James Edward Reid (1894-1966) – recovery from WWI injury

Lieutenant (Acting Captain) James Edward Reid, an officer in the 6th Essex Regiment, was shot on 20 November 1917 near to Gouzeaucourt in Northern France; an event which was recorded in his diary:

20/11/17 Rues
1.30am left Sorel and marched to field near Gouzeaucourt. Lay there until about 6.45am, when up via Farm Ravine to German Front line. About 9am advanced – other companies not all in position. Went on to Rues Vertes. Captured 143 Germans out of Hindenburg Support. Got shot about 2pm.
Extract from James’s diary 20 November 1917

James was transported back to the UK to King Edward VII hospital where he remained until 2 February 1918, when he was transferred to Luton Hoo (now a country house hotel) to start his convalescence, as his following diary entry explains.

2/2/18 Luton (Hoo)Left for Luton in ambulance 11.30, arrived 1.15. Sister Goodall with us. Left my holdall behind. Spent afternoon in reading. Big house (not seen anything of it yet) and grounds. Had a bath morning. Great contortions putting on bandage. Rain and mist.
Extract from James’s diary 2 February 1918

James had a relapse while at Luton Hoo and was back in bed by 13 March when he was seen coughing blood. The first mention of his future wife, Sister (Joan) Grant, occurred on 20 March. He was transferred to Cross Oak on 2 April to continue his recovery.

Cross Oak, Great Berkhamsted – was owned, at the time of James’ convalescence, by Julius Berlein. It was situated in the parish of St Peter, Great Berkhamsted which is where the English submitted to William the Norman in 1066. Cross Oak had been remodelled in the 1870s to a design by Frank Ernest Thicke (1845-1899) and had probably been built around 1800. Frank was a relatively young architect at the time based in London; he had been a scholar at Dulwich College. (This was the school to which James would later send his two sons.) Frank’s school record gave his address as Rosendale Road, Dulwich, near to where James and the Reid family lived in later years. Cross Oak is indicated by an arrow on the following OS map:

OS Hertfordshire XXXII date 1883

Julius Berlein (1851-1931) had bought Cross Oak in 1907 for £9500, according to the 1910-1915 Inland Revenue Valuation Office Survey. The site itself also included about 20 acres of land and the whole property and land were valued at £11,450. The following valuation map extract shows Cross Oak. 

Extract from Inland Revenue Survey

Julius Berlein had been born in 1852 in Rotenburg an der Fulda in Germany to Jewish parents. He left Germany as a relatively young man and in 1871 went to the Kimberley Diamond Fields in South Africa. Julius and his wife Elizabeth Woods had three sons and a daughter: He was granted naturalisation in November 1902 and remained staunchly pro-British throughout his life, even throughout the Boer War. In December 1899 his mine manager sheltered and fed Winston Churchill after he had escaped the Boers.

Two of Julius and Elizabeth’s sons enlisted in the army early on in WWI. Lieutenant Charles Berlein of the 5th (service) battalion of the Oxford and Buckingham Light Infantry died on 16 June 1915. His brother Lieutenant Leslie Berlein of the 8th (service) battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment was killed in action, leading his men from the trenches, on 25 September 1915. They are both recorded on the Berkhamsted war memorial; their parents provided an infants’ welfare centre in Water Lane, Berkhamsted in their memory.

Berkhamsted WWI War Memorial

Cross Oak during WWI – as a further contribution to the war effort, the Berlein’s allowed Cross Oak to be used as a place for officers to convalesce, after they had been repatriated to England, having been injured. It cared for about 200 British and Dominion officers whilst it was in operation.

While James was at Cross Oak for his convalescence, he went on long walks and visited a number of local residences, including Marlin Chapel Farm, Ashlyns Hall and Haresfoot. He continued to court his future wife who was a nurse at Luton Hoo and helped with tasks. For example, on 17 May 1918 he reported that he had tried his hand with the scythe. James met Lord Kitchener at Champney’s, which is now a hotel and spa and was also involved in local activities including a show there. 

