The Life Of Frederick Jury
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
Fred Jury’s medical certificate
Fred Jury’s certificate of discharge
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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