|Corporal Edward George Wilstead
1/6th Territorial Battalion East Surrey Regiment
Edward George Wilstead was born at Penge, Surrey in the spring of 1880, the eldest son of George Wilstead and Sarah Jane
Twort. George was the son of a beer shop keeper and had married Sarah Jane in Croydon at the start of 1879. He later
moved to Kingston, Surrey and started making bicycles.
Edward found employment as a printer and compositor with Lewis and Hopkins in Richmond, where the work involved setting
the printed words into frames for printing later. It required great skill as the words had to be read backwards when the
process was being carried out.
On the 8th May 1900 he joined the 3rd Volunteer battalion of the East Surrey Regiment, attesting at Richmond, Surrey. He
was described as being 5 foot 5 inches tall, blue eyes, black hair, with a good physical development and medium complexion.
He was enrolled with a service number of 3690.
The Volunteer force had been set up on the 12th May 1859 and consisted of rifle and artillery volunteers and an engineer
corps. Members attended 24 days of drill in a year to be considered as effective. In 1872 jurisdiction over the volunteers
was placed in the hands of the Secretary of State for War and the Volunteer battalions were increasingly integrated into the
In the spring of 1902 he married Elizabeth Mary Whitehead at Richmond, Surrey, which was where she had been born.
They settled down at Sandycombe Road, Richmond, and Edward worked as a letter press printer and employed others in the
company. A son named Stanley Edward was born in 1903 and a daughter called Violet Mabel was born in the spring of 1908.
His great interest was in photography and he submitted one of his photographs entitled “Photograph of interior of Kew Parish
church” to the public records office in March 1907. The photograph is now held by the National Archives in Kew.
By 1907 Volunteer forces were considered to be essential to British defence planning as they would replace regular army
troops for home defence. The Territorial and Reserve Forces act of 1907 merged the Volunteer force with the Yeomanry to
form the Territorial Force in 1908. Edward Wilstead transferred to the Territorial Army and attested in the 1/6th Battalion
East Surrey Regiment (T.F.) receiving the number of T.34. This low number indicated that he was one of the earliest recruits
into the new battalion when he attested on the 7th April 1908. He initially signed up for four years service with the
opportunity to re-enlist for additional one year periods of service. He attended the annual summer camps at Brighton,
Arundel, Lewes, and Crowborough and in 1910 was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal. On the 17th February 1913
he was promoted again to the rank of Corporal.
When war was declared in August 1914, Edward Wilstead received notification on the 5th August for embodied service with
the 1/6th Battalion, which was part of the Surrey brigade, 44th Home Counties division. On the 12th August, details of Lord
Kitchener’s scheme for the framework of the new Armies being formed were announced. Six divisions which would include
Territorials, were to have new bases for infantry training. The Home Counties division would become the Eastern division and
were to be based at Shorncliffe.
At the end of September, the war office sent telegrams to the territorial regiments asking them if their men were prepared
to serve overseas. The men had joined the Territorial regiments for home service only and the conditions of the enlistment
could not be changed without their consent. The telegrams were read to the men and then they were asked to submit their
names if they were agreeable for overseas service. With only a few exceptions, majority of the 1/6th East Surreys accepted
and anticipated being sent to the Western front. Within a week orders were received to prepare to proceed to India. The
Territorial battalions were to be used as replacements for regular army troops, who could then be brought back to fight
in France and Belgium. This course of action caused great disappointment amongst the men. The Home Counties Division was
reviewed by the King at Canterbury and he pointed out the important role which they were to play in India.
The troopships arrived at Bombay on the 2nd December 1914 and on arrival the Division was broken up, the 1/6th East
Surreys being posted to the Allahabad Brigade in the 8th (Lucknow) Division and stationed in Rawalpindi for internal
In March 1915 the Battalion was transferred to the 4th Rawalpindi Brigade in the 2nd (Rawalpindi) Division and helped in
defending the North West frontier against incursions from tribesmen in Afghanistan.
A further move to the 5th Jhelum Brigade in the same division, took place in October 1915.
Edward Wilstead was admitted to hospital on the 19th November 1915, suffering from Onychia, an inflammation of the
surrounding tissue of the nail plate. He remained in hospital for 17 days during which time the nail was removed, before
returning to his battalion.
In 1916 his Territorial service time expired and the proceedings on discharge during the period of embodiment began at his
own request. He was now aged 36 and on the 16th May 1916 he was discharged in consequence of his termination of
engagement and returned to the United Kingdom. On his discharge papers his military character was described as being very
good. He was discharged from the Territorial Army at Kingston on Thames, Surrey.
Corporal Edward Wilstead was awarded the Territorial Force Efficiency medal for having served 12 years and attending the
required training and annual camps, and also the British War medal. Both of these medals have now become detached from
his third medal, which was the Territorial Force war medal.
The Division was then sent by train to Southampton and arrived in the evening of the 29th October 1914. The 1/6th East
Surrey regiment then boarded the “Grantully Castle”, which was moored only a short distance from the train. The men were
shown their quarters and were then given a substantial meal. The number of men aboard totalled about 1,680. The “Grantully
Castle” was due to sail at 9 p.m. but a shortage in the crew numbers delayed the sailing until 11 p.m. Then two tugs pulled the
troopship into the channel from where she then proceeded under her own steam.
The number of assembled troopships totalled ten vessels, which slowly formed up in the English Channel approaches and
finally on the 30th October, with a battleship and destroyer escort, the convoy steamed off on their voyage to India.
The 1/6th East Surrey Battalion was one of four Territorial battalions of the Surrey Regiments who were being sent to
India in late 1914.
|Onboard the Grantully |
|This medal was issued in Bronze without a clasp, to|
recipients who had been members of the Territorial force
on the 4th August 1914. They had to have volunteered before
the 30th September 1914 to serve outside of the United
Kingdom and had to have actually served outside of the
United Kingdom, between the 4th August 1914 until the
11th November 1918. The recipient had also not to be
eligible for the 1914 or 1914/15 star.
Only 33,944 medals were awarded to members of the
territorial forces, making it the scarcest of the Great War
Edward George Wilstead lived in Surrey for the rest of
his life and died there in the summer of 1956.
|The Territorial Force War Medal.|