Edward Thomas Budgen – my great grand uncle
Edward Budgen was born in the parish of Worth on 28 April 1868, and was baptised by his parents Thomas and Maria Budgen on 7 June.
Born into a large family, Edward went on to work as a clerk (according to the 1891 census) but then was listed as a gardener (domestic) in the census 20 years later.
Edward was listed as a clerk in 1891 but in that year he found himself up before Reigate Borough Bench with his brother William, charged along with two friends of extinguishing seven lamps in the borough. All were described as respectable young men but PC Turner told the court that he’d seen and heard them late at night in various streets putting the lights out. He had no doubt that the men he saw were the defendants, who’d pleaded not guilty. Another police officer said he’d visited the Budgens at their father’s Bell Street home after the incident, where Edward told him they’d been in the Elm Shades pub until gone 11pm on the night. However, he had denied being involved.
The court convicted all four of them and fined the defendants 2s 6d and 6s costs each. See the Surrey Mirror 20 June 1891.
In 1898 he married Alice Jane Hacker in Shoreditch and in 1911 was working as a gardener, living in More Place Cottages in Wonham Lane, Betchworth, with his children Edward, Thomas and Ethel as well as his 83-year-old mother-in-law Jane.
I’ve yet to find him in the 1901 census but it’s likely that he was serving in the military. For in 1898 he was described as a soldier on his marriage certificate, his address given as 90 Broke Road, Haggerston. His bride was Alice Jane Hacker of Betchworth, her father John, a coachman. They married on 10 January in St Paul’s Church, Haggerston. I’ve not been able to find any further details of his early military career.
At some point after the 1911 census, Edward sailed to Australia with his wife and their children – another Edward Thomas Budgen (born 1906), Florence Alice (born 1908) and Ethel Grace (born 1910). Again, there’s no record of their travels, whether they went together or in several groups or when they left.
They next crop up in Australia in 1914, when Private Edward Thomas Budgen, service number 1556, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force – an all-volunteer force formed for overseas service – early in the First World War.
His enlistment papers dated 8 December showed that he was a clerk on signing up but strangely he put his age at 40. The family address was Colley Street, Lower North Adelaide in South Australia. It was noted that he’d served 8 years in the army back in England and had spent 4 years in the reserve, with Winchester listed as a base.
The documents described him as having a fair complexion, 5ft 5ins tall, with brown hair and eyes.
On 19 February 1915, he said goodbye to his family and embarked for active service abroad, arriving in Egypt on 3 April – shortly before the disastrous Gallipoli campaign got underway involving numerous ANZAC forces. He was a member of the 10th Battalion, which was recruited in South Australia, and together with the 9th, 11th and 12th Battalions, formed the 3rd Brigade.
By 31 May, Edward was already facing a court martial, charged with desertion. The charge sheet said that while a member of the 3rd Reinforcement of the 10th Battalion, Edward deserted the service at his camp at Zeitoun on 2 May when under orders for embarkation. At the time, he was with the 1st Training Battalion and was AWOL for just one day.
At the hearing, he pleaded not guilty.
2nd Lieutenant Cook told the hearing that he’d put Private Budgen in a guard tent at 9am on 1 May for being drunk. When he returned several hours later, he’d sobered up so he sent Edward off to get his equipment and clothing, warning him not to leave the camp under any circumstances as preparations were underway for transportation to the front.
Another officer said that Edward was present at a muster parade on 1 May but wasn’t on the following day, when the troops were being entrained. On cross-examination by Edward, the officer admitted there was no muster roll. A third officer then saw him in camp on 3 May, and had him confined. He said Edward was sober at the time.
In his defence, Edward said he’d marched out from camp to embark for the front with his unit but was sent back because he had diarrhoea. Treated with chlorodyne, he said he could not remember anything more until Sunday, 2 May. On that day, he reported to a Sergeant Reynolds, but that officer had subsequently left for the front so could not confirm the account. Edward said he did not remember being detailed to go to the front on 1 May.
