Claude William Phillips was born in Norwood, near Croydon in 1885. However, both his parents were originally from Kent (his father, William Henry, from Rochester and mother, Ada, from Chatham), and by the time he was six the family had moved back to the Medway towns. At that point they lived at 113, High Street Rochester and his father’s occupation was recorded in the 1891 census as a ‘fruiterer’. Claude was the Phillips’ oldest child: he had a sister, also called Ada, and a baby brother called Arthur who was a year old in 1891. Ten years later the family lived at 345 High Street, Chatham, where William Henry was now described on the census return as a ‘master fruiterer’, working at home, which suggests he ran his own shop at that address. Now sixteen, Claude William had no occupation recorded on this census, although his fourteen-year-old sister is described as a ‘fruiterer’s assistant’.
By 1911 Claude William was working as an assistant in his father’s business (still at 345 High Street, but this time described as ‘Rochester’) along with his younger brother. Ada was no longer ascribed an occupation, and the family had a new member, eight year old Evelina, who is described as a ‘daughter’. According to the census form, the family had had a fifth child who had died. At this point Claude William was unmarried, and no further records have been found of him until his death, and although at some stage he presumably married a woman called Alice, it has not been possible to find a record of their marriage.
Claude William died on 10th October 1917. He was thirty-two years of age and has no known burial place. He had joined the Middlesex regiment at Ealing, although at the time of his death he was a private in the East Surreys. It is not known when he transferred but his regimental number was 28509 when he died. His battalion, the 1st, was made up of soldiers in the regular army. Claude William was a casualty of the third battle of Ypres (sometimes known as Passchendaele) which was one of the most controversial battles of the First World War, due to the opposition to it of the then Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, the huge human sacrifice (310,000 British soldiers and 260,000 Germans), the use of mustard gas, and the wet weather which turned the fields of Flanders into mud. Moreover, after several months the Front had moved only by a few kilometres.
Claude William Phillips’ sacrifice is remembered at the Tyne Cot memorial near Ypres. According to the entry in the book of remembrance, his widow, Alice Phillips, lived at 2 Horsley Road in Rochester. His page at Every Man Remembered can be found here.
England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915 [database on-line].
1891 England Census Class: RG12; Piece: 656; Folio: 4; Page: 2; GSU roll: 6095766
1901 England Census Class: RG13; Piece: 726; Folio: 22; Page: 5
1911 England Census Class: RG14; Piece: 3897; Schedule Number: 317
UK Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919 [database on-line].