The King’s message appeared in the local Thanet papers in August 1914. In those early euphoric days, when everyone thought the war would be over by Christmas, local lads marched to the recruiting rallies singing the national anthem. Within days local policemen and a local bank manager were already called up, as were the well-known Ramsgate men, Lord Weigall of Southwood and Lieutenant Robert Sebag-Montefiore from Eastcliff Lodge, the great, great nephew of Sir Moses Montefiore. Robert was married by this time and had a home in London and was elected as a London County Councillor for Battersea and Clapham in March 1913. He served in the Royal East Kent Yeomanry and is buried in the Alexandria (Chatby) Jewish Cemetery No 3.
Encouraged by the local newspaper a local competition developed as to which family had the most men at the Front. In 1915 Mrs Todd of Princes Street in Ramsgate had a son and eleven grandsons on active service, while Mrs Goldfinch of Model Cottages in King Street had five sons in the army. Mrs Sebag-Montefiore up at East Cliff Lodge also had five sons away fighting. Only Captain Robert did not come back.
Captain William Sebag-Montefiore served in the 5th Royal Irish Lancers. He was decorated with the award of the Military Cross (M.C.) in 1918. His brother Thomas went to the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich and served in the Royal Artillery. He fought in France, Belgium, Italy and Germany and gained the rank of Major in 1917. He was decorated with the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) and the Military Cross.
John (Jack) Sebag-Montefiore gained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery. Lieutenant Charles Edward Sebag-Montefiore served in the Royal Horse Artillery and received his commission in 1918. His son Hugh became Bishop of Birmingham.
Mrs Harriette Sebag-Montefiore held the annual sale in her garden at East Cliff Lodge in Ramsgate to raise money for the Thanet Women’s Aid Association in support of poor people and young girls who found themselves destitute through no fault of their own. In the sixteen years of its existence it had never been more needed than when the men were away fighting at the Front.
Robert is buried in the Alexandria (Chatby) Jewish Cemetery No 3. If you visit Ramsgate synagogue just off the Hereson Road you will find in the entrance an ornately carved marble wash basin above which is a brass memorial plaque to Captain Robert Sebag Montefiore. The inscription reads:
This tablet is erected by the Ramsgate congregation to the memory of Captain Robert Montefiore Sebag Montefiore, Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles, eldest son of Arthur and Harriette Sebag Montefiore who died at Alexandria November 17th 1915, 12th Kislev 5676, in the thirty fourth year of his age from wounds received at Gallipoli in the service of his King and Country.
Captain Robert’s wife travelled to Alexandria, where her husband was in hospital. Septic poisoning and fever had set in since the severe injuries to his shoulder, thigh and leg received through a bomb explosion. Deal Street Elementary School on the corner of Hanbury Street in Whitechapel was re-named after County Councillor Capt Robert Sebag-Montefiore who had been Vice Chair of The London County Council Education committee. The building has always been used for educational purposes. In 2001 Spitalfields Small Business Association (SsBA), was asked to manage the building on behalf of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and in 2007 renamed the building the Montefiore Centre.
In September 1915 the Thanet Advertiser reported that Major Cecil Sebag-Montefiore, brother-in-law of Mrs Sebag-Montefiore of Ramsgate, had completely recovered from wounds received in action and had returned to war service rather badly battered, but with an extremely bouyant and cheerful disposition.