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Reginald Thomas Annesley Acton, 1877-1916

(Uncle Reggie)

The biography of Reggie's father tells of his birth, though without much flourish:
1877: 'A visit to relatives in Godstone in Surrey followed, and then the whole party went to Ireland, and stayed for some time in Wicklow, where a third son was born... Returning to England, Major and Mrs Acton went for a time to Norwood, where they stayed with friends. The Crystal Place was a great enjoyment to them and to their children. At length they settled down at Tunbridge Wells, where Major Acton bought a house. ... In September, 1878, Major Ball-Acton started for India, leaving behind him his wife and five children.'

- life of Colonel Ball-Acton, p.70-1
Reginald Acton, Emily Parsons' 'Uncle Reggie', was killed at Ypres on May 22nd, 1916, age 38.

Rugby School

, which Reggie attended, printed a folder about him. This is reproduced here, with additions from elsewhere either bracketed or indented:

Reginald Thomas Annesley Acton, of Kilmacurragh, Rathdrum, County Wicklow, and Iron Acton, Gloucestershire, was the third and last surviving son of Colonel Charles Ball-Acton, C.B. (Old Rugbeian, 1842), The King's Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry) and of Georgina Cecilia his wife. On both his father's and his mother's side there was a long connection with the School, dating back nearly 100 years..

He entered Rugby School in 1891, was a member of School House, passed through the RMC, Sandhurst, and was gazetted to the 1st battalion of the K.O.Y.L.I. in 1897.

[His Commanding Officer gave him this commendation:]
Captain Ball-Acton served under my command in the 1st Batt. Yorkshire Light Infantry, from January, 1898, to November, 1899, and during that time he was attentive to his duties, and I had no fault to find with his performance of them; careful in his habits, and a strict teetotaller. He was fond of out-door sports, and a good rider.

[Signed], H. Johnson, Colonel, late Commanding 1st Yorkshire L.I.

He served with the 2nd battalion in the South African War from April, 1900, to the end of the campaign in 1902, and received the Queen's Medal with three Clasps and the King's Medal with two. He was promoted Captain in 1901, and, retiring at the end of the War, spent some years farming in South Africa and the Argentine.

[The following testimonials refer to this period, the first to South Africa]
Dear Ball-Acton,

... During the time you were farming in the Barberton district of the Transvaal - from the time you took up land there in 1902 to January, 1904 - the assiduous manner in which you applied yourself to the cultivation of your land was, besides being particularly noticeable by me, a matter of general comment to the inhabitants of the district, to whom it gave a splendid example of what could be done by keen application. ..

[Signed], Yours sincerely,

R.H. Vyvyan, Captain,
Chief Constable of Devon,
Formerly Secretary, Repatriation, Barberton District.
[The following refers to Argentina]
Captain R. Ball-Acton worked for my partner in the management of Estates in South America, from June, 1909 - May, 1911. I have very much pleasure in testifying to his tact, discretion, and general high character. ..

E. A. Hanley, 57 Eaton Place, S.W.


(Emily Parsons kept a jokey letter which he wrote to her, then aged 8, from Argentina, and I was able to pass it on to his son, Charles, who was born in 1914.)
El Correntino
29 December 1910

My dear Baby,

The letters from Wentworth House were the only ones I got before Xmas, and not much after. I felt quite heavy with the millions of lbs. of love you sent me. It does me a lot of good and you too without doubt. Hope the BRITISH Domins are going on all right. In reply to your P. S. do not worry, you sent me enough love to keep me going till your next letter. Great fun ragging, no? This [a blot of ink] is a dead fly that was hoiked out of pot on the pen, and all sorts of creatures flutter over it and make it worse.

Baby sent,
Gave, not lent,
Millions of libs of love for me.
Do not you
Wish you too
Had such presents from over the sea?
Pasa buena noche y que Dios le guarde.

Your affectionate uncle

Reginald.
[Reggie returned to England and married Isabel Richmond on April 17, 1913, in St James the Less, Iron Acton. Emily was a bridesmaid.]

At the time of the outbreak of War in 1914, he was in the Special Reserve. He at once rejoined his old Regiment, was sent to France to the 2nd Battalion in December...

[A letter to his sister Evelyn and her husband Edward Nixon Wynne, an excellent shot. Baby Charlie refers to his own son, born in October. Charlie refers to Charles Acton Wynne, his nephew, then a pupil at Cheltenham College.]
In France
16 Dec 1914

My dear Wynnes,

I got your very nice thoughtful present today. It was very kind of you indeed. The chocolate is much appreciated by my Subalterns here in the Billet.

The Christmas Card is quite homely and the soda mint may be very useful because I have been bothered with indig.

I find my French and my money invaluable here. When I have ordered our servants to go ahead and make ready I find them (even subalterns) helpless with a woman refusing everything. I come and with a little talk and picture of Baby Charlie and everything comes out coal and oil and milk.

I am sending a long letter to C. when I have time and no doubt he will let you see it.

The trenches I have been in are simply disgusting. But I hear others are not so bad. I hope you all keep well and happy. Do you spend days ..... to cheer up the girls.

Charlie coming back from school directly now. Lucky chap.

Many thanks too for P.O. Most kind of you. Dear People.

Reggie.

(on the back of the letter)
If Wynne will visit me in my trench I can promise him opportunities for accurate shooting and scope for his eyesight in locating their snipers. They beat me.
He was wounded at Lindenhoek in January, 1915, and invalided home, and, in March, was sent to the 3rd Battalion at Hull. He returned to the Front, to the 7th Battalion of his Regiment, in March, 1916.

When on patrol duty, near Ypres, two of his men were wounded. Thinking that they had not been able to get back to their own lines, Major Ball-Acton went back to search for them, and, in doing so, was twice hit, the second time fatally. A Subaltern and a private, at great risk, brought him in, over 200 yards, under heavy machine-gun fire, and, for this, were both decorated, the former with the Military Cross. He fell on May 22nd, 1916. Age 38.

A brother Officer wrote: -

"He was a thorough gentleman, chivalrous, keen and brave, of more than ordinary force of character. We all deplore his death. I don't think I have ever met a man who was so truly a soldier and a gentleman, and, with it all, there was a true humility about him that often made one quite ashamed of oneself."

His parting words to his wife were: -

"Always remember that this life is a very little part of it."

From Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site:



In Memory of

REGINALD THOMAS ANNESLEY BALL-ACTON

Major, 7th Bn., King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry who died on Monday, 22nd May 1916. Age 38.

Additional Information: Son of Charles Ball-Acton, C.B. (Col., K.O.Y.L.I.) and Georgina Cecilia (his wife); husband of Isabel Diguis La Touche (formerly Ball-Acton), of Kilmacurragh, Co. Wicklow.

Robert Parsons, Reggie's nearest surviving relative, at his grave Cemetery:

WHITE HOUSE CEMETERY, ST. JEAN-LES-YPRES, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Grave Reference/Panel Number: Special Memorial 9.

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