Project Description

WALTER REGINALD HOUSELEY 1895–1966

121_Reginald Houseley ed

Brother of Wilfred

Born 19th October 1895, Orston Grange, Notts.

Married in 1931 to Doreen Olive Todd. Children: Son Woodrow (Frederick R. W.), born 1937

Died 19th September 1966, address 1 Wharf Lane, Radcliffe on Trent, age 71

1901 Census

Walter Reginald Houseley 6, was living at Orston Grange, Notts. with his father Frederick 48, a farmer, mother Sarah 40, (maiden name Hoyte), brothers Edwin Evelyn (known as Evelyn) 18, a schoolteacher, Cyril 17, a farm worker, Wilfred 2 and sisters, Lucy 13, and Margaret 11.

1909 Railway clerk employed at Basford station. 1910 Railway Employment Records show he was working for the London and North Eastern Railway. He entered their service on 14.11.10 and was employed as a clerk.

1911 Census

In the 1911 Census his name is given as Reginald. He was living at Hampden Villa, Lorne Grove, Radcliffe on Trent and was a fifteen year old railway clerk at Basford station. His father Frederick is described as an unemployed schoolmaster.  The household also comprised his mother Sarah, his sister Lucy, 23, a schoolmistress at Skendlby, sister Margaret, 21, a schoolmistress at Holme Pierrepont, and brothers Frederick, 30, a butcher with his own shop in Granby and Wilfred, 12, at school. Another brother, Edward Evelyn, 28, a schoolmaster at Wandsworth Tech. has been crossed off the census. Hampden Villas had seven rooms. The census shows that Frederick and Sarah Houseley had been married for 34 years and had had eight children, one of whom had died.

Military Service

Red Cross records for Walter Reginald Houseley show that he was an orderly from 13.2.17 to 30.1.19 working with the Friends Ambulance Unit. Certificate number 11927.

He was a Conscientious Objector and served on the western front where he was based at Dunkirk (sources: Friends Ambulance Unit British Red Cross and Order of St John of Jerusalem page 401; www.fau.quaker.org.uk).

Brassard number 11927, cap badge number 500, unit number 816. He paid for his kit expenses.

28.3.16: Having appeared at a military service tribunal to claim absolute exemption on grounds of conscientious objection, his application was refused. County appeal on March 28th granted him exemption from combatant service. Tribunal recommended him for the F.A.U. (Friends Ambulance Unit). Occupation – junior clerk, Great Northern Railway. Qualifications – shorthand and typewriting.

27.6.16: Contracted to Friends Ambulance Unit

27.6.16 – 29.7.16: Trained at Jordans, Buckinghamshire (see italicised note below)

2.8.16: Worked at King George Hospital for four and a half months.

13.2.17: Dunkirk

11.7.17: Queen Alexandra’s Hospital, Dunkirk, orderly

18.10.17-27.10.17: leave

18.7.18-1.8.18: leave

3.9.18-17.9.18:  leave

25.10.18: Queen Alexandra’s Hospital, night guard

30.1.19: Left France

Medals Awarded

British War and Victory

Military Personnel Address on 1918 Electoral Register

Lorne Grove, Radcliffe on Trent

From the 1922 Electoral Register

Address: Lorne Grove Radcliffe on Trent

Household: living with sister Lucy and brother Wilfred (Frederick Houseley, father, died in 1918)

From the 1939 Register

Address: ‘Sylvania’, Grantham Road, Radcliffe on Trent

Occupation: Railway clerk Household: living with wife Doreen and one person whose record is officially closed. Family descendants have confirmed that the closed record is that of their son Woodrow, age two.

Reasons for inclusion on Radcliffe on Trent Roll of Honour

Lived and died in Radcliffe on Trent.

Work of the Friends Ambulance Unit

Excerpt from Quakers website www.quaker.org (in 2014 – the site has since been updated)

Within 3 days of the outbreak of the war the Friends held a conference. Outside the official sessions, a group of Young Friends worked on the idea of an ambulance unit. They were convinced that ambulance services would be woefully inadequate, so that offering such services could save many lives. It would also enable conscientious objectors to make a vital contribution. There was no conscription then, so none of them had to get involved – their response came from their commitment to participating in a nonviolent way.

Early in September the first training camp took place at Jordans, in Buckinghamshire, for about 60 young men. Initially neither the British Red Cross nor the army wanted to involve a group of independent and pacifist volunteers, but the situation changed dramatically when the Belgian army collapsed in late October.

They left for Belgium. A few miles out they met a torpedoed and sinking cruiser, rescued the victims, and carried them back to Dover.  Setting out again, they came to Dunkirk, and worked for three weeks in the military evacuation sheds, looking after several thousand wounded soldiers until they could be evacuated on hospital ships.  The Unit set up their administrative headquarters nearby, at Malo les Bains. There was a terrible typhoid epidemic that winter, and this led to the establishment of the first of four hospitals, the Queen Alexandra, at Dunkirk.

The FAU expanded as the needs grew, and many non-Quakers joined.  There were two sections:  the Foreign Service and the Home Service.  After the initial emergency at Dunkirk, the Foreign Service started on a programme of civilian relief in France; they were soon noticed by the French army medical headquarters, and this led to the staffing and running of French ambulance convoys (Sections Sanitaires Anglaises), and helping in both civilian and military hospitals.  In 1915, they started running ambulance trains, and in early 1916 they had two hospital ships.

The Home Service set up and/or helped to run four hospitals in England. Two were in Quaker premises – one in part of the Rowntree factory in York, and the other in a Cadbury house in Birmingham; the other two were in London. They had an office in London, a clothing department, and ran training camps, mostly at Jordans.

Late in 1915 the Anglo-Italian Ambulance Unit was set up separately.

In August 1916 the Military Conscription Act provided a sudden influx of conscientious objectors, and a General Service section was started to offer them alternative training, if required.  

FAU continued with these many different kinds of work, both in England and on the European mainland. There were eventually at least eight hospitals in France and Belgium staffed by the FAU.  At the end of the war in 1918, there were 640 men working on the European mainland, and 720 men were working in Britain. 21 died in action, and a further 420 were involved at some stage during the war. They had driven over two million miles and had transported 277,000 sick and injured people. If the work of the Italian unit is included, these figures increase by about 50%.  Their funding (about £140,000 in total) had come from Quakers and many other sources. Women served as nurses in the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Dunkirk and also with the Anglo-Italian Ambulance Service. One hundred and two women served in the FAU out of a total of 1800, 54 of whom served abroad.

FAU’s unofficial motto was ‘find work that needs doing. Regularise it later, if possible’. In the heat of the conflict, that is exactly what they did. They were never officially regularised, but it didn’t matter.

After the armistice in 1918, the Unit worked for another year on civilian relief and repatriation. FAU was finally laid down in 1919.