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Percy Hyde Bird

Percy, my grandfather, was born on 6th May 1883 at 'Fairlight', Cadogan Road, Kingston, Surrey. He liked to be referred to as “The Major”.

He was aged 7 on the 1891 census.  Percy and his mother were living with her first cousin, George John Wareham and his family at 38, Bensham Manor Road, Thornton Heath, Croydon CR7 7AA.  At some point Percy moved to Chestham Park and, presumably, his mother went back to live with Henry, her husband. 

Percy and Marjorie's son Tony, in his unpublished autobiography, explains  "Because of some domestic strife, later resolved, between his parents, my father was virtually adopted and brought up by his childless great-aunt, Mrs Ross.  The Ross side of the family was considerably richer and grander than the Bird side; the Rosses of Swanscombe Manor were fairly well established landed gentry, and early in the nineteenth century, for want of a male heir, the property devolved upon a Miss Ross who married one of the sons of William Bird of Newnham, who lagged rather behind in the landed gentry stakes.  When the pretty Kent village of Swanscombe was increasingly engulfed by London the Rosses moved to Chestham in Sussex, and it was at Chestham Park that my father spent most of his childhood." 

The 1901 census confirms that seventeen year old Percy is living at Chestham Park, Henfield with Eliza Ross and her four young female servants.  Eliza died in March 1904, just before Percy's twenty first birthday.

Tony explains that after Percy had proposed, unsuccessfully, repeated times to Marjorie (Benson) in 1906 and 1907, he went off to Ceylon to work on a tea plantation.  Tony thinks he was sacked as assistant manager and came back to Southampton and married Marjorie, who “realised the magnitude of her blunder immediately”. 

I have a note that Percy was living at 56 Brunswick Place, Hove on the 1911 census, but have not been able to find it again.  However, that was his address when he married Marjorie on 27th June 1911.

“Settlement on the Marriage”

Three days before his wedding, Percy, now of Beeding, Sussex and his fiancé, Marjorie Benson of Henfield, entered into a “Settlement on the Marriage”.   

It seems that under the Will of Eliza, Percy would be entitled, on the last surviving death of a) George Coveney Bird, b) his parents and c) Emily Wildfang, to a one third share of the residue in her valuable estate.  Eliza, Emily, George and Henry were all siblings so this was not surprising - the last to die was actually his Mother in June 1931, at which point Percy would have inherited his one third share.  Prior to The 1911 Settlement, Percy had borrowed £450 from an H.J.Burt and had taken out a life assurance policy of £5,000 to cover the debt in case he should die before inheriting his share of the residue.  Under the settlement he assigned, to his Trustees, Alick Cole Benson of Ticehurst and Frank Thomas Wisden of Henfield, the first £5,000 of his inheritance and the life assurance policy for investment and to then pay income to Marjorie during her lifetime, then to Percy during his lifetime and then any children until they reach 21 years of age.  The agreement mentions an allowance of £150 per annum which he receives from his parents and talks about trust properties (which may be those in Mill Hill - see below re separation). 

On 27th June 1911, Percy married Marjorie Benson at St Patrick’s Church in Hove.  One of the witnesses was a Frederick Lewis – why wasn’t one of Percy’s relatives a witness ?  Who is Frederick Lewis ?

"Whether or not it was ever implicitly or explicitly stated that he was to inherit the pleasant estate and the bulk of the Ross money I do not know, but when my mother married him she certainly believed it to be so and she and my father felt a grievance against life that he received only a small income from a trust fund and the bulk of the estate passed to some dim relations on the distaff side who bore the improbable name of Wildfang." 

On 12th June 1913 my father, Derek Gordon Ross Bird, was born.  

WW1 Army Records

Prior to the War, Percy was in the Middlesex Territorials.  I have his Army Book which says his occupation prior to the War was “Planter (Ceylon)".  It says he had a slight knowledge of Tamil Singhalise.  Between 1903 and 1905 he was a 2nd Lieutenant and assigned to the 3rd Royal Sussex Regiment.  He went on courses for musketry and signalling while attached to the 2nd Queen’s Regiment at Shorncliffe (Folkestone) in 1904.

At the beginning of WW1 he was in the Territorial Reserves.  He was granted a temporary commission in the Royal Surrey Regiment about September 1914 and promoted to Lieutenant in December 1914.  Became temporary Captain when he was seconded for Staff Duty and moved to the Middlesex Regiment in September 1915 and then confirmed Captain in June 1916.

On 12th October 1916, Captain Percy of the 10th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, was declared “permanently unfit for service” and he had to relinquish his commission on the grounds of ill health.  At this point “he will be granted the honorary rank of Major but such grant does not confer the right to wear uniform except when attending ceremonials and entertainments of a military nature”.  It says his address was Violet Bank, Park Road, Southborough, Nr Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

His Service Record has two personal comments from his Commanding Officers, neither particularly glowing : "Captain Bird is a hard working conscientious officer who has a thorough knowledge of regulation and well acquainted with Army Council Institutions, a capable Staff Officer".  Also, "Major Bird has been D.A.A.G Dover for five months under my command.  He has done his work well and conscientiously". (D.A.A.G = Deputy Assistant Adjutant General). 

Percy was awarded the Silver War Badge which was issued to service personnel who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness during WW1.  The badge was sometimes known as the Discharge Badge, Wound Badge or Services Rendered Badge.  He had no service overseas.

On 26th April 1917, Percy and Marjorie had another son, Anthony Cole Bird,  at 42 Golders Green Crescent, Golders Green.

Separation

On 15th December 1933 Percy and Marjorie legally separated.  Marjorie was living at 6 Willifield Way in Hampstead Garden Suburb (same address in 1926 when their third son, Hugh Henry Bird, was born). Percy agreed to appoint new trustees to the settlement made when they married concerning the sale proceeds and income from freehold properties in Mill Hill and this was accepted by Marjorie in satisfaction of his liability to maintain her and the children.

Post Separation

It is not known what Percy did between 1934 and his death five years later.  However, there is a mysterious letter I found in my father's possessions on (Brewery) Charrington's letterhead from an A.G.Allen of Fox and Hounds, 1 High Street, Sydenham S.E.26.  It says : 

To whom it may concern : I the above licensee have known Major P.H.Bird since November 1933.  He has been associated with me for several months past in the investigation of certain properties, and to facilitate his enquiries he has done so under the name of L.Johnson, 5 Sydenham Rise S.E.23 at my request."  What is this about ? 

Death

Percy died on 4th February 1939 at The Washington Temperance Hotel, Commercial road, Portsmouth (see notice in The London Gazette).  His estate was valued at £3,551.  He wrote a letter to Marjorie the day before he died (above) which was accepted as a Will.  He left whatever he had to her and the boys except for a sum of £400 which was to go to Mrs Celia Miles of 21a Compton Terrace, Highbury, N.1.  Who was Celia ?


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