Private Tinney Keat Sweet

Regiment: 1st Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
Service No: L/9635
Date & place of birth: 3rd qtr. 1893 in Endellion, Cornwall
Date & place of death: 18 December 1915 (aged 22) in Peshawar, India

 

Tinney Sweet was born in Cornwall and moved with his family to Cocking in about 1901. He enlisted as a regular soldier in 1910, aged 16, and was sent to serve in India. He died at Peshawar, not from the result of enemy action, but of pneumonia following acute tonsillitis.

Family background

Tinney Keat Sweet was born at Endellion, near Port Isaac in Cornwall in mid-1893, the eighth child (of ten). His parents were John Sweet (1855–1922) and Sarah née Keat (1857–1911). His father was described as a tin miner in the 1871 census when, aged 16, he was living with his parents in Bodmin. John’s father, also John, was described as a railway engine driver.

John and Sarah were married in the summer of 1877. At the 1881 census, John and Sarah were living in St Minver in Cornwall, with two sons, John, aged 3, and Joseph, aged 1. By this time, John was employed as a farm labourer. Ten years later, the family were at the same address, by which time John junior had (presumably) died and the family comprised the two parents with five children, Joseph, aged 10, Edith, aged 8, Caleb, aged 6, Mabel, aged 4, and Gilbert, aged 1.

By 1901, the family had moved a short distance to Lanteglos, near Camelford. Joseph had died in 1895, aged 15, and the family comprised the other four children, plus Sophia, aged 9, Tinney, aged 7, Lily, aged 4, and William, aged 1. John was now described as a “yardsman on a cattle farm”, while Edith was employed as a cook and Caleb as a waggoner on a farm.

Shortly after the 1901 census, the family moved to West Sussex, where the death of William, aged 6, was registered at Midhurst in the March quarter of 1906.

In late 1902, Edith married Walter James Strotton from Cocking; by the 1911 census, the couple were living at Manor Farm, Heyshott, with no children. Mabel married Arthur Sherwin in the spring of 1909 and in 1911, they were also resident at Heyshott, at Leggs Lane with their son, also Arthur, aged 1.

In early 1911, Sarah died aged 53. By the time of the 1911 census, Tinney had enlisted and the family only comprised John, his two sons, Caleb and Gilbert, and the youngest daughter, Lily, aged 14. John and his family were now living at Nippers Cottage in Cocking with John being described as a farm labourer. Caleb, aged 26, was employed as a cowman and Gilbert, aged 21, as employed as a waggoner on (a) farm.

Military service

Tinney enlisted at Chichester on 12 February 1910; on his enlistment attestation, he gave his age as 18 years although his actual age was about 16 years 6 months. At the time of his enlistment, he was 5 ft. 6½ in. and weighed 112 lb. (8 st.) with a chest measurement of 33½ in. He had blue eyes and brown hair and gave his religion as Church of England.

He initially joined the Royal Sussex Regiment Special Reserve before joining the regular Royal Sussex Regiment a year later, on 17 February 1911. He was then sent to the Curragh training camp in County Kildare, Ireland.

In the summer of 1910, he spent eight weeks in hospital with appendicitis which caused a large pelvic abscess.

On 23 March 1911, he suffered a serious accident in the gymnasium when he fell from a vault, dislocating his right shoulder. The subsequent board of enquiry found that the accident was not Tinney’s fault and that he was “in no way to blame“. The medical record noted that the injury was “of a severe nature” and “may interfere with his future efficiency as a soldier“.

During his time at Curragh, he had several minor disciplinary offences; on 18 November 1911 and again on 16 December, he was Confined to Barracks for three days for having a dirty rifle on parade. On 28 December, he was Confined to Barracks and ordered to pay compensation for “urinating his bedding“.

On 16 January 1912, now at Woking barracks, he was again Confined to Barracks for three days for “irregular conduct in the ranks, i.e. laughing while checked“. Six months later, on 24 July, he was again in trouble and was Confined to Barracks for 10 days for “using obscene language“.

In 1912, he spent six months as a company cook and six months as groom to Capt. Lloyd; in 1914 he spent a further six months as a cook. At this time, he was described as “sober, intelligent and hard-working“.

By October 1913, he was in Peshawar in north-west India where he was once again Confined to Barracks for three days for missing “school“.

In April 1915, he was inoculated against typhoid before being posted back to India, arriving at Cherat on 7 May 1915. Cherat was a hill station in the North-West Frontier province of India. In November 1915, he was described as a hospital orderly.

Death and commemoration

On 14 December 1915, he was taken ill complaining of a sore throat. On examination, it was found that he had a greatly enlarged right tonsil and a weak heartbeat. He died at 3 a.m. on 18 December, with the cause of death being given as “pneumonia following acute appendicitis“.

He was buried in Peshawar and is commemorated on the India Gate memorial in Delhi and on the Cocking War Memorial.

Other family members and subsequent family history

Two of his elder brothers also served in the army during the war but survived: Caleb (born 1885) joined the South Wales Borderers before transferring to the Royal Sussex Regiment; Gilbert (born 1890) served with the Royal Sussex Regiment and the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

After the war, Tinney’s effects and service medals were sent to his father, who was then living at Crypt Cottage, Cocking. Tinney’s father, John, was a member of the committee responsible for the erection of Cocking War Memorial in 1920; he died in late 1922.

Tinney’s sister, Edith, had married Walter Strotton in 1902; his brother, George Leonard Strotton, was killed in Flanders in November 1918 and is also commemorated on the Cocking War Memorial. Edith lived in the area until she died on 27 February 1956.

Tinney’s brothers, Caleb and Gilbert, died in 1946 and 1947 respectively.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project