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The Life Of Frederick Jury

September 12, 2015
by Nicola White

Courtesy of Nicola White, author of Tide Line Art, I publish this edited version of the story behind a name on a luggage tag she discovered in the river last month, piecing it together by consulting records available online.

It was a simple mud-larking find at Enderby Wharf one evening after work in Greenwich on Thursday 27th August 2015. The luggage tag was a small piece of metal so insignificant I almost passed it by but then I noticed, through the mud and drizzle, an engraved name “F. Jury” and a faded address. So I popped it in my bag for closer examination. “Perhaps it was a shop in Woolwich?” I thought.

On returning home, I cleaned it off and the engraving was revealed as“F. Jury, 72 Woolwich Road, SE” – 72 Woolwich Rd is in Greenwich, SE10. Occasionally, the discovery of an innocuous find in the Thames can be compared to opening a book – here is a brief outline of the life of Frederick Jury, owner of the luggage tag.”- Nicola White


Frederick Jury was born in Bermondsey in 1873 to Frederick (Senior) and Julia Jury. Fred grew up in Maidstone and Aylesford, where his parents originated, and he had a younger brother William. The Electoral Register of 1901 revealed that by the age of seventeen, he was a gas stoker and renting a first floor furnished room at Sarah Carter’s house at 572 Old Kent Rd, where (according to the 1901 census) she ran a coffee shop.  Sarah married James Carter at the age of twenty-two and they had two children but, by the time Fred came along, James had died and she and Fred fell in love. The register of marriages records that, on 24th August 1901, Fred and Sarah married. He was twenty-nine and she was forty-two years old. They did not have any children of their own.

So where does “72 Woolwich Road,” the address engraved on the luggage tag that I found on the Thames foreshore come into it? According to the Electoral Register of 1904, Fred and Sarah had moved to this address and Sarah ran a coffee shop there. But ten years later, at the outbreak of World War I, Fred and his brother William both enlisted in Australia within one month of each other – as  recorded in the records of the Australian Imperial Forces. William enlisted aged twenty-five on 3rd March and Fred enlisted on 19th March 1916 aged forty-two years. Was Frederick following his younger brother? Did they go all the way to Australia to enlist because the pay was apparently three times as much as in the British Army? In Fred’s case, it could have been that he was too old to enlist in Britain, whereas the upper age limit was higher in Australia.

Or maybe Fred wanted to protect his brother William? He travelled to Melbourne and enlisted at Cootramundra in New South Wales leaving Sarah in Greenwich at 72 Woolwich Rd.  Then, on 22nd August 1916, Fred embarked from Sydney, returning to Britain on HMAT Wiltshire, and proceeding directly from Folkestone to France on the SS Arundel in December. He fought with the Australian Imperial Forces 3rd infantry battalion, 19th reinforcement, who were sent to the Western Front in 1916. For two and a half years, the unit served in the trenches in France and Belgium, taking part in many of the major battles.

Fred was severely wounded on several occasions during active service in Meteren. Notably, in March 1918 when he was hit by a stick bomb which fractured his left foot and then, on 24th June that year, he was hit by a grenade at close range. I can only begin to imagine how terrifying it must have been. He received significant injuries to his chest, jaw, arm, finger, thigh and foot. Then he had several fingers amputated as a result of his wounds and received further major injuries to his left foot.

In June this year, I found an unexploded World War II hand grenade very close to where I discovered Fred’s luggage tag at Enderby Wharf. The controlled explosion was enough to cause a stir in Greenwich, so I can only imagine what it might be like having one thrown right at you. From December 1916 until April 1919 must have been an anxious time for Sarah, anticipating hearing the worst at any moment. During the course of the war, the Australian Imperial Forces 3rd Battalion suffered 3,598 casualties, of which 1,312 were killed in action.

Fred spent time in two military hospitals, the Harefield Hospital in Hillingdon and the Military Hospital at Shorncliffe in Kent. His fingers were amputated at Shorncliffe, while at Harefield Hospital Fred had his foot operated on after it was hit by the stick bomb. Then Fred was medically assessed as disabled and discharged from service in London on 23rd April 1919, after serving three years and thirty-six days. He received a Silver War Badge, sometimes known as the Discharge Badge, Wound Badge or Services Rendered Badge, first issued in September 1916, along with an official certificate of entitlement.

After the War, Fred returned to live at 72 Woolwich Rd until he died on 27th January 1932. Although eighteen years his senior, Sarah outlived Fred, remaining at 72 Woolwich Rd until 1933, moving to Greenwich South St where she died in 1936.

