Even More Flesh on the Bones
A Letter from the Front
by Brian Sewell
This article was originally published in the December 2002 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
The July 2000 edition of Soul Search included an article; “Putting Flesh on the Bones”, I had written about my Sewell ancestors residing in the Billericay area of Essex, during the period 1790-1920. It was full of loose ends, a few of which have since been solved but as always, many remain outstanding.
That could have been the end of a very short story. However, Tim Soles, our ever busy editor, has steadily improved & increased the content of our web site & unknown to me at the time, included the above article earlier this year. Soon, and within six weeks of each other, two correspondents contacted Diana Kennedy after reading the article and it was quickly established that we were all related. You can imagine there has been quite an interchange of information between all three of us.
One contact was Ron Edwards, who is descended from Phoebe Sewell, an elder sister of my great grand father, David Sewell. Ron has joined the society & amongst other things, is busy trying to find out why our family seems to have strong connections with West Hackney parish church over a period of years, whilst still living in the Billericay area.
The initial contact was Irene Evans, who has also joined the society. Irene is descended from Joseph Sewell, an elder brother of David. As mentioned in the article, Joseph, a Hay Dealer, was a well known figure in Billericay. He married Jane Pease, her family were carriers in the area. They had a daughter Amelia who married a Charles Ladbrook in 1884. Charles became submersed in the Hay Dealing business. The Ladbrooks had six children, the eldest was Oscar Sewell Ladbrook, whose name I had seen on the World War I Billericay War Memorial. The Ladbrooks had one daughter, Ina. She married Edward George Smith & one their children was Irene.
Unfortunately, Irene’s grandfather Charles died in 1904, aged 43. Irene has a newspaper cutting about the funeral, which in addition to the immediate family, also refers to ancestors of both Ron’s and my family. It seems that Oscar, then only 18, became very involved in his grandfather’s business and when Joseph died in 1914, his Will showed Oscar had been bequeathed the Hay & Straw business. This might have been a good outcome for a 28 year old but world affairs intervened.
Like so many young men, Oscar Sewell Ladbrook joined the army, enlisting in the 16th Bn, Welsh Regiment, became a corporal but sadly died 27th August, 1917 during the Battle of Langemarck.
As mentioned in the previous issue of Soul Search, his name is on the Tyne Cot Memorial at Zonnebeke, Belgium. There is a poignant end to this sad story. In response to a request by Irene’s mother, one of the soldiers in Oscar’s section wrote outlining the circumstances of his death. We are grateful to Irene for allowing us to reproduce the letter below:
A LETTER FROM THE FRONT
Monday, Sept 10th 1917
Mrs I Smith
Your letter requesting news of the unfortunate death of your brother Cpl. O.S. Ladbrook has been handed to me (Pvte. W. Stringer) to give you what details I can.
I was in his section with seven others, and I feel sure I am voicing the general opinion in saying that we all found him more of a comrade than a commander. He was always ready with either advice or assistance, to help any of us who cared to ask.. At the time of his death he was about 10 yards from the shell-hole in which I and two more were posted. He moved forward a little from the cover of his shell-hole in order to give us the word of advance. As he rose to do so he was hit, either by sniper or machine gun bullet. It is hard to say exactly which, as both were flying thickly around us. In either case his death must have been instantaneous and painless, and all that could be done for him was done, but it was to no avail. He died the death of a real soldier leading his men to the last, which anyone who knew him would have expected.
Only three of his section came safely out of the advance but we miss a good comrade and commander. I do not think there is any more to say, except that I personally am very sorry for his death, but at the same time proud to be in the section of one who met his death in so brave & fitting manner.
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