Today’s post looks at another World War One soldier who was featured in the ‘Great War Stories’ exhibition. In contrast to other soldiers we have featured, Stanley Gashion was photographed by David Knights-Whittome as a seven year old child along with his siblings Margaret and Anthony. Rather than starting with a photographic image of a soldier in uniform, research into this plate began with the recognition of this individual’s surname on a local war memorial. Little would we have known otherwise of his later path in life. This research was completed by Jane Allen, Service Manager for the Heritage team at Sutton.
Lieutenant Stanley Michael Gashion, 1st Battalion, The East Surrey Regiment
Lived at Delamere, Grange Road, Cheam
Stanley was born in 1897 in St Pancras to Michael and Maude Gashion. His father was an insurance broker. By the time Stanley was seven the family had moved to Grange Road in Cheam where he attended Homefield Preparatory School.
From 1910-1915 he attended Epsom College where he was a private and section commander in the OTC (Officers’ Training Corps). It was the Headmaster at Epsom who recommended him for a cadetship at the Royal Military College (RMC). With the start of war the fees for attending the college were dropped. The age of entry was set at 16½ and the normal 18 month course was reduced to three months emergency training – purely military. The senior cadets were commissioned immediately forgoing their final phase of training.**
We know from official records that at a medical board on the 2nd March 1915 he was deemed ‘unfit’ as he was 1½ inches below the standard chest measurement. But in the doctor’s opinion “is likely to attain the required standard by the time comes for him to be appointed a commission.” He was therefore passed fit and commenced training. On the 18 July 1916, as a Gentleman Cadet of the RMC, he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in 1st Battalion, The East Surrey Regiment and embarked for France on the 27 August.
The records of the East Surrey Regiment tell us that during the autumn of 1916 the 1st Battalion saw action in the various Somme battles: Guillemont and Leuze Wood and Morval. During the first part of 1917 the Battalion was in trenches in the Basseé sector of France before moving on to participate in the Battle of Arras in April and May 1917.
It was here that Stanley was killed near Vimy Ridge. However, there was some confusion over his death. His father, no doubt heartbroken, refused to believe that Stanley had been killed in action as initially he was reported missing. There were contradictory reports of his death. A Private Butler claimed to have seen him dead at the top of a shell hole, and Private Legg claimed to have witnessed his death but then altered his initial story to state that he had seen Stanley in a trench and he appeared to be dead but couldn’t be sure. Another 2nd Lieutenant saw him going towards a wood and then lost sight of him. A Corporal Munday corroborates this statement.
Stanley’s father clung to this as evidence that he might be alive. Correspondence between Stanley’s father and the War Council continued until the following March 1918 when Stanley’s death was officially accepted by his father and hence the authorities were able to close his file.
**“This greatly reduced Course of Instruction was established for the purpose of commissioning as many officers as possible in the shortest possible time to meet the shortage of officers in the British Expeditionary Force at the outbreak of war. Later the unexpectedly large numbers of casualties sustained by the British Expeditionary Force at the Battles of Mons, the Marne and Ypres in late 1914, together with the obvious need to expand the army made this shortage even more acute and led to the War Office ordering the College to increase its cadet establishment.” Sandhurst Occasional Paper #17, “Sandhurst and the First World War: The Royal Military College 1902-1918” by Dr Anthony Morton, 2014
Stanley Gashion’s story can also be seen in a YouTube video created as part of Honeywood Museum’s digital storytelling project. This video was published on 10 Jul 2014 by Jane Allen.