Fred’s younger brother William, who had enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force just a few months before he did, was also seriously wounded in action, receiving multiple gun-shot wounds to the head, and was committed to Sunnyside Mental Hospital in New Zealand in the forties. He died there in the sixties, in the same hospital, and he never married or had children. We do not know if the two brothers ever saw each other again after the War.

You might think that is the end of Fred Jury’s story, but I wanted to find out where he was buried, so I could go and pay my respects to him. And it just so happens that he is buried in Greenwich Cemetery, just around the corner from where I live. I made my way there straight after work, accompanied by a friend to help me search the gravestones.

As we drove straight into Greenwich Cemetery, realising we only had fifteen minutes to find Fred before it shut at 7pm, we were on a mission. Sunlight was streaming through clouds illuminating the view over London but we had no time for that, as we leapt out of the car at Area Z, trying to locate Fred’s final resting place from a rather vague map I had downloaded from the internet. It was like searching for the needle in the haystack with the added possibility that we might end up locked in the cemetery for the night.

At 7.01pm, we realised we should head back to the gates and since, to our great relief, they were not closed, we decided to wait until the gatekeeper came to close them. Sure enough, at 7.05pm precisely, a car sped through the gates and the driver looked at us rather curiously as we got out of our car to greet him. We explained the whole story and the wonderful Jason, grave digger with Royal Greenwich Parks, putting aside the notion that we were quite bonkers,  agreed to help us to fulfil our mission of finding Fred’s grave.

I had never been in a cemetery office before and I was overwhelmed to see the beautiful leather-bound books dating back to the early eighteen-hundreds with every burial registered inside. Jason unfurled a copy of a parchment map of the cemetery so that we could try to pinpoint Fred’s grave. But, would you believe that there was a big rip in the map, where Fred’s grave was located? There was nothing for it but to go and search, even though Jason explained that it was in an area reserved for paupers’ graves, so there might not even be a stone.

Jason kindly accompanied us and helped us to search. We set off, aware that dark rainclouds were gathering and the light was fading. The paupers’ area was sadly very overgrown, with small tombstones arranged back-to-back and, in some cases, completely covered with brambles and nettles. I was not feeling optimistic. In some areas, you needed a machete.

But then, after getting entangled many times in nettles and thorns, and peering beneath horizontal gravestones, my friend shouted “I’ve found Frederick.” And so we all went to see him, and Jason straightened the stone. It was a moving moment, to see his final resting place. Now he has no relatives left to visit him. Indeed, there are no relatives left to visit anyone in area “Z.” There was only a fox which seemed to have earmarked this as his patch.

There was Frederick Jury’s final resting place. We spent a few moments next to his grave. It seemed sad to me that after such a life, we had to search in the overgrown brambles and grass to find Fred’s headstone but Jason – who is familiar with such observations over the years – said he thought that it was not about the material things we bequeath or the state of the gravestone, but the legacy we leave behind in the people we touched during our lives.

There must be hundreds and thousands of other stories lying in the Thames waiting to be uncovered.  In the case of Frederick Jury, many decades passed before the Thames tide washed away the layers of thick mud to reveal the engraved luggage tag and I found myself face-to-face with Fred.

I have to ask myself what is my fascination with a stranger from Woolwich who died over seventy years ago? What led me to take a name on a tag and delve deeper into history? Maybe it is because none of us want to be forgotten? None of us want to be just a name on a tag that ends up in the river. We want to leave a footprint in the world and to know our lives to mean something.

This is my outline of Frederick Jury’s life pulled together from the databases and heritage sites that have information about him. We can only imagine the feelings, thoughts and emotions that Fred experienced, the decisions, considerations and worries, what made him laugh and what made him happy. Why did he go to Australia? What did he see when he looked out from the decks of the HMAT Wiltshire? What were his dreams?

Marriage certificate for Fred & Sarah Jury (Click to enlarge)

Fred Jury’s enlistment papers with his signature

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Fred Jury’s medical certificate

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Fred Jury’s certificate of discharge

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Certificate accompanying Fred’s Silver War Badge

Map of Greenwich Cemetery with a rip in the bottom left where Fred Jury’s grave is positioned

Frederick Jury’s headstone in Greenwich Cemetery

Frederick Jury’s fellows in Greenwich Cemetery

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40 Responses leave one →
  1. September 12, 2015

    What a wonderful story. I love the idea of researching a find like that – very moving. Valerie

  2. September 12, 2015

    Seems that Providence moved to have the lost etched luggage tag of Frederick Jury discovered by one who cared enough to trace his life, search for his documents, locate his final resting place and tell his story so others – all about the world – might learn of the significance of his life. ~ Thank you so for this, Nicola White ~

  3. Jean permalink
    September 12, 2015

    Lovely story, impressive research – lovely read!

