OPPENHEIMER Kenneth William, Private. M2/054824.
315th Motor Transport Company, Army Service Corps.
Committed suicide while temporally insane 19 July 1915, aged 28.
Image courtesy of Kenneth's great grandson Robert Coke © 2011
Kenneth William Oppenheimer was born on 18 February 1887 in Cheshunt Hertfordshire to William and Louise Matilda Oppenheimer. He was christened later that year on 1 May. He had an older sister Ida Daphne and a younger sister Vera Louise.
Kenneth's father was a manufacturing chemist from Manchester and by 1891, when the census was taken, the family had moved to 54, The Drive in Hove Sussex, where he had a staff consisting of a governess, housemaid, parlour maid, cook and nurse. His mother seems to have been better known as Louie and his sister Ida by her middle name of Daphne.
Vera Louise, Kenneth William and Ida Daphne Oppenheimer
Image courtesy of Kenneth's great great niece Rebecca Westrope © 2013
The family had once again moved by the time the next census was taken and were living at "Riverdale" Summer Road Thames Ditton.
Kenneth's parents moved into Ewell Castle in May 1903, renting it for a reduced rate of £200 per annum. Although they had the option to buy the property for £12,000, they continued to rent until at least 1907, when Kelly's Directory showed the widowed Louie as being the occupant.
Kenneth's 57-year-old father died on 4 January 1906 and was buried in St. Mary's church graveyard. The following year Kenneth's sister Daphne married Ewell born John Percy Thomas Evans, the son of Sir David Evans, K.C.M.G.
Kenneth's mother had moved to 1, Mores Gardens, Chelsea by the time the 1911 census was taken. She was living there with Kenneth's sister Vera and three servants. Kenneth was staying at the New Hampton Court Club in East Moseley. Shortly after the census was taken, on 10 May, Vera married George Thompson Shearing.
On 2 September 1912, 25-year-old Kenneth married Margaret Simpson Wallace Van Schuymer in St Jude, South Kensington Middlesex. The marriage register shows that his father William was deceased and that Kenneth's occupation was a manufacturing chemist. His address was given as 22 Eardely Crescent Earls Court. Their daughter Daphne was born 1 March 1914 in Fulham.
Kenneth attested into the Army Service Corps at Grove Park on 21 March 1915 as Private 054824 where he gave his occupation as a motor driver and address as "The Meadows" Walton on Thames. He later gave his wife and daughter's address as being the Royal Squadron Hotel Ryde on the Isle of Wight. His height was measured as 5 feet 7¾ inches tall and his chest as 38 inches with a 3 inch expansion.
On 11 April 1915, only 20 days after attesting, Kenneth left from Folkestone by passenger steamer to Boulogne to join the British Expedition Force in France. Here he was posted to the 318 Mechanical Transport (MT) Coy and attached to the No. 14 General Hospital as a chauffeur to a DDMS. Later he was posted to 317 MT and 315 MT before being granted leave between 13 - 18 July 1915. This may have been classed as compassionate leave as his mother Louise had died on 11 July.
After only 94 days in France Kenneth returned to England and was admitted to the Middlesex Hospital in Mortimer Street, and seven days later on 19 July 1915, he "died from a fracture skull and sternum, self inflicted whilst of unsound mind".
Lieutenant Holmes RMO wrote from the Middlesex Hospital stating that the inquest held regarding Kenneth's death had found that the verdict was that of "suicide during temporary insanity". His suicide death would seem to indicate that he fell from a great height. Kenneth's body, and that of his late mother, were buried in the same grave as his late father in St. Mary's Churchyard, Ewell. Kenneth's name is not listed on any other borough memorial.
Kenneth's grave in St Marys, Ewell
Images courtesy of Clive Gilbert © 2011
The War Office wrote on 25 September 1915:
Sir, I am directed to inform you that in view of the circumstances of the death of No. M. 2/054824 Private Kenneth Oppenheimer, Army Service Corps, his widow and child are not eligible for pension from Army Funds.
Mrs Oppenheimer and the Regimental Paymaster should be informed accordingly. The late soldier's documents are returned herewith.
Probate of his effects, valued at £4365 18s. 6d., was granted on 9 December 1915 to his brother-in-law John Percy Thomas Evans. Kenneth's last address was given as ,The Meadows', Sidney Road, Walton on Thames, Surrey.
His personal belongings and any medal (1915 Star, British War and Victory) due to him were requested on 28 March 1916 to be sent to Margaret's solicitors in Cheapside.
Image courtesy of Kenneth's great grandson Robert Coke © 2011
A letter was later sent to Margaret on 6 November 1917 stating that she would
be regarded as eligible for grant of a temporary pension under Article 15 of Royal Warrant of the 29 March 1917. It enclosed a form to be filled in and returned to them. In reply to this, a letter was sent to the War office from the Reverend Claude Trimble on 21 November 1917:
Kilmesden Vicarage, Alresford, Hants.
Enclosed Mrs Oppenheimer's declaration fully filled in and signed, together with her wedding certificate and birth certificate of her daughter. I should be glad if you will return the certificates to the above address when finished with. May I point out ????? (illegible) for the first six months after her husband's death when she received £1.1.0 per week, Mrs Oppenheimer and her daughter have been absolutely penniless and solely dependant on relatives.
(Rev) Claude S Trimble.
The Ministry of Pensions wrote on 8 January 1918 confirming that the widow of Private Oppenheimer would receive, under Article 15 of Royal Warrant, a weekly pension of 15 shillings dated from 4 April 1917.
Soon after Margaret married Henry Coram Wright in 1918 in Alresford Hampshire.
Many years later on 24 October 1935, Kenneth and Margaret's daughter Daphne gained her flying certificate flying a Gypsy Moth 85hp aeroplane from Surrey Flying Services at Croydon Airport. She was still unmarried then and was living at 25, Launceston Place, London W8. Three years later in 1937 she married Richard H Paterson in Kensington. Her mother died the same year.