Posted by: michaeldaybath | October 22, 2017

New bells dedicated at St George’s Memorial Church Ypres

Bell cast for St George's Memorial Church, Ypres, at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, Tarrant Hinton

Bell cast for St George’s Memorial Church, Ypres, at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, Tarrant Hinton

This morning, there was a special event at St George’s Memorial Church Ypres in Ieper, a special service to bless eight new bells that have recently been installed in the church tower.

I was unfortunately unable to be in Ieper today, but I did manage to see the bells in August, when they were on display at the Great Dorset Steam Fair at Tarrant Hinton en route from Loughborough to Belgium. The bells were part of a First World War Centenary display at the fair, loaded onto Thornycroft and Dennis lorries, both of which had formerly seen service in the war and which were also going to make the trip to Belgium.

Bell cast for St George's Memorial Church, Ypres, at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, Tarrant Hinton

Bell cast for St George’s Memorial Church, Ypres, at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, Tarrant Hinton

The bells were cast at the John Taylor & Co. foundry in Loughborough in July this year, and are unusual in having poppy motifs cast around the crown. Each bell is a memorial in itself and they have appropriate inscriptions. For example, one bell has the text: “100 YEARS OF ANZAC THE SPIRIT LIVES 2014 – 2018.” Another bell has an inscription that utilises the phrase for unknown soldiers chosen by Rudyard Kipling and used by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission:  “FOR A SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR KNOWN UNTO GOD.”

St George's Memorial Church Ypres

St George’s Memorial Church Ypres

The bells arrived in Ieper in late August, where they were displayed at several events and ceremonies held at cemeteries and memorials (including the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing). They were then dedicated at St George’s Memorial Church on the 31st August. After that, the bells were installed in the tower by John Taylor & Co. and the ringing chamber prepared in time for the Blessing of the Bells service (and the first public ringing) today. The bells have been hung for UK-style change ringing and are a relatively light peal of six, with the Tenor (heaviest bell) weighing just over 6 cwt (6-1-11, in B).

Dennis lorry with bells cast for St George's Memorial Church, Ypres, at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, Tarrant Hinton

Dennis lorry with bells cast for St George’s Memorial Church, Ypres, at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, Tarrant Hinton

The event today caps several years of planning and work, and is a tribute to the efforts of the Bells for St George’s Ypres project, its trustees, and supporters — in particular Alan Regin, Steward of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers (CCCBR) Rolls of Honour. I very much hope one day to be able to ring on the bells at St George’s or, at the very least, to be present in Ieper while they are being rung.

St George's Memorial Church Ypres from the belfry of the Cloth Hall in Ieper

St George’s Memorial Church Ypres from the belfry of the Cloth Hall in Ieper

More information on St George’s Memorial Church Ypres is available from their web pages:

The Bells for St George’s Ypres project has also been covered in several postings on the Halfmuffled blog.

Posted by: michaeldaybath | October 5, 2017

Private Hope Brake, 5th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment

Church of St Laurence, Upwey (Dorset)

Church of St Laurence, Upwey (Dorset)

The Battle of Broodseinde was one of several British “bite-and-hold” attacks that were part of the middle phase of the 3rd Battle of Ypres in 1917. It commenced on the morning of the 4th October 1917 on a front stretching from near Poelcappelle (Poelkapelle) in the north to just south of the Menin Road near Gheluvelt in the south. The main aim was the continue the capture of the Gheluvelt Plateau by the occupation of the Broodseinde Ridge as well as the villages of Zonnebeke, Gravenstafel and Poelcappelle.

One of those that died in the Battle of Broodseinde was 17856 Private Hope Brake of the 5th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment, who was killed-in-action on the 5th October 1917, aged 37. Hope Brake was a bellringer at the Church of St Laurence, Upwey (Dorset) and a member of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers (SDGR).

Trench Map 28.NW

Maison Bulgare and the Steenbeek. Detail from Trench Map 28.NW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 6A; Published: July 1917; Trenches corrected to 30 June 1917: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The 5th (Service) Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment were in 34th Brigade, part of the 11th (Northern) Division. In October 1917, the division took part in the 5th Army attack near Poelcappelle, where progress proved to be decidedly uneven. The war diary of the 5th Dorsets records the main activities of the battalion on the 4th October and the days that followed [1].

The 4th October started with the battalion in dugouts at Meurat Shelters.

At 3 a.m. A. and D. Coy. had to move out and proceed up the line, their orders were, that they had to be at HURST PARK, at ZERO minus 1½ hours, ZERO being 6 a.m. From HURST PARK they then had to move up and occupy the present front line vacated by the assaulting Batn., the latter being the 11th Manchester Regt, this they had to occupy by ZERO plus 2 HOURS. The line vacated by the assaulting Btn. running approx. from V.25.a.3.7. to V.25.c.6.9. Our other 2 Coys. C. and B. had orders to leave MEURAT SHELTERS at ZERO minus ½ an hour, and move in artillery formation up to the EAST bank of the STEENBEEK – about C.5.d.5.5. and be in position there by ZERO plus 2 HOURS. B. on right and C. on the left, S.E. and N.W. of Mon. BULGARE, ref Map POELCAPPELLE edition 4. 1:100,000, immediately on their arrival they had to report their positions to Btn. H.Q. which were at BULOW Fm. and to Bde. H.Q. at Mon. BULGARE. Our casualties on the 4th = Killed. 1 Officer = Captain Dancer A.C., M.C. and 10 O.R.

The diary then lists the names of all those killed and wounded on the 4th October.

The next entry is written from “In the Line Batn. H.Q. @ BULOW Fm.”

Holding the line. Our front line ran from V.25.a.3.7 to V.25.c.6.9
D. Coy. on the right holding a frontage of about 350x with the L.F.s [9th Bn., Lancashire Fusiliers] on his right. A. Coy. on the left, with a frontage of about 200x with the 7th S. STAFFORDS [in 33rd Brigade] on his left. Our two reserve Coys. C. and B. are still in the same place, i.e. S.E. and N.W. of Mon. BULGARE. Owing to our reserve two Coys being situated closed to Battery positions they come in for a considerable amount of shelling — also in the afternoon our forward two Coy’s were subjected to a fair amount of attention from enemy artillery — Our casualties were as follows – Killed. 17856 Brake H. 12991 Sgt. Fitall 19392 Snell W. 10976 Homer F. Died of Wounds. 8420 LCpl. Trimby. 25760 Kenway J.

There follows the names of 49 others that had been wounded on the 5th October, including Lt. Col. Stephenson.

On the night of the 5th and 6th October, the battalion relieved the 11th Manchester Regiment in the front line (V.20.c.1.8. to V.26.a.7.6), drawing attention from snipers, especially in the area around Gloster Farm.  Other battalion casualties were suffered from heavy artillery shelling the back areas and along the Poelcappelle Road. The total casualties listed in the war diary for the Battle of Broodseinde were: killed: 2 officers (Captain Alfred Charles Dancer M.C., Captain George Stockwell), 22 other ranks; died of wounds: 8 other ranks; wounded: 2 officers, 111 other ranks; missing: 14 other ranks; shell shock: 9 other ranks.

Trench Map 20.SE.3 (Westroosebeke)

Beer Trench and Poelcappelle. Detail from Trench Map 20.SE.3; Scale: 1:10000; Edition: 3A; Published: September 1917; Trenches corrected to 17 September 1917: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The account in the regimental history provides a little more detail and atmosphere. Here is its account of the 4th and 5th October [2]:

The night of October 4th/5th, therefore, “A” and “D” Companies spent in Beer Trench, with “B” and “C” back near the Steenbeek. Up in front things were quite lively, some counter-attacks were attempted, the enemy’s bombers and snipers were busy, and their guns were also active, the supports also coming in for a share. By day things were quieter, though “B” and “C” found that the near neighbourhood of some batteries near Maison Bulgare involved them in no little shelling, and again casualties were rather numerous. That evening the 5th moved forward and relieved the [11th] Manchesters, putting “A” and “D” Companies into the front line, with “B” and “C” five hundred yards behind. Both front line and supports were nothing more than consolidated shell-holes. Battalion Headquarters itself being in a large one west of Bavaroise Farm. The enemy’s artillery was active and his snipers very much in evidence, paying special attention to Gloster Farm, which the two front companies had chosen for their headquarters. However, several casualties had occurred here, another of the company commanders being killed. This was Captain Stockwell, an excellent officer who had joined the 5th at Gallipoli and had served with it ever since. Private Beaupre also, the Commanding Officer’s remarkable orderly, was wounded, and as the neighbourhood was obviously “unhealthy” the headquarters shifted to adjacent shell-holes and further casualties were avoided. Our snipers replied quite effectively and at night some vigorous patrolling was accomplished, though both Beek Houses and Meunier House proved to be too strongly held to be rushed. Next day (October 7th) the shelling on the front line was much less severe ; the enemy was turning his attention on to the back areas and our casualties were in consequence much lower, but by the time the 32nd Brigade arrived to take over the 5th had actually had twenty more casualties than in the attack of August 16th [near Langemarck]. No more officers had been killed, but Lieut.-Colonel Stephenson and the Chaplain, the Rev. W. H. Kay, were wounded. In all thirty men were killed or died of wounds, fourteen were missing, one hundred and twenty wounded.

The 5th Dorsets were relieved on the night of the 7th and 8th October by units of 32nd Brigade (the 9th Bn., West Yorkshire Regiment and the 6th Bn., York and Lancaster Regiment), an operation that was complicated by heavy rain and snipers.

Church of St John the Baptist, Symondsbury (Dorset)

Church of St John the Baptist, Symondsbury (Dorset)

Hope Brake was born at Symondsbury, near Bridport, in early 1880, and was baptised in the Church of St John the Baptist on the 29 February. His parents were William and Emily Brake. In the 1881 Census, William is described as a 46-year old sexton, labourer, etc., Emily as a 40-year old church cleaner. In 1881, they had eight children living with them at Symondsbury, of which Hope was then the youngest. By the time of the 1891 Census, when Hope was a 11-year old scholar, William is described as a 56-year old agricultural labourer.

Hope married Agnes Emma Pearce (b. Broadwindsor) in Beaminster (registration district) in late 1899. By the time of the 1901 Census, Hope was a 21-year gardener, living at 3 East Road, Bridport with his wife, and a 1-year old child (William George). By the time of the 1911 Census, Hope and Agnes were living at 1, St Andrews Road, Bridport with four children, with birthplaces that suggest that the family had moved around on a regular basis: George (b. Melplash, ca. 1900), Gladys (b. Burton Bradstock, ca. 1903), Leonard (b. Bridport, ca. 1907), and Phyllis (b. Bridport, ca. 1909). In 1911, Hope was 31-years old, and still working as a gardener.

SDGR Dorchester Branch war memorial, St Peter's Church, Dorchester (Dorset)

SDGR Dorchester Branch war memorial, St Peter’s Church, Dorchester (Dorset)

Soldiers Died in the Great War records that Hope enlisted at Weymouth, when resident at Upwey. It looks as if Hope’s employer may have applied for his exemption from military service after the introduction of conscription, as his name appears in a report from the Weymouth Rural Tribunal published in the Western Gazette of 14 April 1916 [3]:

NO APPEARANCE. — In the case of Hope Brake, 35, Upwey, head-gardener for Mrs. Preston, who for the greater part of the year lived in London, there was no appearance and the application was struck out.

