Reginald Harold Kirby born 1895 in Leytonstone

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Reginald Harold KirbySummary

Reginald was the youngest but one in a large family. He served as a gunner in the First World War, based at one of the forts that protected the Thames. Later he was an office clerk by occupation. Unfortunately his life was cut short not long after his marriage to Ivy COOK. He died at about the age of 35, leaving a single son.

Parents and family

His marriage certificate gives his father as Samuel John KIRBY, Dairyman. From his Christening his mother is known to be Minnie Charlotte PRITCHARD.


Birth date of 1895 is confirmed by an online record of a birth certificate registered in West Ham for June Q 1895 4a 301

His Christening was on 15 May 1895 and at Holy Trinity, Harrow-green, Essex. Reginald Harold, to Samuel John & Minnie Charlotte KIRBY, residents of Leytonstone, Essex

Childhood and education

On the 1901 Census he was at 78 Cobden Rd, Leytonstone, Essex. At that time the family comprised -
On the 1911 Census he was at 78 Cobden Rd, Leytonstone, Essex. At that time the family comprised -

[The above details are believe to be correct, but have yet to be verified against a good clean image.]

Military service

Odd sections of Reginald's war record papers are badly water damaged in places, but the following information can still be gleaned from it.
Name: Kirby, Reginald Harold
Regt. No.: 118875
Rank: Gunner
Unit or Corps: 2 Company Essex & Suffolk R. G. A. (i.e. Royal Garrison Artillery)

On his pre-enlistment medical sheet, dated 11/11/14 and carried out at Stratford, it gave the following
Apparent age 19 years and 6 months
Height 5'8"
Chest expanded 34 1/2" with 2 inch expansion
Vision and physical development both good

He was passed as fit for service in the Essex & Suffolk R. G. A. on 14 Nov 1914

On 17 Nov 1914, at Coalhouse Fort, he signed Army Form E.624 (an agreement signed by territorial recruits prepared to serve overseas). The 2 Co. Essex & Suffolk R.G.A. were based at Coalhouse Fort, a Victorian fort in East Tilbury that protected the Thames approach to London. They had both heavier guns to deal with large ships and lighter ones designed to combat torpedo speedboats. The fort also acted as an observer post, with control over a series of mines, especially those in the navigable channel, which were controlled from the shore.

The service record on the rear shows the following details (for problems with the consistency of this see below)

Place From To Years Days
Home 14-11-14 26-3-18 2 188
Home 27-3-18 25-2-19
Home British 26-2-19 26-3-19
[blank] 27-3-19 31-3-20 1 4
This list is rather anomalous, as later paperwork refers to his Theatre of War as France.

Within his papers is another service record table, seemingly cut from the record of one James Dickie (his name appears on the reverse, together with his apparent age of 18, and height of 5'9"). The dates on it seem to dovetail with those on Reginald's record but also showing periods in France. The inclusion of this may be intended to show the correct record of his unit's service.

Place From To Years Days
Home 14-11-14 20-5-17 2 188
France 21-5-17 26-3-18
Home 27-3-18 30-4-15
France 11-10-18 24-2-19
Home 25-2-19 31-1-20 1 36
Leave UK 26-15  9 2/18
Total 5 139
Hospital 22-25 3/18

His record of service offences confirms that his conduct was very good,

On 26.8.16, one Major Frederick R Dieck in the R.G. aa, confirmed that there was no entry. There was a monument at Coalhouse Fort, unveiled on 6th September 1916, the east face of which read "Coalhouse Fort: No. 2 Co. R.G.A. ; O.C. Major P Lea Birch. No. 2 Co. E and S R.G.A. (T) ; O.C. Major F R Dieck. No. 2. Co. L.E.E., R.E. (T); O.C. Capt. G. W. C. Kaye. Det. 1st Reserves G.B. Suffolk Regiment." The 2nd Company London Electrical Engineers operated the searchlights.

On 1.1.17 one D Joann?? Lt. for Major, R.G.A.O.C. 88th A.A. Co. R.G.A., confirmed that there was no entry on his service offences card. The 88th A.A. Co. R.G.A. were a Siege Battery equipped with heavy howitzers. They were first deployed overseas to France, on 20 May 1916.

The record of service offences also carries a couple of stamps:

The Royal Arsenal was at Abbey Wood, but so too was a military hospital.

Two woundings are listed on his Military History Sheet (which also gives his next of kin as his father, John Kirby  [=Samuel John Kirby] of 78 Cobden Rd, Leytonstone).

