Jabez Balfour Whiting 1878-1966

Parents: Jesse Whiting and Ellen Smith (1)
Born: 27th May 1878 in Burton End, Haverhill.(1,2)
Baptised: 28th February 1880 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill.(1)
Married: Florence Clara Monk, 22 (age given on entry; real age was 18), spinster of 5 Albion Place, Lower Upnor, daughter of Edward Monk, cement labourer, on 7th February 1904 at Frindsbury Parish Church, Kent. Witnessed by Edward and Mary Constance Monk.(3,10) SEE (10) BELOW FOR LINK TO MARRIAGE ENTRY ON MEDWAY ARCHIVES, or CLICK HERE.
Children: Florence Clara Whiting b.1905, Ellen May Whiting b.1907, Jessie Patricia Whiting b.1910, Kathleen Phyllis Whiting b.1915, several other children, some living ?
Died: 5th June 1966 in Chattenden, Rochester.(4) Buried at Upnor Church.

Bio: Jabez was born in 1878 and baptised along with his sister Alice and brothers Benjamin and Joseph on 28th February 1880, Jabez first appears on the 1881 census living in Burton End, Haverhill, with his parents and 6 siblings.

The next census in 1891 sees Jabez at 104 Burton End still living at home and working as a spinner alongside his brother Benjamin.

The 1901 census, however, does give us a glimpse of Jabez early on in his army life, as a Sapper stationed at Brompton barracks, Gillingham.

He is single at this point, but it was only a few years later that he was to marry Florence Clara Monk who was from Upnor, Kent. Upnor is very close to Brompton barracks and so it is easy to imagine how the two could have met. They married at Frindsbury Parish Church on 7th February 1904. Jabez was a Lance Corporal at the time, stationed in Chattenden Barracks.

It seems that Florence travelled with Jabez to India not long after this, because their daughter Florence Clara was born on 18th October 1905 and baptised on 31st October 1905 at All Saints Church, Kirkee (now Khadki) in the Poona (Pune) district, Bombay, India.(12) Jabez is a Corporal at this point.

The Royal Engineers were based in Kirkee and it looks like the Whiting family remained here for some years, certainly for the births of their next three children.

When Ellen May Whiting was born on 4th February and baptised on 15th March 1907(13) Jabez was a Sergeant, as he still was in 1910 when Jessie Patricia was baptised on 17th April having been born on the 17th March.(14)

How Jabez acquired his middle name 'Balfour' is unclear - maybe this was an affectation he adopted whilst out in India to detract from his humble origins and fit in with his status in his new surroundings.

Maybe inspired by his elder brother Joseph, who had joined the Royal Field Artillery in about 1887, Jabez himself opted for a military life too and signed up with the Royal Engineers as Sapper no.7460.

It is not known exactly when this occurred as Jabez's army records don't seem to have survived the bombing during the Second World War that destroyed around 60% of the records belonging to soldiers who had participated in the Great War.Jabez had a particularly creditable career and rose through the ranks to become a Company Sergeant Major, which was the highest non-commissioned officer rank. The baptism record of his fourth daughter, Kathleen, on 16th June 1916 (she was born 29th November 1915) shows him as a Company Sergeant Major with the 3rd Sappers and Miners.(11)

He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal on 3rd June 1919 for 'recognition of the valuable services rendered with the Forces in the Aden Peninsular.'(5) This was a silver medal awarded for distinguished service (or gallantry) for an individual who had given 'good, faithful, valuable and meritorious service, with conduct judged to be irreproachable throughout '.(6) He also received the British War Medal and Victory Medal.(9)

So what service would he have seen in Aden? The Port of Aden's security was of great importance during the First World War because it was a lynchpin of British communications allowing access to the African and Arabian coasts and the Indian ocean, and had been made even more important after the opening of the Suez canal in 1869. The defence of Aden seems to have been a rather ramshackle affair, with only two battalions defending it at the commencement of war. Conditions were not great, and because of its strategic position and the fact that troops often ended up there at the end of their tour of duty it became affectionately known as 'the arsehole of the empire' - because everything went through it!(7)

The Royal Engineers had to work hard to take care of water condensers which the defence of the area depended upon, and communication needs such as telegraph and telephone lines also had to be attended to. It is likely Jabez would have been involved in this, and judging by the impression we get from pictures of him he was most likely taking control of the situation, lending a bit of back-bone and barking out orders as and when needed.

The threat to Aden came from the Turks, who had joined the war on the side of Germany. When they finally attacked with an army of several thousand in 1915 they were met at Lahej by a small British force who eventually had to retreat to Aden. The Turkish army were repulsed with great losses later that year after the British had received reinforcements, and skirmishes continued on and off until the armistice. Aden, however, was never captured.

Jabez and Florence must have returned to England sometime after the war ended in 1918, as several of their children were born in Kent in the 1920's.

For some very interesting pictures of Jabez, some documents relating to his life, and a photo of his gravestone, it is worth checking out some of the Public Member Trees on Ancestry.com. Several, including the Mills family tree have this information attached, and it would certainly help to fill in any gaps in Jabez's life history.

It seems like Jabez and Florence settled down in the Gillingham area on their return to England. Florence died on 2nd May 1958(8) in Chattenden, Rochester and Jabez on 5th June 1966. They are both buried at Upnor Church.

Thanks to Sharon (littlemisshoo on Ancestry.com) for the image of Jabez - See his entry on Ancestry.com, Mills Family Tree, for more great pictures.


(1) Suffolk Baptism Index, SFHS, Clare Deanery 1812-1900
(2) Birth Register. 3rd Quarter 1878, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 494
(3) Marriage Register. 1st Quarter 1904, Strood District, Volume 2a Page 786
(4) Death Register. 2nd Quarter 1966, Chatham District, Volume 5F Page 170
(5) London Gazette, 3rd June 1919, supplement, 6976
(6) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meritorious_Service_Medal_(United_Kingdom)
(7) The British Campaign in Aden 1914-1918, Mark Connolly, p4. http://www.js-ww1.bham.ac.uk/articles/issue3_Connelly.pdf
(8) Death Register. 1st Quarter 1958, Dartford District, Volume 5b Page 461
(9) Ancestry.com. British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
(10) http://cityark.medway.gov.uk/query/results/?Mode=ShowImg&Img=/cityark/Scans/Ecclesiastical_Rochester_Archdeaconry_Area_Parishes/P150_FRINDSBURY_1669_1984/01_Incumbent_Registers_1669_1984/P150_01_31.html/00000489.jpg
(11) British Library, African & Asian Studies, Bombay Baptism Records, N3, Volume 115 Folio 169
(12) British Library, African & Asian Studies, Bombay Baptism Records, N3, Volume 94 Page 183
(13) British Library, African & Asian Studies, Bombay Baptism Records, N3, Volume 97 Page 24
(14) British Library, African & Asian Studies, Bombay Baptism Records, N3, Volume 103 Page 215