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War deaths (1915)

posted May 8, 2014, 7:37 AM by Terry Bird   [ updated May 1, 2015, 7:05 AM ]
Extract from Kent Messenger of 2nd October 1915



Wide-spread sympathy has been extended to Canon Henry Bingham Stevens and Mrs. Stevens of The Beck, Wateringbury, in the bereavement they have sustained by the death of their only son, Lieut. Henry Francis Bingham Stevens, of the 6th Battalion, Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment, who sacrificed his life in the country’s cause in France on Sept. 17th.

Born on February 4th, 1890, at Darenth Vicarage, the deceased was educated at Malvern, and then proceeded to Keble College, Oxford, which he left in June, 1914. Shortly after the outbreak of war he received a commission in the 6th Royal West Kent Regiment, and proceeded to France with his Battalion in June, having meanwhile gone up to Oxford in khaki to receive his degree. He had always wished to enter the Army, and after leaving Malvern was chosen for Sandhurst, but failed to pass the medical test. He then went to France and studied French with Professor Hamon at Tours before going up to Oxford. 

Lieut.-Colonel Venables, Commanding the 6th Battalion, relates the story of the Lieutenant’s 
death. Writing to Canon and Mrs. Stevens, he says :— .
“It is with deep regret that I have to inform you of the death of your son, killed in action last evening. He had gone out with a reconnoitering patrol in a very gallant manner towards the German lines, when apparently a stray bullet struck him in the neck just below the collar bone. The doctor informed me he must have been killed instantaneously. He was an excellent officer, and his cheery disposition made him loved by all I can assure you he is a great loss to the Battalion, and everyone feels it. That he has died in the service of his King and Country may, I hope, in some small way reconcile you to your bereavement.”

From the Adjutant, Captain Wingfield Stratford, a letter has also been received, in which he says: 
“It can be safely said of Stevens that he never had an enemy in the Battalion, and no one was more universally loved and respected. He was as brave as a lion, and we all feel we have lost a true friend and a good officer.”

Further tributes were sent by the Chaplain and a Sergeant in the deceased officer’s company, the letter stating:
" I am confident that, in serving our King and Country, we could not have been led by a braver or more honourable gentleman. He died doing his utmost for victory.”

As was his son, so is Canon Stevens a Kentish man, having been born at Wilmington, near Dartford . Here his father, the Rev. Henry Stevens, was then Vicar, subsequently holding the benefice of Wateringbury from 1840 to 1877. The Canon was a Foundation Exhibi­tioner of Tonbridge School, and after his ordination was Rector of Chatham from 1868 to 1883, and of Darenth from 1883 until his retirement in 1911. In 1905 he was appointed Honorary Canon of Rochester Cathedral and Rural Dean of Gravesend. On leaving Darenth, Canon Stevens and his family came to reside at The Beck, Wateringbury, the home of his boyhood. Thus, the Canon is well known throughout Mid and West Kent, and his sorrow has brought forth many tributes of affectionate regard.

A memorial service was held in the Church of St. John the Baptist, Wateringbury, on Monday afternoon, and was wonderfully impressive in its quietude and simplicity. The Bishop of Rochester attended, and  the surpliced clergy present were the  Rev. Cyril Remold, of St. Augustine’s, Gillingham, who acted as Chaplain to the Bishop and carried the pastoral staff; the Rev. Ernest A. Trasenter, of Wey­mouth; the Rev. Maurice Murray, Rector of Leybourne; and the Rev. F. M. Richards, 
Curate of Wateringbury . The Rev. Canon G. M. Livett, was unable to attend through illness. Among the congregation were Canon and Mrs. Bingham Stevens; the Misses Stevens; the High Sheriff of Kent, Mr. Algernon Fleet, and Miss F leet; Mrs. Harmer, wife of the Bishop of  Rochester; Lieut.-Colonel Daiison and Captain Forestier-Walker, Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment; Lady Ashburnham , Count and Countess de Lambert, the Hon. Mrs. Warde, Miss Bartlett, Mrs. Gilbert 
Talbot; the Rev. H. T. Powell, Vicar of Darenth, and Mrs. Powell; the Rev. S. Le Mesurier, Vicar of Westerham; the Rev. J. Brand, Vicar of Platt; the Rev. G. A. Tait, Domestic Chaplain to the Bishop of Rochester; the Rev. R. Swan, Vicar of West Peckham; the Rev. J . A. Wray, Vicar of Teston, and Mrs. Wray; the Rev. C. Major Jenkins, Chaplain of Darenth Colony and Schools; Dr. and Mrs. Southwell Sander; Mr. and Mrs. A. Leney, Mr. Fred Leney, Dr. Russell, Mr. W. W. Blest, Mr. and Miss Fremlin, Miss Hales, Mrs. Percy Smith, Mrs. and Miss Bartlett, Mrs. Stenning, Mrs. Ramsbottham, Mrs. Maurice Murray (Leybourne), Miss Dyneley, Mrs. and Miss Livett, Mrs. Cator, Misses Cator, Miss. Maitland, Mrs F. M. Richards, Miss Hewlett, Mr. A. and Miss Lambert, the Misses Goodwin, Mrs. E. A. Smith, and Mrs. Lane, the deceased’s old nurse. 