A latter record of documents on Army Form B. 104-53 (Inside Sheet.) sheds more light on the investigation of his gas attack woundings. At the top it is annotated "Gnr alt 108/Anti Aircraft Ser S Ballif R.G.A." and "N of K Father Mr J Kirby [water damaged] Cobden Rd Leytonstone"

Registry No. From whom Purport and date Action
A40/185/3874 W O Gas List HA 3874 W Gas Register Adm 10
Gen H [???]ew 23/3/18
N of K inf. [i.e. Next of Kin informed]
Certif of demile Z21 15 tran 10-4-19

M of P. London
of 1-6-22
This Office 7-6-22
Require Dem 'Docs'

A40/126/1766 W O Gas List
Wd [?]t duty 21/12/19 No action 12 Jan 19
44 of 125/3838 W. O. Gas List
HB 10818
Wd. Adm V.A.H. Cheltenham
Area 27/3/18
M.U.S. 12/4/18
PMA 791 9/4/18

Office T B103 to R. A. Com Dep 14.5.18

The Z21 mentioned above was a “Certificate of Transfer to Reserve on Demobilization”. Wd. = Ward; V.A.H. = Voluntary Aid Hospital (Cheltenham Racecourse was converted into one)


The Great War ended with the Armistice of 11 November 1918. On 27 Feb 1919, at No. 1 Dispersal Unit, Purfleet, he received paperwork (A Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity) granting him 28 days furlough. This gave his address for pay as 78 Cobden Rd, Leytonstone, his Rank as Gnr, his Unit as D A A Coy, his Theatre of War as France, his birth year as 189[water damaged], his Medical Catagory as A, His Place of Rejoining in an Emergency as P[a?]reham, his Specialist Military Qualification as G A A. This seems to have been the first step in his demobilisation.

Newspapers in February 1919 reported railway strikes affecting this Purfleet unit, though it is not clear if he was caught up in this.

War medals

The National Archives have a copy of his medal card, under the name Reginald H. KIRBY, confirming that he served in Royal Garrison Artillery as a Gunner (Regimental No. 118875) and that he was awarded the B.W. and V Medal, the listing was on page B 6843). Reginald's son, Roy, would later enlist in the artillery, so this strengthens the case for this record relating to his father. The details are awaiting transcription. The award was a typical one of “Mutt and Jeff,” or the British War Medal and the Victory medal. The former was awarded to all British and Imperial Forces who either entered a theatre of war or entered service overseas between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918 inclusive, the later was a bronze medal awarded to all of the allies.

Application for a disability pension

On 19 Jun 1922, at the R. G. A. (T.A.) office in Dover, he submitted an application for a disability pension on the following grounds

Stating that he was single and living at 78 Cob[den Road], Leytonstone he gave his next of kin as his father J Kirby of [78] Cobden Road, Leytonstone

In those days neurasthenia, also known as nervous exhaustion, was an ill-defined medical condition characterized by lassitude, fatigue, headache, and irritability, and associated chiefly with emotional disturbance. Today it might be recognised in a returning soldier as post-traumatic stress disorder, but not back then. It was considered that the gas poisoning had not resulted in any disability, whilst the neurasthenia could not be attributed to the service. His application was therefore rejected with no grounds for appeal.


By the time he married he was an office clerk.

Marriage to Ivy COOK

On 6th Sept 1924 he married Ivy Minnie Elizabeth COOK at St John's, the parish church at Leytonstone, Essex. The marriage certificate gives the following details -
Groom : Reginald Harold KIRBY, age 29, Bachelor, Clerk, residing at [32]8 High Street [Leytonstone], son of Samuel John KIRBY, Dairyman
Bride: Ivy Minnie Elizabeth COOK, age 23, Spinster, no occupation, residing at 18 Tavistock Rd, Stratford, daughter of George COOK (decd), Engineer.
In the presence of  F. [or T.] KIRBY & H. M. COOK
(Registered 1924, Sep Quarter, West Ham, 4a 238)

Reginald and Ivy Ivy and Reginald enjoying the sun on the beach at Southend, Essex. At the time this was taken I am told that he was suffering from a wound acquired during the 1st World War.

Reginald with his son and possibly his parents They had not been married long when their only son was born. Here Reginald is holding the baby. The identity of the older couple is still subject to conjecture.  Reginald on the beach Reginald spending some quality time with his son.
Proud parents Reginald (far right) and his son Roy Reginald Kirby. Ivy Cook paddling with her son Ivy Kirby with her son. 

Reginald saw active service in the First World War and there is only one entry in the National Archives’ Medal Card Index for a Reginald H Kirby. This applies to a Gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery, with a regimental number of 118875.  The card lists the Victory Medal and the British War Medal, as would be expected of anyone who served in an operational unit in a theater of war between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918. This card probably refers to the right individual but this has yet to be corroborated.

Last Will and Testament



Reginald died in 1930. The death was registered in June Q, 1930 in West Ham. Vol 4a 256. Name Reginald H Kirby. Age 35. There is a family tradition that he died from blood poisoning related to an old war wound, however this has yet to be corroborated. Tragically Reginald left his wife a widow before his son reached four. Their story is continued in the biography of Ivy Minnie Elizabeth COOK.



Descendants and notable relations

To be continued...

Any transcripts and images on this page are Copyright R I Kirby 2005 unless stated otherwise.