Wantage historian Trevor Hancock investigates a post-war image of returning Wantage soldiers in 1919.

WHILE researching for the latest exhibition at the Vale and Downland Museum, Lets Remember Them! about the men from the Wantage area who served in the First World War, my attention was drawn to this signed photograph taken in 1919, by Tom Reveley in his studio in Wantage Market Place. It shows four men, all ex King Alfreds schoolboys, who have returned to Wantage after the war. They were from left to right:

Lt Philip Reveley RAF: Philip Reveley was the elder son of the Wantage photographer Tom Reveley and his wife Mary. Born in 1899, Philip Reveley attended King Alfred's School from 1910 to 1917. Whilst here, he won prize for photography and was in the OTU (Officer Training Unit). On the 16th May 1917 Philip enlisted into the Royal Flying Corps. He went to France as a Lieutenant on 13th June 1918, being posted to No 32 Squadron which was equipped with SE5A fighters and employed to act as escorts for other squadrons on bombing missions. On the 9th August 1918, on a bombing mission, Philip Reveley was wounded by an attack by a German plane and on crash landing was taken prisoner. Repatriated in December 1918, Philip Reveley returned to Wantage where in in 1925 he married Maude Smallbone the daughter of Thomas Smallbone the licensee of the Blue Boar in Newbury Street. Eventually the couple took over the running of the pub and Philip Reveley was the landlord of the Blue Boar for the next 25 years. He divorced and remarried to Doris Wilkins in 1951 and sadly died in 1957.

2nd Lt Leslie Treadwell RFA: Leslie Treadwell came from an established family in the village of Childrey. Leslie’s mother Lydia (nee’ Herman) was the village postmistress and the family lived at Pond Farm. Born in 1897, Leslie Treadwell was initially educated at the village school, and then transferred to King Alfred's, where from he went to London University. Keen on music and singing, Leslie performed at local concerts around Wantage, in aid of local war charities.

In January 1916, Leslie attested for the army and served as a Gunner with B Battery 3rd Reserve Brigade at Bulford Camp, until he received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant on 29th May 1918. Whilst undergoing training for the latter he fractured his shoulder horse-riding, which delayed his posting to the Western Front which came on 7th September 1918. Leslie was to serve on the Western Front with 135 and 137 Heavy Batteries RFA for the last few months of WW1.

Discharged from the army in February 1919, Leslie returned to the UK, where he became a lecturer in history with the LCC Technical Institute now part of London University. Leslie Treadwell married Pearl Rosalind Dark in London on the 1st August 1928 and died at St Guy’s Hospital on 7th August 1965.

2nd Lt Theodore Hervey Noble: Theodore Hervey Noble (usually known as Hervey Noble) was born on the 8th September 1898 in Torquay Devon to Thomas William Noble and his wife Rose (nee’ Heath) where his father was Choirmaster and Organist at St John’s Church Torquay. The family came to Wantage when Thomas was appointed Organist and Choirmaster at St Peter and St Paul’s Church. They lived at 11 Portway Wantage. Hervey was educated at the Royal Grammar School Guildford from 1911-1913 and then at King Alfred’s School from 1913-1916.

Hervey Noble joined the Royal Flying Corps as a cadet on the 25th June 1917. He was a Balloon Officer in the RAF serving with the 18th Balloon Company, at Ovillers on the Somme. During this time he took some leave back in Wantage where he visited King Alfred’s School. Here in October 1918, he showed a number of most interesting and amusing films which were much enjoyed by all. He also presented to the school museum a number of war gifts including a German Officer’s magazine pistol.

Postwar Hervey Noble worked for Cape Oil Co responsible for ordinance and shipping, but this was not his passion. Hervey can be found from the 1920s working as a stage actor and producer for various amateur stage productions including “The case of the frightened lady” and “Ten little Indians” in London. In 1925, he appeared on BBC radio giving a talk entitled “A descent by Parachute” which would be most interesting to listen to if it gives his wartime experiences. T Hervey Noble married on 19th December 1925 to Jessie Isabel Harvey, and died in London on the 21st September 1952.

2nd Lt Mervyn Hyder RE: Mervyn Hyder was born on 28th May 1896 in Shirwell Sussex, the son of Percy and Grace Hyder. An only son, Mervyn had moved to Wantage with his parents in 1905 to live at 60 Newbury Street, when his father Percy took over a Grocers shop in Grove Street. Unfortunately after only 4 years in business in Wantage, Percy Hyder died of pneumonia on the 22nd November 1909. The shop in Grove Street was run by Grace for a while but the business was later taken over by Mr Albert Mielke of Ardington.

Mervyn in the meantime was attending King Alfred’s School where he was proving a gifted scholar and an able sportsman. He was the Senior Prefect at the school in 1914, and captain of the school football and cricket teams. In 1915, Mervyn Hyder won a scholarship to study natural sciences at Keble College Oxford, probably the first Wantage boy at the school to win an open scholarship to Oxford University, according to the headmaster at the time Mr W A Barron.

On the 24th January 1916, Mervyn Hyder enlisted and was posted to the 3rd Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment for training. In March 1916, he was transferred to the Special Brigade, Royal Engineers, and posted to their Depot at Helfault south of St Omer in France. The Special Brigade of the Royal Engineers was the army unit responsible for gas warfare in the British Army.

Mervyn Hyder served as a Sergeant at the Anti-Gas School at Calais until October 1917, where soldiers would be trained in using gas masks and lectures were given on the type of gases used by the enemy.

In October 1917, Mervyn Hyder received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant and was posted to “E” Company of the Special Brigade. In March 1918, he was with them at Marteville, 8km west of St Quentin. . On the 21st March 1918, the area came under German gas and shell bombardment and the men in the forward positions sustained 25 casualties. Amongst the wounded was Mervyn Hyder who had a serious head wound and a gashed hand. Evacuated from the battlefield, he took no further part in WW1. After some time in a base hospital and a medical board Mervyn returned to the UK and was discharged from the army in January 1919.

Post war Mervyn Hyder had a successful teaching career as a science teacher around the UK finishing as a much respected Headmaster of Hastings Grammar School in Sussex. He married Marjorie Waters in 1921 and died in Hastings in 1973.