Mrs Preston was Georgina Charlotte Preston, a widow who lived (at least some of the time) at Westbrook House in Church Street, Upwey. Westbrook House is a large house, originally built for Sir Thomas Freke in around 1620, but was substantially rebuilt and extended in the 1740s. The 1911 Census records the 51-year-old Georgina Preston living at 16 Montagu Square, Marylebone, with her 16-year-old daughter Violet, a German governess, and a retinue of servants.

There is a bitter postscript to this story, which was recorded in the weekly journal, John Bull. In August 1918, the third issue of The Australian at Weymouth — a magazine for the Australian Imperial Force camps based at Westham, Littlemoor, and Monte Video  — printed a snippet from John Bull that clearly refers to Hope Brake’s widow and family [4]:

The following cutting from John Bull will interest Littlemoor boys: “At Upwey, Dorset, Miss Georgina Charlotte Preston, of West Brook House, applied for an ejectment order against the widow of a soldier killed in France, who before joining the army had been in her service as a gardener. The widow had offered rent for the cottage, her efforts to find other accommodation having proved unavailing; but Miss Preston wanted this place for her new gardener, and the Magistrates’ sympathies were with her. Ours on the other hand, are with the soldier’s widow, and her young family, thrust out of house and home.” And so say all of us. We wonder what would happen in Aussie.

A look through the 5th Dorsets war diary shows that Private Brake had been wounded on the 4th May 1917, when the battalion was in the front line near Vélu east of Bapaume. The battalion moved shortly afterwards to the Ypres sector, where they took part in the Battle of Messines.

Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing (Panel 92)

Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing (Panel 92), near Zonnebeke (West-Vlaanderen)

Some of these in the 5th Dorsets that died in the Battle of Broodseinde were buried in Poelcapelle British Cemetery or in cemeteries further back behind the lines, but the vast majority, including Private Brake, have no grave and are commemorated on the Dorsetshire Regiment panel (Panel 92) of the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing, near Zonnebeke in Belgium.

Hope Brake's name on the Upwey war memorial (Dorset)

Hope Brake’s name on the Upwey war memorial (Dorset)

Hope Brake is also remembered on the war memorial plaque in Upwey church and the SGDR Dorchester Branch memorial in the Church of St Peter in Dorchester.

It is possible that Hope’s widow married again: an Agnes E. Brake married a Henry Swain at Weymouth (district) in the 3rd quarter of 1921. Someone of the same name died, aged 70, at Weymouth (district) in the 2nd quarter of 1951.

Panel of Wareham war memorial (Dorset)

Panel of the Wareham war memorial, featuring Jack Kenway (Dorset)

I have also been able to track down a few UK war memorials that record other members of the 5th Dorsets that died during the Battle of Broodseinde. For example, Private Jack Kenway, who also died on the 5th October, is commemorated on the war memorial at Wareham. The name of Corporal Richard Bishop, who died on the 6th October, appears on the memorial at Winfrith Newburgh.

Captain Alfred Christopher Dancer had previously served in the Surrey Yeomanry in both Egypt and the Dardanelles, but he was commissioned and joined the 5th Dorsets in 1915. He had been awarded a Military Cross in September 1916, when the battalion was based on the Somme (near Mouquet Farm) [5]:

Temp. 2nd Lt. Alfred Christopher Dancer, Dorset. R.
For conspicuous gallantry in action. He established and maintained communications, throughout the operations with great courage and skill. On one occasion he himself killed several enemy snipers. He set a splendid example to his men.

This is covered in more detail in Tim Saunders’s book on West Country Regiments on the Somme [7]:

As an experienced former senior NCO, now commissioned Temporary Second Lieutenant Dancer was in charge of a company-sized detachment of Dorsets at Mouquet Farm [on 26 September 1916]. Having relieved a party from 9/Lancashire Fusiliers who had been guarding the northern exits of the German dugouts, and having posted his platoon, Dancer ordered his men to throw bombs down the steps. Having secured the exits and dominated the area above ground, he co-opted a passing party of six pioneers of 6/East Yorkshire Regiment to help. Also co-opted were the dismounted crew of tank 542 (one of the bogged tanks) and an officer, a sergeant and six men from the Manchesters. With all exits either blocked by riflemen or covered by the two tank machine-guns, smoke and tear-gas grenades carried by the Manchesters’ section, were distributed and thrown down the dugout exits. The grenades’ fumes eventually built up a sufficiently concentrated cloud below ground to drive out the last defenders at 18:00 hours. The Germans were either shot or, if their intentions to surrender were obvious enough, taken prisoner. Among the collected prisoners, Lieutenant Dancer counted one officer and other ranks, along with three machine guns and two flame throwers. The prisoners were marched back to the Brigade Collecting Point at Crucifix Corner under escort of the Yorkshire Pioneers. Second Lieutenant Dancer received the Military Cross for his action in taking the lead during the battle and finally taking Mouquet Farm.

Captain Dancer’s name also appears on the King’s College London war memorial and the memorial at Great Brickhill, Buckinghamshire [6].

The death of Captain George Stockwell was reported in the Reading Mercury of 10 November 1917 [8]:

Captain George Stockwell, Dorset Regiment, killed in action, aged 38, was the youngest of nine sons of Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Stockwell, 21, Carnarvon Road, Reading. He was educated at Winchester, and subsequently went to the Malay States, where he occupied a lucrative position as manager of a rubber plantation. His lieutenant-colonel writes: — “He was one of my best officers, and his place will be very hard to fill. He was without fear, and ever since he joined the battalion in 1915 he had done fine work. His company was devoted to him. He has set a fine example of patriotism.”


[1] WO 95/1820/1, War Diary, 5th (Service) Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment, The National Archives, Kew.

[2] C. T. Atkinson, History of the Fifth Battalion, The Dorsetshire Regiment, 1914-1919, in: History of the Dorsetshire Regiment, 1914-1918, Part III, The Service Battalions (Dorchester: Henry Ling, ca. 1932), pp. 70-71. See also:

[3] Western Gazette, 14 April 1916; via the British Newspaper Archive.

[4] The Australian at Weymouth, Issue 3.,1st August 1918, p. 7; digitised version available via the National Library of Australia:

[5] Supplement to the London Gazette, 24 November 1917, p. 11534:

[6] Dancer, Alfred Christoper:

[7] Tim Saunders, West Country Regiments on the Somme (Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 2004), p. 245.

[8] Reading Mercury, 10 November 1917, via the British Newspaper Archive.



Posted by: michaeldaybath | September 28, 2017

Lance Sergeant Eleazar John Squire, Dorsetshire Regiment

Church of St Giles, Chideock (Dorset)

Church of St Giles, Chideock (Dorset)

While on the Western Front the 3rd Battle of Ypres continued throughout the late summer and autumn of 1917, the war also continued on other fronts. For example, after the capture of Baghdad in March, the focus of fighting in Mesopotamia largely switched to the Euphrates. Amongst those that died in that later fighting was a bellringer from Chideock in Dorset. 200394 Lance Sergeant Eleazar (Ellie) John Squire of the 1st/4th Dorsetshire Regiment died on the 28th September 1917 in the capture of Ramadi, on the River Euphrates west of Baghdad.

I have already mentioned on this blog that I have a special interest in the 1st/4th Dorsetshire Regiment. Both my grandfather and great uncle, Henry Day and William Rawles, served with the battalion throughout the First World War.

The 4th Dorsets were the Territorial battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment. At the outbreak of war, the battalion were at their annual summer camp. Those that volunteered for overseas service were formed into two battalions. The first to form, the 1st/4th Battalion, sailed to India on the 9th October 1914. Their first wartime casualty was Private Samuel Herbert Davy, a bellringer at Netherbury, who died on the journey out and was buried at sea.

After arriving in India, the 1st/4th Dorsets spent some months training, before sailing to Mesopotamia (Basra) in February 1916. By then, the battalion was part of 42nd Indian Brigade, which also included battalions of the 5th and 6th Gurkha Rifles. At the end of April 1916, the battalion began a twelve-day march to Nasiriyeh, where they became part of the 15th Indian Division. The battalion stayed in Nasiriyeh before moving to the Baghdad area after the capture of that city on the 11 March.

In September 1917, the 15th Indian Division were involved in an attempt to take the Ottoman garrison at Ramadi, west of Baghdad. An unsuccessful attempt to capture the garrison had already been made in July 1917. Rob Johnson’s recent book on The Great War in the Middle East provides a brief outline of what became known as the 2nd Battle of Ramadi [1]:

In September, another attempt was made [to capture Ramadi] with a British force under the command of General H. T. Brooking. In the first phase, Brooking constructed a bridge and road on the north bank of the Euphrates, hoping to persuade the Ottomans that the British intended an assault from this direction. In fact, Brooking sent the 6th Cavalry Brigade in a wide arc to the south, and they launched their attack in conjunction with the 15th Indian Division on 28 September. The combined effects of surprise, the envelopment, and the rapid encirclement of the Ottomans by armoured car units, threw the defenders utterly off balance. An attempt to escape was cut off by the British cavalry and the remaining Ottoman forces were forced to surrender the following morning.

The 42nd Indian Brigade, including the 1st/4th Dorsets, were part of the force tasked with the main attack from the direction of the Habbaniyah Lake. On the morning of the 28 September, the battalion operated in support of 1/5th and 2/5th Gurkhas, who were tasked with capturing the objectives known as the Middle and Double Hills. In the afternoon, the same battalions attacked the Ramadi Ridge. The battalion history describes this feature as follows [2]:

Ramadi Ridge was but seventeen feet high above the level of the surrounding plain, and consisted of a long and gentle gradient, a virtual glacis slope. It offered no cover, and our men became visible to the Turks at least a hundred yards before they reached the crest. Here they came under very heavy fire from artillery, machine-guns and rifles from the enemy’s main positions about one thousand yards distant, and at a closer range from machine guns in a number of emplacements along the broken banks of the Euphrates Valley Canal. Very heavy punishment was received, especially on the right flank.

Ramadi Ridge was so exposed that the occupiers withdrew to Middle Hill during the night, but the Ottoman trenches were successfully captured the day after with the surrender of the whole garrison.

In the 2nd Battle of Ramadi, the 1st/4th Dorsets suffered 995 casualties, although many of these were not that serious.  Officer deaths included Captain Walter F. Matthews of “D” Company, who was killed-in-action, and Lieutenant Arthur H. W. Woodruff, who was mortally wounded. Lance Sergeant Ellie Squire was serving with “C” Company, who together with “D” Company had helped reinforce the 1/5th Gurkhas on Ramadi Ridge on the afternoon of the 28th September.

The death of Lance Sergeant Squire was reported in the Western Gazette of the 12 October 1917. Unfortunately, the report got both his surname and rank incorrect, as well as seeming to identify him as his older brother Joseph (who at the time would have been serving with the Royal Engineers on the Western Front):

PRIVATE J. SQUIRES KILLED IN ACTION. — The sad news has reached Mr. and Mrs. Squires, of Chideock, that their son Joseph has been killed at Bagdad [sic]. Private Squires was at camp with the Dorsets when war broke out, and he went out to India afterwards, being sent to Mesopotamia, where with his regiment he had seen much fighting. He was a very popular young fellow, and will be sadly missed. The greatest sympathy is felt for the bereaved family.

