Lance Corporal John Whiten
1st Bn., The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment)

Town Memorial P6.R2.C1

2nd Royal West [SDGW 1st Bn]
Surrey Regt
Oct 13 1914 [CWGC 31 Oct 1914]

Taken, Not Given, Liam Sumption, L&DLHS

The CWGC record has a different date of death and unit to that shown on the Town Memorial and researched by Liam Sumption - 31st October 1914 v 13th October 1914 on the Memorial ....

Thus Liam's careful notes relating to 13th October 1914 no longer apply about John Whiten's death.

In these he correctly recorded that at the time of his death John Whiten was in 1st not 2nd Queens'. Their War Diary did not record any casualties on the 12th or 14th October 1914, but on the 13th "Stood to Arms in cellars today, owing to enemy shelling. Casualties: Captain MV Fox killed. One Man killed."

Further research

Rank: Lance Corporal
Service No: L/8866
Date of Death: 31/10/1914
Regiment/Service: The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment) 1st Bn.
Panel Reference: Panel 11-13 and 14.

Additional information: -

Soldiers Who Died in The Great War lists him as residing in Paddington, Middlesex and having enlisted in Guildford:
Name: John Whiten
Birth Place: Leatherhead, Surrey
Residence: Paddington, Middx.
Death Date: 31 Oct 1914
Death Location: France & Flanders
Enlistment Location: Guildford, Surrey
Rank: L/Corporal
Regiment: Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
Battalion: 1st Battalion
Number: L/8866
Type of Casualty: Killed in action
Theatre of War: Western European Theatre

Findagrave.com has an image of his name on the Menin Gate Memorial.

Like Leonard, John Whiten has a date of death on the Town Memorial at variance with that provided by CWGC

For the last days of October in the 1st Queens' War Diaries the 28th and 29th have already been covered in looking at Leonard Penfold who was in the same unit. Moving on to the next few days:

"30th The morning of 30th Oct was occupied in withdrawing the 22nd Bde, chiefly 2/Queens, from our front, and besides some shelling, there was little change.

Two Coys KRR came up to support the Bn during the evening & entrenched themselves around farm (1).

At 7pm an attack on C Coy was repulsed.


Before dawn an attack was made on C, B [Coys] & the KRRs but was repulsed. The enemy dug in within 300x of our lines & occupied the trenches vacated by 2/Bn. At 7am our trenches were subjected to a very heavy bombardment which our guns were unable to reply to.

The enemy worked their way into the orchard at (3), & the platoon of KRR supported by 1 platoon Queen's under Lt Tanqueray were driven out. Col Pell DSO ordered a counter-attack but the attempt by KRR failed, thus the enemy got the orchard within 150 yards of our line. Major Watson went back for assistance, but none was available & he then returned to find Col Pell wounded and assumed command.

We were holding our own when B Coy about 10am were driven out of their trenches by machine gun fire from both flanks, & the reserve (2 platoons KRR) were sent for, but could not be found. It is believed that they moved towards D Co without orders.

Soon after this Capt Creek sent a message to say that he had heard the Welch had evacuated their trenches but he was quite all right & could hold on. Major Watson went to A Coy to arrange a counter-attack in the event of the enemy coming in from (1), & himself moved up to the ridge to see how the left was getting on.

When there he met a second messenger from D Coy. The situation then appeared to be thus - Germans about C Coy trenches (no report could be got from this Coy), B Cy trenches evacuated & men retiring from farm (1) with the Germans entering it. Orders were sent to D Coy to retire but before the order arrived the Germans were seen in the village behind D Coy. This orderly came back & said that the Germans were surrounding them.

Maj Watson & Lt Boyd then re-formed what men they could about the houses at (4) and the few men of the KRR went back to rally on their Bn. As the Germans were now in the village the above rallying party moved towards the KRR who were then actually moving back, owing it is said to a report that hostile machine guns were being brought up to enfilade them. There was thus nothing close by to rally on. The LN Lancs also moved back in their turn.

Major Watson & Lt Boyd then rallied men of different regiments & put them into trenches in K 20 (b).

The Guards of 2nd DIV recaptured GHELUVELT during the afternoon but the line of trenches was re-constructed on the W side of the village. About 20 men only were collected & the remainder were either wounded or missing.

It afterwards appeared that very soon after Maj Watson left the farm, that the Germans entered it.

