Eppstein medals

William Reginald Eppstein was the son of Maurice Reginald (1858-1931) and Lucy Jane (nee Joly - 1870-1939, buried Athens) Epstein of Smyrna, Asia Minor. Educated at Reading School (where his father was the Head Master) and in 1908 was a member of the 1st XV Rugby Football team. At the outbreak of World War 1, he volunteered for service at the British Consulate at Smyrna & was commissioned as a temporary Lieutenant 29/12/14 in 17th (Reserve) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. He was posted to Gallipoli in July 1915 (probably attached to a Manchester Regt battalion) & was wounded there 16/7/15. He later fought in the Western Front and died in the Ypres area aged 27, just over 2 months before the end of the war on 4 September 1918. He is buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium. The Eppstein name is probably Ashkenazi Jewish in origin and it seems possible the family were converts to Christianity with the influence of preachers from England who worked throughout the 19th century in the Ottoman Empire amongst minorities to create this flock. Maurice Eppstein was also a lay preacher and his father (?) John Maurice Eppstein was a minister as is seen in some of the Smyrna Anglican registers. Maurice Eppstein is recorded as one of the refugees in Malta who elected to return to Smyrna post the 1922 catastrophe, and was awarded £24 by the British Government for this passage, pointing to their desperate state, as with all these refugees. It is not known how long after 1924 the family moved again from Smyrna. The Eppstein name is certainly recorded in ‘Levantine records’ of Smyrna back to the middle of the 19th century, though little is known of their professions. It seems there were business interests that made Eppstein junior to return to Smyrna after his graduation from the school. The Headmaster of Reading School was William Charles Eppstein brother of Maurice Reginald Eppstein the father of Captain Eppstein. (Captain Eppstein’s cousin, son of William, Maurice William Wallis Eppstein Sub Lieut RNAS was killed in action in 1917, incidentally). With the outbreak of war initially there was no Allied blockade of Smyrna harbour and a group of happy volunteers in late 1914 completely unaware of the horrors that awaited them, left by ship to England and France to do their ‘national duty’, though many had never seen their ‘home country’ before. Tragically more than half would die in the battle fields of France and Belgium. At the time of his death, Capt Eppstein was engaged to Miss Phyllis Bicknell in Highbridge, Somerset (Ref: Imperial War Museum manuscript letter). His next of kin came from Romford, Essex.

The three medals awarded to William Reginald Eppstein.
The rear view of these medals.
The medals together with the memorial plaque
Close-up of name on memorial plaque
Reading School football group photo from 1908 with William Reginald Eppstein in top left. The person with the surname of Joly on the bottom right may also be from Smyrna where that Huguenot name was well known.
In 2013 Reading School published a long illustrated article by Ken Brown Archivist Old Redingensians Association about the Headmaster, Lt Eppstein’s father in the ‘The Old Redingensian’ School magazine, which carries the Headmaster Eppstein’s bookplate on the cover & an illustrated 5 page article.
The chapel in Reading School.
The WWI dead plaque in Reading School where Eppstein’s name is also recorded.
Plaque on the wall of the St. John Church, Izmir where Eppstein is also listed amongst the British dead of the city.

Information and images courtesy of www.greatwarmedals.com & Ken Brown.