John Stride Ager
by Linda Ayres
John Stride Ager was the younger of the two children of Eliza and Frederick Andrew Stride Ager. His sister, Hester was born on 7th June 1891 and John was born on 5th March 1893. They were born at 30 Ampthill Road, Bedford, where Eliza and Frederick had a newsagent’s business. Before her marriage, Eliza was Head Mistress at Ampthill Road Infants School.
When John was 2 years old, his father went to Australia to join the gold rush. Sadly, he died alone in his hut at Colbinabbin Station, Victoria, on 18th February 1903 of miner’s consumption. John was educated at Ampthill Road School and the Harpur Elementary Boys School. He was also a member of the Church Boys’ Brigade. After leaving school, he moved to Lancashire and was employed as a page (a messenger) at the Midland Hotel, Morecambe.
In April 1915, John joined the Royal Navy and served as an officer steward on H.M.S. Aquarius. He sailed to the Dardanelles and took part in naval operations during the Gallipoli Campaign.
On Friday, 30th July 1915, the Editor of The Bedfordshire Times and Independent appealed for letters from the Bedfordshire men, serving in the Navy or Army, for publication.
In December 1915, John sent a letter from the Dardanelles to The Bedfordshire Times and Independent and his letter was published on Friday 14th January 1916. He writes, “I am sending you a copy of a paper published “somewhere near the Dardanelles” on one of our battleships, thinking it might be of interest to you. I have seen an extract from the soldiers’ paper, the ‘Peninsula Press’, in your paper, and so am sending you one printed by sailors.
“Though something like 3,000 miles from Bedford, I am in constant touch with Bedfordians and things Bedfordian, which is remarkable. We left Scotland last July, and with the aid of Grafton’s cranes, provisioned ship. All the electric lamps come from the Cryselco works at Kempston, and I believe part of our machinery from Allen’s. On November 6th I met five of the 1st /5th Beds. who had been wounded, and were waiting to re-join the battalion. The five were all from the county, and from them I heard of many of my friends in the 1st/5ths. So, after meeting them I kept a keen look-out in my leave ashore for other Bedford boys. Unfortunately, our leave is confined to four hours, once a week, but even in that short time I managed to meet other members of the 1st/5ths. On December 5th while walking round one of the villages here I met George Wiggle, and soon after we fell in with George Joyce, who took me to their camp, where I met the remainder of the few who are left from Gallipoli. Those I saw, as far as I can remember, were the brothers Wiggle, Bob Pruce (Kempston) and Percy Gascoigne, (Gwyn Street). The following Sunday I made tracks for their camp and met some of the E.A.R.E.; two of them I knew were Jack King and Spencer, both old Ampthill Road School boys. They were all very cheerful and well, and quite a jolly time we spent, talking over old times, in the ‘cadets’, and at Ampthill Road School. It was the last time I saw them, however, as the next day the whole detachment were moved to censored. Last Sunday I met George “Jim” Perry, who is in the Australian Force, another old Ampthill Road boy, and though he has been in hospital, looks in splendid health, and like the rest of the Bedford boys, always smiling.
“I have also met another boy, in the Herts Yeomanry, from Bedford, but I have forgotten his name. On board we have a boy from Dunstable, one from Eyeworth (Cambs), and another, P.O. Prince, of Cauldwell Street, who enlisted before the war and another named Hoskins. Next Sunday I shall look up some more old Bedfordians, I hope, as the world is very small after all.
“The weather is quite warm here, and bathing in the sea is still carried on to a certain extent. But we have been issued with extra thick woollen clothes. I expect we shall have very severe weather soon. The mails are rather late getting here, and the last ‘Beds. Times’ I received was November 26th, but it always gets here, and it is a source of great enjoyment to me. It goes on shore with me, for any of the Bedford boys I meet, or any Scottish or Welsh boys who are billeted in Bedford before coming out here.
“As we are a repair ship, we have been kept carefully out of harm’s way to enable us to carry on our peaceful occupation unmolested. So, other, than being in a Zepp Raid at Chatham, I have seen none of the fighting – only the results”.
On the evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1916, John went to Corfu. He was later engaged on important duties with the Dover Patrol. He was demobilised in February 1919. He was awarded the 1914-15 Star and the General Service and Victory Medals.
On 13th December 1918, John married Catherine Law at St. Leonards Church, Bedford. Catherine was born on 10th January 1894 at Toxteth Park, Liverpool. They subsequently moved to 10 Hiley Road, Willesden, London, where their two children were born, John Ronald Ager in 1919 and Joan Ager in 1921.
John served in the Home Guard in the Second World War and while he was on duty he was injured in a bombing raid.
On 11th April 1950, John died after a long illness, aged 57, at his home at 12 Fairlight Avenue, Harlesden, London. His cremation took place at Kensal Green, London. His wish was no flowers no mourning. His ashes were placed in his mother and grandfather’s grave on 2nd May 1950 at Foster Hill Road Cemetery. Catherine survived him by 20 years. She died aged 75 years in 1970.
National Roll of the Great War.
The Bedfordshire Times and Independent Friday January 14th, 1916.
Bedfordshire Times and Standard 12th May 1950
Special thanks to Michael Watson the great -great grandson of Eliza and Frederick Stride Ager for the use of family photographs and help on the family history.
November 28, 2019
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