1 Machine Gun, 1 SAA Carts, 2 Tool carts: captured."

In Appendix XV written on 6 November 1914, CF Watson, Capt & Bt Maj Comdg 1/Queens added:

Lt Boyd & myself left the farm L 22 c as the Germans entered it & tried to collect what men we could to rally on , but from the rising ground S of pt.55 I saw the left Coy surrounded & Germans pushing into GHELUVELT behind me. I ordered what men I could to reform behind the 60th Rifles & LN Lancashire Regt but these Regts were in turn enfiladed by machine guns from GHELUVELT & retired back together. If the left had stood firm I have no doubt that most of the Bn could have been collected.

Col PELL DSO was hit and had his leg broken, he was placed in a cavern in the farm yard with our Medical Officer as it was found impossible owing to the shell fire to take him away & when the farm was rushed he was captured.

That evening we collected about 20 men and put them in the trenches of the Welch Regt. Eventually 40 men were collected all that remained.

Sergt Major ELLIOTT did very good service in taking messages under heavy fire & arranging for ammunition supply.

Lt BOYD also behaved splendidly in a very trying situation. Lt BOYD & myself were the only officers who got away.


His life

He was the first professional soldier (already serving in what we would call the Regular Army) from Leatherhead to die in WWI. Had he lived he would have been entitled to have been a member of the Old Contemptibles Association.

De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour 1914-1924,Vol 2 p313
WHITEN, JOHN L.-Cpl, No.8866 Royal West Surrey Regt., s of A Whiten of Paddington, London W.; served with the Expeditionary Force; reported missing 31 Oct. 1914, and now assumed killed.

He is listed on the War Shrine now in the Parish Church Chapel of Remembrance as Jack Whiten Oct 1914 and on the Church Lads tryptich at All Saints'/BFree as Herbert John Whiten. He should have been listed among those who had given their lived for their Country on the Parish Magazine of May 1915 List of Those Serving, but is not there.

Herbert John Whiten was born on 25th March 1889 in Leatherhead, Surrey, England [Epsom District Q2 2a 29] to Albert James Whiten (1847-1913) and Helen Mary Whiten née Wall (1860-1901). He was baptised on 7th July 1893 at SS Mary & Nicholas, the Parish Church of Leatherhead.

His parents were on their second marriages.

They were married at St Marylebone Parish Church, Westminster, on 13th January 1896.

John's father was entered on the Parish Register as Albert James Whiten, 46, Widower, Stud Groom, resident of 58 Marylebone Lane. He signed 'the mark of'.

His mother was entered as Helen Mary Findlay (note surname spelling, also evident in her own clear signature), 36, Widow, same address. Albert's father was William Whiten, a Farmer and Helen's was Philip Wall, a Cab Proprietor.

In the 1891 Census the Whiten family were living in the High Street, Leatherhead:
Albert [G] Whiten (40) Veterinarys Assistant. Note the spelling of Findlay is now Findley:
Helen M Whiten (31)
Charles W F D Whiten (4)
Morgan P G Whiten (3)
Herbert [G] Whiten (3)
Bessie H Findley (13) Step Daughter
Nellie V Findley (7) Step Daughter
Harry P Findley (6) Step Son
Emily A Whiten (16) Niece

In the 1901 Census they were living at Providence Place, Fairfield, Leatherhead:
Albert J Whiten (51) Vet Surgeon Assistant, born Elmstead, Essex
Helen M Whiten (41) wife, born London, Finsbury
Nellie V Findley (18) Step Daughter, Photographic Plate Factory Worker, born Greenwich, Kent
Charles W Whiten (14), Butcher's Assistant, born Leatherhead, Surrey
Morgan P Whiten (13), born Leatherhead, Surrey
Jack H Whiten (12), born Leatherhead, Surrey
Sidney F Whiten (9), born Leatherhead, Surrey
Edith M Whiten (7), born Leatherhead, Surrey

A newspaper report several months after the Census is of his mother's death at home:

WHITEN, Helen Mary
wife of Albert James Whiten, a Butchers Horse Keeper, died 19.10.1901 at Providence Place, Leatherhead UD.

In the 1911 Census John appears in the Return from the 2nd Battalion, The Queens Regiment:
Return of all Commissioned Officers, Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, Trumpeters, Drummers and Rank and File
John Whiten - Private - 22 - Single - 2 Bn The Queens - birthplace Leatherhead, Surrey

In 1913 John lost his father in very sad circumstances:

West Surrey Times
Saturday 22 November 1913

Inquest on a Stableman.