During the assembling of the congregation for the service, the Rev. Geoffrey C. E. Ryley, Mus.Bac., Vicar of East Peckham , who pre­sided at the organ by request, gave a sympathetic rendering of “Requiem Eternam ” (Basil Harwood). When the service commenced the organist, Mr. E. A. Sm ith, presided at the organ. Mr. Richards read the Opening Sentences from the Burial Service; Mr. Reihold the usual Lesson, and Mr. Trasenter the Prayers. Psalm xxiv., “The earth is the Lord ’s ,” was chanted, and the hymns sung were “ Rock of Ages” an d “For all the Saints who from their labours rest” — always favourites with the young officer. The Rev. Maurice Murray gave the address,basing his remarks on II. Samuel xviii., 33: “ And the King was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said , O my son Absalom, my son; my son Absalom! would God I h ad died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” 

In his discourse the preacher asked: Why were they there that afternoon? It was a memorial service for one who had given his life in a righteous cause so bravely, so nobly, and in the spirit of true self sacrifice for God, for all that was right and for King and Country. He counted it a high honour to have been asked by Canon and Mrs. Stevens to say a few words; to try, with God’s help, to suggest a few thoughts at that most solemn time.  He knew Lieut. Stevens all his life, and his dear and revered father and mother when at Darenth were the faithful neighbours of his own father and mother at Stone, while his father was godfather to the Lieutenant. As they probably knew he was educated at Malvern and Keble College, Oxford, where he took an honours degree. He was the best type of an English gentleman and an officer, and also, if he might he permitted to say it a sportsman as well. When the war broke out he was contemplating taking Holy Orders. Then, after diligent pains, for which he won the praise of the service officers, he went out to France for what had been called the great adventure, and then, on the 17th of this month, came the end—nay, the beginning the entry into a, newer, freer, fuller, truer life. It was not, he understood, usual or allowable for sufficient reasons, to state just in what part of France he died, but, Lieut. Stevens fell as all brave officers longed and prayed they might, fall—leading his men. He died with honour: his death was instantaneous, painless- and lie now lay buried on consecrated French soil—buried by his own devoted men; no German hands touched him after his life was over. Though all, their love, and sympathy and prayers must go put to father, mother and sisters in the bitterest cross which they had been called upon to bear; yet let them contrast the mourning of the heathen with the Christian grave. The sorrow they felt or were permitted to share was for one fighting in a perfectly righteous cause. Might a measure of consolation—and surely, it was a very, great one—be theirs in the thought that they had met to thank God for the young life laid down nobly by one so truly noble.

The collects for St. Michael’s and All Saints’ Days having been repeated, the Bishop read the closing portion of the Prayer for the Church Militant, specially mentioning Lieut.Henry Francis Bingham Stevens, and then pronounced the Blessing. From the deep silence which followed the singing of the National Anthem came the “Last Post ” sounded by Corporal Gregg, Lance-Corporal Tye and Drummer Lee, of the West Kent Regiment, who were stationed outside the south door in the churchyard, Mr. Ryley played as the closing voluntary “Carmen in Memoriam"a beautiful composition of his own.

See also account from Parish magazine at Lieut. Stevens