Henry Phillips was born in 1878 in the village of Frindsbury, near Strood. In the 1891 census he can be found living in Sone Street, Frindsbury with his father, an agricultural labourer, who came from the village of Luddesdown, near Gravesend, and his mother, who hailed from the neighbouring village of Cobham. Henry was the youngest child and had two older sisters. Ten years later the family lived at a different address in Strood and Henry’s parents had both taken up laundry work: his father William however was aged sixty-nine and although described as a ‘laundryman’, the column ‘neither employer nor employed’ was marked next to his name. Therefore it seems likely that his wife and eldest daughter (described as ‘laundresses’) took in washing and William helped with this small business. Henry himself, now aged thirteen, was an apprentice paper hanger. The household also contained another young laundress (aged sixteen) and two boarders, boys aged twelve and eight, who were at school.
In July 1900 Henry married the twenty-year-old Elizabeth Rose Hall at St Nicholas Church in Rochester. She was born in Rochester, the daughter of a mariner, and had lived in Parrs Head Lane, just off the High Street. After their marriage the couple lived at 88 Temple Street (now the site of the Strood Tesco store and carpark). In the 1901 census Henry’s occupation is given as ‘cement labourer’. In June 1901 Elizabeth gave birth to the first of their nine children.
Ten years later the family still lived at the same address in the centre of Strood. Henry was now described as a ‘chalk digger’ at the cement works and by the time of the 1911 census he and Elizabeth had four sons and three daughters.
Henry was still working as a chalk digger when he volunteered for army service on 19 October 1915, at the age of thirty-eight. He joined the East Kent Regiment (‘the Buffs’) as a private, was posted in 1916 and served in Flanders. He was recorded as missing in action, presumed dead, on 13 October 1917, at the first battle of Passchendaele and his sacrifice is recorded at the Tyne Cot military cemetery. Henry was awarded the British War and Victory Medal, which went to his wife, Elizabeth.
Henry’s army records show the names of all his nine children, the youngest of whom was born in 1917, only weeks before his death. His army medical examination showed that he was nearly five feet and seven inches tall and weighed 140 pounds when he signed up. He had no disciplinary offences recorded against him and was never found to be drunk. He must have been an exemplary soldier.
Elizabeth was awarded a pension in 1918 of fifty shillings and five pence for herself and eight children (perhaps the eldest was of working age by then so was not seen to require subsistence).
Henry’s regimental number was G8395. His page on Every Man Remembered can be found here.
1881 Census Class: RG11; Piece: 881; Folio: 6; Page: 5; GSU roll: 1341209
1881 Census Class: RG11; Piece: 885; Folio: 38; Page: 22; GSU roll: 1341210
1891 Census Class: RG12; Piece: 654; Folio: 4; Page: 2; GSU roll: 6095764
1901 Census Class: RG13; Piece: 720; Folio: 146; Page: 41
1911 Census Class: RG14; Piece: 3871; Schedule Number: 312
British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920 [database on-line].