There was another, more accurate, piece published in the Western Gazette of 21 December 1917:

DEATH OF SERGT. E. SQUIRE. — With reference to the death of Sergt. Ellie Squire, son of Mr. Alfred Squire, of this village, a letter has just been received from the Captain Commanding C Company, of the Dorset Regiment, expressing the deep sympathy of the Company and himself in the death of Sergt. Squire. The Captain trusted it would be of some consolation to the parents to know that their son died doing his duty and fighting bravely for his country. While his Platoon Commander, he led his men gallantly into action in spite of heavy fire.

Church of St Giles, Chideock (Dorset)

Church of St Giles, Chideock (Dorset)

Eleazar (Ellie) Squire had been born at Chideock in the 2nd quarter of 1891, the son of Alfred and Sarah Squire. By the time of the 1911 Census, Ellie was 19 years old and working as a gardener (domestic). An obituary published in the Chideock parish magazine in November 1917 shows how his death was received in the village [3, 4]:

ELIEZER JOHN SQUIRE fell in action on September 28th, in General Maude’s victorious advance in Mesopotamia. The news was received in Chideock with profound regret, and the most genuine sorrow. Ellie Squire, as he was known to most of us, belonged to the 1st/4th Dorsetshire Regiment (Territorial) and left with other Chideock men for India in October, 1914. He had recently been promoted to the rank of Sergeant, and the battle in which he fell was his first action.A good son, a faithful Communicant, and a loyal and brave soldier, he has left a bright example. He had been in the Choir from early boyhood, until the time of his leaving home , and for may years he was one of the ringers. When called to serve in India, his letters show how much his communions meant to him and how keen he always was in doing all he could to help the Church wherever he was stationed. His was a life for which we may indeed be thankful, and his death in the hour of victory was a brave and noble one.

Ellie Squire’s would probably have been first buried near Ramadi. At a later date, however, it was moved to  Baghdad (North Gate) Military Cemetery [5].

Eleazar’s father Alfred had been born at Chideock in 1854, the son of Samuel and Harriet Squire; he was baptised at Chideock on 21st May 1854. Samuel was a master mason and the 1871 Census suggests that the young Albert followed him into the same trade.

Albert married Sarah Shute in the 2nd quarter of 1880. In 1881, the couple are living at Sweets House in Chideock. Subsequent censuses show that they had six children, five of which were still living in 1911. These were Mercy Harriett (born ca. 1884), William Alfred (ca. 1886), Joseph Samuel Maisey (ca. 1889), Eleazar John (1891), and Christina (ca. 1895). At some point after 1891, Albert left off being a mason and became an estate foreman. By the time of the 1911 Census, Alfred has progressed to being a manor bailiff.

Both of Eleazar’s brothers joined the army during the war, both serving with the Royal Engineers on the Western Front. 149039 Sapper William Alfred Squire was a telegraphist. 100654 Sergeant Joseph Samuel Maisey Squire served with the 208th and 70th Field Companies, R.E. and was awarded the Military Medal in late 1918. This was reported in the Western Gazette of the 20 December 1918:

MILITARY MEDAL. — The many friends of Sergt. J. Squire, 70th Field Company, R.E., will be pleased to learn that he has been awarded the Military Medal for gallantry and devotion in the field. The particular act for which Sergt. Squire won this honour was the construction of bridges over the Haute Deule [i.e. Haute Deûle] Canal on the 16th and 17th October. When these were commenced the enemy was only about 50 yards on the other side of the canal, and the rapidity with which they were constructed enabled our armies to follow quickly and keep in touch with them.

In civilian life, Joseph was a carpenter and joiner and his military records imply that the army made the most of his skills. They include an Army Council Certificate of Education (Third Class), awarded in 1918. There is also an eyewitness report from an incident at Shornemead Fort in December 1915 , when Joseph as an N.C.O. got into trouble when one of his squad got up from a target firing point without unloading his rifle: “consequently the Sapper found after he had left the firing point, he had not pressed his trigger, which he then did, a report was heard behind, and on looking round, the sapper runned up to C.S.M. Hunter, and said, Sir, I have made a mistake; several sappers was standing close by at the time, and I consider them very lucky some-one was not shot. This N.C.O. is responsible that the sapper should have unloaded before leaving the firing point.”

There is some more information on the Squire family on the Chideock and Seatown web pages [6]. An account of Ellie’s sister Christina (Chrissie) [7] describes their father Alfred  as the “patriarch of the family,” confirming that he was employed by the Weld family at Chideock Manor, and recording that he gradually worked his way up to the position of bailiff (as the census records show). The site also links to short accounts of the three brothers’ war service, with photographs [8, 9, 10].


[1] Rob Johnson, The Great War in the Middle East: a strategic study (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), p. 217.

[2] H. O. Lock, 4th Battalion The Dorsetshire Regiment (the Territorial units). In: History of the Dorsetshire Regiment, 1914-1919, Part II (Dorchester: Henry Ling, n.d.)

[3] Chideock War Memorial pages: Lance Sergeant Eleazar John Squire:

[4] Chideock war hero remembered. Dorset Echo, 1 August 2014:

[5] CWGC database: Lance Sergeant Eleazar John Squire:,-/

[6]  The Alfred Squire family 1854-1976 from North Chideock:

[7] Christina Mary (Chrissie) Squire — “The Chideock egg lady” — 1894 to 1976:

[8] William Alfred Squire (PDF):

[9] Joseph Samuel Maisey Squire (PDF):

[10] Eleazar John Squire (PDF):


Posted by: michaeldaybath | September 23, 2017

Second Lieutenant Stanley William Littlejohn, Royal Garrison Artillery

Royal Artillery Memorial

Royal Artillery Memorial, Hyde Park Corner, London (Charles Sargeant Jagger)

The British Museum war memorial at Bloomsbury commemorates fifteen members of the museum staff that died in the two world wars. Six of the eleven First World War casualties belonged to the Library departments of the museum and their names also feature on the British Librarians memorial, now at the British Library in St Pancras. This blog will look briefly, however, at one of the remaining five: Stanley William Littlejohn, who was head of the repairing and restoring workshop in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the museum. Second Lieutenant Littlejohn was killed-in-action in the Ypres Salient on the 23rd September 1917, while serving with 142nd Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery.

British Museum War Memorial, Bloomsbury, London

British Museum War Memorial, Bloomsbury, London

Unusually for a craftsman, Littlejohn was the subject of an obituary published in the Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs in January 1918 [1]. This was written by his colleagues from the Department of Prints and Drawings, Laurence Binyon and Sir Sidney Colvin. By then, Binyon had already published his most well-known poem, “For the Fallen” (1914), the most famous stanza of which is also carved on the British Museum memorial. Colvin had been keeper of the Department of Prints and Drawings since 1884 and was a very well-connected figure in London art and literary life at the turn of the twentieth century.

The obituary plays tribute to Littlejohn’s skill as a restorer, noting the success of his techniques on tempera sketches by Tintoretto and on paintings by William Blake. It also recorded Littlejohn’s success with learning about Japanese and Chinese methods of mounting and repair and his significant work on restoring a collection of silk paintings acquired from Chinese Turkestan. There are also hints at Littlejohn’s character and working practices:

Gifted with an eager curiosity and an extraordinary quickness in picking up knowledge and above all in applying it, he was never content till he had mastered all that he could learn about any trade or business that came in his way. He had an instinctive genius for materials, their nature and capabilities. Pigments and paper; silk; textile fabric of all kinds; precious stones; furs; metals and woods; plants and herbs; — these were all in turn objects of his penetrating study. He had a surprising store of information as to how things were made, and how counterfeited. On the scientific side, though working without any systematic training, he had a working knowledge of chemistry as applied to the study of pigments and materials, acquired through years when he worked as a process-engraver, and was an able mechanician.

Binyon and Colvin considered Littlejohn to be a “uniquely gifted craftsman and valuable public servant.”

Royal Artillery Memorial, Hyde Park Corner, London

Royal Artillery Memorial, Hyde Park Corner, London

The birth of Stanley William Littlejohn was recorded at Camberwell (district) in the 1st quarter of 1877 (Binyon and Colvin say that he had been born in 1876). The 1881 Census records him as a four-year old, living at 54 Trinity Square (now Trinity Church Square), Newington, Lambeth, with his parents William and Annie Littlejohn. William had been born in Scotland (Perth) and the 1881 census return describes him as a 36-year old ‘clerk and monumental engraver.’ By the time of the 1901 Census, the family were living at 75 Arthur Road, Brixton and Stanley had a younger brother, Arthur. At that time, both William and the 24-year old Stanley were described as ‘writing engravers.’ Binyon and Colvin add that William worked for Layton & Co, and that Stanley served an apprenticeship with that firm before leading “for nearly ten years a life of varied and roving experience, trying many trades, travelling in many parts of the world, and acquiring in the course of his adventures a surprising range of technical insight and practical attainment.” Stanley started working at the British Museum in 1904 and became head of the mounting department in 1908. The family were still living at the same address in Brixton at the time of the 1911 Census. In that, William’s occupation is given as ‘copper plate engraver,’ while the 34-year old Stanley is described (rather grandly) as a ‘Restorer (prints & drawings & paintings) European & Oriental, Civil Servant, British Museum, personal appointment.’ Stanley married Maud Littlejohn in Kingston (district), Surrey in the 2nd quarter of 1917.

Stanley Littlejohn’s military career and death is covered briefly in the obituary by Binyon and Colvin:

After the outbreak of the great war he was bent with patriotic enthusiasm on serving his country in some active capacity, and early in 1917 obtained a commission in the Royal Engineers, with a view to being employed on special work in which his inventive and mechanical gifts would have scope. After some months of training he was transferred to the R.G.A., and on the eighth day after reaching the front was standing in his battery in conversation with his major when a fragment of a shell exploding close by struck him on the head and killed him instantaneously.

Trench Map 28 (detail)

Yser Canal and Buffs Road. Detail from Trench Map 28.NW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 6A; Published: July 1917; Trenches corrected to 30 June 1917: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

In 1917, siege batteries of the Royal Garrison Artillery were formed into heavy artillery groups. In early July 1917, the 142nd Siege Battery, operating 6″ howitzers, joined the 81st Heavy Artillery Group at Vlamertinghe (Vlamertinge), west of Ieper [2]. As part of the 81st H.A.G., the battery took part in the first major offensive of the 3rd Battle of Ypres, the Battle of Pilckem Ridge (31 July – 2 August 1917).

On the 6th August, the 142nd Siege Battery moved to the 79th Heavy Artillery Group, when that unit took over command of batteries No. 202, 212, 142, 210, 244 and 306 from the 81st H.A.G. [3]. The headquarters of the 79th moved at first from Elverdinghe (Elverdinge) to the Orangery at Vlamertinghe, and then on the 10th August to the west bank of the Yser Canal just north of Ypres (Map Sheet 28.c.25.d.1.5). 79th H.A.G. then took part in the actions of the 3rd Battle of Ypres known as the Battle of Langemarck (16-18 August 1917) and the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge (20–25 September 1917), mostly firing on the Langemarck – Gheluvelt Line. It was during the second of these actions that Second Lieutenant Stanley William Littlejohn was killed in action. He is buried in Buffs Road Cemetery, to the north-east of Ieper, now close to the end of the A19 motorway [4]. Buffs Road (now Hogeziekenweg) was a road leading to the area north of Wieltje.


