Thank you to Karen Wilson from Betchworth Village Archives for allowing us to publish her research.
John Busby was living in Ivy Cottage in 1911 as the 27 year old boarder of a 48 year old widow, Sarah Sands and her son Frederick, aged three. Sarah Sands is stated as having private means, but John Busby is registered as a chauffeur. It is possible that he worked for a local family and ‘lived out’. The census form was filled in by John Busby, even though Sarah Sands was the head of the household and he put his name as Hibbitt Busby and signed it ‘H. Busby’.
John Busby was born in Oxford and his father, also John, was described as being a Bus Driver/Cabman/Groom. John William was the eldest of four children and in 1901, at the age of 17 was an errand boy for a draper in Oxford. His 15 year old sister Cicely was a general servant at that time and he had two younger brothers, eight year old Ernest and five year old Bertie.
It is not known exactly when John Busby came to Betchworth and it is not known when he joined up to fight. He was a sergeant in the Machine Gun Corps and we know from a report in the Surrey Mirror and County Post that he was a prisoner of war by April 1918 and had been mentioned in prayers at St. Michael’s. No records of his death have been found and most of the records of the Machine Gun Corps were destroyed in a fire in 1920. The Corps was formed in 1915 as the need for skilled gunners became apparent but was disbanded in 1922.
A total of 170,500 officers and men served in the Machine Gun Corps; of the 62,049 who were killed, wounded or missing, John William Hibbitt Busby was one.
John Busby’s name is not on the St. Frideswide’s memorial in Oxford, the church where he was baptised, but his younger brother Bertie’s name is there. Bertie was a Private in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry and died of his wounds on 23rd July 1916 aged 20. His parents were not to know that he had died for many months; he was still being reported as ‘Wounded and missing’ in December 1916. Bertie’s name is also on the Thiepval Memorial.
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