouth City Council and used to be a deck chair attendant on the Hoe. Certainly during WWII he helped organise the dances that were held on the Hoe. Unfortunately, Minnie died of cancer in August 1940 at the age of 54. Apart from helping organise entertainments one of John’s duties was to help with the identification of air raid casualties and notification of deaths and injuries to the relatives. Plymouth suffered very heavily from bombing and in one period at the end of April, 1941, five nights of raids, with the dropping of some 1,140 bombs and thousands of incendiaries that caused 590 deaths and 427 serious casualties, became personal when John’s mother-in-law, Mary Wills, died on 30 April, due to “war operations”, the euphemism for killed by a bomb. In October 1944 John married Doris Palmer, the daughter of an old friend. John died 30 December 1968 and Doris only eleven months later.

      The images that I remember as a child are of this grey, wizen old man, usually sitting up in bed in his striped pyjamas and dressing gown with a green knitted wool cap on his head. Occasionally he had a cigarette, from a pack of five Wild Woodbines that were kept on the bedside table, along with the lidded plastic bowl that held his false teeth. Doris was a very kind person and though they did not have much, when we visited she had always made jam tarts and there was clotted cream to go with them. I regret that I did not know enough then to understand that I should have talked to them so that their memories would not have been lost.

      by Robert Pennyfather,

  • Sources 
    1. [S278] Robert Pennyfather - Family Tree - 27th July 2007.

    2. [S627] Census 1901 Kensington RG number: RG13 Piece: 24 Folio: 82 Page: 46, (RG number: RG13 Piece: 24 Folio: 82 Page: 46), RG number: RG13 Piece: 24 Folio: 82 Page: 46, 31 Mar 1901.

    3. [S628] Census 1911 Kensington RG14PN158 RG78PN5 RD2 SD2 ED18 SN201, (RG14PN158 RG78PN5 RD2 SD2 ED18 SN201), RG14PN158 RG78PN5 RD2 SD2 ED18 SN201, 2 Apr 1911.

    4. [S141] Information From Mandy Grant - 13th March 2005.


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