[1] Laurence Binyon and Sidney Colvin, “The late Stanley William Littlejohn,” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, 32(178), January 1918, pp. 16-17, 19.

[2] WO/95/230/1, 81 Brigade Royal Garrison Artillery War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[3] WO/95/477/9, 79 Brigade Royal Garrison Artillery War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

[4] Entry on 2nd Lieutenant Stanley William Littlejohn in the CWGC database:,-/

Additional information:

Stanley William Littlejohn is included in the National Portrait Gallery’s Directory of British Picture Restorers:




Posted by: michaeldaybath | September 23, 2017

Captain Fritz Bartelt, Somerset Light Infantry

Church of All Saints, Corston (Somerset)

Church of All Saints, Corston (Somerset)

At the request of the family, the eight bells of the Church of All Saints, Corston (Somerset) are rung each year on the 23 September, the birthday of Friedrich William (Fritz) Bartelt, in whose memory the bells were installed and dedicated in 1917. The bells were cast by John Taylor and Co. of Loughborough; the tenor bell weighing around 9 cwt.

Memorial plaque for Captain Fritz Bartelt, Church of All Saints, Corston (Somerset)

Memorial plaque for Captain Fritz Bartelt, Church of All Saints, Corston (Somerset)

Captain F. W. Bartelt died at Calcutta in India on the 11th September 1916, aged 28, while serving with the 2nd/4th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry. Despite the non-repatriation policy of the Graves Registration Commission (later the Imperial War Graves Commission), Fritz’s ashes were somehow brought home and interred in the south wall of the nave in the Church of All Saints, Corston. A brass plaque on the south side of the nave of All Saints Church includes images of the cap badge and standards of the SLI and reads:

1 COR. XV. 54.

Memorial window for Captain Fritz Bartelt, Church of All Saints, Corston (Somerset)

Memorial window for Captain Fritz Bartelt, Church of All Saints, Corston (Somerset)

Above the tablet is a three-light stained-glass window with a representation of the risen Christ in the central light, with a quotation from the Gospel of St John, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” In the other lights are representations of the patron saints of the United Kingdom: Saint George, Saint Andrew, Dewi Sant (with his dove), and St Patrick. The window, by George Farmiloe & Sons Ltd. of London, is inscribed:

To the Glory of God and in loving memory of | Captain Fritz William Bartelt, Som. L.I. | Churchwarden of this Church 1911-1916, died in his 29th year.
This window was erected | in affectionate memory by his | parents and widow December 1916

War shrine, Church of All Saints, Corston (Somerset)

War shrine, Church of All Saints, Corston (Somerset)

Captain Bartelt’s name also appears on the war shrine on the north wall of the nave and on the village war memorial cross in Corston churchyard. This is close to the Bartelt / Peters family grave (a copy of a sculpture by Thorwaldsen) which also records that the ashes of Fritz’s widow Gertrude later joined his inside Corston Church. Fritz’s name also appears on two memorials in Bath Abbey: the Bath College memorial (Gethsemane Chapel) and the 4th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry memorial. It also features on the Clifton Rugby War Memorial.

Bartelt / Peters family grave, All Saints Churchyard, Corston (Somerset)

Bartelt / Peters family grave, All Saints Churchyard, Corston (Somerset)

As the name suggests, Fritz Bartelt’s ancestry was German. His father Friedrich Ludwig Bartelt had been born in Stettin, Prussia in 1852, later moving to England, marrying Rose Mary Hodgson and setting up the Polysulphin Company, which made soap in a factory near Keynsham. The family lived at Corston Lodge. Fritz was educated at St. Christopher’s, Bath and Bath College, then at Bristol University College (also playing rugby for Clifton Rugby Football Club). He then served for a while in the 1st V.R. Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry, gaining a commission before retiring in 1911. In June 1910, he married Gertrude Helen Isgar (the 3rd daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Isgar of Mendip Lodge, Bathwick Hill) at St Mary’s Church, Bathwick. At the time of the 1911 Census, Fritz and Gertrude were living at Hill House, Corston with two servants, a cook and parlour maid. Fritz and Gertrude later had two sons, Richard and Peter. On the outbreak of war, Bartelt re-joined the Somersets and until December 1915 commanded the Depot of the 4th SLI in Bath, before moving to India. It is possible that he served for a short time with the 2nd/4th Battalion, SLI in the Andaman Islands, but we do know that he was with D Company of the 2nd/4th Somersets when they moved to Barrackpore. He died of malaria in Presidency General Hospital at Calcutta on the 11th September 1916.

Photograph in Bath Chronicle, 16 September 1916

Photograph in Bath Chronicle, 16 September 1916

The death of Fritz Bartelt was reported in the Bath Chronicle of 16th September 1916 (p. 6):

Corston has suffered a severe blow in the sudden death of Captain Fritz Bartelt, of Hill House, Corston. He had been in hospital in Calcutta for some time, but there had been no reason to suppose that his illness was serious or dangerous. On Monday last a cablegram of a re-assuring character was received by his parents, but on Tuesday a further cablegram stated that he had had a serious relapse and that his condition was critical, and on Wednesday morning the sad news came that he had passed away. Captain Bartelt was born at Corston Lodge in September in the year 1887 and was his parents’ only son. He was educated first at St. Christopher’s, Bath, under Mr. Trask, and afterwards at Bath College. He subsequently studied chemistry under Professor Morris Travers at Bristol University College, and after a time he became a director in the company of which his father is chairman.
He was an officer in the Territorials, from which body he had resigned. On June 2nd, 1910, he married Miss Gertrude Igar; and on the outbreak of the war he rejoined and was given a captaincy in his old regiment. For some considerable time he was in command of the Depot in Bath, and the thoroughness and efficiency of his work there were generally recognised. On December 1st, 1915, he sailed for India, where he took charge of his double company and was afterwards given an important post, being appointed in command of his station at Barrackpore. He was exceedingly popular and beloved by officers and men alike and made a number of friends amongst the civilian population. He received great kindness from many of those during his illness.
Captain Bartelt was a churchwarden of Corston and always took a keen interest in all parochial matters. His loss is very keenly felt in the village. Always kind and genial to all alike he won the hearts of all with whom he came in contact. His readiness to help, his careful attention to the needs of those around him, his kindly words and acts will dwell long in the memory of many in the village. The deepest sympathy is felt for his widow, two little sons, and his family in their irreparable loss. There is this consolation in this great bereavement that Captain Bartelt has given his life for his country, which he loved so well and served so loyally.

Church of All Saints, Corston (Somerset), from Newton Park

Church of All Saints, Corston (Somerset), from Newton Park

The new bells were installed in 1917. A report of the dedication appeared in the Ringing World of the 17 August (p 261):

The parish of Corston, near Bristol, of which the Rev. Claud C. Parker, Master of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association, is Rector, has just become possessed of a peal of eight bells. These, together with a war shrine, have been placed in the Parish Church by Mr. and Mrs. F. L. Bartelt, of Corston Lodge, and each of the bells bears the inscription: “To the glory of God and in loving memory of Capt. Fritz W. Bartelt, who gave his life for King and country, 1916.” This simple sentence conveys a whole volume of meaning. It speaks of duty nobly done, of sacrifice cheerfully made, of parental love, and of affection for the church an all that it symbolises. Capt. Bartelt was an officer of the 4th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry, and he died in Calcutta last September. His ashes repose in the church, of which he was Rector’s warden. The new peal of bells, from the Loughborough Foundry, have a tenor of 9 cwts. 3 qrs. 11 lbs. in A flat. The bells are hung in an iron H frame, which stands on steel girders, and although the tower is a small one, are all on one level. As considerable work has been necessitated in the tower by the installation of the new peal, it has been deemed advisable, says the “Bath and Wilts Chronicle,” to take advantage of the present opportunity to renovate the parapets and pinnacles, and to effect other improvements to that part of the church. The cost, about £200, is being defrayed by subscriptions. The war shrine is a solid copper cross inserted in an oaken frame on the north wall, both wood and metal having come from H.M.S. Britannia, for so long the naval training ship. Above the cross appear the words: “For God, King and Country,” and at the foot, “The Heroic Dead,” whose names are set out in gold letters below the right arm, as follows: Capt. F. W. Bartelt, Somerset L.I., P. Box, T. W. Davey, J. Eades, P. W. Hannam, A. E. Janes, J. Mercer, W. Smith. “Greater love hath no man than these” appears in red characters on the woodwork from which the cross stands out in relief. On either side of the recess are painted the names of sixty parishioners who are serving or have served with the colours. An inscription records that Mrs. F. L. Bartelt presented this memento of “Our Brave Corstonians who took part in the great World War.”
The dedication of the bells and shrine was performed by the Bishop of Bath and Wells [George Wyndham Kennion], and a large number of ringers attended, among them being Messrs. W. J. Prescott, W. Seers, C. Goodenough, H. W. Brown, R. J. Cousins, T. Hogsflesh, A. Richardson, H. E. Holder, and W. Flower (Bath), R. J. Wilkins and A. E. Wilkins (St. Stephen’s Bristol), J. H. Shepherd (Swindon), J. W. Jones (Newport, Mon.), F. Canning and J. Harris (Bathford), J. Taylor (Bathampton), T. Grant (Swainswick), J. Hallett and C. W. Bell (St. Saviour’s), N. Wake (Tower-master, Bath Abbey), J. Lye and J. Stagg (Weston), G. Hill (St. Stephen’s) and G. Tovey (Newton St. Loe). Mr. and Mrs. W. L. Bartelt, Mrs. Fritz Bartelt and Master Dick Bartelt were among the large congregation, while the 4th Somerset L.I. was represented by Capt. Malcolm Bell and Lieut. T. Brown. As a processional hymn, “Lifted high within the steeple” was sung, and after prayer from the Bishop, his Lordship announced the object for which the service was held. While Psalm 122 was chanted, Bishop, clergy, choir, and others, moved to the belfry, where Mr. and Mrs. Bartelt, taking the ropes of the bells, asked the Bishop to dedicate the peal, which he accordingly did with due solemnity. His Lordship afterwards delivered the ropes to the Rector, asking him to receive them as a sacred trust, while he also notified the churchwardens that the bells were committed to the custody of the Rector, to be used only with his consent, subject to the ultimate control of the Bishop of the Diocese. “Let the bells be chimed,” then said his Lordship, and immediately their music broke forth, the bells being rung by a selected band, under Mr. Prescott. It was noted by the congregation how sweet and pure was the tone of the new ring. Psalm 150 was sung while those in the procession returned to the chancel, and a series of appropriate prayers was offered by the Bishop, the Rector, and several others of the clergy present.
A move was then made to the War Shrine, which the Bishop dedicated with customary ceremonial. After the hymn, “Behold, we know not anything,” Dr. Kennion delivered an address from St. John xv. 13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” He referred to the fact that these words were used on the war shrine which had just been dedicated to God’s glory, and in memory of those whom they would ever hold in such constant affection. It was an event of great interest that there should be dedicated a new peal of bells, which meant so much for their church, and that it should be connected with the dedication of that war shrine. It set before them an example of what others had done for them; and which, he hoped, none of them would ever forget, as long as they lived. Those bells would sound on many different occasions, and he dared say the particular purpose for which they sounded when summoning us to pray for one who might be passing away, and how sad in their muffled peal which told us of someone we should see no more on earth; but how joyful they were at other times! They seemed to delight to ring the praises of God, swaying between earth and heaven, and seeming to wish that they might ring in the Christ that is to be. Referring to the great struggle now being waged, his Lordship said that if we learnt anything from this terrible war, it was to be more like and more worthy of the Lord Jesus.
At the conclusion, “Hark on high, the joyful music,” was sung and after the Bishop had pronounced the Blessing, the congregation joined in the National Anthem.
The recessional was “O God, our help in ages past.”
After the services numerous touches were rung on the bells.

