St John’s Calvary was designed by H S Rogers. It
was unveiled and dedicated on Sunday, 11th December 1921. The teak crucifix, set in a memorial garden, is 17 feet high and was designed to be reminiscent of the wayside Calvaries seen by British troops on their way to battlefields in France and Belgium. It was renovated by Dolmen Conservation with the assistance of a grant from the War Memorials Trust in November 2018 and rededicated on 11th November, 2018.
Inside the church, just outside the Lady Chapel, is another memorial by the same designer, a triptych displaying the names of 63 men who died in the 1914-1918 war. Six further names were added after 1945 together with six from WW2. Every year on Remembrance Sunday the congregation of St John the Evangelist, East Dulwich gathers around the Calvary in the Memorial Garden as this list of names is read out.
But each name has a family and a story behind it, and here are two of them.
It was easy to find his military record: Private (G/9094) George Hayden from Peckham of the 11th Battalion, Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) was killed in action on 15th September, 1916 and buried in the Guards’ Cemetery, Lesboeufs, Picardie, France.
A “List of communicants from S. John’s who were serving their King and Country” (1916) contained George, Ernest and [George] William Hayden; the family lived at 22 Howden Street. George senior had been born in Peckham in 1862 and married Rose Ellen Rudd on 23rd June, 1894. Seven children were born between 1895 and 1914, most of whom were baptised at St John’s and attended Ady’s Road School. At the start of World War 1 the two oldest boys were working and were eligible to enlist. Ernest, aged 18, joined the Reserve London Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, on 29th October, 1914 at Brixton and was discharged on 4th July, 1916, presumably wounded. It seemed obvious that the memorial casualty was his brother, George William, born in 1895. However, George married Maude Smith at St John’s on 27th September, 1918 and died in 1982.
In fact, George senior, “Jobbing Builder” had decided to do his bit and enlisted in Camberwell on 16th July, 1915. He claimed to be 39 years and 5 months old but was actually 53 and only declared his three youngest children on the form.
At this date the upper age limit for enlistment was 38; it was raised to 41 in January 1916.
George Hayden died in France less than a year later, aged 54.
The final name on our memorial is "Albert Warley". It is one of the group of six added after World War 2. However, no-one with that name died during the First World War. The nearest match is an Albert Warbey who served with the Royal Flying Corps and whose name was misspelt “Warley” in some of the RAF records.
3rd Air Mechanic (80733) Albert George Warbey enlisted on 24th June, 2016 and joined his Royal Flying Corps unit on 11th May, 1917. Albert was discharged as “No longer physically fit for war service” on 22nd December, 1917 and awarded the Silver War Badge on 11th January, 1918. This Badge was given to anyone who had been honourably discharged from the Forces with ill health. Recipients wore it on civilian clothes, as a clear sign that they were anything but cowards. He never served overseas.
Albert was born on 6th September, 1876 in 2 Canal Cottages, Peckham Park Road to Charles and Frances Warbey, the youngest of 10 children. He had a variety of occupations: Pawnbrokers Assistant (1891), Under Messenger Electric Light Works (1901), before settling as a Painter and Decorator. On 25th January, 1902 he married Alice Louisa Grubb at Holy Trinity, Croydon, Surrey. They had two children who died as babies and, according to family members, she then left him and had a child with someone else.
By 1911 Albert was living in Kensington with his 24-year-old housekeeper, Rosa Robinson, and their baby son Albert. They had two more children, Henry (1913) and Sidney (1915) and Albert then enlisted. Just before joining the RFC Albert and Rosa married on 2nd May, 1917 at St Mary, Lambeth. Albert was described as a “bachelor”; there was no evidence of a divorce. They had two further children, Rose (1917) and Doris (1921). Rosa died on 21st June, 1923 in Kensington of tuberculosis.
Albert Warbey died on 27th February, 1953 in Fulham aged 76, so must still have been alive when his name was added to the triptych. His first wife, Alice, survived her husband by four years, dying on 16th December, 1957 in Dulwich Hospital – only a few hundred yards from St John’s. In the 1939 Census she had described her marital status as “married, separated over 30 years”. Was this Alice’s final act of closure?