Frederick Wilfred Haeffner – a casualty of the Somme

Early life & familyFred was the son of Frederick and Evelyn Haeffner. His father was a naturalized German merchant** who settled in Hampstead about 1886. Fred jnr was born in Hampstead in 1890. The family lived at 22 Netherhall Gardens, Hampstead (from before 1901 until after 1921). They were members of the congregation at Hampstead Parish Church.

In 1901 Fred jnr (age 10) was at a boarding preparatory school for 80 pupils at Lockers Park, Hemel Hempstead. The census in 1911 (when Fred was aged 20 shows he was not living at home. A cousin Henry, from Bavaria, age 22, was staying in lodgings at 12 Heath Hurst Road and working in London. It is possible that Frederick was in Germany, learning the family business over there.

War serviceHe joined 28th London Regiment as a Private (service number 1180), but was promoted from the ranks and became a 2nd Lieutenant in the 149th/ 151st Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (part of the 30th Division in Lord Kitchener’s 5th New Army). After training in England, Fred’s Division went to France in November 1915. He would have commanded a section of two guns within a battery, providing close artillery support for the infantry using medium calibre guns and howitzers. He would have been deployed close to the front line and was expected to be reasonably mobile.

Death & commemorationFred died on 9 July 1916 (age 26) during one of the battles of the Somme – 8 months after arriving. He is buried at Cerisy-Gailly Military Cemetery, Somme (grave ref: II.M.7) This was an awful battle. Many other people were killed at about the same time, and the artillery units in which he served were reorganized just 6 weeks later.

He is commemorated on the War Memorial in Church Row, and in a Memorial window to all the war dead in the Lady chapel at Hampstead Parish Church, which was donated by his parents and sisters (Doris and Leila) – see CH41/42.

Further resources – Watch a short British Pathe film on the Battle of the Somme. The first 1 minute 25 seconds is the battle the rest is about protests back home.

**See also the paragraph ‘ Few foreigners’ under the topic ‘Women doing men’s jobs’.

This page was last updated on November 24th, 2014.

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