The account of the dedication published in the Bath Chronicle (4 August 1917, p. 8) adds that it was raining heavily on the day and that William Prescott selected his band from the Bath ringers present: W. Seers, C. Goodenough, H. W. Brown, R. J. Cousins, T. Hogsfesh, A. Richardson, H. E. Holder, and W. Flower (one wonders which one missed out!). William Seers’s son Albert Edwin, also a ringer, was also to die in the war, in October 1918 while serving with the 6th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment.

War Memorial, Corston (Somerset)

War Memorial, Corston (Somerset)

Corston’s war memorial, a churchyard cross designed by Mowbray A. Green, was dedicated in May 1919.

Fritz’s mother, Rosehannah Mary Bartelt, died in January 1922, His father, Friedrich Ludwig Bartelt, died of heart failure at London in August 1924, aged 72. Fritz’s only sister, Amy Isabel Lavinia Peters, died in October 1925, shortly after an operation. The Bath Chronicle (17 October 1925) commented, “It is a melancholy fact that since [the death of Captain Bartelt] … Mr. and Mrs. Bartelt, and now Mrs. Peters, have died, and so the whole family have departed within a period of seven years.” Amy’s husband, Ivo Adolf Peters, donated a tower clock to All Saints, Corston in her memory; this was dedicated in November 1926.

After Fritz’s death, his widow Gertrude lived at Southbourne, Bournemouth, near where her father had also moved, before his death in June 1923 (of accidental coal gas poisoning). Gertrude died in January 1963.

Interestingly, the well-known railway photographer Ivo Peters was Fritz Bartelt’s nephew (he was the son of Ivo and Amy Peters). He was also a director of the Polysulphin Company, but is probably better known now for his photographs and videos of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway.


Some photographs of Fritz Bartelt and his family are available on the Clifton Rugby Football Club History web pages:

Captain F. W. Bartelt’s entry in the CWGC database:,%20F%20W

Posted by: michaeldaybath | September 20, 2017

Lieutenant Leslie Stuart Palmer, Dorsetshire Regiment

CWGC gravestone for Lieut. L. S. Palmer

CWGC gravestone for Lieut. L. S. Palmer, Hooge Crater Cemetery, Belgium (August 2007)

A few years ago I wrote a blog about my very first visit to Ieper, where on looking for a random Dorsetshire Regiment casualty in Hooge Crater Cemetery, I found the grave of Lieutenant Leslie Stuart Palmer. The 20th September this year marks the centenary of Lieutenant Palmer’s death, so I thought that it might be appropriate to summarise again some of the things that I was able to discover about him and add some new information.

On returning home from Ieper, an initial search of the CWGC database [1] revealed that Lieutenant Leslie Stuart Palmer was serving with the 4th Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment, but died while attached to the Machine Gun Corps (Infantry). The address for his next-of-kin stated that Leslie was the son of Mr.  J.  C. Palmer, of 29 South Street, Bridport. This was sufficient information to tentatively link Lieutenant Palmer with the well-known brewery in Bridport that shares his name. The book by J. W. Rowson published in 1923 to commemorate Bridport’s role in the war was able to confirm that Leslie was indeed the youngest son of Alderman John Cleeves Palmer, J.P., Mayor of Bridport from 1916 to 1917 and a senior partner at the Bridport brewery. It also revealed that Leslie had an older brother that had also died in the war. Sub-Lieutenant Edmund John Palmer of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve served with the Nelson Battalion of the Royal Naval Division and died of wounds on the 27th April 1917, presumably having taken part in the attack on Gavrelle (part of the Battle of Arras).

Bridport War Memorial

Panel of the Bridport War Memorial

Rowson’s book on Bridport also provided a very short account of Leslie Palmer’s war service [2]:

LESLIE STUART PALMER, Lieut., youngest son of Mr. J. C. Palmer, was killed in action on the 20th September in the same year. He was an officer of the 4th Dorset Regiment and was attached to a Machine Gun Corps, going to France in June, 1916. He was gassed and invalided home in October of that year. After recuperating he returned to France in June, 1917, and was killed by a sniper in the following September.

I have since been able to find a more detailed report on Lieutenant Palmer’s death, published in the Bridport column of the Western Gazette of 5th October 1917 [3]:

MAYOR’S SECOND SON KILLED IN ACTION. — The war has brought a double sorrow upon the Mayor (Alderman J. C. Palmer) and his family in the death of his youngest son, Lieut. Leslie Stuart Palmer, of the Dorsets, who was killed in action on the 10th of September. His second son, Sub-Lieut. E. J. Palmer, Royal Naval Division, died of wounds received in action in France on the 27th of April, at the age of 26. The news of his youngest son’s death was conveyed in the following telegram received on Wednesday morning: “Regret to inform you that Lieut. L. S. Palmer, — Dorsets, attached Machine Gun Corps, has been killed in action. Army Council express their sympathy.” On Friday morning the Mayor received a letter from the captain stating that it was his painful duty to have to write and say that his son, Lieut. L. S. Palmer, was shot through the abdomen by an enemy sniper whilst in charge of his section of guns during the morning, in the second phase of the attack. He had put in some excellent work, but, unfortunately, pushed rather too close up to the attacking infantry before he got his guns into action at some 80 yards range. It was whilst carrying out this latter duty that he was hit and killed instantaneously. As this was right in the forward part of the battlefield it was only possible for us to bury him where he lay. The location of his grave is just east of Shrewsbury Forest, roughly 2½ miles east of Ypres. “I cannot speak too highly of him as an officer,” said the captain. “He was always efficient, reliable, and keen. His first interest was for the men under his command. He is a great loss to this Company. Although he has been with us so short a time he had earned the respect and friendship of all in the Company, and especially the men of the section he commanded. . . . Please accept my profoundest sympathy in this your sad bereavement in the loss of your gallant son, which I am expressing on behalf of all the officers and men in this Company.” Lieut. L. S. Palmer would have been 26 years of age on the 10th October. He was educated at Sherborne College and on leaving there he learned his profession as a brewer and became a member of the Brewers’ Institute, and when he joined up he was junior brewer of Messrs. Cobbold & Co., Ipswich. At the commencement of the war he failed to pass the Medical Board, but on trying again he succeeded and obtained his commission in July, 1915, in the Dorsets, and later was attached to the Machine Gun Corps. He went to France in June, 1916, and was invalided home in October. In January, 1917, he was gazetted lieutenant and went to France in June. The deepest sympathy is felt among all classes for the Mayor and his family in this second terrible bereavement.

Leslie Stuart Palmer had been born in the district of Hartley Wintney, Hampshire in the 4th quarter of 1891, and baptised at Odiham on the 15 November, the son of John Cleeves and Eliza Emma Palmer (née King).

The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge

Lieutenant Palmer died in the phase of the 3rd Battle of Ypres that eventually became known as the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge. This commenced (and ended) on the 20th September, when Australian and British troops advanced along the line of the Menin Road towards Zonnebeke [4]. By the standards of the 1917 campaign in the Ypres Salient, the engagement was reasonably successful, with almost all of its objectives being obtained [5].

While Lieutenant Palmer was officially serving with the 4th Dorsets, at the time of his death he was attached to the 117th Company, Machine Gun Corps, which was part of 117th Brigade in the British 39th Division. According to the Company War Diary, he joined the 117th Company in the Bluff Tunnels, near Ypres, on the 17th August 1917, together with a Lt. Valentine and a 2/Lt Rowland.

The War Diary further records that on the morning of the 20th September the Company HQ was based in a sector of the line near Ypres called the Ravine, which was the name given to the area between the Bluff and Hill 60. Most of the action, however, seemed to be taking place further to the east, just to the south-east of Shrewsbury Forest, as the War Diary mentions positions near King Castle and Jules Farm, as well as Bulgar Wood. In the attack on the 20th September, eight of the company’s guns were detailed to the Red Line objective (two of these were scheduled to move later to the Green Line), while six guns were detailed to the Blue Line objective. The account of the action in the War Diary broadly backs up the account provided in the letter sent to Lieutenant Palmer’s father [6]:

Of the 6 Blue Lines Guns, the two on the front of the Bde. on the right kept close up to the Infantry and got into position at TOP HOUSE. These two guns were of great assistance in the capture of a German M.G. which was holding up the advance in this [region ?], as they were able to open fire on it, enabling the infantry to work round to the flank and capture it. Of the remaining four detailed for the BLUE LINE, the two guns on the left followed up the infantry rather too closely, the result being that the [gun ?] detachments became engaged in hand to hand fighting. This ended by one gun being put out of action and the officer in charge of the pair being killed (Lieut. Palmer). The remaining gun of this pair got into action slightly in rear of the BLUE LINE but had worked across too far to its right. The remaining two guns not yet mentioned, detailed for the BLUE LINE were too slow in moving from the [security ?] of the RED LINE, they, however, moved up into position during the late afternoon, one of the pair being knocked out on the move forward.

By late morning on the 21st, the Company started being relieved by the 118th Company, MGC, and then moved back into camp at Ridge Wood.

Shrewsbury Forest is south of the Menin Road, a little way to the east of Hill 60 (where the 1st Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment had suffered severely in a gas attack in May 1915). Being first buried where he fell, Lieutenant Palmer must have been one of the many graves concentrated at Hooge Crater Cemetery after the war. The CWGC database records that the body had been found at map reference J.26.a.3.8, and that he had been identified by his discs [1].

Hooge Crater Cemetery

Hooge Crater Cemetery, August 2007

Hooge Crater Cemetery, August 2007

Hooge Crater Cemetery started off as a wartime burial site but was extended after the war by the concentration of graves from smaller cemeteries and individual burials [7]. Rose Coombs’s standard introduction to the Western Front memorials notes that 5,922 men are buried or commemorated there, 3,578 of them unidentified [8]. A book on the Lutyens-designed cemeteries by Jeroen Geurst provides some additional background information on the cemetery [9]:

Initially the cemetery contained seventy-six graves, in the rows A to D of Plot 1, but witnessed a huge extension after the Armistice, when graves were added from the battlefields of Zillibeke, Zantvoorde and Gheluvelt and from smaller cemeteries in the vicinity (pp. 328-330).

Geurst describes the architectural setting of the cemetery as follows:

The field lies on a gentle slope on the south side of the road from Ieper to Menen, in an open landscape. As the ground descends, the plateau offers a fine view of the cemetery and the surrounding landscape.

A horizontal plateau has been installed on the slope, on the side of the road, with a sunken circular part with the war stone in the middle. The circle recalls the bomb crater of July 1915. […] The Cross of Sacrifice has been placed behind the War Stone, between two shelters. As the visitor enters the cemetery next to the War Stone and the Cross of Sacrifice, the climax is at the entrance and consequently the cemetery proper is a tranquil continuation (p 330).

After my visit to Hooge Crater Cemetery, I have taken the opportunity to visit Bridport several times to see the names of Leslie and Edmund Palmer on the town war memorial there, which was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott.

