IRON, Robert Stephen (aka FARRANT)

No.121019, Signaller, Robert Stephen IRON
Aged 35

16th Siege battery, Royal Garrison Artillery
Killed in Action on Monday, 28th October 1918

Stephen Robert 'Bob' FARRANT was born in Wratting Road, Haverhill on 1st November 1881, son of William Iron and Harriet FARRANT (née NUNN).
Failed to find a birth registration for either Robert or Stephen IRON or IRONS in either Suffolk, Essex , Haverhill or Sturmer at the right age.
Bob's father was the son of John FARRANT and Mary née IRON. It appears that John Farrant started another family in Burton End leaving his first one. Mary reverted to her maiden name and brought the children up using the surname Iron. The Church was reluctant to accept this and many entries in the parish register have the name Iron crossed through and Farrant written in its place. Gradually over the next generation the Farrant name fell into disuse and Iron was used in its stead.

1891 census...Aged 9, he was at 5 Wratting Road with his sisters Alice [23] sewing machinist and Ellen [17] a tailoress; brothers Herbert [15] news boy and James [10]. All Haverhill born. Next door at No.4 were his brother Sergeant Patrick [24] and his wife Elizabeth [25]. His widowed mother Harriet [60] tailoress born Sturmer, was at 27 Henning Road with his brother William [26] (police constable) born Sturmer, his wife Elizabeth [20] born Thames Ditton and their son Orion Ewart [1 month] born Battersea.

His father's death has not been identified. In the 1881 census the family was his parents William [56] and Harriet [40], brothers William, Sergeant Patrick, Herbert Albert and James Frederick; sister Alice Eliza, Abigail Kate and Ellen Susanna.

1901 census...He had not been found in this census. His mother was at 23 Wratting Road with his brother Sergeant [34](widower) a warehouseman, and his daughter Edith [6] born Greenwich, his sister Alice [33]jacket machinist and his brother James [20] packer in warehouse.

1911 census...Aged 27, a book stall manager, he was boarding at 7 King Edward Road, Waltham Cross with Julia Pryke and her family.

He married Alice WHITE (b.15-8-1891) in Nuneaton Church on 14th October 1915.
When his widow completed the Army "Living Relatives" form she was living at 23 Riversley Road,Nuneaton and entered his brothers as William [55] living in Littleport, Patrick [53] in Halstead, Herbert [44] in Kensington Gardens and James [41] at Halstead; sisters Alice [51] at Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace Road with sister Ellen BARKER [45] and sister Kate LONG was in Haverhill.

He enlisted in Nuneaton when resident at Oakengates, Shropshire
He attested at Nuneaton on 10th December 1915, a bookstall manager, from He was single when registering for the Army, then married Alice WHITE.
Mobilised at Citadel, Plymouth on 6th October 1916, now married, address 7 Bracebridge Street, Nuneaton. 5 feet 5 inches tall (165.1 cm), chest 32.5" to 34.5" (82.6 to 87.6 cm).
1st February 1917 he was posted to RGA Sig Training Depot then on 5th March to Catterick. He passed 1st Class signally and telephony on 9th March 1917. 2nd April posted to 363 Siege Battery. He embarked at Southampton for Le Havre on 27th July 1917. Serving successively with 363, 367, 397 and finally 16 Siege Batteries, becoming Signaller on 22nd August 1918, then killed in action on 28th October 1918.

His widow received a pension of 13 shillings 9 pence (68p) per week. His personal belongings sent to here comprised: Letters, photos, notebook, wallet,knife, disc and 9 carat gold ring with stone.

There are several discrepancies in his service record regarding the date of his marriage but the marriage index is no help in this instance, as it simply gives the quarter when the marriage was registered.

The Siege Batteries were deployed behind the front line, tasked with destroying enemy artillery, supply routes, railways and stores. The batteries were equipped with heavy Howitzer guns firing large calibre 4, 6, 8 or 9.2 inch shells in a high trajectory. The location of a particular battery on a given date is near impossible at present.

The South West Suffolk Echo carried the following reports on 16th ans 23rd November 1918:- 16/11/1918 - Mr. H.Iron of Messrs W.H.Smith and Sons, Liverpool Street.London has just received information that his brother, Signaller S.R. Iron was killed in action on the morning of October 28th. Deceased was well known inHaverhill, having as a boy served with Mr. Simmonds at the station bookstall. Prior to joining RGA Siege battery nearly two years ago he was in charge of the Bookstall at Nuneaton, where he was highly respected. Much sympathy will be felt for his young widow and brothers and sisters.
23/11/1918 - With reference to the death of Signaller S.R.Iron, announced in our issue of November 16th. The following has been received from the Chaplain by Mrs.Iron:-
"You will have been informed of the death of your dear husband, Gunner R.Iron of the 16th S.B., R.G.A.. which occurred in the early morning of Monday last, 28th October. He was in the rear billets with the Major and Captain when a shell struck the house. As a result a splinter pierced his side, and entering the heart, caused instant death. The Major and Captain were both wounded badly, and were taken immediately to hospital. It will be many months before they are sufficiently recovered to enjoy life again. The affair has cast quite a gloom over the whole battery, particularly the death of Iron, for he was extremely popular with the men. The one officer whom I saw also expressed regret for he had lost a most valuable helper in his work.Personally I too should like to express my sympathy with you in your bereavement.In the afternoon we laid him to rest in a small soldiers' cemetery behind the lines, near a village named Verchain. Many comrades were present at the funeral. They have erected a cross,bearing the names etc., at the head of his grave. My heart goes out to the wives and mothers who are being called upon at this time of our country's trial to sustain such heavy losses. Yet in our darkest time there are always ways of comfort and I am sure you must derive some comfort when you think that in England's need he was not found wanting, but took his place in the ranks of those who battled for righteousness sake. You are, and ever will be, proud of him. Our greatest solace however comes from the knowledge that we shall see our departed loved ones again, for death has been conquered; our Blessed saviour gave his life in order that we might have life, His resurrection in the earnest belief of immortality. May I then commit you to the care of Christ, who never fails us. In him hope will be given to you to bear up under the heavy burden laid upon you".

photo: Rodney Gibson

Robert Iron is buried in Verchain British Cemetery, Verchain-Maugre, grave A:25

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details

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