Corporal 2nd Division Australian Imperial Force

John Ifould wasn’t a pupil at Bedales; about the same age (18) as the older pupils, on census day 1911 he was “pantry boy”, resident in the main school building. His background and earlier life must have been similar to a large number of the ordinary soldiers who fought in the First World War.

Twins, John and Ellen Ifould, were born in the Tanyard area of Steep on 21 November 1892 and baptised at All Saints’ on 29th January 1893.  The Ifould family had lived in Steep for about 80 years.  Richard Ifold (sic), a labourer, and his wife Elizabeth Etherington from Hawkley had been married in Steep church on 6th April 1815.  They had three sons (James, the eldest, was John’s grandfather) and four daughters.  Over the years, the men of the Ifould family were Agricultural Labourers, Cowmen and Carters on farms in Steep and the neighbouring parishes. By the time of the visit of the Tithe Commissioners in 1839, Richard might have established himself in a squatter’s cottage on Steep Common, the area now occupied by Church Road and the houses on either side.  Certainly, when the Common was enclosed between 1855 and 1866 Richard and James were allowed to retain their cottages “together with the gardens therewith respectively used … in lieu of their common rights”.  Sums of money were required to settle the deal (£21 for Richard’s plot and £7 3s 6d for James’) and these were paid by the youngest son Henry, who also paid £40 for the plot on which he had built The Cricketers’ Inn.

John’s grandfather Thomas Frank, born in 1860, was a Cowman living in Church Farm on census Day 1881 with his young wife Laura and Amelia Alice aged 1.  The house belonged to John Balfour a Scottish solicitor then living in London who planned to turn it into his country house. Before 1891 he had totally restructured the house and renamed it ‘Steephurst’ (now, much altered, the main Girls’ Boarding house at Bedales); he also built a new house for his cowman, stalls for the animals and a dairy on the edge of Church Road, but Thomas Frank and his family had moved to Tanyard Cottages.

For an unknown reason Laura and her four youngest children were living in Portslaid-by-Sea (an area of Brighton) in 1901, whilst her husband and an older daughter were with James Ifould at Rose Cottage. By 1905 they were back in Steep and John, Ellen and younger sister Gertrude were admitted to Steep School on 21st February 1905.  Just over two years later at the age of fourteen and a half, John left “for Garden work”.  I have no idea where but it is tempting to think that everyday John crossed the road from Rose Cottage to work for Mr. Nixon who managed the vegetable gardens and orchards at Bedales School from 1900 – 1914.

By 1913 John had abandoned the tedious life of domestic work for the probably harder but potentially more exciting life of a merchant seaman.  He is recorded arriving as an “unassisted immigrant”, a deckhand on S S Morea, at Sydney N.S.W. on 18th September 1913.  His return passage goes unrecorded but he came back to Sydney on the same ship on 8th January 1914, described as “general servant”.  On 26th October 1914 aged 21 years and 11 months, John (describing himself as “steward”) enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force as a Private, service number 1368, and was posted to the 2nd Reinforcements of the 2nd Battalion.  At his medical examination he was described as 5 feet 6 inches tall, with a fair complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair: he weighed 9 stone 7 lbs.

After months of training, early in 1915 the battalion sailed for Egypt to guard the Suez Canal and then on 5th April 1915 John embarked to join the Expeditionary Force in the Gallipoli campaign.  Within weeks he was in a Field Hospital with some kind of abscess and then transferred to the island of Lemnos suffering from quinsy, but by 10th June he was back on duty.  Shortly afterwards he was ill again and this time sent back to No 2 General Hospital in Cairo where he remained until 9th September.  On September 19th he re-joined his unit in Gallipoli and seems to have remained there until he returned to Alexandria on 28th December:  John was one of the lucky ones who, despite his spells in hospital, seems to have survived this wretched campaign relatively unscathed.

At Tel-el Kebir on 19th February John Ifould was promoted to Corporal and a month later, on 22nd March, he “embarked for overseas” from Alexandria, arriving in Marseilles on the 28th.   I haven’t been able to trace the progress of the 2nd Battalion (and would appreciate any information) but John was killed before the major A.I.F. commitment on the Somme early in July.  He died near Armentières on 24th June 1916 and was buried in “Y” Farm military cemetery (Plot 1 Row C Grave 37).

Notification of John’s death and two packages of his possessions were sent to his named next of kin (father) Mr Thomas F. Ifould at Mose (sic) Cottage, Steep, Nr Petersfield, Hants, England. The larger package contained “Testament (presumably The New Testament), Letters, photo, Note Book, Diary (I wonder what happened to it?), 2 Discs” (presumably identity discs).  The smaller  held only “2 Brushes, Note Book”.  After the war Thomas Frank also received a commemorative plaque from the A.I.F.

Bedales didn’t commemorate the war service and sacrifice of the domestic staff; so far Benjamin Vidler and John Ifould (who must have known each other well as they were both employed by the School in 1911) are the only ones I’ve found who lost their lives.  They are now recognised and remembered here and in the Memorial Library Exhibition.

Sources: Steep Parish and School Records; census material; ancestry.co.uk and the excellent records of A.I.F.