There are photographs of both brothers in the book by Tim Heald on Palmers Brewery [10] and on the Sherborne School archives pages on Flickr:

Leslie Stuart Palmer (memorial book):

Leslie Stuart Palmer (photograph):

Edmund John Palmer (memorial book):


1. Entry for Lieutenant Leslie Stuart Palmer on the CWGC database.

2. J. W. Rowson, Bridport and the Great War: its record of work at home and in the field (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1923).

3. The Western Gazette, 5 October 1917, via British Newspaper Archive.

4. Leon Wolff, In Flanders fields: the 1917 campaign (London: Longmans, Green, 1960), p. 148.

5. The battles of September and October 1917 are described in: Nigel Cave, Ypres: Polygon Wood (Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 1999).

6. WO 95/2587/4, 117th Coy, Machine Gun Corps War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.

7. Nigel Cave, Ypres: Sanctuary Wood and Hooge, rev. ed. (Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 1995), pp. 109-110.

8. Rose E. B. Coombs, Before endeavours fade: a guide to the battlefields of the First World War, 12th ed. (Old Harlow: Battle of Britain International, 2006), p. 55.

9. Jeroen Geurst, Cemeteries of the Great War by Sir Edwin Lutyens (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2010), pp. 328-331.

10. Tim Heald, Palmers: the story of a Dorset brewer (Bridport: Palmers Brewery, 2008), p. 62.

Update August 21, 2017:

I thought that it might be useful to include a link to a trench map of the Shrewsbury Forest and Bulgar Wood area:

Trench map of Bulgar Wood

Bulgar Wood. Detail from Trench Map 28.NE; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 8A; Published: October 1917; Trenches corrected to 1 October 1917: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Posted by: michaeldaybath | August 26, 2017

Private Bertram William Whitehead, Machine Gun Corps

After the Battle of Pilckem Ridge commenced on the 31st July, the 3rd Battle of Ypres kept on going throughout the summer and autumn of 1917. However, while the British 2nd and 5th Armies remained committed to the Ypres Salient, fighting did continue elsewhere on the Western Front, especially in the areas east of Arras and Péronne. For example, the 34th Division were involved in two set-piece attacks on positions west of Siegfriedstellung (Hindenburg Line) positions in the Hargicourt area on the 26th to 29th August and the 9th-11th September 1917, before themselves moving to the Salient in early October.

Church of St Peter, West Lydford (Somerset)

Church of St Peter, West Lydford (Somerset)

Amongst those that died in the action at Hargicourt on the 26th August was 89552 Private Bertram William Whitehead, of the 101st Company, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), who were part of 101st Brigade in 34th Division. Before enlisting, Bertram Whitehead had been a bellringer at West Lydford in Somerset and a member of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers.

Bertram William Whitehead

It has not been possible to discover that much about Private Whitehead’s service career. His entry in Soldiers Died in the Great War states that he enlisted at Castle Cary, but there is no easy way to find out, for example, where he trained, when he joined the Machine Gun Corps, or whether he had served in other units before being sent to the MGC.

Machine Gun Corps Memorial, Hyde Park Corner (London)

The Machine Gun Corps Memorial, Hyde Park Corner (London)

From the census and other records, we can say a little bit more about Bertram Whitehead’s immediate family, who mostly seemed to live and work in the villages around Pennard Hill in Somerset, amongst the dairy farms and orchards south of Shepton Mallet.

Church of St Peter, Hornblotton (Somerset)

Church of St Peter, Hornblotton (Somerset)

Bertram Whitehead was born in the 2nd quarter of 1898 at Hornblotton, a scattered village close to the Fosse Way (A37) south of Shepton and Pennard Hill. He was the son of William and Martha Mary Whitehead, both of whom had been born in neighbouring parishes.

Church of St Andrew, West Bradley (Somerset)

Church of St Andrew, West Bradley (Somerset)

Bertram’s father William had been born at West Bradley in the 2nd quarter of 1865, the son of James and Mary Whitehead.  He was baptised at West Bradley on the 23 July 1865. By the time of the 1871 Census, the five-year-old William was living with his parents and five siblings at Parbrook, a small settlement on the border between the parishes of West Bradley and East Pennard. In 1881 and 1891, the family were still living at Parbrook, and William (like his father) is working as a labourer. On the 27th March 1894, William married Martha Mary Chinnock at East Pennard.

Church of All Saints, East Pennard (Somerset)

Church of All Saints, East Pennard (Somerset)

Martha Mary Chinnock had been born at East Pennard in the 1st quarter of 1871, the daughter of William and Miriam Chinnock of Hembridge Cottage. She was baptised at East Pennard on 19 March 1871. In 1881, Mary was still living with her family at Hembridge. By 1891, however, Martha had moved to Withial (also in the parish of East Pennard), where she was working as a general servant (domestic) for Albert and Ellen Martin.

Grave of Bessie Whitehead, Hornblotton (Somerset)

Grave of Bessie Whitehead, Hornblotton (Somerset)

By the time of the 1901 Census, William and Martha Mary Whitehead were married and had moved to nearby Hornblotton. William was working as a general labourer. By that time, they had four children: Bessie was the eldest  (aged 5), followed by Bertram (aged 3), Cyril, and Phillip. Bessie died in 1906, aged seven, and is buried in Hornblotton churchyard. By 1911, the family had moved to nearby West Lydford, where William was working as an under gardener (domestic). Bertram was by then 13-years-old and working as a farm boy. While Bessie had died, four new children had also arrived: Ida, Reginald, Eva, and Laura.

West Lydford war memorial (Somerset)

West Lydford war memorial (Somerset)

Bertram Whitehead is buried in Hargicourt British Cemetery, which is (just) in the Département de l’Aisne in France. His name also appears on the village memorial (a cross) at West Lydford, on his sister Bessie’s gravestone in Hornblotton churchyard, and on the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial in Bath Abbey.

Albert Bertram Whitehead

Bertram’s cousin, Albert Bertram Whitehead, also died in the First World War. Interestingly, the two families were very closely related: Albert Bertram’s father (also named Albert) was the brother of Bertram’s father William; his mother Charlotte (née Chinnock) was the sister of Bertram’s mother Martha Mary, making Albert and Bertram cousins through both of their parents.

East Pennard war memorial (Somerset)

East Pennard war memorial (Somerset)

Albert Bertram Whitehead was born at Hembridge in the parish of East Pennard in 1890. In 1891, the census records the family living at Wraxall, with the elder Albert working as a wheelwright and carpenter (Albert Bertram was then just 9 months old). In 1901, the family seem to be back living at Hembridge. By 1911, the family had moved to Parbrook, where Albert Bertram was twenty-years old and working as a general farm labourer.

The Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, Thiepval

The Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, Thiepval, on the 1st July 2016

At some point after the declaration of war, Albert Whitehead joined the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards. 14289 Private (Guardsman) Albert Bertram Whitehead was killed on the 15th September 1916, aged 26, presumably in the Guards Division attack between Ginchy and Lesboeufs (part of the opening of the third main phase of the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette). Albert Bertram Whitehead’s name appears on the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme at Thiepval as well as on the war memorial (a restored churchyard cross) at East Pennard.

The 34th Division at Hargicourt

the 34th Division, after its bruising experience on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, spent much of the first part of 1917 in the area around Arras, where it had taken a full part in the eponymous battle. In early July 1917, however, it had moved to the Hargicourt area, where it took over the III Corps front from the 4th and 5th Cavalry Divisions. To their right were the 22 Division of the French Army. The divisional history described in some detail the extent of the mayhem caused by the German Army when it retreated to the Hindenburg line [1]:

The country had been wilfully laid waste when the disciples of Kultur retired earlier in the year. I cannot improve on the following extracts from letters, which have been kindly lent me: “All the villages round here have suffered the same fate. Practically every house ruined … certainly every one has had a charge fired in it, and many of them have been burned … A village wrecked by continual shell fire is a melancholy sort of sight, but it is a very different one from one destroyed after careful preparation, and with a certain fiendish sense of humour. […]”

Detail from Trench Map 62C.NE

Hargicourt. Detail from Trench Map 62C.NE; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 4A; Published: August 1917; Trenches corrected to 2 July 1917: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The attack of the 26th August was on a complex of defences on the Cologne Farm Ridge, higher ground overlooking the British positions in the Villeret-Hargicourt valley.

After a preliminary bombardment, all four infantry battalions of the 101st Brigade were primed to attack, the 15th and 16th Battalions of the Royal Scots, the 10th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, and the 11th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment. The attack went in at 4.00 am on the 26th August and was broadly successful. The divisional history concluded [2]:

Altogether, the 26th August may be put down as a most successful day, and it was only the situation on the right flank which dimmed its glory. The enemy still held part of Railway Trench, his advance posts being in continual conflict with 15th Royal Scots, the battle swaying backwards and forwards, and causing considerable anxiety.

Cologne Ridge. Detail from Trench Map 62B.NW

Cologne Ridge. Detail from Trench Map 62B.NW; Scale: 1:20000; Edition: 4A; Published: December 1917; Trenches corrected to 21 November 1917: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

As in the operations further north, the weather was then to intervene. The rain was so bad that operations on the right flank were halted. Again, the Divisional history records a personal account [3]:

“Certain square miles have been turned into a hell from which men have come back (some of them) looking twenty years older, with staring eyes that see nothing. Add to intense shelling by both sides, a pouring rain that hardly stopped for days, and imagine what sort of time the infantry had living in a crater field where the light clay had been turned over and over and rapidly turned into a bottomless clay …”

The specific role of 101st Company, MGC on the 26th August isn’t outlined in the Divisional history, except for a comment on the use of machine gun barrages to sweep the German lines, thus enabling reinforcements to reach the positions being attacked. Brigade Operation Order No. 130 reveals that 101st Machine Gun Company (minus two sections) were to be distributed amongst the front-line infantry battalions [4]:

Two Vickers Guns are allotted to each Battalion. Those are to be used for the defence of the flanks, and in the case of the two centre battalions to cover any dangerous approaches. These will move forward after the capture of the RED LINE. O.C. 101 Machine Gun Company will get into communication with Os.C. Battalions prior to zero day for instructions. These guns will assemble at L.4.d.2.2.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission database shows that six members of the 101st Machine Gun Company died on the 26th August 1917, including a 2nd Lieutenant Copley from Rotherham. All are buried in military cemeteries at Hargicourt or remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.


[1] J. Shakespear, The Thirty-Fourth Division, 1915-1919: the story of its career from Ripon to the Rhine (London: Witherby, 1921), p. 134.

[2] Ibid., p. 143-144.

[3] Ibid., p. 145.

[4] WO 95/2456/1, 101 Infantry Brigade: Headquarters war diary, The National Archives, Kew.

Update August 26, 2017:

David Underdown of the Halfmuffled blog has very kindly directed me to the 101st Machine Gun Company’s war diary, available for download from the National Archives (WO 95/2458/4).

This provides some more detail on what the 101st M.G. Company was up to on the 26th August 1917, including  confirmation that they were involved in the machine gun barrage just before zero hour; “In all 68 guns were engaged in the Machine Gun Barrage, our guns being the left group of 6.” The barrages were repeated later on several times, in response to specific S.O.S. messages. The diary also provides some more detail on the various sections that had been attached to 101st Brigade’s infantry battalions:

At 7-0 a.m. a wire was received from Brigade ordering all Battalion guns (Nos. 2 + 4 Sections) to go forward. These had already gone under Battalion Commanders, one sub-section with each Battalion.