On Saturday morning, a stableman, named Albert James Whiten, was found dead in bed at his lodgings at Mole Cottages, River Lane, Leatherhead. He was 64 years of age, and had been in ill-health for some time past.

An inquest was held at Leatherhead Institute on Monday afternoon by Mr. Gilbert White (Coroner for West Surrey).

Evidence of identification was given by deceased's son, Charles Whiten, of 8, Providence Place, Fairfield. Leatherhead, a carman. He said his father lodged at Mole Cottages, River Lane, the tenant of the house being Mrs. Orchard. Deceased was 64 years of age and had appeared very poorly for the last five months. He had complained of pain in the chest. Deceased had been to work on and off during that time, and he had led a pretty hard life for the last twelve years. On the Thursday previous witness saw his father, and as he looked very ill he suggested he should go into the infirmary. Deceased went into a rage at this suggestion, and went indoors.

Mrs. Orchard said deceased would not let anyone interfere with him, and although he had lodged at her room for over three years she had never been inside his room until Saturday morning. As he did not leave his room early on Saturday morning to go to work, witness sent for the last witness, who found him lying dead in his bed.

Dr. Laurence Potts said be made a postmortem examination of the body, and found that for some time past deceased had been suffering from pthisis [pulmonary tuberculosis or a similar progressive wasting disease]. The body was emaciated. For a long time deceased had been going to work in an unfit condition, and probably went to bed in a very exhausted state, and death was due to syncope [fainting or passing out caused by a temporary drop in the amount of blood that flows to the brain], following on chronic phthisis. With attention, deceased's life could have been prolonged.

The foreman of the jury (Mr. C.R. Phillips) said he had tried to induce deceased to into the infirmary, but he would not do so. He had been living in the town a good many years.

The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the evidence of Dr. Potts.

Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser
Saturday 22 November 1913

The funeral of deceased took place at the Leatherhead Churchyard on Wednesday afternoon, the Rev. B. T. Pitts officiating. The mourners were Mr. Charles Whiten, Mr. Morgan Whiten, and Mr. Jack Whiten (sons). Miss Edith Whiten (daughter). Miss Nellie Findlay (stepdaughter), Mr. Adolphus Whiten (brother) and Mr. E. Bluck. Wreaths were sent by “Morgan and Jack Charlie and Edith Sidney" (Australia), “Nellie and Bessie"; Mrs. Bluck and family; Mr. and Mrs. Hartshorn*; Mr. and Mrs. Bennett, Mr. and Mrs. Orchard, Mrs. Port, and family; Miss M. Coleman, and Miss S. Orchard.

[* Hartshorns were the Butchers in North Street, Leatherhead, next to the Congregational Chapel.]

Herbert John Whiten would have been aged 25 when he died.

After the war

Charles Whiten, Jack's brother, died in April 1974 and is buried in Leatherhead Parish Churchyard:
G650 WHITEN CHARLES d1974 04/04/1974
It is not known if that is also the grave of Jack's mother.

John/Jack Whiten is also remembered on these memorials
Leatherhead Town Memorial
Leatherhead RBL Roll of Honour, Leatherhead Parish Church
Ladies War Shrine, Leatherhead Parish Church
Church Lads Brigade Memorial Tryptich, All Saints Leatherhead
Surrey in the Great War

About De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour, 1914-1924

This data collection contains biographies of over 26,000 casualties of the Great War. Casualties include men (both officers and ranks) from the British Army, Navy, and Air Force. 7,000 of the biographies include photographs.

This Roll of Honour was originally compiled into 5 volumes by the 9th Marquis of Ruvigny and Raineval who was very interested in genealogical research. The amount of information available for each entry varies according to sources used. At the very least, generally the man’s regiment, and place and date of death are provided. However, if the family of a casualty provided further background and additional details, then this information was included in the biography as well, sometimes resulting in very detailed biographies.

While the date range of the collection covers from the beginning of the war to well after its end in 1918, the majority of the entries are of casualties who died in the earlier years. [source: Ancestry]

the website editor would like to add further information on this casualty
e.g. a photo of him and of any recollections within his family

page created 22 Feb 14: updated 26 Feb 14: 28 Dec 20