ASHTEAD AND LEATHERHEAD - WWII
Archibald Frederick Stevenson MiDCIVILIAN
Civilian War Casualty
ARCHIBALD FRANK STEVENSON
Civilian War Dead
Died 07 May 1941
Age 59 years old
LEATHERHEAD, URBAN DISTRICT
[Buried at Leatherhead Parish Churchyard]
Home Guard; Air Raid Warden; of White Wicket. Son of Edward John Walter and Adeline Ethel Stevenson, of Stoke Rectory, Stoke, Devonshire; husband of Isabel Stevenson. Injured 19 March 1941, at White Wicket; died at Blind School Hospital.
He died on 7 May 1941 in Leatherhead Emergency Hospital (Royal Blind School), Surrey. His death was "due to war operations" as his Death Certificate describes his fatal wounding during the bombing of his home at White Wicket, Ermyn Way, Leatherhead which took place on 19 March 1941. It is not known if Isabel was injured.
He is buried in Leatherhead Parish Churchyard and is one of the Civilian War Dead on the CWGC database. He was in the Home Guard and was an Air Raid Warden.
Research by Ashtead members of the Leatherhead & District Local History Society shows that there were other casualties and that the bomb was actually a parachute landmine:
19 March 1941
Canadian war diaries report Two land mines dropped near Leatherhead breaking some windows in Ashtead (including at Gayton House)"
1. Parachute mine destroys St. Andrews School, Grange Road. Five nuns injured.
2. Parachute mine falls in Ermyn Way. James Winspear (53) of 4 New Road, Ermyn Way died at Blind School Hospital (Kings College Hospital evacuated). Son of the late James & Elizabeth Winspear; husband of Maud Winspear. 27 injured [amongst whom, presumably, Archibald Stevenson].
James Winspear's daughter, Lilian Emmeline (Welch), recorded an IWM interview produced in September 2000. She said that the Winspears were evacuees from Southwark and had only been here [at 4 New Road, Ermyn Way] about a month. Her father heard strange noises which he though might be incendiaries and went to investigate but came back saying he could see nothing. It turned out to be a landmine which was caught by its parachute in a huge tree at the bottom of the garden. The noises were, she said, branches breaking. He came back in and was standing up, Emmeline was sitting down. The mine finally fell to the ground and exploded. Her father was injured and died that night in hospital, Emmeline had not a scratch. He had been working with the Ex-Services Welfare Society at Milner House in Ermyn Way. He was interred at Portsmouth where the family came from originally.Archibald Stevenson's death can now be added to that research. Possibly in his role as Air Raid Warden he was walking over to investigate what was going on nearby.
Archibald Frank Stevenson was born July 1881 at Trelawney, Torquay, Devon and baptised on 26 October 1881. He was the son of Edward John Walter Stevenson (18321912), Clerk in Holy Orders and Adeline Ethel Murray (18411937).
He was educated at St John's School, Leatherhead and played a major role in the Old Johnians Club. His son Donald was also educated there. Archibald Stevenson was clearly much appreciated by members of the Old Johnians Club:
THE JOHNIAN July 1941, pp26-27
A F Stevenson.
A. N. Evans writes: " 'Steve' was very much my senior. He had left long before I came to St. John's. During the last war he was busy and it was not till I joined
the O.J. Club after the war that I really met him. It did not take long for anyone to realise what he had done and was doing for the O.J. Club. Here was a man who seemed always in a good temper, his work always admirably done, tactful, helpful and kindness itself to the juniors coming into the Club. It is no exaggeration to say that his influence must have spread over the whole world as he kept in touch with Old Johnians in every corner of it.
He belonged to that generation of giants who made St. John's a name to be respected in the Arthur Dunn Cup. When the cricket week was revived after the war, he was there, ready to play or stand down, umpire or roll the pitch anything that would help the game and give pleasure to others was happy work for him. Usually a tribute to an Old Boy is a tribute to a name for those at present in the school. But there is a difference here. Living close to the School, with his son at the School, the present generation must have known him well and realised the fineness of his character and his devotion to the School; and the whole School in a very real sense can mourn his loss and at the same time cry 'Well played Steve, and thank you.' "
A contemporary, W. W. Thomas, adds: "That was Steve as we always knew him. He was a 'regular' at all O.J. gatherings. The 'Roast and Boiled' at the Mitre OJ. Cricket and Football matches found him there. From 1906 on, an OJ. team was run every Saturday for Cricket and Footer at various times he was Secretary of each Club. After the 1914/18 war his help in reconstituting the OJ. Club was invaluable and he was Secretary of the Club for some years. When the Old Johnian Lodge was founded, he was the First Initiate and he became a Past Master and most helpful Assistant Secretary. To him nothing was too much trouble and he was always ready and willing to help others."
G. G. Compton writes: "It was a great shock to many of us to learn that Stevenson's home had been bombed and completely wrecked and that he himself had received grave injuries. He was for many weeks in the hospital to which he was taken, during which we all hoped and prayed for his recovery. But complications arose which enhanced his already weakened condition, and when an operation was found to be imperative if his life was to be saved he had not the strength to survive it. He was buried at Leatherhead, and the number of O.J.s at his graveside was a fitting tribute to his memory. Our deep sympathy goes out to Mrs. Stevenson and to her son and daughter in their bereavement.
Few boys were at Leatherhead for so long a period as Stevenson for he came to the School in 1891 and did not leave till 1900. He obtained a Dean Boyd Exhibition on leaving, took up Accountancy as a profession, and in due course became a fully qualified Chartered Accountant. He worked as such for some years in the City, afterwards joining the Board of Inland Revenue, in which department he held an important position at the time of his death. At the outbreak of the Great War he was a sergeant in the Artists' Rifles, and served with that regiment in France during 1914-15. He was subsequently commissioned as Lieutenant in the R.N.V.R., and was with the Royal Naval Division at Gallipoli in 1915-16, afterwards working in the Admiralty Intelligence Division from 1916 to 1918.
From the time he left school he was always an enthusiastic member of the O.J. Club, of which he was for some years Hon. Secretary and Cricket Secretary. He was elected President in 1921 and 1922. He was also a member of the O.J. Lodge and of the School Mission Committee. Though not brilliant in either game, in his younger days he was untiring in his energy on the football field and when the cricket season came round he could always be relied upon as a steady opening bat and a useful change bowler.
' Steve' (as he will always be affectionately remembered) was perhaps more widely known to his contemporaries and to succeeding generations during the past forty years than almost any other Johnian of his time, and there will be widespread regret at his untimely death. His genial comradeship and his enthusiasm for the School and Club were characteristic, as was the hospitality which he and his wife so often extended to Johnians old and young. His death is a great loss to the School and the Club."
By kind permission of St John's School, Leatherhead
He enlisted in the Artists Rifles and was sent to France with 1st Battalion on 26th Oct 1914. He was commissioned as Lieutenant in RNVR Hawke Battalion 30 January 1915. He was wounded on 5 June 1915 and was Mentioned in Despatches, signed by Winston Churchill 6 March 1916 for bravery at Gallipoli.
He was appointed Lieutenant at HMS President [HQ of the RNVR] for special service with the Intelligence Division 1916-18.
In 1918, as a Chartered Accountant (he had qualified before the war) he wrote Income Tax for Service Men. He went on to hold a senior position at the Board of Inland Revenue.
More about his family can be seen on his son Flying Officer Donald Stevenson's page.
the website editor would like to add further information on this casualty
e.g. a photo of him, his headstone, and any recollections of him
last updated 28 Jul 2020: 2 Dec 20