Just before moving off, the lane in which our gun teams were assembled was heavily shelled. Several casualties resulted, 2/LIEUT. COPLEY being killed, + one other rank of this Coy. wounded. We also lost 4 other ranks (wounded) of the carrying party supplied by the 21st NORTHUMBERLAND FUSILIERS.

No. 4 Section (except for losing SGT. SEWARD, who was shot by a sniper), got up to their position on the left without much trouble.

No. 2 Section on the right, had a very bad time near COLOGNE FARM, suffering many casualties and having 2 guns buried. These 2 guns, with the exception of one tripod which was completely wrecked, were recovered next morning. In the meantime, 2 guns and teams of No 102 M.G. Coy. were sent to take the place of our guns out of action.


Our casualties for the day were 1 Officer killed, 4 O.R. killed and 15 O.R. wounded and missing.”

It seems fair from this to assume that Private Whitehead was probably with No. 2 Section, and that he would have been in one of the sub-sections attached to either the 15th or 16th Battalion of the Royal Scots (who were on the right hand side of the attack).

Update August 29, 2017:

The offensive at Hargicourt on the 26th August 1917 is covered briefly in the following books:

K. W. Mitchenson, Battleground Europe: Riqueval (Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 1998), pp. 103-113

Joanna Costin, Cambridgeshire Kitcheners: a history of the 11th (Service) Battalion (Cambs) Suffolk Regiment (Barnsley: Pen and Sword Military, 2016), pp. 210-218.

Corporal Sidney James Day of the 11th Suffolks was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on the 26th August 1917. His citation read:

No. 15092 Cpl. Sidney James Day, Suff. R. (Norwich).
For most conspicuous bravery.
Cpl. Day was in command of a bombing section detailed to clear a maze of trenches still held by the enemy; this he did, killing two machine gunners and taking four prisoners. On reaching a point where the trench had been levelled, he went alone and bombed his way through to the left, in order to gain touch with the neighbouring troops.
Immediately on his return to his section a stick bomb fell into a trench occupied by two officers (one badly wounded) and three other ranks.
Cpl. Day seized the bomb and threw it over the trench, where it immediately exploded.
This prompt action undoubtedly saved the lives of those in the trench.
He afterwards completed the clearing of the trench, and, establishing himself in an advanced position, remained for sixty-six hours at his post, which came under intense hostile shell and rifle grenade fire.
Throughout the whole operations his conduct was an inspiration to all.

Second Supplement to the London Gazette, No. 30338, 16 October 1917, p. 10678:

Posted by: michaeldaybath | July 31, 2017

Private Harry Mitchell, 8th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry

Today marks the centenary of the opening of the 3rd Battle of Ypres; the beginning of a British offensive during the First World War. It ended 103 days later with the capture of the (by then) obliterated village of Passchendaele (Dutch: Passendale).

Swanage War Memorial (Dorset)

Swanage War Memorial (Dorset)

The battle remains controversial today. The name Passchendaele vies with the Somme and Verdun as a handy shorthand for the futility of a war fought in mud and atrocious weather. Whether this is a fair assessment or not should probably be the topic of a different blog.

Swanage War Memorial (Dorset)

Swanage War Memorial (Dorset), detail

This main purpose of this blog is to mark the anniversary of the death of 29947 Private Harry Mitchell of the 8th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry. Private Mitchell was killed-in-action one-hundred years ago today, at the age of 27. Harry was also a bellringer at St Mary’s Church, Swanage (Dorset) and a member of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers (SDGR).

The Battle of Pilckem Ridge

The opening phase of the 3rd Battle of Ypres (31 July – 2 August 1917) afterwards became known as the Battle of Pilckem Ridge (it was named after a feature that was one of the key targets for capture on the first day). I Corps of the French 1st Army successfully attacked in the most northerly sector, capturing Bixschoote and Kortekeer Kabaret. In the Fifth Army sector to the immediate south, the British XIV Corps, including the Guards Division and the 38th (Welsh) Division, successfully managed to take Pilckem Ridge. XVIII Corps were also able to make good progress in the area around St Julien. Further south again, II and XIX Corps attacked across the Gheluvelt Plateau, making some gains but encountering determined German resistance and counter attacks. To the south of Fifth Army was General Plumer’s Second Army; while IX and X Corps operated on the front opened out in June by the Battle of Messines, II Anzac Corps attacked German lines around Warneton.

On the whole, British progress on the 31st July was solid, if not spectacular. An advance of around 2,700 metres had been made for the loss of just under 32,000 men [1]. However, the degree of success was mixed and not all of the offensive’s objectives had been achieved. 3rd Ypres would continue until November, wth the next stages being the capture of Westhoek on 10th August and the Battle of Langemarck on the 16-18th August.

The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, Ieper

The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, Ieper (West-Vlaanderen)

Amongst those that died on the 31st July was the Welsh-language poet Ellis Humphrey Evans, also known as Hedd Wyn. He died on Pilckem Ridge while serving with the 15th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers [2]. He was posthumously awarded a bardic chair at the National Eisteddfod in September 1917.

The 8th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry

Another of those killed-in-action on the 31st July was 29947 Private Harry Mitchell of the 8th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry, a bellringer at St Mary’s Church, Swanage.

The 8th (Service) Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry had been formed at Taunton in October 1914 as part of K3. Eventually, the battalion joined 63rd Brigade, which was at first part of the 21st Infantry Division, before transferring to the 37th Division in July 1916.

Menin Gate Memorial, Panel 21

Menin Gate Memorial, Panel 21 (Somerset Light Infantry)

As part of the 37th Division, the 8th Somersets took part in the latter stages of the Somme campaign in 1916 (Battle of the Ancre) and the Battle of Arras in 1917. In June 1917, the battalion moved to Flanders, being based in the area around Kemmel, south-west of Ieper. In the early morning of the 31st July, they were part of the Second Army (IX Corps) offensive south of Ieper. The 8th Somersets’ war diary provides a brief outline of what happened on the day [3]:


3.50a.m. Commencement of first phase by 8th Bn. Linc. Regt and 4th Bn. Middx Regt cooperating with 19th Div. on their left, in attack on RIFLE FARM.

During this phase enemy put down moderate barrage on our front line and support trenches, causing a few casualties. 2nd Lt H.R. Kirk being severely wounded, and dying shortly afterwards.

5.0a.m. C.C. 8th Somerset L.I. informed by Liaison Officer at Bn. H.Q. that RIFLE FARM had been carried at 4.20.a.m.

7.50a.m. Commencement of second phase “D” Coy 8th Somerset L.I. cooperating with two companies 8th Bn. Linc. Regt on their left, with “C” Coy on their right, advanced to clear BEEK WOOD of the enemy, and to establish a new line from the WAMBEEK just S. of WAM FARM to a post to be established by 10th Bn. York & Lanc Regt South of GRASS FARM.

9.0a.m. A/Capt Hunt retuned to Battn H.Q. wounded in left arm and reported success of attack to Western outskirts of BEEK FARM enclosures and that his Company were digging in.

10 a.m. Pigeon report received from Capt. H.G. Baker M.C. O.C. “D” Coy that two platoons had gone forward to clear BEEK enclosures and that the remainder of his Coy were digging in on the left of “A” Coy in touch with LINCOLNS that all Officers of “A” Coy had become casualties, Capt Hunt and 2nd Lt. Kirk and 2nd Lt. Adams wounded. That “A” Coy was not in touch with “C” Coy on the right but that they were visible digging in the other side of a small ridge.

1.5p.m. Report by runner from Capt. Baker that 2nd Lt. Blake “D” Coy had been killed, that the remainder of the two platoons that had gone forward had returned, that posts had been established at N.W. and S.W. corners of enclosures.

3.p.m. Report by runner from 2nd Lt Wood “C” Coy that Capt. Baker M.C. O.C. “C” Coy had been wounded, and that he was digging in and was in touch with York and Lancs Regt on Right.

5.40p.m. Pigeon report from Capt. Baker that platoons sent forward had retired, that posts were established N and S of BEEK FARM that 2nd Lt. Blake had been killed, that his platoon had suffered many casualties and that it was at that hour impossible to bring in wounded.

About 8p.m. message received from Heavy Artillery Reserves that enemy were massing for counter attack E. of BEEK WOOD. Our guns opened and the attack did not materialise.

Captured positions consolidated during night.

Coys reorganised and posts established.

“B” Coy moved up to fill gap between “A” and “C” during night from old shell hole line. “C” Coy 10th York and Lancs Regt came into that line in support of 8th Som. L.I. 1 Coy 10th Bn. R.F.’s [Royal Fusiliers] in reserve under command of O.C. 8th Som. L.I.

Comparatively quiet day no counter attacks.

Battn relieved by 13th Bn. R.F.’s after dark without incident.

All but one of the 61 members of the 8th Somersets that died on the 31st July 1917 have no known grave and are commemorated on Panel 21 of the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ieper.

Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, Panel 21

Menin Gate Memorial, part of Panel 21 (Somerset Light Infantry)

Private Harry Mitchell

Harry Mitchell had been born in Swanage (Wareham district) in the 2nd quarter of 1890. He features in census returns from 1891 to 1911, living with his parents at various addresses at Swanage:

1891: Albany Terrace, Institute Road, Swanage
1901 St Keverne, Cluny Crescent, Swanage
1911 9, Station Road, Swanage

In 1911, Harry Mitchell was 20 years old and working as a plumber and gas fitter, presumably working with or for his father (who was an employer in the same trades).

Church of St Mary, Swanage (Dorset)

The Church of St Mary, Swanage (Dorset)

Harry Mitchell was the only child of Clifford Henry Mitchell and Maria Ruth Mitchell (née Linnington), who had both been born in the Isle of Purbeck. Clifford Henry Mitchell had been born at Worth Matravers in the 2nd quarter of 1859. The 1911 Census is unusually precise on Clifford’s birthplace, stating that he had been born at St Alban’s Head. Clifford’s father, James Mitchell, was a coastguardsman, so presumably Clifford had been born in the coastguard cottages at St Alban’s Head. Clifford’s parents, James and Elizabeth Mitchell, both came from Cornwall. James Mitchell was born at St Keverne, on the Lizard, but once working as a coastguardsman, he seemed to move around fairly regularly. In 1861, James and Elizabeth were living at Studland with children born successively at Swanage, Parkstone and Worth.

Harry’s mother, Maria Ruth Linnington (sometimes spelled Linington in census returns) had been born at Langton Matravers in the 1st quarter of 1859. In the 1861 Census, Maria is recorded living at Swanage with her widowed grandmother Martha Phipard (Phippard?), a 68 year old pauper, and an uncle, George Phipard, a Greenwich Pensioner. In 1871, Maria is back at Langton, living with her mother, Martha Linnington, and five siblings. By 1881 Maria is 21-years old and working as a cook domestic at Tyneham Rectory for the family of the curate, the Rev William Truell. Maria married Clifford Henry Mitchell in the 1st quarter of 1886. Clifford died in 1925, aged 66; Maria in 1943, aged 84.

Private Harry Mitchell’s service records do not seem to have survived. From Soldiers Died in the Great War, we do know that before joining the 8th Somersets, he had previously been No 2165 in the Hampshire Regiment. In reports sent to the press, Private Mitchell was at first posted missing [4].

