My mum Rene (Alice Irene Flitney née Harding) died in 1999. When my brother, sister and I went through her things we found an envelope full of old newspaper clippings and other bits and pieces. We looked through the papers and put the envelope away, but those yellowing pieces of paper keep whispering of half-forgotten times and places. Places like Butlers Cross, Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury, West Wycombe, Little Kimble, Wendover, Ellesborough, Southcourt and Princes Risborough.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Abel Flitney - Second son of Eli and Ellen Flitney

This is the third in a series of posts about my paternal great-grandparents Eli and Ellen Flitney. In my previous post, Eli and Ellen's eldest son Albert returned from WW1 their second son Abel would not to be so fortunate.

The year is 1878, and the family are living at Chalkshire a hamlet in the parish of Ellesborough, Buckinghamshire, England.  Albert Flitney is two years old, and the First World War still a long way into the future when Abel is born. By 1893 both Albert and Abel are employed as farm labourers but Abel's life is about to take a different direction. By 1900, he has met and married Matilda Ann Clayton and moved to Millards Cottages in Guildford, Surrey. I have no idea what precipitated the move, but by now he has also moved away from agriculture and is employed as a gardener.   Matilda was born at Longfield in Kent so perhaps that explains their later move to Chevening a village and civil parish in the Sevenoaks District of Kent. By this time, they had two daughters Rhoda Marjorie born in 1903 and Margaret Doris born in 1907.

By 1909 Abel is in the employ of Mr. William Burfoot of Chipstead Mill, Sevenoaks.

Advertisement for Chipstead Flour Mills c1923 via A History of the Parish of Chevening

The photograph on the right shows the former corn mill in Chipstead. Today it's divided into apartments with names such as Granary, Flour Store and Grain Store reflecting its earlier use.

Abel worked at Chipstead Mill until he joined the ranks of the 13th Battalion, The Royal Sussex Regiment. By 1915, he was in uniform as Private G/12022 Flitney, A.  After his death, his former employer William Burfoot said of him, "Private Flitney worked at Chipstead Mill for six years as a groom/gardener. He was greatly respected by all who knew him, and much sympathy is felt for his widow and two daughters".

What follows is reproduced by kind permission of Andrew Robertshaw from his book
Feeding Tommy: Battlefield Recipes from the First World War Pages 59 & 61

From Log Book of  Private Abel Flitney

Feeding Tommy Battlefield Recipes from the First World War by Andrew Robertshaw.  If you are interested in more information about Andrew Robertshaw, please visit his website HERE

While the menfolk of Chevening were away fighting many of the farms turned to the growing of crops, ploughing up acres of pasture land. In this way Chevening, together with other areas of the country kept Britain largely self-sufficient in food. At the same time, the large houses in the parish were maintained by an ever diminishing staff as the women left to join the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) Kent 58 and to do other war works. Able's daughter Margaret remembers the four soldiers billeted on them. She also remembers her mother telling their quartermaster that he must increase their rations as they needed more food. (Angela Lucas - A History of the Parish of Chevening Pg. 190)

Abel died on the 2nd August 1917. The following is a letter sent to Matilda and published in the Kent Messenger on Sat 25 Aug 1917. 

Dear Mrs. Flitney, a very unpleasant task has befallen me, that of writing you a letter of sympathy and informing you of your husband's death, which took place in the recent big advance. He was killed by the force of a shell bursting very near to him, along with several others who happened to be with him. It may be a consolation to you to know his death was instantaneous, there being no lingering or suffering. Your husband was in my Platoon, and the whole time I had him under my command, I found him efficient, willing and cheerful. He was a good soldier, doing everything he had to do to the best of his ability, and I wish all my men had the same spirit, it would make things so much easier for those in command. I was very taken to your husband because of his pleasant countenance; he always had a smile and never had a grumble. You may rest assured he did his bit, and when I tell you I have lost one of my best men, perhaps you will realise how he was regarded. You have no idea how sorry I am, and how I sympathise with you in your bereavement. So please accept my deepest sympathy and sincere condolence, which is shared by all the officers of this company, and is the best I can offer trusting you will find comfort, and receive strength to carry your burden by placing your faith in our Heavenly Father, I remain, yours very sincerely.  

Abel is buried at La Brique Military Cemetery No. 2 Grave Reference 1. Y. 9. The cemetery is located to the North-East of the town of Leper.  'Fling open wide the golden gates and let the victors in' are the words on the headstone paid for by the family, at a cost of 14s or two-weeks wages for a private soldier.

Now a war widow Matilda went to work at Chipstead Place carrying out general domestic duties as a way of supporting herself and her two daughters.  She married Edgar E. Hornsell in 1942 at the age of 65. She died on the 27th January 1950 and is buried at Greatness Cemetery, where Abel is also remembered on her grave.  

I've not researched either of the two daughters, but I believe Margaret married Herbert E. Janes in 1936 and Rhoda Married M. Rogers in 1930.  I'm very tempted to find out more about them, but as I've started researching Eli and Ellen’s eight sons I feel I must continue with that for now.  As always, this is an ongoing search so if you have any information please get in touch.


Kent Messenger Sat 25th August 1917, Pg. 5
Commonwealth War Graves Commission - Flitney. A  La Brique Military Cemetery No. 2
The long, long trail
HM Passport Office General Register


  1. Oh this is so interesting and so sad. Funny to think they lived at Guildford for a while. Look forward to the next instalment. Sue

    1. Hi Sue, just think you could be walking in the footsteps of one of our ancestors when you go shopping in Guildford!
      I've not done any further research so it might be a while before I get another instalment done. xx

  2. Barbara, a very moving account of Abel's life and death. The letter of condolence from his commanding officer paid a huge tribute to him and I am sure would have been a great comfort to his wife and family.

    1. Morning John, I was overjoyed when I found the letter from Able's company officer. The Internet is a wondrous place – where anything is possible.


I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara x

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