Fred Rainbow

From towers to trenches, we remember Fred Rainbow

Fred Rainbow
Courtesy of Reg Doble Tower Captain, St Edmund’s Church, Maids Moreton

Alexander the Great founded the port of Alexandria around a small ancient Egyptian town in 331BC. As a coastal port its importance and wealth grew as the trade in goods including Egyptian cotton increased. The strategic importance of Alexandria was just as significant in the Great War as it was all those centuries ago. Used as a staging post for the Gallipoli campaign and as a base for a fully equipped military hospital, it is not surprising that the city now holds two War Memorial Cemeteries.

The Alexandria (Chatby) Military and War Memorial Cemetery (originally a garrison cemetery) now holds 2,259 First World War graves. Among these is the grave of Fred Rainbow, a young butcher from Maids Moreton.

Fred was born in Maids Moreton in 1886 and was the 4th child of William and Mary Rainbow. William was an agricultural labourer in 1881 and by 1891 was an engine driver; the engine was a threshing machine. In 1891 the family were living in Wellmoor, Maids Moreton.

By 1901 William had diversified his business by adding the role of publican to his existing threshing business and the family were residing in the Wheat Sheaf Inn on Main Street. Fred and his older brother William had become journeyman butchers. (A journeyman is an individual who has completed an apprenticeship and is fully educated in a trade.)

In 1911 Fred was the eldest child still living at home and was a self-employed butcher.  His father was noted as a general labourer and the families address given was just “Maids Moreton”, possibly suggesting a new publican at the Wheat Sheaf.

It is known that Fred rang a peal at St Edmunds during his career as a ringer and a picture taken of him in uniform still hangs in the ringing chamber. Fred rang his first peal on the tenor at Padbury which was the first peal of the bells there in 1911. The ODG Annual report shows that a P Rainbow rang a peal on the 20th April 1914, we believe this was a typo and should have been registered against Fred as we can’t find a record of a P Rainbow in the 1911 census.

Fred joined the army as a shoeing smith in the Royal Buckingham Hussars, little is known about his time in army but he was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal and his medal card gives his rank as Staff Sergeant and records that he  died 4th May 1915.

His younger brother Arthur James Rainbow also served in the war and was killed in action on the 24th August 1916 in the battle of the Somme.

Information sources

Census records for 1911, 1901 1891, 1881

Commonwealth war graves commission

Buckinghamshire remembers

Medal card records