Richard Joseph Hersant
3205 / 453109, Lance Corporal, 9th (County of London) Battalion (Queen Victoria’s Rifles), London Regiment, later 11th (County of London) Battalion (Finsbury Rifles), London Regiment
mid 1891, Clapham – 19th April 1917, killed in action, Battle of Gaza
Grave XIV.F.4., Gaza War Cemetery
Lives of the First World War entry

Stanley James Hersant
394047, Rifleman, 9th (County of London) Battalion (Queen Victoria’s Rifles), London Regiment
late 1898, St Pancras – 25th August 1918, killed in action, Western Front
Grave I.A.9., Bray Vale British Cemetery, Bray-sur-Somme
Lives of the First World War entry

Richard and Stanley were brothers. Their parents were Frederick Orton Hersant (1860, St Pancras – 1921, Hampstead) and Lydia Cooper (1863, St Pancras – 1949, Islington). Like his father Thomas Hersant (1824, St Pancras), Frederick worked as a book binder (1891 and 1901 censuses) and was a sidesman at St Michael’s. Lydia was the daughter of James Cooper (1834, St Pancras) and Ellen (1834, St Pancras), who had married in the Pancras district in 1857 – James was a silversmith’s clerk and died between 1861 and 1871. In 1871 Lydia was living with her widowed mother, her younger brother Arthur J (1870, St Pancras) and two visitors at 173 Tottenham Court Road (also the family home in 1861). In 1881 she was a housemaid in a dentist’s household at 15 Endsleigh Gardens.

Frederick and Lydia registered their marriage in the St Pancras district in 1885 (though they do not appear in the marriage register for St Michael’s) and were living at 11 Abyssinia Road, Battersea in 1891, with their eldest son Arthur Frederick (1888, Clapham) and Lydia’s siblings Annie A Cooper (1860, St Pancras – working as a Telegraphist in 1901 and a Government Clerk in 1911) and Arthur J Cooper (now working as a jeweller’s assistant). In 1901 Richard and Stanley were living with their parents at 194 Great College Street, along with Arthur, Annie and a visitor called Annie M Parish (1865, Westminster – also working as a Government Clerk).

In the 1911 census the two brothers were still living with their parents, now at 24 Hamilton Street, Camden Town. Stanley was still at school, but Richard was working as an advertisements clerk for Sir George Newnes and Company (owners of the Strand Magazine of Sherlock Holmes fame, along with many other titles). Frederick was now a porter at a military hospital and Lydia gave her occupation as “Mission Woman – St Michael’s Church”, a role also attested to in the parish magazines. Two of the five children born alive to them before that date had died, possibly including Sydney Hersant (1893, Pancras – 1894, Pancras)

The only other person in the Hersant household in 1911 was Arthur Cooper, now working as a billiard maker. Arthur Frederick Hersant had married Edith Eleanor Williams (1890, Westminster) in Whitechapel late in 1910 and in 1911 was living with her at 13 Goldney Road, Paddington whilst working as a dining car steward for the Great Western Railway. In 1912 he joined the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants trades union’s Paddington branch, now as a “Dining Car Conductor”. On 19th April 1914 their son Reginald Arthur was baptised at St Michael’s, with Arthur and Edith’s address given as 75 Ridge Street, Watford and Arthur’s profession as ‘Signalman’. Arthur survived the war (no record of his military service – if any – can be found) and died in 1963 in Watford district. The June 1913 parish magazine stated they were glad to have Mrs Hersant back in the congregation after an absence due to an operation.

Richard but not Stanley appears on the parish magazine’s March 1915 list of those already serving. Stanley and Richard both enlisted in London, with Richard giving his residence as Camden Town and Stanley as the St Pancras district. Richard was badly wounded on the Western Front, but recovered to be sent to serve in Palestine as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. The July 1917 parish magazine reported that Richard had been posted as wounded and missing since the battle of Gaza, noting “It seems as if he had reached the Promised Land only to disappear again from sight.” Richard’s RIP appeared in the February 1918 parish magazine. The August 1918 parish magazine reported a Missal bound in blue calfskin and the parish’s first silver pyx for taking to the sick had been given in Richard’s memory – a private pyx had previously had to be borrowed for the purpose. The 1923 guide to the church from the parish magazine mentions an “exquisitely bound Missal, used at the early Masses on Sundays, which was given in memory of one who fell in the Great War” – this may be the blue-bound one in memory of Richard.

Stanley was posted missing for a long time before his death was confirmed. The parish magazine of December 1918 carried his RIP and noted he had been “in our choir for some years, and also acted as Server. He was (like his [elder] brother, to whom he was devoted) always regular in his attendance at church, and at Holy Communion; and both boys were a treasure to their Parents at home. Now they have gone together to another home, and their photographs are placed side by side near the Calvary in Church.” He had also been a Sunday School teacher and a member of the committee of the parish’s Free-Will Offering Fund. The December 1919 parish magazine reported that Stanley’s parents had given a new chasuble to the parish in his memory.

The Hersant brothers on the memorial.

The March 1920 issue stated the boys’ mother was “recovering her strength” and that the writer hoped “that the rest which she is now having away from London will set her up completely, and that she will be able to resume her work [as Mission Woman] in about a month’s time.” In May 1920 their father was reported as one of the two men carrying the pictures for the outdoor stations of the cross. The February 1921 magazine reported that Mrs Hersant had recently been ill and Mr Hersant was in Charing Cross Hospital – the April magazine that year reported that Frederick had died. His widow lived on until 17th August 1949 and an obituary by Fr Osborn appeared in the October 1949 parish magazine, mentioning that they were “both the same age”, that during her final illness she had been in the Highgate Hospital at the same time as he was in the nearby Royal Northern Hospital and that he had been able to send her a message. It added that she had been “Faithful to the end to St Michael’s Church and St Michael’s people” and despite her bereavements had continued with “her duties with unflinching regularity” and that “Latterly, when her sight and hearing began to fail, some of her friends took it in turns to go in every day and do all they could to help, which cheered her up greatly, and most of all she valued the gift of her Communion which the Vicar brought her every week.”