An employer’s letter of reference for a WW1 Cavers soldier

I’ve blogged before about finding unexpected gems on eBay related to my Cavers one-name study. Recently I was able to buy another, this time a letter of reference dating from 1916. The letter was written by a hop merchant in London, England.

1916 letter of reference for soldier Harold CaversTranscribing the letter it reads as follows:

9 Southwark Street, London
December 7th 1916

This is to certify that Harold C. Cavers, now a private in the 1/7th Battalion London Regiment (No. 8234, Lewis Gunner), has been in our service since 1907 and will, we sincerely hope, return to our service when the War is over. We have always found him truthful, faithful, attentive to business, most punctual and as honest as the day, and from our knowledge of him during the time he was with us, we know that under no circumstances or under any temptation would he wittingly commit any breach of trust.

(Signed) Arthur Morris Co.
of Arthur Morris & Co., Hop Merchants

I was curious about the circumstances in which such a letter might have been written for a serving soldier. Sadly this soldier’s detailed army service records don’t survive. Many soldier records were lost in the bombing of WW2. But another record reveals that he received the Silver War Badge, given to invalided soldiers to wear to show what had happened to them. This record also reveals that he enlisted in the 7th London Regiment on 15th November 1915, and was discharged on 11th July 1918, due to “Wounds”. At this time he was 26 years old, and had served overseas. An army pension record notes that he was living at Redcar in the northeast of England.

Harold Charles Cavers belonged to the large London Cavers family, probably of Scottish descent originally. He was born at Camberwell in 1892, son of licensed victualler (publican) Augustus Cavers and his wife (and cousin) Alice Fussell. In the 1891 census, the year before Harold was born, this Cavers family appear running the Black Raven pub in Bishopsgate, London.

Harold’s father Augustus Cavers died in 1895, aged just 39. By the 1901 census Harold, now aged 7, was living at the Licensed Victuallers School in Upper Kennington Lane, Lambeth, S.E. London.

By 1911 he was back living with his widowed mother Alice at 23 Cavour Street, Kennington, S.E. London. His occupation was noted in the census as “Junior Clerk, at Hop Merchant”. He was only 18 at this point, so must have started working for the hop merchants when he was 14 or 15, if the date in the letter is accurate.

Harold Charles Cavers survived the war, and in 1921, now aged 29 and a commercial traveller, he married 26-year-old Florence Winifred Elsie Davies. Both were living at 181 Dalling Road, Hammersmith, London.

Harold Charles Cavers died on 9th December 1935 at Hounslow Hospital, Hounslow, Middlesex. At the time he was living at 52 Paddenswick-road, Hammersmith, Middlesex. His wife Florence survived him.

Remembering an Australian Cavers soldier on Anzac Day

Today, 25th April, is a day of remembrance for the many soldiers from Australia and New Zealand who served in all wars, but perhaps especially, and at least originally, those who fought at Gallipoli in World War 1.

One of these Australian soldiers was Francis Cavers (1894-1918). Born at Hobkirk near Hawick in Scotland, son of William McLean Cavers and Margaret Robson Jepps, he was a gardener before he emigrated to Australia. He joined the Australian Imperial Force and served at Gallipoli before being invalided out with dysentery. Patched up in time to serve at the Battle of the Somme he received several injuries there, which again saw him invalided out. He returned to the war in late 1917, and was killed in France on 5th April 1918, aged just 24, leaving a widow Elizabeth and young daughter Mary. His younger brother John Jepps Cavers had died in 1915, on the way to Gallipoli.

Francis Cavers (1894-1918)

Thanks to Derek Robertson of Hawick and the Great War for some of this information, including the photo of Francis’s grave in France which he has just sent me.

Grave of Francis Cavers

Records of Cavers soldiers serving in British army in Canada

Ancestry has recently added records of early 18th and 19th century British soldiers in Canada to its online databases.

Checking in there for Cavers there are a few matches. For example searching in the British Army and Canadian Militia Muster Rolls and Pay Lists, 1795-1850 finds the following:

  • Walter Cavers and Ebenezer Cavers, both in Lieutenant Elias Durham’s Company of First Regiment of Lincoln Militia Upper Canada, 1837/8
  • Robert Cavers, in 6th, 7th and 8th Provisional Battalions, 9th Provisional Battalion (Queen’s Royal Borderers), 10th, 11th and 12th Provisional Battalions, 1838
  • Thomas Cavers, in 6th, 7th and 8th Provisional Battalions, 9th Provisional Battalion (Queen’s Royal Borderers), 10th, 11th and 12th Provisional Battalions, 1839

Some of the records above include original signatures of the men.

Likewise the UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Registers of Soldiers Who Served in Canada, 1743-1882 includes the following references:

  • Adam Cavers (1782-1864) from Cavers, Roxburghshire (son of Robert Cavers and Margaret Henderson), who served in the 3rd Regiment of Dragoons
  • James Cavers (b. ca 1785) from Wilton, Roxburghshire (son of Thomas Cavers and Janet Scott), who served in the 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards, and emigrated with his family to Canada