At the time of the Great War Tooting Junction was distinct enough to be used in postal addresses, as did my own grandfather’s family. But for record keepers, and some residents, it suffered from a split personality, was it Tooting or Mitcham?
The confusion stems from using the river Graveney as part of the northern boundary of the Mitcham UDC. OS maps of the period show were the split occurs. My grandfather may have always referred to his address as Lyveden Road, Tooting Junction, but this and Robinson Road both fell in Mitcham.
Otterburn St., GlasfordSt. and Renmuir St. may have used Tooting Junction in their address, but they really were decidedly in Tooting Graveney.
On the other side of the London Road the course of the Graveney shifted further north and the newly built streets of Links and Seely Road, and those that ran between them, all fell within Mitcham, yet residents referred to being in Tooting.
The same boundary can be seen today in the ward maps of the London Borough of Merton.
From this potential confusion another small group of forgotten casualties emerges.
Admittedly, for some of these men their only link with Mitcham is through their next of kin whose presence was sometimes short-lived.
For example, Cecil Maurice Alen-Mahon had been born into a military family in Dublin in 1894, his father was a Captain in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. The family settled in Essex after his father retired from the Army. C.M. Alen-Mahon obtained a commission in the Essex Regiment and was gazetted on 6th April 1916. Prior to joining the Royal Flying Corps, his records show he was attached to the Cape Garrison Artillery RFA in South Africa.
Beginning in late summer 1916, and continuing through mid-1917, the RFC made periodic appeals to infantry, cavalry and artillery units for men to transfer to the RFC. Was it this, and inaction, that brought him back to the UK, seeking to take a more active part in the war? But first he had to get his “ticket”, that all important pilot’s license. He had done this by 29th November 1916, RFC cadet flight training would follow.
He entered service with the RFC on 4th December 1916. Cecil married Betty Amy Matthews at St.Luke’s Hammersmith on 17th January 1917, their daughter Eileen was born in the Spring of 1918.
By the end of March 1917, Cecil had been graded as a 1st class pilot. For some unspecified reason Flying Officer 2nd Lt. C.M.A Mohan’s commission was cancelled on 10.9.1917, but he continued to fly as Sergeant Pilot. Late in the war he was posted to 204th Squadron on 13th October 1918 who were operating from Heule in Flanders. It was a Sunday, perhaps not such a bad omen. But just ten days later Cecil Alen-Mahon was reported missing while flying Sopwith Camel D8223. Part of the squadron had been engaged in a dogfight with 12 enemy aircraft near Termonde. He was one of four pilots lost in combat that day. His death was not officially recognised until 26th May 1919. Cecil Maurice Alen-Mahon is the single burial at Baarle Churchyard.
If his widow, Betty, remained in Mitcham after 1918, she did so anonymously. She would remarry in 1930, to Harry L Tyerman.
In contrast, Marine Joseph Walker’s widow remained in Mitcham for at least a decade after the war, living at 41 Lyveden Road. Joseph, who had joined the RMLI in 1903, married Bertha Caroline Basten in Hampshire in 1915, and their daughter Ivy was born in 1916 in Wandsworth. Bertha had lived in Fulham and Norwood as a young girl before her family had settled in Mitcham Road, Tooting, by 1911. Joseph was from Nottingham, where he was a miner before joining the marines. It is doubtful if he spent any significant time in Mitcham. Having served on various vessels during the war, Joseph Walker’s last berth in early 1917 was on HMS Hannibal which was used as a depot ship based in Alexandria, Egypt. Joseph Walker was returning to Europe on board SS City of Paris when it was torpedoed by a German Submarine 46 miles off the Southern French Coast, near Nice, when bound for Marseilles. There were no survivors, 122 lives were lost. Bertha Caroline Basten passed away in Colindale, North London, 0n 28th March 1955, aged 66.
One man in this group with a more certain claim to appearing on the Mitcham War Memorial is George Fredrick Ashforth. George had married Emily Elziabeth Wyatt on 17th August 1913 at Christ Church, Collier’s Wood. Emily Wyatt and been living at 53 Links Road, since 1911. The couple had two daughters, Partricia Emily born in 1915, and Margaret Minnie in 1917. Yet, George Frederick Ashforth remains a man of mystery. Thought to have been born in Central London in July 1876, by 1881 he was living in Camden where he was placed in the St John The Evangelist School at the age of four. For the next three decades George Frederick Ashforth vanishes from public record. He appears on both the 1918 and 1919 electoral roll with his wife at 53 Links Road, but not as an absent military voter. In fact, it is not certain that he ever served overseas, or when he may have joined the Army. He may well have served in one of the Home Service Labour Companies. It is known that there was great dissatisfaction amongst Labour Corps men at the delay in being de-mobbed after the Armistice, with individuals being posted to companies of the London District Labour Centre in the first half of 1919. What is known for sure is that George Frederick Ashforth died on 18th June 1919 at the Grove Military Hospital. Pneumonia and Influenza was still afflicting the country.
Joseph was not buried locally, but rather at the vast Brookwood Military Cemetery. No War Gratuity was paid to his widow Emily, had George Frederick Ashforth been a non-combatant?