Gilbert Edward Ivall was born on 25th August1884 in Chalvey (a village which is now a district of Slough) to Thomas Ivall (1837 – 1908) and Lucy Ivall nee Hobden (1845 – 1929). He was baptised on 16 January 1885. Gilbert was the eleventh child of Thomas and Lucy who had a total of 15 children between 1868 and 1892, 12 of whom survived into adulthood. Thomas was a baker and ran the Chalvey village bakery. Confusingly, several of Thomas and Lucy’s children were known to their friends and family by different names from those on their birth certificates. Gilbert was known as Ben !
The 1891 census lists Thomas Ivall (aged 53, a baker), Lucy (43), Walter (22, an assistant schoolmaster), Annie (17), Harry (15, a baker), Catherine (13), Percy (11), Reginald (10), Charles (8), Margaret (8), Gilbert (6), Jane (4) and Philip (0.75) living at Church Street, 6 Jordan Place, Chalvey.
By 1901, Thomas, aged 63, a retired baker was living at 39 The Crescent, Chalvey, Slough with his wife Lucy (52) and their children (Catherine) Dora (23, a milliner), Charles (18, a baker), Margaret (18), Gilbert (15), Jane (14), David (10) and Gerald (8). The house is still there.
Gilbert’s elder brother Percy had joined the Scots Guards in 1897, fought in the Boer War 1899-1902 and been discharged from the Army in 1909. Gilbert decided to follow his brother into the regiment and was given service number 5099. He enlisted at Slough – I don’t know the date but it may have been 1902 when Gilbert became 18. Albert Turton, also from Chalvey, also joined the Scot`s Guards. He had service number 5100 and so probably enlisted the same day as Gilbert. It seems likely that they were friends.
The Royal Household Establishment Books (on Ancestry.com) show that Gilbert entered Royal Service on 28th May 1909. He was an assistant porter in the Servants Hall at Buckingham Palace. His annual salary was £45 13s (equivalent to about £15,500 now). Gilbert was in the Lord Steward’s Department. The Royal Household consisted of three Departments, each headed by one of the Great Officers of the Household: the Lord Chamberlain, the Lord Steward and the Master of the Horse. Broadly speaking, the Lord Chamberlain’s Department dealt with the ceremonial and social life of the Court; the Lord Steward’s Department with domestic and culinary matters; and the Master of the Horse’s Department was responsible for the royal stables and for arranging transport for the Sovereign and the Royal Household. The 1911 census shows Gilbert as a servant in Buckingham Palace. He was at one time captain of the Royal Household Cricket Club.
In 1913 Gilbert married Alice Jupp in the district of St George’s Hanover Square, London. He was 28 and she 27. Alice was a coffee room maid in the Lord Steward’s Department. They had a daughter, Nannie, who was born during the third quarter of 1914 but died within 3 months.
Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914. Gilbert, who was still working for the King’s Household, was in the army reserve because of his previous military service. He was called up on 5th August and sent to France on 13th August 1914 as a private in the 1st Battalion of the Scots Guards, part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).
Ypres, a medieval town in Belgium, was taken by the German Army at the beginning of the war. However the BEF managed to recapture the town. The first major German attempt to regain Ypres took place on 15th October. Experienced BEF riflemen held their positions but suffered heavy losses. German attacks took place for the next four weeks but with the arrival of the French Army the line was held. On the 22nd November 1914, with the weather deteriorating, the Germans decided to abandon the Ypres offensive. It is estimated that about 135,000 Germans were killed or badly wounded during the First Battle of Ypres. The BEF lost around 75,000 men and was effectively destroyed as a professional army.
Gilbert’s battalion took part in the fighting around Ypres. This included a battle at Nonne Boschen on 11 November 1914 where both Gilbert Ivall (aged 30) and Albert Turton died. The 1st Battalion of the Scots Guards were occupying trenches between Veldhoek and Gheluvelt, southeast of Ypres. The War Diary of 1st Battalion of the Scots Guards (which is kept at the National Archives at Kew) has the following description of the fighting that day :
“Terrific shelling commenced at 6.30am and lasted for three hours. All trenches and dugouts were knocked in. The Prussian Guard attacked through Veldhoek and took the four trenches along the whole of the 1st Brigade. Our men in orchard held on till trenches on either side were occupied by the enemy and did good execution. The point d’appui (base for military operations) was shelled to pieces early in the morning and attacked by infantry from the wood. Only 5 men from the fire trench, 30 from the orchard, 4 from the point d’appui and battalion HQs escaped and managed to join the rest of the brigade at dusk. The enemy got within 200 yards of our guns, but were driven back losing very heavily.”
The same battle is described in “Great Battles of World War I” by Anthony Livesey.
“The following day, 11 November, a renewed German attack by the 4th Guards Division was launched in the southern sector against the British 1st Guards Brigade: the two crack units of the opposing armies. The Germans broke through the British Line, but seemed unable, once again, to follow up their success, and were driven back by the last Allied reserves.”
The name of Gilbert Ivall is recorded on the Menin Gate memorial at Ypres but he has no gravestone. His name is on the war memorials at St Peter’s Church, Chalvey and St Mary’s Church, Slough. It is also in the book of remembrance kept in the chapel built to commemorate soldiers of Scottish Regiments at Edinburgh Castle.
Alice, Gilbert’s wife, died in 1958 aged 71.