Edwin was born in Lewes on 02/10/1877 and baptised at St John sub Castro on 06/01/1878. His parents were George Stapley and Maria Ade, nee Douglass.
The Ades were an old Lewes family and Stapley was a family name carried down through the male line. Edwin was George and Maria’s fourth child but their only son. George worked as an ironmonger’s assistant and in 1881 the family were living in St Martin’s Lane.
By 1891 they had moved to 4 Grange Road. At the following census in 1901 George and Maria were running the Pelham Arms, where George died in March 1903. At the time Edwin was boarding at 29 Russell Square, Brighton and working as a printer’s clerk.
He married Lois Louise Stevens in Lewes in 1908. In 1901 she had been working as a draper’s assistant for Charles Morrish the draper of 186 High Street Lewes. These premises are now Ask Italian, almost opposite the White Hart.
Following their marriage Edwin and Lois moved to 19 St John’s Terrace and Maria came to live with them. Edwin was now working as a timber merchant’s clerk. A daughter Irene (Rene) was born at the beginning of 1914.
Edwin was a keen sportsman. He had played cricket for the St Michaels team up to 1907 when he resigned as Vice Captain. On his return to Lewes he played for the Sussex Press Club. He was a member of the Rifle Club where he both shot and was a very successfully billiards player.
As a singer he was a member of the Coronation Glee Singers and also the Lewes Operatic Society. He was a member of the Ancient Order of Druids, Coronation Lodge, serving as Bard in 1907.
Edwin’s army papers are no longer available to view but from other sources we can find out quite a bit about his wartime service. From the medal roll we know that he joined the 2/5th Cinque Ports Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment and was numbered 2802. This number relates to an enlistment towards the end of November 1914. The battalion was originally formed in November 1914 at Hastings but recruited across the county. It was a volunteer battalion and Edwin was almost certainly a member of D Company who drilled in Lewes. In April 1916 they became the 5th Reserve Battalion. Edwin served at home until he was posted to the 13th Battalion and renumbered G/16386. The ‘G’ denoting that the 13th was a service battalion, and the numbers equating to a transfer in September 1916.
The 13th Battalion was also known as the 3rd South Downs Battalion and formed part of the 116th Brigade of the 39th Division, fighting on the Western Front throughout the war. On 30/06/1916, at the Battle of the Boar’s Head, or ‘The Day Sussex Died’, the 13th Battalion had been all but wiped out with around 800 men killed, wounded or captured. Their war diary entry for the following day says, laconically, ‘Work of reorganisation commenced.’ While a nucleus of men remained they had also lost most of their officers.
During July the diary records a number of officers joining the battalion, then at the end of the month a draft of 109 other ranks from the 4th Reserve Battalion arrived. Throughout September several other drafts of men arrived, 341 in total, meanwhile attacks and bombardments continued. With the battalion nearly up to strength there were no more drafts of men in October.
Edwin’s obituary says that he entered France in October. It would have taken some time to reach Thiepval where the battalion was based and the war diary entry for 01/11/1916 records the arrival of a draft of 135 men from the 5th and 9th battalions, who were split evenly between the four companies. ‘A very satisfactory group of men.’ It would seem very likely that Edwin was in this group.
On 14th November the battalion left the Somme for the Ypres Salient. For the next few months periods of intense activity were interspersed with periods of time in billets and training. Very few casualties or injuries are recorded in the diary during this period, except for an attack on 30th January when 10 other ranks were wounded by shells. February was particularly quiet with no wounded recorded. It was around this time the Edwin was severely wounded by shellfire, being hit in the leg and head. Only around 10% of medical reports were retained after the war and the only official army medical record we have for Edwin is his arrival at Napsbury War Hospital on 04/03/1917 via a casualty convoy. It states that he had already served for 2 years 4 months, of which 5 months were in the field. It does not give the date of his injury but records shell injuries to his head and left leg, which had been amputated.
He remained at Napsbury for 18 days until his death on 21/03/1917. The National Archives hold admission and discharge records as well as operation records for Napsbury under the general reference MH 106, but these are only currently available to personal callers and have not been digitised.
Whether Lois was able to visit Edwin in hospital is not known. She had moved to 17 St Swithun’s Terrace. Edwin was buried in the Lewes Cemetery in the Western section II, row YO, grave 20 on 26th March. This was a full military funeral. The coffin was draped with the Union Jack, a volley of three shots were fired over the grave by the Royal Defence Corps and the Last Post was sounded.
His CWGC headstone, and most other army records, show that at the time of his death Edwin was a Lance Corporal but it has not been possible to identify when he was raised to this rank. He was entitled to the War and Victory medals and these, along with his effects, were sent to Lois. She was also awarded a pension for herself and Rene.
Edwin is remembered on the St John sub Castro Memorial, the Lewes War Memorial and the Royal Sussex Regiment Roll of Honour held in Chichester Cathedral.
Sue Jones, a descendent of Edwin’s family, has also written a story of his life; this can be seen by clicking the link: