One in a Million

2271_10_23 folio 470B Photo Ba

Edward Hughes, circa 1900.  One in a million.

2271_10_23 folio 470A2271_10_23 folio 470B

In September 1900, thirteen year old Edward Hughes was sentenced to five years detention at the Royal Philanthropic School in Redhill, Surrey, for stealing cigarettes.  The Register of Admissions (above – click to enlarge, of course) gives us details of his background and his time at the school, but it is the journal below, which begins on the date of his discharge, which is of most interest:

2271_11_5 page 450 2of2

How fortunate for us that reform schools of the time tended to keep tabs on their ‘boys’ after they had been discharged.

2271_11_5 page 450 1of2

The Warden’s letter, mentioned in the final entry (above), may no longer exist, but the envelope does:

2271_11_5 page 450 envelope

So what happened?  A day like many others, I suppose.

In mid-September 1916, the 2nd Bn. Durham Light Infantry was involved in an attack on the German position known as the Quadrilateral, just east of Ginchy on the Somme. The Durhams were to bomb down a trench known as Straight Trench, which would lead them directly into the Quadrilateral itself. The assault began at 7.30 in the evening of the 15th September, an artillery barrage supposedly providing cover for the advance, but it seems that many shells exploded harmlessly behind the enemy lines, and although the Durhams managed to fight their way down five hundred yards of Straight Trench before they were held up, falling darkness preventing any further advance that night.  In the morning, despite some small gains, a German machine gun position proved insurmountable and the attack stalled. Edward Hughes, wounded during the initial advance the previous evening, would die of his wounds later in the day; when the Durhams were relieved by the West Yorkshires that evening they left 30 men dead on the battlefield, 34 more were missing, and a further 99 had been wounded.  The Quadrilateral was finally taken two days later.

Edward Hughes.  One in a million.

All photographs taken by me and used by kind permission of the Surrey History Centre

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One Response to One in a Million

  1. John says:

    An absolutely fascinating story. And title.

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