  4. Greg Tingey permalink
    September 12, 2015

    Reminds me of my uncle Frank
    Lied about his age in 1915/16, by saying “I’m a year younger than him” ( – his elder brother Howard, who was, of course also under-age )
    Fought at the battle of Cambrai, emigrated to Australia 1922, re-volunteered, 1939, by which time, of course they knew his real age ( Just young enough this time! ) …
    Fought in Persia/Iraq, back to Singapore, just in time for the Japanese to arrive … escaped to Sumatra, & captured there in March/April 1942.
    “Missing in action” until after Japan surrendered – it transpired he had survived the death railway.
    Died about 1982.

  5. Carolyn Hollifield permalink
    September 12, 2015

    Excellent article. Very well written. Thank you.

  6. Lynn Roffee permalink
    September 12, 2015

    What a moving story – I’m so glad Nicola took the time to research about Fred and share his story, and for the Gentke Author to post.

  7. Sue permalink
    September 12, 2015

    What a fascinating story. Great detective work.

  8. Peter Holford permalink
    September 12, 2015

    Good bit of detective work from one scrap of metal. Having done similar stuff on my family history I know how it feels good to work things out for your self – it’s the thrill of solving the puzzle.

  9. Peter permalink
    September 12, 2015

    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn…..

  10. aubrey permalink
    September 12, 2015

    What an enthralling, well written piece. As good as any short story written by any established author except that this narrative is based on what was thought, originally, to be just a trivial beachcomer find. Brillant!

  11. Katrina Bradley permalink
    September 12, 2015

    How fantastic and what an amazing, moving story.
    I am very interested in WW!, and showed my parents a Princess Mary tin and its contents, when they came up on a visit. My mother told me that I had 2 great Uncles who were killed in the war. After some investigating, I not only found their graves but am now in touch with many members of my extended family. In April this year , the 100th anniversary of one Uncle’s death a group of us went to Ypres to pay our respects at his grave. As you say Nicola, none of us want to be forgotten and for us it was important that these men aren’t.

  12. September 12, 2015

    Brilliant piece of research and utterly compelling story – thank you.

  13. Bronchitikat permalink
    September 12, 2015

    Good for Jason, clearly not a jobsworth.

  14. Max Reeves permalink
    September 12, 2015

    This is a wonderful story. It asks more questions than it answers. Thanks for posting it.

  15. Kate Thompson permalink
    September 12, 2015

    This story made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up! Fascinating and deeply moving!

  16. September 12, 2015

    So moving!
    Thank you for following Fred’s story. I do the same thing when I find a name on an old photo or postcard. Great opportunities to walk into the past.

  17. Jane S Gabin permalink
    September 12, 2015

    Thank you for writing this, Nicola, and making a name on a metal tag turn into a full human being who will now live again in the memories of your readers!

  18. Antony Macer permalink
    September 12, 2015

    It’s worth noting, I think, that although buried amongst paupers, money was available to pay for a proper headstone. Have you discovered anything about whether servicemen’s successors could obtain financial assistance to provide one?

  19. Jill permalink
    September 12, 2015

    Such a touching story! Lovely reading…thank you.

  20. Barbara Haigh permalink
    September 12, 2015

    Thank you for your effort in uncovering such a charming story.

    Have you noticed, even though Fred was from a humble background, his handwriting is impeccable? The days of strict teachers who commanded good manners; pens & inkwells; copperplate handwriting accompanied by the occasional “rap across the knuckles with a ruler” to endorse the need for literacy. Bring it back I say….!!

  21. John Campbell permalink
    September 12, 2015

    What a fascinating and uplifting read! Amazing to think that something salvaged from the muddy river could throw up such an interesting narrative of one man’s life. Very well done to you for all your research and your excellent article. It is interesting that Fred spent time recovering in Harefield Field Hospital as it is a place I tipped TGA off about for one of his future awaydays. There is a tranquil and charming Anzac cemetery in Harefield hidden away in a valley where over a hundred Australian servicemen lay buried in an impeccably well kept setting. It is tended to lovingly by the commonwealth war graves commission and every april on Anzac day a ceremony takes place there. It is funny to think that should Frederick have succumbed to the terrible spanish flu that decimated Harefield field hospital in 1919 that he too may have been laying there amongst his many comrades with the Australian flag hanging proudly above them. This also makes me wonder how many of these graves that i have spent many hours walking among could actually have been young British men. Thanks again for your great work.

