Hidden away at the back of an old 1950’s cupboard belonging to the grandparents of one of the Brevity Marketing team, a number of postcards sent from France during the 1st World War were discovered. The sender was Private Percy Hatcher – a name nobody in the family had heard before.
The postcards had been addressed to an old aunt, Ruth. It emerged that Percy was in fact her brother; the different surnames having caused some confusion. And so, the fascination with Percy Hatcher was ignited…
Longstock, Hampshire, 1901
Census records revealed Ruth Waite and Percy Hatcher shared the same mother, Mary Waite (nee Hatcher) of Longstock, Hampshire. Ruth’s father, Edward Waite, took Percy on as his own child. Edward and Mary were neighbours and both their fathers worked in the picturesque village of Longstock.
At the turn of the century (1901), the families resided at number 18 and number 21 Easts Cottages. With the head of the houses both listed as gardeners, we presume the men worked at nearby Longstock House, owned by Joshua East, a successful business man from London. The cottages were tied to the affluent landowner, as the name Easts Cottages suggests. Longstock, now in the hands of John Lewis, was once a sprawling estate with extensive gardens, including a lake, which is known today as Longstock Water Gardens.
Wartime courage remembered
Searching through online war records, we found that poor Percy sadly lost his life in France. To commemorate his gallantry, his name is listed on the cenotaph at Basingstoke’s War Memorial Park and on a plaque at Chilbolton Church.
As Percy was from Longstock and not Basingstoke, we wondered why this would be. It seems that sometime after the 1910 Census and Percy’s death in 1918, his family moved to Basingstoke with his new wife, Daisey Alice Vince of Stockbridge. Home became number 1, Fairfield’s Road.
A Burberry connection?
There were a number of influential business people in Basingstoke around this time, including Burberry founder, Thomas Burberry. Along with creating this world-famous fashion brand, do you know that Burberry is the reason why Basingstoke has a war memorial park today? Could it have been that gardener Percy moved to Basingstoke to help plant Burberry’s new park? Or did he already work at The Goldings Estate, now known as Basingstoke Registry office?
With his untimely death at the age of 24, Private Percy Hatcher’s life may have been short, but his life story is certainly not dull; a scandalous and mysterious start, an adventurous and romantic middle, and finally – the tragic, heroic end.
What’s your Basingstoke story?
Percy’s story was locked away in time, but his bravery for crown and country has earned him a place in Basingstoke’s heritage for many years to come. What’s your Basingstoke story? Each month, we write a short article about Basingstoke history. Our copywriters in Basingstoke would be delighted to help craft your story in exchange for adding it to our blog. Are you a Hatcher, Waite or Vince and can fill in any gaps in this story? We’d love to hear from you.