Part of the mystery solved over pre-First World War photo

“Sam” Archer in the church choir 1906 and the Essex Territorials c.1910 “Sam” Archer in the church choir 1906 and the Essex Territorials c.1910

Thursday, August 28, 2014
9:30 AM

The mystery surrounding the lives of the St Mary’s choir boys photographed shortly before the outbreak of the First World War is closer to being solved after one man was identified.

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“Sam” Archer in the church choir 1906 and the Essex Territorials c.1910“Sam” Archer in the church choir 1906 and the Essex Territorials c.1910

Jon Archer, 54, the nephew of Sam Archer, who is in the second row, to Rev J Evans’ left, recognised the 1906 picture while flicking through the Broadcast at his parents’ home in Great Dunmow last month.

The photograph has been at their house for many years but no one had any idea it was Sam in the picture, until they saw the caption in the paper.

We published the picture earlier this month to try to find out what happened to these men after the photograph was taken and whether they went to war. Jon, who lives in Chelmsford, said: “I thought it looked vaguely familiar and checking through an old chest of photos my parents have I found a framed copy of the same picture.

“There were no names on their copy so it was interesting to read in the Broadcast that one of the boys was an S.Archer in the middle row next to Rev Evans.

St Mary's Choir boys 1906St Mary's Choir boys 1906

“We realised that this must be Herbert William Archer, a great uncle of mine, who was nicknamed Sam and always went by this name. We had no idea he had been in the church choir, although we knew his brother, my grandfather, had been.

“We have no pictures of him as a boy that we know of and not many of him as an adult so it was nice to see that in there.”

Sam was born in 1888 and would have been around 17 or 18 when the picture was taken. As expected, he did go off to fight in the First World War. During his time he served 
in Gallipoli where Sam was one of the many men who were struck down with dysentery. He was almost left for dead in the chaos of the withdrawal but was rescued and shipped home when he had recovered.

He rejoined the war and transferred to the newly formed RAF as a member of the ground crew because of his background as a mechanical engineer. His unit was sent to Russia.

After the war he carried on working for the family’s business in Great Dunmow and he remained there until he died, in his sleep, at the age of 75 in 1963.

He lent his copy of the church choir photo amongst other Dunmow pictures to Dorothy Dowsett who published it in her book called Dunmow Through the Ages.

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