His excuse wasn’t accepted and he was found guilty. Court president Major G D Ross sentenced him to 90 days imprisonment with hard labour. He also had to forfeit 119 days’ pay.
In September 1915 Edward joined the Military Expeditionary Force and sailed on the Kingstonian to Gallipoli, arriving at a time when this notorious expedition was in its final months. It’s unclear what role Edward played, if any, in the defence of the front line.
By 23 December 1915, his rank was lance corporal in the 10th Battalion. Six days later, he disembarked in Alexandria. He transferred to the 50th Battalion in February 2016, based at Serapeum in Egypt. The 50th Battalion was raised in Egypt as part of the doubling of the AIF. Approximately half of its recruits were veterans from the 10th Battalion. For a time he was a temporary corporal, serving in the forces defending the vital Suez Canal.
On 5 June 1916 he left Alexandria for France, disembarking at Marseilles a week later. The 50th fought in its first major battle at Mouquet Farm between 13 and 15 August and suffered heavily. On 16 August, Edward was wounded in action and admitted to hospital in Rouen. Three days later he was transferred to England with gunshot wounds. Documents show he had leg, arm and head injuries. The gunshot wound to his arm was described as severe and it looks as if he received hospital care for several months.
In December, he was briefly AWOL and admonished, fined 4 days pay.
However, by 3 February 1917 he was travelling from Folkestone to France on the SS Victoria to rejoin his unit at Etaples.
On 2 April 1917 Edward was wounded and captured at Noreuil, one of numerous villages the Germans had fortified to help protect their Hindenburg Line. It was attacked by the Australian 50th and 51st Battalions, with the 49th and 52nd in support, on the morning of 2 April. The 50th, coming from the south, met heavy opposition and many men were killed, wounded or captured.
Edward was taken as a prisoner of war, and interned at a camp at Zerbst in Germany. Some would say he was unlucky, others that his capture saved his life by taking him away from front-line action.
A witness on the day, who thought like others that Edward had been killed, reported: “I was with this man when he was hit… We were making an attack and were advancing along rising ground, towards the village of Noruie [sic], Bapaume Front. In the morning when near Sunken Road I saw him fall, probably hit by machine gun. He was lying down as if killed. The last I saw of him was when stretcher bearers were taking him away. Ground was held. I know nothing of his burial. I was wounded soon after and was removed to the rear. He was short, thick set, about 38 years. Brown complexion. Came from South Australia.”
Documents from the Zerbst camp, which include confirmation of his birthplace and date of birth, state that he had shrapnel in his hip and further letters suggest that his wounds did not heal quickly and was in hospital for many months. A note from February 1918 reported that he had undergone an operation the previous November to remove shrapnel and two small pieces of bone. A postcard from March 1918 said: “Very pleased to say I am still progressing favourably and am able to get about a little once again…” He underwent several follow-up operations while in the camp.
Edward’s wife Alice received a parcel of his effects some months after his capture, including a razor, 3 handkerchiefs, letters, and a pocket ledger.
“Kriegsgefangene volker” by Wilhelm Doegen showed that on 10 October 1918, the Zerbst camp was home to thousands of French, Russian, British and Italian soldiers – with the odd Romanian and American thrown in for good measure.
After Germany’s surrender, the men were released but early in 1919 Edward was still in a convalescent ward after being repatriated to England. In March he was again fined 4 days pay when he went AWOL again, this time for 4 days.
The authorities noted that he had a gunshot wound to the thigh on his repatriation (I assume this was the injury to his hip noted on becoming a POW) to Australia via Alexandria.
Edward was finally discharged from active service on 30 May 1921.
He died on 10 August 1925. His wife Alice died in 29 October 1943.
Sources: Ancestry.com, Findmypast.com, Sussex Family History Group BMDs and census records. Australia, WWI Service Records, 1914-1920 – includes POW details from the Red Cross. Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985. Other sources mentioned in the text. Surrey Mirror 20 June 1891