Regiment: 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex
Service No: G/1610
Date and place of birth: 4th qtr 1893 in Willesden, London
Date and place of death: 29 August 1915
Reuben Frederick Wellen was the second son of Reuben and Eliza (or Elise) Wellen and was born in 1893 in Willesden. In 1891 his father, Reuben (27) a general labourer, a son of a charcoal burner, Harry Wellen, was living in Fernhurst with his parents and three brothers.
Also at the 1891 census, Louisa Strohmenger (27), a teacher of singing, was listed as a lodger at 42 Canonbury Road, Clerkenwell, London. In the 2nd qtr of 1891 Reuben Wellen married Eliza Strohmenger in the Hendon district.
Reuben Wellen died in the early part of 1901. The census that year listed Eliza Wellen (37) a widow, as head of the family, a German subject born in Strasturfe (?). Her seven living children (one had died) were Albert (9), Frederick (7), Horace (6), Ellen (4), Arthur (4), Elizabeth (1) and Eliza (2 months) and they had all been born in Fernhurst, Sussex. All were living in Van Lane (sic), Fernhurst.
In 1911, Elise Wellen (47) was living in Station Road, Midhurst, Sussex with her six youngest children. She was a charwoman on her own account and said she was born in Strasburg, Germany. Frederick Reuben was now aged 17 and was working as an under gardener, as also was brother Horace (16).
Reuben Frederick Wellen enlisted in Midhurst.
When war was declared on 4 August 1914, the 2nd Battalion was stationed at Woking as part of 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division. It was amongst the first to be mobilised in France by the end of the month.
It was involved in the Battle for Mons and the subsequent retreat, the Battles of the Marne and of the Aisnes and the First battle of Ypres.
The Battalion was engaged in two battles in 1915: the Battle of Aubers in May and the Battle of Loos in September. Some records show that on 20 August the 2nd battalion was transferred, as a Pioneer Battalion, to the 48th (South Midlands) Division. It seems there were no direct actions during August, so it is possible that at the time of his death, Reuben Frederick Wellen was involved in ‘off-line’ skirmishes.
The 2nd Battalion fought the entire war on the Western Front and it was during the First battle of Ypres, that the Battalion was given the unofficial name, ‘The Iron Regiment’, an unsolicited testimonial by German prisoners captured on November 1 1914.
Reuben Frederick Wellen was awarded the Victory, British and 1915 Star medals.
Death and commemoration
He was killed in action on 29 August 1915. He is buried in Vermelles British Cemetery, grave I.D.22. He is commemorated on Midhurst War Memorial and Memorial Panels in Midhurst Parish Church.
Subsequent family history
The Memorial Panels in the church list all four brothers as serving in the war.
Albert Henry Wellen is listed as wounded: the only military record found was for the award of Victory and British medals to A/Cpl Albert H Wellen of the Middlesex Regiment, service no. G51175. In 1921 Albert H Wellen married Charlotte Andrews in the Epsom district and they both died in 1963.
Edward Arthur Wellen was killed in action 29 April 1918.
Horace Philip Wellen enlisted in Horsham on 30 November 1916 aged 22. He served in the Labour Corps, service no. 11853. He first went to France on 18 April 1917 and also spent time in Italy. He was discharged on demobilisation with ‘very good character’ on 14 April 1920, having served a total of 3 years and 136 days. Horace P Wellen married Mabel Weller in Midhurst in 1921 and he died in 1962 aged 68 in the Uckfield district.
Eliza Wellen married Henry Lindsay of Station Road, Midhurst in 1915 and she died in Midhurst in 1937 aged 73.