Frederick Edward Upton was born in 1889 in Brighton, he died on the 3rd of September 1916 at Beaucourt Ridge at the age of 27. Upton was with the 11th Royal Sussex Regiment and his service number was SD 4973.
Frederick was one of eight children born to William Henry Upton (born 1861 in Lewes, died 1897 in Brighton) and Rose Ellen Corke (born 1863 in West Hoathly, died 1931 in Brighton). They were married in 1882. Their eldest daughter, Rose, was born the following year and her birth was rapidly followed by that of Obediah, Naomi, Amelia, Frederick, Albert, Mabel and finally, Daisy, who was born in 1893.
William was a labourer and the family were poor. In 1897 William was working for Brighton Corporation as a scavenger (dustman/street cleaner) and was killed in an accident in the Corporation yard when he fell into the incinerator. At the inquest the Corporation said that they would do what they could to assist his widow and this resulted in Naomi, Amelia and Frederick being placed in children’s homes in order to give them some chance of an education and hopefully a better life. The eldest children, Rose and Obediah were considered old enough to help the family by earning something. By 1901 Ellen had moved with her remaining children to 23 Arnold Street and the census shows Rose working as a laundress and Obediah working as a road labourer.
In 1913 Frederick married Elizabeth Langley at the Church of the Annunciation and one of the witnesses at the wedding was his brother Albert’s wife Florence (known as Rebecca) Upton. They had two daughters, Elizabeth born in 1914 and Mabel born in 1915. Some of his siblings had also married by this time: Obediah married Alice in 1907 , Albert had married Rebecca/Florence in 1908, and Naomi married John Mace in 1911.
Frederick enlisted with the 1st South Downs Battalion which became the 11th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment. The Battalion trained at Cooden, near Bexhill, from September 1914 until July 1915 when they were moved first to Detling, near Maidstone and then to Aldershot. In October of that year they became part of 116th Brigade and were based at Witley until the beginning of March 1916 when then crossed from Southampton to France, landing at Le Havre. The battalion was a carrying/support battalion during the battle of Boar’s Head. Frederick was killed on 3 September 1916 during the attack by the 116th Brigade on Beaucourt Ridge.
The poet, Edmund Blunden, was a junior officer of this regiment and in his book “Undertones of War” he wrote about the action in which Frederick died. He described them as “ a sound, capable battalion, deserving far better treatment than they were now getting, and a battle, not a massacre.”
The battalion was decimated and by the end of the day the tally was: Officers killed 0, wounded 3, missing 8, Other Ranks killed 5, wounded 160, missing 123. The remnant of the battalion was made into two companies: the original A and D companies forming No. 1 Company, and B and C companies forming No. 2 Company.
Frederick Upton is listed in St. Peters Memorial Book and on St. Luke’s Parish Church Memorial. Buried in Hamel Military Cemetery, Beaumont Hamel.
Frederick’s widow, Elizabeth, and daughters, Elizabeth A. and Mabel, stayed in Brighton after his death. In 1939 her registration record shows her as a widow doing paid domestic work. She was living with her son-in-law Frank Knowelden, a furniture upholsterer, who had married Mabel. Also in the house at 67 Southampton Street, was her other daughter, Elizabeth A. Lankstead (nee Upton) and her son George Lankstead. who had been born in 1935. Another member of the Upton family, Dorothy, was also living there.
The house next door was occupied by Elizabeth A.’s in-laws: George and Rachel Lankstead and two of their adult children Thomas, a railway labourer, and Cissy, a ward maid.
The War was not particularly kind to the Upton family. Frederick’s brother, Albert Nelson, private G/194, 8th Battalion, Royal West Surrey Regiment, (the Queen’s) 24th Division, died on the opening day of the Battle of Loos, on 25 September, 1915. At that time his wife, Rebecca, was living at 70, Carlyle Street, Elm Grove, Brighton, with their son, Albert Walter who was 6. Albert Nelson is listed in St. Peters Memorial book and on St. Luke’s Parish Church Memorial. He was an employee of Brighton Corporation and is commemorated on The Loos Memorial. MR.19.
In March 1915 Naomi’s husband, John Mace, who was a Wheeler Corporal in the Army Service Corps, died of enteric fever (typhoid) at Rouen. Naomi was left with a son of 2, John Frederick. The personal effects which were returned to her contained a Princess Mary Box, which had been given to soldiers at Christmas 1914. She received a pension of 15s 6d.
At the time of John’s death she was living at 50 Bernard Road, but by September of 1915 she had moved to 28 Coombe Terrace which is the same address at which she was living in 1939. Then she was still living with her son who by this time was a Marine Engineer/Fitter.
However, Obediah Upton survived the war and post war ran a garage in Upper Beeding, which is where he was living in 1939 with his wife and son, Henry. He lived until February 1960. It has not been possible to trace service for him during the First World War.