Austin Jubilee Challis was born in Roxwell, Essex in 1887, the son of a farm bailiff. He trained as a horse groom and was working/lodging in Somerset when he enlisted in the army. He saw service in Mesopotamia and that is where he died in May 1918. His last family home was in Waterhouse Street, Chelmsford.


Driver, 15th Mountain Battery, Royal Field Artillery

The eldest daughter, Alice Maud, left home and trained as a nanny; she married Clifford Wellington in 1913 and set up home in Erith, Kent.

The youngest daughter Elsie May died as an infant around 1905 and Alice Challis died aged 56, on 21 April 1912, James was left with four daughters and a son, Charles William, at the family home at 71 Waterhouse Street, Chelmsford.

At the time of his enlistment Austin Jubilee Challis was employed as a horse groom at Northfield Stables near Minehead; he lodged at 10 Station Terrace Minehead. Two of the studio photographs of him in uniform were taken at Plymouth. He was posted as a driver 183762 attached to the 15 Mountain Battery of the Royal Field Artillery.

By 1918 the battery was based in Iraq, then known as Mesopotamia. Austin died there on 25th May 1918. He was subsequently buried in grave XIV. C. 16 at Amara War Cemetery beside the River Tigris.

Austin is likely to have died from disease, as Amara became a hospital centre immediately after it was occupied by the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force on 3rd June 1915. The accommodation for medical units on both banks of the Tigris was greatly increased during 1916 and in April 1917, seven general hospitals and some smaller units were stationed there. Austin left an estate valued at £47 1s. 1d. to  his fiancé; 24-year-old Dorothy Alice Crocker of 10 Station Terrace, Minehead.

Austin is commemorated by the Moulsham War Memorial at St John's Church in Moulsham Street, Chelmsford, but was ommitted from the Civic Centre War Memorial in Chelmsford.

His brother Charles William Challis enlisted in Chelmsford and went to Colchester Barracks, joining the Cavalry, and later served in Egypt. After the War he joined the Challis family bakery business in Greenhithe.

Once the remaining daughters were in service James moved to the bakery in Kent where he lived until he died on 4th May 1928.

In the 1920s two daughters, Ethel and Florence, married and settled in Greenhithe. The third, Laura, remained a spinster and lived with Ethel. The fourth daughter stayed in service in Baddow and in 1922 married (in Greenhithe) Stanley Claude Bannister of 3 Crompton Terrace, Chelmsford. He and his brother Leonard Victor both served in the First World War. Stanley Claud then worked at Crompton & Company while Leonard Victor became a policeman in Walton-on-the-Naze.

As a baker, Thomas Sidney was in a reserved occupation and therefore did not enlist. Neither did Percy, probably because he was older and Crompton’s contributed to the War effort. 


All copyright the Challis family archive, additional information supplied by D M Challis.and John Smith.

Austin Jubilee Challis was the fifth child of James and Alice Challis, who had married at Roxwell parish church on 19th May 1881. James was 27 and a farm bailiff; Alice was from the Milbank farming family in Roxwell and was 23. They had eleven children:

Percy, born Roxwell, 8th September 1881; Thomas Sidney Milbank, born Roxwell, 9th February 1883; Alice Maud, born Roxwell, 3rd May 1884; Arthur Leonard, born White Roding, 16th October 1885 – died Springfield, 11th August 1892; Austin Jubilee, born White Roding, 19th June 1887; Ethel Mary, born Margaretting, 3rd April 1890; Laura, born Springfield, 12th June 1892; Jenny Milbank, born Springfield, 5th July 1894; Charles William, born Springfield, 1896; Florence Ellen, born Mountnessing, 22nd July 1899; and Elsie May, born Buttsbury, 9th March 1902 – died c.1905.

James Challis (1853–1928) had a good job as a farm bailiff and had married well, but by the time Austin Jubilee was born in 1887 (the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee – hence his

unusual middle name) James had become an alcoholic (a common addiction at the time) and was unemployed.

From then onwards the family moved about the Chelmsford area as he could only get casual work; the later birth certificates list: County Council road foreman and farm labourer. The 1901 census shows the family at a farm in Buttsbury where James was employed as a horseman.

The eldest son, Percy, worked at Crompton & Company in Chelmsford, married Lydia Jane Harrington in March 1908 and lived in Crompton Street, Chelmsford. 

Thomas Sidney Milbank made his way to Kent and by 1900 was working as a  junior baker for George Ingram Barnes at his new large bakery in the village of Greenhithe. In 1904, having passed out as a journeyman baker, he was made redundant; he went to Maidstone where he married Lucy Annie Bennett on 11th June 1904. Next he was working in Ealing, London where his first daughter was born; then back to Maidstone at another bakery for the birth of his second daughter; and, finally back working for Barnes in Greenhithe by the time his eldest son was born in 1907. He had four more children. In 1915 he obtained a mortgage from a local flour miller to buy the bakery and the family continued to run the business until it closed in 1981.

Above: Austin's family taken around 1904, probably at Buttsbury, just before Thomas Sidney Challis was married. Key to people:

1   James Challis, father,

2   Alice (nee Milbank), mother,

3   Percy, born Roxwell, 8th September 1881

4   Thomas Sidney Milbank , born Roxwell, 9th February 1883

5   Alice Maud, born Roxwell, 3rd May 1884

6   Arthur Leonard, born White Roding, 16th October 1885 – died Springfield, 11th August 1892

7   Austin Jubilee, born White Roding, 19th June 1887

8   Ethel Mary, born Margaretting, 3rd April 1890

9   Laura, born Springfield, 12th June 1892

10 Jenny Milbank, born Springfield, 5th July 1894

11 Charles William, born Springfield, 12th April 1896

12 Florence Ellen, born Mountnessing, 22nd July 1899

13 Elsie May, born Buttsbury, 9 March 1902 – died c.1905

Left: Austin in uniform, photograph taken at Plymouth.

Above left: Austin (standing) with a colleague, Plymouth.

Above right: Austin in uniform, location not known.

Above: Austin Jubilee Challis in uniform.

Above: Charles William Challis on a horse at Colchester Barracks.

Above: Charles William Challis (seated) and colleague.

Above: Charles William Challis (wounded) in the Citadel Hospital, Cairo.

Above: 71 Waterhouse Street, Chelmsford.

Above: Austin Jubilee Challis' Next of Kin Memorial Plaque.

Right: Charles William Challis cavalryman.

Right: Minehead War Memorisl which also commenorates Austin. (courtesy of John Smith)