Sapper Richard Snowden Nutley

Richard Nutley, wearing his Silver War Badge
Richard Nutley, wearing his Silver War Badge

Regiment: 2nd Home Counties Field Company, Royal Engineers.
Service No: 878
Date & place of birth: 19 October 1882, in Brighton, Sussex
Date & place of death: 7 July 1919 (aged 36) at Heyshott

Richard Nutley had twice been invalided out of the army on medical grounds and died at home after the war of heart failure. He was a married man with four children. Although he has a war grave in St James’s churchyard, he is not commemorated on the Heyshott war memorial.

Family background

Richard Snowden Nutley was born at Kensington Street, Brighton on 19 October 1882, one of a pair of twin sons born to Richard Nutley (1854–1896) and his wife Elizabeth née Shawyer (1861–1949). Richard senior had been born in Brighton and married Elizabeth, from Hunston near Chichester, at Chidham (a few miles west of Chichester) on 20 September 1880. At the 1881 census, the couple were living at Belmont Place in Brighton; William gave his occupation as “shopman, greengrocer, unemployed”.

Richard Snowden and his twin brother, Henry John, were born on 19 October 1882 and baptised on 3 December at the Chapel Royal in North Street, Brighton. In 1891, the family were living at Lynton Street in Brighton, although Henry was living with his Aunt Sarah (Peskett) in Chidham; Richard senior was now working as an agricultural labourer. Later that year, Elizabeth had a daughter (also Elizabeth), who died before reaching her first birthday. A third son, Frank Harold, was born in December 1896, eight months after his father had died in April, aged 42.

At the 1901 census, Elizabeth had moved a short distance to Brading Road in Brighton, with her sons Richard and Frank, and was working as a housekeeper. Henry was still living with his Aunt Sarah in Chidham.

According to the military pension records, Richard married Sarah Jane Goldsmith in Horsham on 3 August 1907, although this “marriage” was never registered. Sarah  had been born at Warnham, near Horsham in 1888, the daughter of an unmarried housekeeper.

In April 1911, the couple were living at Clarendon Road, Hove, where Richard was employed as a “house agent, porter”, with their first two daughters, Doris (born 21 November 1908) and Kathleen (born 5 December 1910). The couple had three more children: Elizabeth (born 1 November 1912), Alexandra (born 5 June 1914, died 14 April 1916) and their only son, Richard Snowden (born 24 September 1916).

Military service

His first attempt to enlist was on 27 May 1913 when he volunteered to join the Royal Field Artillery. On his attestation, he gave his address as Arthur Street, Hove and his occupation as a window cleaner. He also declared that he had previously spent three years in the 1st Sussex Royal Garrison Artillery (Volunteers). Although he was recruited into the 3rd Sussex Brigade (1st Home Counties Division) of the RFA, he was discharged on medical grounds on 13 June 1913. No explanation is given on the medical inspection report, which merely confirms him as unfit for the Territorial Force.

On 10 August 1914, he re-enlisted at Eastbourne recruitment centre, this time volunteering to join the Royal Engineers. His address was now Wordsworth Street, Hove and his occupation a painter. He gave his age as 30 years 10 months, whereas he was actually a year older. He declared his service in the 1st Sussex Royal Garrison Artillery (Volunteers), but not his failed attempt to join the Royal Field Artillery. He passed his medical examination which declared that his heart and lungs were healthy.

He joined the 2nd Home Counties Field Company of the Royal Engineers as a sapper with service number 878. It was not long, however, before his health was found wanting and he was discharged on 25 September 1914. Following his discharge, he was later awarded the Silver War Badge – this was introduced in September 1916 and was issued to military personnel who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness.

In his application for an increase in his army pension in May 1916, he stated that he had good health before he enlisted and that, while serving at Canterbury in September 1914, he developed rheumatism in his legs and feet, and painter’s colic. The full medical examination in July 1916 showed that he had an enlarged heart and a loud systolic murmur and pre-systolic murmurs as well as slight oedema of the skin. The medical officer gave his opinion that the disability was not the result of military service but was aggravated by ordinary military service.

His statement gave his address as Kimberly Terrace, Southwick and that he worked occasionally as a market gardener for Messrs Cook & sons of Kingston by Sea, earning between 6/- and 7/6 per week (30p to 37p).

He appealed in April 1918, claiming that he had contracted rheumatism through “being called out of a warm bed for night marching and standing about without food for two or three hours, and getting cold in the morning”. His commanding officer refuted these claims, stating that there was “no exceptional exposure and (Nutley) was in possession of regulation amount of clothing”. Rather paradoxically, the C.O. also claimed that “the man came to France with (the Royal Engineers) on 22 December 1914 and was admitted to hospital on 5 July 1915. During that period (he) was employed as section cook and company tailor, thus doing no work up the line”. On hearing the appeal, the panel awarded him a pension of 13/9 (69p) per week.

On 29 July 1919, his pension was increased to 24/6 (£1.22) per week (backdated to 12 May) in view of his continuing inability to work. Unfortunately, this came three weeks after his death.

Death & commemoration

Grave of Richard Nutley in Heyshott churchyard
Grave of Richard Nutley in Heyshott churchyard

Although he had spent nearly his entire life in Brighton and Hove, Richard Nutley was living at Hoyle Lane in Heyshott when he died on 7 July 1919, aged 36 years. His death certificate gives the cause of death as “morbus cordis” (heart disease); his occupation was given as “market gardener, sapper RE”.

He is buried at the east of St James’s churchyard in Heyshott; his grave is marked with an official war grave.  There are four other First World War graves in the churchyard but these are in a group at the opposite end of the cemetery. Although he died some time before the War Memorial window in St James’s Church was dedicated, he is not commemorated thereon.

Other family members

Richard’s widow, Sarah,  married Percy Taylor in 1919,  with whom she had two further daughters. She is believed to have died in  1952.

Richard and Sarah’s son, Richard, married Elsie Bacon in August 1938 (her brother, Frederick was married to Kathleen Nutley) and had twelve children (seven boys and five girls), several of whom are still living. Their first child, Richard, became the fifth successive member of the family to bear that name.

His twin brother, Henry, enlisted in the Royal Navy in September 1906 and remained in the navy until September 1928, reaching the rank of Senior Petty Officer; he died at Emsworth in 1976. Their younger brother, Frank, enlisted in the Royal Navy in November 1915 and was discharged in January 1921, having served as a stoker; he died in Brighton in 1978.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project