17/5/18Did nothing morning. Afternoon tried my hand with a scythe – not an expert. Heavy thunderstorm after tea, with rain. Read. After dinner, walk for half an hour or so.
2/6/18To OTC service morning, all walked back. Rest of morning reading. Afternoon to Champneys again for lunch, met Lord Kitchener, Col Kenny and others. Back in car. Tea. Wrote letters and walked to post them. After supper, reading and writing.
5/6/18Morning getting ready. All over to Champneys after lunch, I on bicycle. Fine day, and fete a great success. Aeroplane stunts. One performance of show afternoon, very good, then tea and another outside 6.30. Out of doors very difficult, but hope all right. Stayed to supper, and played slosh after.
Extracts from James’s diary

By 16 May 1918 there were four soldiers left convalescing at Cross Oak. James returned to London on 28 June 1918.  Interestingly there is no mention of the Berlein family in his diary, although Julius Berlein continued to own Cross Oak until 1919 when it was bought by Captain Robert Humphrey Haslam. Sadly it was demolished in 1969 to make way for new housing. Julius Berlein died in South Africa in 1931. James Edward Reid, however, returned to active service in the army after he left Cross Oak and married Joan on 4 December 1918 in London.

After World War One James applied for and gained a position with the Indian Police. By the time of partition he was Inspector General for Assam and was asked to remain in India to facilitate the handover to Indian control. His son Alan spent time in India training the growing Indian Airforce and flying dignitaries including Nehru around. James was later rewarded for his service with an OBE and retired in to live in London.

Further extracts from James’ diary while he was at Cross Oak can be found here.

Do contact me if you have any further information you are willing to share with me.

Note: the map used on this page has been reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under the following creative commons licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/ and sourced from the NLS maps site https://maps.nls.uk/.


1939 Register. England. Tonbridge, Kent. REID, Douglas H. 29 September 1939. RG101/1798D. National Archives (Great Britain), Kew, England.  Collection: 1939 Register. https://www.ancestry.co.uk/ : accessed January 2022.

Army Medal Office (Great Britain). WW1 Medal Index Card. Collection: British Army Medal Roll Index Cards, 1914-1920. https://www.ancestry.co.uk/ : accessed January 2022. 

Births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials. https://www.ancestry.co.uk/ : accessed January 2022.

Building News . (1875) Cross Oak Berkhampstead. Building News. 8 January.  p. 40. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112117956596;view=1up;seq=56 : accessed January 2022.

Census Records. https://www.ancestry.co.uk/  : accessed January 2022.

De Ruvigny, The Marquis. (1922) Roll of Honour. London: The Standard Art Book Company. Vol. 1. Collection: UK, De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour, 1914-1919. https://www.ancestry.co.uk/ : accessed January 2022.

Dulwich College Register. Collection: London, Dulwich College Register 1619-1926. https://www.findmypast.co.uk/ : accessed January 2022.

Images. Photograph. James Edward Reid. 1957. Reid family private collection.

Images. Photograph. Berkhamsted War Memorial. 12 November 2018. Private collection of Joan Reid, Thame.

Immigration and Nationality Department. (Great Britain). Certificate of Naturalisation. Collection: UK, Naturalisations and Declarations Certificates, 1870-1916. https://www.ancestry.co.uk/ : accessed January 2022.

Inland Revenue. (1910) Northchurch Assessment no. 1-100. National Archives, Kew, London . IR 58/71503. http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C920518 : accessed January 2022.

Monumental inscriptions. Collection: Global, Find A Grave Index for Burials at Sea and other Select Burial Locations, 1300s-Current.  https://www.ancestry.co.uk/ : accessed January 2022.

National Army Museum (Great Britain). Collection: UK, Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929. https://www.ancestry.co.uk/ : accessed January 2022.

Ordnance Survey. (1883) Hertfordshire XXXII. Ordnance Survey six inch England and Wales 1842-1952. Southampton: Ordnance Survey. https://maps.nls.uk/view/102343337 : accessed January 2022.

Reid, Andrew. (2018) The Diary of James Edward Reid. [Transcription] Unpublished.

Sherwood, Jennifer. (2012) Julius Berlein of Cross Oak. Chronicle. Vol. IX. pp.3-10.