12 Jul 2010

TEE Owen Cecil


Private 6902, 3rd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment

Died on Wednesday 27th September 1916

Buried at St. James the Less Churchyard, North Lancing, Sussex

There are several photographs in local history books of Owen Tee as a child, but despite the compelling evidence that he lived for many years in the village, it has been a difficult process to solve the puzzle of his military service. His name appears on the war memorial, and the date of death on his grave is 29th September 1916. There is an entry on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site for a Cecil Tee of the 19th London Regiment who died on that day and appeared to fit the bill. But on searching more deeply there were several things which seemed at odds with the details of the man I was researching and so I had to start again.

Owen Cecil Tee was born on the 6th May 1898 in Alresford, Hampshire, the son of Annie Rose and Thomas Tee, and I will use the name 'Cecil' as I believe this was the name by which he was commonly known. At the time of the 1901 census he was living with his grandparents in Alresford, and I've been unable to trace either of his parents at that time. The family came to Lancing in the autumn of 1910 and moved to 6, Cecil Road - these houses were built in 1903 and were the first new houses to have the luxury of a bathroom. The admissions register for North Lancing School shows that Cecil Tee and his sister Connie joined the school on the 24th October 1910. By 1911 he was at the Watts Naval Training School in Bintree, Norfolk, which was part of Dr. Barnardo's Homes, although later evidence shows that both his parents were still alive at that time.

It seems likely that Cecil Tee had always suffered from poor health, but he enlisted into the 3rd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment on the 26th May 1915, just after his seventeenth birthday, giving his age as nineteen and his occupation as 'shop assistant.' His mother was given as his sole next of kin. His service record has survived, but few details remain. He was discharged from the Army on 5th July 1916 as 'no longer physically fit for War Service' and there is no evidence that in his year as a soldier he ever served overseas. His record contains a letter that he wrote shortly after his discharge, on 17th July 1916:

Dear Sir
I wish to say I received my discharge papers quite safe as I am now in bed very ill. I am almost helpless as I have no money to support me in any way whatsoever. I am obliged to go on the Pannell [sic] but cannot do so as I have not got the Green Card required to show I am discharged from the Army. Will you please forward the required card before the end of the week as I am entirely depending on my parents which causes offence to do so as my mother is very ill also as I have not heard anything about my Balance Money yet. I am quite Pennyless. By doing this you will greatly oblige.
I remain yours truly
Cecil Tee, late 3rd Royal Sussex Regiment
Chelsea No. 12803

Cecil was very ill indeed, as was his mother, and within three months they were both dead. Cecil died on the 27th September 1916, aged eighteen, his cause of death being given as pernicious anaemia and syncope [collapse] and his father was present at his death. Pernicious anaemia is caused by the body's inability to absorb vitamin B12 from food and today it is easily treatable. But at that time there was no cure and he must have been suffering for a considerable time prior to his death. His mother died two weeks later, and they are buried together in the churchyard at St. James the Less, North Lancing. The inscription on the grave reads:

In fond and loving memory of Annie Rose Tee, who departed this life 13th October 1916 aged 48 years. Also Owen Cecil, second beloved son of the above who died 29th September 1916 aged 18 years.
Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to thy cross I cling

Because Cecil Tee had already been discharged from the Army and his discharge was not attributable to injury of disease caused by his military service, he did not receive a pension, and does not appear on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Roll of Honour. He does however appear on Lancing war memorial, perhaps because the village felt that some tribute was due to his father Thomas Tee, who lost both his wife and his son during the war, although not as a direct result of it.


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