William Gleadell was born in 1864. He did well in business, and in 1907 he married a wealthy woman. He had a son and a step-daughter. When World War I started he joined the army. The notes below were written by his son:
War with Germany broke out in August 1914 and an early sadness for my parents was to learn that Admiral Craddock [Craddock had been an acquaintance and house guest - Ben] and all but one of his officers had been lost when their old cruiser, HMS "Good Hope", was sunk at the battle of Coronel by the modern battle-cruisers Scharnhorst and Geneisenau.
My father was anxious to follow us home [his wife and the children had traveled to the U.K. from Mexico earlier - as refugees following the U.S. attack on Veracruz in the spring of 1914 - Ben] and enlist. This he achieved and, early in 1915, he reported at the War Office to offer his services. But he was told he was too old to go to the Front [He must have been about 50 at this time- Ben]. After making enquiries he decided to try again at an office two floors down and conveniently dropped several years in age in the process. In consequence, he found himself commissioned in the Army Service Corps and posted to HQ Vth Army at Amiens as Requisitions Officer; he had been able to convince the recruiting authorities that he was a proficient French speaker.
Requisitioning in the battle zone was an exacting task but his endeavours were recognised and he was awarded the French decoration of "L’etoile Noire." Another duty my father was to perform was to be a Conducting Officer to guide some of the statesmen and senior soldiers visiting the Front. Among these there came Lloyd George, the Prime Minister; Winston Churchill when he was a Government Minister, and Maréchal Foch, lately appointed the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in France. My father described some of these occasions. Mr. Churchill was by no means universally popular with the Army then, and he recalled their visit to an Officer’s Club when, on their arrival, most of those present got up and walked out. How very different from circumstances that were to obtain in World War II. During a visit by the PM, senior commanders were at pains to explain the very critical state of the ammunition supply, already severely rationed, and the PM undertook to stress this point in the House of Commons next day. On reading his speech there was bitter disappointment that there was no mention of the seriousness of the situation. Foch, it appears, was a very devout man and the tour programme had to allow for him to hear Mass most days before setting off.
My father took an affectionate interest in his nephews and nieces, and when he learnt that young Phil Johnston, aged 18, had just undergone his first baptism of fire on the Western Front, it was typical that he should hasten over to visit him and take him back for a meal. Phil always remembered the lift to his morale on his uncle’s unexpected arrival.
Unfortunately, my father fell a victim to the last German attack in which mustard gas was used, and he was evacuated to recover at Watermouth Castle, a wartime hospital in North Devon....
One regrettable effect on a victim of exposure to the wartime gas was that he would become exceedingly intolerant and critical of some person, or persons, very close to him. In my father’s case it befell me and his younger sister, Isabel, to be the recipients of his displeasures....
The full biographical sketch is here: "Stillwaters" (1864-1941). Gleadell's nephew, Jack Barber, joined the army and was killed in action at Hooge in the summer of 1915. I've posted about Barber here: When good vacations go bad (April 20, 2005) and here: John Christian Barber (June 15, 2004).
Gleadell died in London during an air raid in 1941. I don't know whether from natural causes or from injuries caused by the bombing. His son, Paul Gleadell, the author of this sketch, served with distinction in the British Army in World War II.
Note: I took an editorial liberty and divided up one paragraph. Revised Nov 11, 2007. Small edit April 3, 2009.