  22. Maura Blackburn permalink
    September 12, 2015

    Very touched by the story on a numbers of levels. Was a Thameside urchin at the Wandsworth Reaches in the 40′s but never found such a treasure. Sad that a man like Fred who obviously had so much to offer, ended damaged by war for life. We still have not learnt the lessons. Now he lies forgotten in the churchyard so what hope is there for the rest of us to “leave a footprint”. Thanks for the memories.

  23. September 12, 2015

    A fascinating find leading to a fascinating story. Very well done Nicola, and thank you GA.

  24. Raymond Batkin permalink
    September 12, 2015

    An impressive piece of research. Fascinating detail and with narrative that almost brings FJ to life. Interesting too since I come from that area and went to school at Meridian School (next to the old RN College) just off Trafalgar Road.
    I now live in Plymouth close to the original Victorian Cemetery at Ford Park which has almost a thousand war graves dating back to Crimea and China. It is a fascinating place for researching. Recently I discovered the grave of one William Lanning Rowe – a local man who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces, was wounded in France, repatriated and died in hospital in Leicester. I often wondered why he fought with the AIF – your story has given me the push to find out. Your tenacity to discover Fred Jury’s story is a tribute to his memory and a credit to yourself. Well done!

  25. Marg permalink
    September 13, 2015

    Excellent story. As a descendant of East Enders who immigrated to Fremantle in 1908/9 it is great to see so much care given to tracing a story to show the final resting place as well as the Aussie connection.

  26. Marg permalink
    September 13, 2015

    Forgot to add to my comment an Aussie cousin nursed at Harefield and a great uncle took a trip home by enlisting with the Australian forces WWII.

  27. September 13, 2015

    How wonderful that all these years later his story is being shared. I quite often go off on a tangent when doing my family research, and always think that tangents are a lovely way to remember someone who would be otherwise forgotten.

  28. Sharon Carr-Wu permalink
    September 13, 2015

    Wonderful story – thanks Nicola for your meticulous research. Frederick Jury may have no known next of kin but you rekindled his memory. Thanks Gentle Author for posting.

  29. Sonia murray permalink
    September 13, 2015

    What a fascinating story – and great research! Thanks you for bringing this good man back to life for us!

  30. Neville Turner permalink
    September 13, 2015

    A post that reads like an adventure story,there must be many others awaiting for their personal adventure to be told, captivating and very interesting.Keep up the good work.

  31. Sheila Brough permalink
    September 13, 2015

    What a wonderful story. So impressed by Nic White’s research.

  32. marianne isaacs permalink
    September 14, 2015

    well what an amazing story , Thankyou so much for uncovering it . It is very interesting that he and his brother went so far to enlist . The incentive must have been profound . It is a very long way even on a plane !!!

  33. Alan Carmody permalink
    September 14, 2015

    Sadly, it may not be possible for people in the next century to do the same for those from our 21st century whose stories are similarly lost. With digital records and vast databases dependent on server technology, dependent on the willingness of systems people to keep ancient digital files and finally dependent on suitable software versions being around for a hundred years and more, it may be impossible. I fear moving away from paper records means that we have lost the ability to record and preserve a large part of our history

  34. ISA (@MELANCOLLYBABY) permalink
    September 15, 2015

    I have totally been moved by this story as it was so well written and I thank you Nicola for I am greatly moved by it.

  35. September 15, 2015

    I just wanted to say thank you for all the comments above following the publication of Frcderick Jury’s story. I’m delighted so many people have read about him, and now know his story. Thank you again for taking the time to write your thoughts and comments down. I greatly enjoyed finding out about him. Nicola White

  36. Ruth Offer permalink
    September 17, 2015

    Many thanks for sharing – good detective work, wonderful photos and words – fascinating!

  37. October 4, 2015

    Fascinating story and great detective work. I wonder if Jason the Gravedigger is worthy of his own Spitalfields Life post – he certainly seens to have a profound manner of thinking!

  38. Emily Jury permalink
    August 30, 2016

    My name is Emily Jury, and I live on the East Coast of the United States. I’m actually doing a genealogy project on family history, so this is awesome! I’ll try to update again if I make any connections!

  39. Emily Jury permalink
    August 30, 2016

    Here’s what I have so far. My fathers name is also Frederick Jury, and my great-great-great-grandfather immigrated from England, to Canada, to the U.S. (I also have everything in the middle, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten)!

  40. Janice permalink
    March 1, 2017

    What a fantastic tale. A chance find and a diligently researched story. I have a couple of Frederick Jury’s in my tree from London – same period but alas neither are this Frederick.

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