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Retired Stationmaster’s Son Missing, Presumed Killed – March 1918

Published on: 7 Nov, 2012
Updated on: 7 Nov, 2012

With Remembrance Sunday this year falling on November 11,
DAVID ROSE focuses on Lieut Frank Mariner Sumpster, who grew up in Guildford and who was killed in action on March 21, 1918.

A recently retired Guildford stationmaster, John Mariner Sumpster, and his family would have been devestated when they received the news that their son, Frank, was missing, presumed killed.

Lieut Frank Mariner Sumpster pictured in March 1915.

Born in 1888 in Farnham, Frank Mariner Sumpster joined the army at the start of the First World War, and it is likely that he saw a good deal of action. His listing on Guildford’s role of honour of men who died in the Great War records that when he was killed he was a lieutenant with the 8th Battalion, of the Royal Berkshire Regiment and was attached to a trench mortar battery.

The amount of research that continues to be done into men who served during the First World War is truly monumental. Without doubt, the internet plays a key role in this. Many researchers and local historians know the power of the world wide web and that by using it to its full potential can help unlock stories and link up pieces of information from fellow historians and descendants of those who fought for king and country between 1914-18.

The group photograph of officers of the Royal Berkshire Regiment that led to Andrew Tatham’s detailed research into all those featured. Frank Mariner Sumpster is seventh from left in the top row.

Andrew Tatham is one of those people who is keen to compile information about servicemen from over 90 years ago. His quest began in 1994 with a family photo showing a group of officers. Pictured among the men is his great-grandfather, William Crawford Walton, who was their commanding officer. Andrew became very interested in the photo and has now built up a considerable amount of information on those soldiers in the photograph. One of those is Lieut Frank Mariner Sumpster. Andrew has kindly supplied the pictures of Lieut Sumpster seen here.

Frank as pictured in the group photograph that was taken in May 1915,

Andrew has a website devoted to the photo and the information he has gathered. Back in 2000 Andrew had a story printed in the Independent newspaper all about the photo and his search for further information. One of the men the article focused on was Lieut Frank Mariner Sumpster.

There is some interesting information in the article. It states he grew up in Guildford and was the son of the railway station master. He had a brother who bought a farm in Alberta, Canada. Frank joined him there and stayed a few years, but came home before the start of the First World War, married and lived in Southsea, Hampshire. He joined the army at the outbreak of the war and first went to France in October 1915, as a trench mortar officer.

He was wounded on the Somme on August 25, 1916, and, 19 months later was killed on March 21, 1918, when the “8th Battalion” was overrun during the German spring offensive.

It is also said that “for several months his family did not know what had happened to him”. He left a wife and a daughter who was born five weeks before he was killed. His wife tried to send a photograph of his firstborn to him in France but it never arrived.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s website lists Lieut Sumpster within its casualty details section. It confirms his date of death and that he was aged 29. He was in the 8th Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, attached to the 53rd Trench Mortar Battery. He has no known grave, but his name is on the Pozieres Memorial. It also notes his father’s name and that his mother was called Charlotte, and Lieut Sumpster’s wife was Dora Alice, of 7 Festing Grove, Southsea, Hants.

Ian Nicholls is another avid researcher of men who served in the First World War. His particular area of research concern the names on the Charlotteville war memorial in Addison Road.

I must thank Ian, as he tipped me off, so to speak, about Lieut Sumpster (and Andrew Tatham’s website), asking whether I knew anything about him and that Sumpster is a rather unusual surname.

Lieut Sumpster’s name does not, of course, appear on the Charlotteville war memorial, but is on the Guildford war memorial in the Castle Grounds, on a the role of honour at the Royal Grammar School and on a memorial in Holy Trinity Church.

Ian has checked out the Sumpsters in Guildford on the 1911 census. At that time John and Charlotte were living at 20 Farnham Road. In residence with them was a daughter, Dorothea, aged 18, and Nellie Foster, their domestic servant. The census listing noted that at that time the Sumpsters had four children in total and all were alive.

Guildford railway station in the early 1900s when John Mariner Sumpster was the station master.

Andrew Tatham adds that at the time of the the 1911 census Frank Sumpster and his brother John were in Canada where they had gone out to farm. He confirms that Frank returned in December 1913, while his brother John stayed out there. His other brother William was not at home with his parents in the 1911 census and survived the war.

The 1911 census featuring members of the Sumpster family at Guildford.

If you recognise the name and can add any details, check out Andrew Tatham’s fascinating website. Click here.

To see Ian Nicholl’s excellent website devoted to those named on the Charlotteville war memorial, click here.

The unveiling of Guildford’s war memorial on Sunday, November 6, 1921.

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