Percy John GREENWOOD
Eyes green, Hair light brown, Complexion fresh
The Greenwood family of Tunbridge Wells
One of nine children born to Henry Greenwood and Kezia Seward, Percy was born in 1892 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England. Percy’s father was a well-respected police inspector who died suddenly in May 1903 aged only 47, leaving Kezia widowed with nine children aged between 3 and 22 years – five of them still dependent on Kezia.
In about 1905 aged 13, Percy commenced an apprenticeship with the Tunbridge Wells Advertiser as a printer’s machinist. He completed six years with this firm.
The Greenwood family eventually migrated to Western Australia, possibly as Kezia had a niece there. Kezia left England in April 1913 on the ship Armadale bound for Fremantle with six of her nine children, the youngest being 12 and Percy about 21. Older siblings, Tolmash (Thomas) and Lily, stayed in England where they eventually married and settled. Her eldest son, Everard, followed the family to Australia in 1914. Kezia and the majority of the family settled in North Fremantle and Percy found work in the printing trade in Geraldton.
Signing up with the AIF
On enlisting in August 1915, Percy was aged 23 and successfully underwent his medical in Geraldton before proceeding to the Blackboy Hill training camp. He was originally assigned to the 28th Battalion, joining many of the WA boys who would belong to the same regiment and were with him at Fromelles. This would have included Jack Joyce who is also missing at Fromelles. Jack managed to have his photo taken twice while there in August 1915 and perhaps Percy is in the photo below - Jack Joyce is standing at the far right. A number of these boys could fit Percy’s general description – early twenties, tall, light brown hair….
Percy left Fremantle with the 28th Battalion on board the troopship Medic in February 1916. On arrival in Egypt, he was transferred to the 32nd Battalion which was originally made up of two companies from South Australia and two from Western Australia so he likely met up with fellow trainees from the Black Boy Hill Camp.
According to the Australian War Museum website, the 32nd Battalion fought its first major battle at Fromelles on 19 July 1916, having only entered the front-line trenches three days previously. The attack was a disastrous introduction to battle for the 32nd - it suffered 718 casualties, almost 75 per cent of the battalion's total strength, but closer to 90 per cent of its actual fighting strength. Private Percy Greenwood was one of those casualties, reported missing after the battle.
The German Death List
Kezia Greenwood, as Percy’s next of kin, was advised in late August 1916 that he was missing. Percy’s name appeared on the German Death List dated 4 November and it was interpreted that he might possibly be a prisoner of war and Kezia was advised accordingly in February 1917. This however was revised and, after an official Court of Enquiry, notification came through in May that he had been killed in action on 20 July 1916.
Kezia did not however give up hope that he might be a prisoner and there is a letter to the Red Cross dated 1919 on file where she encloses a photo of Percy and his brother and thanks them for their help. Unfortunately, the copy of the photo was not retained.
The Army could provide no additional detail about Percy’s death, a fact that was highlighted quite starkly when Kezia replied to an official form letter seeking details for the inscription on her son’s grave. This was in 1922, some six years after Percy’s death and, of course, he had no known grave. Her reply dated 2 March 1922 highlighted that she had been informed that her son had been killed in action on 20th July 1916 but, “I have never been told in which place or action he was killed.” The authorities had the decency to respond promptly (within a week) to advise that Percy had been killed at Fromelles and to better explain the purpose of their original request.
Update on the memorial plaque: Having found the plaque, researchers with the Fromelles Association of Australia quickly arranged to purchase it to ensure it found a home where Percy’s story could be told and his memory preserved. With the help of Australian and United Kingdom researchers, the penny is now safely in the hands of the Association and plans are underway to find a place where it can be preserved and Percy’s contribution honoured.
It is also hoped that we can use the penny to generate publicity in an attempt to locate donors as, despite years of searching, we are still in need of Y DNA to help identify Percy.
As her husband was dead, Kezia received her son’s war medals and his memorial plaque and scroll. Official regulations reflected the norms of the era giving preference to a soldier’s male relatives – something that sits less comfortably in the 21st century. Percy’s identification disc, returned by the Germans, had already been forwarded to Kezia in November 1917 as his next of kin.
DNA is still being sought for family connections to
|Soldier||Percy John GREENWOOD 1891-1916|
|And through his brothers, seeking YDNA donors on the male line|
|Everard Fred 1880-1953 (Australia)||-one adopted daughter|
|Tolmash Kenneth 1882-1954 (UK)||– one daughter, one son|
|Reginald 1890-1973 (Australia)||– one adopted son|
|Donald 1898-1972||– no issue|
|Leslie 1900-1968||– one daughter|
|Parents||Henry GREENWOOD 1854-1903 - Medstead, Hampshire|
|and Kezia SEWARD 1858-1929 - Wield, Hampshire|
|Paternal||Bridger GREENWOOD 1810-1895|
|and Caroline KNIGHT 1824-1893 – both of Medstead, Hampshire|
|Maternal||William SEWARD 1825-1875|
|and Charlotte GOODALL 1832-1909 – both of Wield, Hampshire|
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