Archibald BALLS (1890–1915)
Archibald Balls was born in Skirmett, Buckinghamshire in 1890, the son of James William Balls (born in Tannington, Suffolk in 1864/5) and Mary Ann Jackson (born in Kelsale, Suffolk in about 1850). His parents were married in the Plomesgate registration district of Suffolk in the first quarter of 1887, and they had eight children:
- Florence Balls (born in Skirmett, Buckinghamshire in 1887/8)
- James Norton Balls, known as Norton (born in Skirmett, Buckinghamshire in 1888/9)
- Archibald Balls (born in Skirmett, Buckinghamshire in 1890 (registered fourth quarter)
- Gertrude Olive Balls, known as Olive (born in Littlemore, Oxfordshire on 10 January 1892 and baptised at the church there on 17 April 1892)
- James Leonard Balls, known as Leonard (born in Drayton St Leonard, Oxfordshire in 1893/4, registered first quarter of 1894)
- Horace George Balls (born in Cumnor, Berkshire in 1896, registered second quarter, baptised as George Horace at Cumnor on 13 July 1896)
- Mildred Mary Balls (born in Sunningwell in 1898 and baptised at the church on 31 July 1898)
- Alfred Raymond Balls (born in Sunningwell on 17 January 1903 and baptised at the church on 27 March 1903).
Archibald’s parents had evidently moved from Suffolk to Skirmett in Buckinghamshire by 1887, and the 1891 census shows them living there at Upper Goddards, with his father working as a farm manager. Archibald was then six months old. By the next year his father was working as a farm bailiff in Littlemore in Oxfordshire, and by 1896 they were living at Wood End in Cumnor.
In the middle of 1896 the famly moved to Sunningwell, and Archibald’s older sister and brother were admitted to school there on 9 September that year. The log books says, “The Balls family very irregular”; the children were probably taken out of school to help on the farm at busy times. The younger children were admitted when they reached their sixth birthday.
The Balls family can be seen in the 1901 census living at 45 Foxcombe. Archibald was then 10 and his father was a still a farm bailiff. Kelly’s Directory of 1903 clarifies that Archibald’s father was the farm bailiff of Yatscombe Farm on Foxcombe Hill, working for Ernest Henry Green, the gentleman farmer of Sunningwell House whose son was also to die in the First World War. By 1905 Balls was running the farm himself.
By 1911 Archibald’s father was the dairy farmer at Yatscombe Farm. His daughter Florence (23) was doing dairy work, while Norton (22), Leonard (17), and Horace (15) were all working on their father’s farm. Archibald, however, was not at home, and does not obviously appear in the census index for England & Wales.
The Balls family had disappeared from Sunningwell by the time Kelly’s Directory for 1916 was published, and once again Ernest Green was listed as the Farmer at Yatscombe Farm.
In the First World War Archibald Balls enlisted at Abingdon and served as a Private in the 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment (Service No. XLIX. B. 13). He died of wounds in France on 4 November 1918 at the age of 28 and is buried in the Etaples Military Cemetery.
Archibald Balls is remembered on the war memorial in St Leonard’s Church at Sunningwell. His brothers Leonard, Norton, and (probably) Horace also fought in the war and survived, and they are listed on the board in the village hall.
Archibald Balls’s parents
Archibald’s family appear to have moved away from Sunningwell in 1916, and were in Suffolk soon after the war, which may explain why he is recorded simply as “A. Balls”; and as he is missing from the 1911 census he himself may have left Sunningwell before the war, and afterwards his parents were no longer around to ask. In 1925 or 1926 his parents appear to have moved to Norfolk:
- Mary A. Balls (Mrs James William Balls) died at the age of 76 in the Blofield, Norfolk district in 1926 (registered fourth quarter). She was actually older than she admitted in the censuses, which explains why she appears to have had her last child at the age of 30 (she was in fact 41 at the time)
- James. W. Balls died at the age of 64 in the Blofield, Norfolk district in 1930/1 (registered first quarter of 1931)
- The Horace Balls who married Bertha L. White in the Newmarket registration district in Suffolk in the June quarter of 1912 is likely to be Archibald’s brother
- Mildred M. Balls married Cecil W. Hurren in the Blything registration district in Suffolk in the fourth quarter of 1925. They appear to have had two children born in Essex: Joan V. Hurren (Braintree district, first quarter of 1927) and Richard H. W. Hurren (Halstead district, fourth quarter of 1928).