Elsie and Samuel Turner

Her husband had already deserted. But did she know what he up to after all?

At the outbreak of the war, No.35 Emerson Street was home to Samuel John Turner, his wife Elsie Ida Turner, and their one year old daughter, also called Elsie. Samuel was a chemist's assistant, 5ft 7inches tall and 125 pounds, with brown marks on his chest . On 28 October 1914 he went to the Recruiting Office in Holland Road, Brixton, and volunteered to serve with the Territorial gunners of 6th London Brigade Royal Field Artillery.

On 19 February 1915, as his unit prepared to go overseas, Samuel went missing from camp in Hemel Hempstead. Two weeks later, he had still not returned, and the military authorities asked the Metropolitan Police to investigate.

By this point, Elsie Turner and her daughter had moved just down the road, to 27 Emerson Street. Police Sergeant A. Darling called there on 6 March 1915. Mrs Turner admitted that her husband had visited the house several times since his desertion. On the last occasion, just two days before, he had said that he would not return either to her or to his unit. Darling told the army that he would keep an eye out for the deserter.

On 2 March 1915, however, Turner had enlisted in the Duke of Wellington's (West Riding) Regiment at Southwark Town Hall. Posted to the 9th Battalion at Hursley Park, Winchester, he went absent without leave as that unit got ready to go to France in June 1915, and was then reposted to the 11th (Reserve) Battalion in Lichfield. He took the opportunity to desert again, eventually rejoining the 11th in October 1915.

At that point, the wartime documents run out: there is no record that Samuel ever went overseas or saw action. Later death registers, however, do record that two people with the same names and birth dates as Samuel and Elsie died decades later in 1966 and 1975 respectively. Both were then living in Merton, Surrey.

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27-35 Emerson Street