From a bellringing perspective, we know that Harry Mitchell was a change ringer. Swanage bellringing records show that he rang in a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples on the 22 June 1911 for the Coronation of King George V [5].

War Memorial, St Mary's Church, Swanage

War Memorial, St Mary’s Church, Swanage (Dorset), detail

In addition to the Menin Gate, Harry Mitchell’s name also appears on two war memorials at Swanage: the main town memorial overlooking Swanage Bay and the war memorial plaque inside St Mary’s Church.


[1] Wikipedia, Battle of Pilckem Ridge:

[2] Jonathan Hicks, The Welsh at Passchendaele, 1917 (Talybont: Y Lolfa, 2017), pp. 111-118.

[3] War Diary, 8th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry. WO 95/2529/2, The National Archives

[4] War Office Weekly Casualty List, 25 September 1917, p. 25, via British Newspaper Archive.

[5] Swanage Bellringing: Past Ringers (includes photograph):

Update Aug 8, 2017:

A quarter peal of 1,260 Grandsire Triples was rung at St Mary’s Church, Swanage on the 31st July 2017 in memory of Harry Mitchell. The performance report on BellBoard included images of a framed photograph of Harry Mitchell and an account of its dedication, possibly from the Swanage parish magazine:

Prayers were offered by the Rector [Rev W. R. Parr], after which Captain Ridout, on behalf of the bellringers, in asking the Rector to unveil the portrait, remarked that he had not had the pleasure of knowing Harry Mitchell personally, but he had been informed he had taken a keen interest in bellringing; he was of a most lovable disposition, extremely popular with his mates, and a good friend, and his fellow-ringers desired to perpetuate his memory in the belfry where he had spent so many happy hours. The Rector, in unveiling the portrait, said that Harry Mitchell was during his lifetime a true lover of his church, a devout worshipper, and a good son
Mr. C. W. T. Dean [churchwarden] in a few appropriate words, said he had known their late friend well. He possessed a true Christian character, and he was a good son to his father and mother. Mr. C. H. Mitchell (the father), speaking with deep emotion, thanks the speakers for their kind remarks in reference to his boy, and also thanked the ringers for their kindly thought.
At the conclusion of the ceremony the ringers rang a remembrance series of whole-pull grandsire (168) triples, half muffled.

Update Aug 13, 2017:

I recently managed to track down the grave marker for Clifford Henry and Maria Ruth Mitchell in Northbrook Cemetery, Swanage. Unfortunately, it is is currently in a very bad state.

The Mitchell grave in Northbrook Cemetery, Swanage (Dorset)

The Mitchell grave in Northbrook Cemetery, Swanage (Dorset)

The stone includes a memorial to Harry Mitchell, but this is not visible at the moment. The face down part (the front) of the stone has been transcribed as follows:


Transcription from:

Posted by: michaeldaybath | July 22, 2017

Private Frank Derrett, 2nd Civil Service Rifles

Six members of the library departments of the British Museum are commemorated on the British Librarians memorial now at the British Library. In May, this blog remembered Captain Ian Alistair Kendall Burnett (8th East Lancashire Regiment). The British Library’s Untold Lives blog has also covered Captain Burnett, as well as the two British Museum colleagues that died in 1916: Private Charles Robert Dunt (1/13th London Regiment), and Sergeant Harry Michie (1st City of London Yeomanry).

The fourth member of the British Museum’s library departments to die during the war was Private Frank Derrett of the 2/15th (County of London) Battalion of the London Regiment, the second line battalion of the Prince of Wales’s Own Civil Service Rifles.  Private Derrett died-of-wounds at Salonica (Thessaloniki), Greece on the 22nd July 1917, aged 34.

Private Frank Derrett, 2/15th Battalion, London Regiment

Frank Derrett was born at London in 1883, the son of William and Emma Derrett, who lived at James Street, Marylebone. Census records from 1871 and 1881 describe William Derrett as a china and glass dealer, and it is clear from later returns that Emma continued running the business after his death in 1889. The 1911 Census includes the 63-year old Emma Derrett living at 35 James Street with three sons (including the 27 year old Frank), two grandchildren, and two boarding valets from Switzerland.

Frank Derrett joined the British Museum as a Boy Attendant in the Department of Printed Books on the 23rd January 1899. At the time of his death, he had worked for the museum for 18½ years, from August 1903 as an Attendant in the Reading and Newspaper Rooms. He married Alice Edmunds at Marylebone in 1912.

The Civil Service Rifles War Memorial, Somerset House, London

The Civil Service Rifles War Memorial, Somerset House, London

Frank Derrett enlisted in the Civil Service Rifles in September 1915, becoming part of its second line battalion. The regimental history records that in August 1914, the headquarters of the Civil Service Rifles at Somerset House was besieged by crowds of younger civil servants, some of whom in turn formed the nucleus of the second line battalion. Throughout the war, the 2nd Civil Service Rifles formed part of the 60th (2/2nd London) Division, which served on the Western Front from June 1916 before moving to Salonika (Greece) in November 1916.

The Macedonian Front is one of the lesser-known theatres of the First World War. A small Franco-British force first arrived at Salonika in October 1915, ostensibly to support the Serbian army. However, while the force arrived too late to prevent a Serbian defeat, it remained on Greek soil, establishing a defensive line in Macedonia (it was also a means of pressurising the neutral Greeks to enter the war on the side of the Entente, which they eventually did in the summer of 1917). In August 1916, the reinforced British force became part of the grandly-titled Allied Army of the Orient, under the command of the French General Maurice Sarrail.

After arriving in Salonika, the 2nd Civil Service Rifles spent some time at Katerini before undertaking a gruelling seven-day march to Kalinova in March 1917. As part of 60th Division, they played a supporting role in operations near Lake Doiran (Dojran) in April and May 1917, part of a much-wider offensive planned on the Macedonian front by the Army of the Orient. On the 24th April, the 60th Division were detailed to raid positions in the Machukovo Salient, while the British 22nd and 26th Divisions were to attack the main Bulgarian defences on the Doiran-Vardar front. The 2nd Civil Service Rifles had a support role in this operation and its follow-up on the 8th May. In the days following the second operation, however, the battalion had a tough job consolidating positions on hills known as the Goldies, which is where they suffered the majority of their active-service casualties throughout the Salonika campaign.

By early June, the 60th Division was on its way back to Salonika, having been posted to yet another theatre of war. The 2nd Civil Service Rifles sailed to Egypt on the 19th June, from where they would take part in the campaign in Palestine, eventually returning to the Western Front in late 1918 (the frequent travels of the battalion gained it the nickname, the “Cook’s Tourists”). When the battalion sailed to Egypt, it seems that Private Derrett was left behind in Greece, either in hospital or attached to another unit. He died-of-wounds on the 22nd July 1917, aged 34, and is buried in Salonika (Lembet Road) Military Cemetery in Thessaloniki. Fourteen members of the 2nd Civil Service Rifles died during the Macedonian Campaign; Private Derrett was the last one of them to die.

Frank Derrett’s gravestone at Salonika includes an epitaph chosen by his widow: verses adapted from a popular late-nineteenth-century hymn (The Christian’s goodnight) that had been written by Sarah Doudney and set to music by Ira D. Sankey: “Sleep on, beloved, and take thy rest; we love thee well, but Jesus loves thee best.”

British Museum War Memorial, Bloomsbury, London

British Museum War Memorial, Bloomsbury, London

Private Derrett’s name appears on the British Museum’s war memorials at Bloomsbury and Kensington, as well as on the British Librarian’s memorial now at the British Library at St. Pancras. The war memorial for the Civil Service Rifles, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, once stood in the central courtyard of Somerset House in London; it was moved in the early 2000s to the Embankment side of the building, and now overlooks the River Thames.

The Gardeners of Salonika

In the same way that the British 8th Army in Italy were pejoratively known in the Second World as the “D-Day Dodgers,” the role of the British Salonika Force was not widely understood at home. Indeed, the French premier Georges Clemenceau famously described the Allied Army of the Orient as the “Gardeners of Salonika.” Understandably, this rankled somewhat with those that were there, as is evidenced by the following account published in the Macclesfield Courier of the 28 September 1918. It reflects some of the prejudices of the time, but it also reveals some of what those on the Macedonian Front had to endure.

Corporal J. Welch (of 10, Fence Street, Macclesfield) writes from Salonica, to the Editor, as follows:–
Dear Sir, — I have noticed recently that quite a number of Macclesfield men have been killed in action in Salonica. Many persons have got quite a wrong impression of this Front, and what the men out here are doing. So, if you will spare me a little space in your well-known paper, I will endeavour to give, to the relatives and friends of those men who have made the supreme sacrifice, and to those people who have got the idea that we, out here, are having a holiday, a slight description of this country, what we have done out here, and what we are still doing.
This country practically consists of mountains, hills, and deep ravines. Of course, there is some fairly level ground, which is, generally speaking, water-logged; forming fever-breeding marshes and ideal placed for breeding mosquitoes and many other disease-carrying insects. In the winter months mountain torrents rush down the ravines, and at times do a considerable amount of damage. But in the summer months, practically all of these are dried up, leaving pools of stagnant water here and there. I think that since the time of our Lord, the inhabitants of this country have gone back instead of progressing with the times. For when we first came here there was no drainage whatever, only what was done by Nature itself; and no one seemed to have the slightest idea of sanitation, or, anyhow, it was never shown. We also saw several cases of cattle that had died out in the open; the owners would skin them, if they were worth it, and leave the carcass for dogs, jackals, vultures, and thousands of creeping things to devour; and the bones that were left would bleach in the sun. From this, one can easily understand that there is not much really good water here, to which we can put down a great deal of the sickness in this country, including dysentery, which has taken more than a few good men to their last resting-place. So one can clearly understand that the men out here, exposed to severe winters, and in the summer bearing the heat of the sun, which is almost tropical, and good water being scarce, and the ground itself being foul by reason of centuries of neglect in way of irrigation and sanitation, are indeed open to diseases and illnesses of many different kinds.
Then as regards what we have actually done, everybody knows that when we came here we were too late to save Serbia, which was not our fault, but we did arrive in time to partially cover the retreat of the Serbs, and to prevent Salonica, with its fine harbour, falling into the hands of the Central Powers. Had Salonica fallen into their hands, I think that the transportation of troops to and from India, Egypt, and Palestine, would have been a far more difficult matter than it is at present, for they could, and probably would, have made it into a submarine base, for which, I may say, it is naturally suited. And they could have wrought considerable havoc amongst the shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. And as the gulf and harbour are surrounded by natural fortifications, I very much doubt if we would ever have been able to take it from them. There is also another important factor here to be considered; when we came here there was one single set of railway lines running up country, and not one road that was worthy of the name, now there are plenty of railways and roads everywhere. Railways and roads do not spring up because you lie in your bivouac and wish for them, they require hard work and plenty of it, and we know it, too. And it is those roads and those railways that have enabled us to make our front line where it is to-day.
Now as regards the actual fighting, the trenches are not being constantly moved forward or backwards, as the case may be like those in France for example, and the artillery of each side has them all registered, in other words they can level them any time, and often do. Again, in raids or attacks the Bulgars know as well as we do that many of the hills, which we have to go up to get to him, are so steep it is impossible to scale them from the front. In other words, we must move up the ravines, which also are registered on by artillery and trench mortar batteries. I have been in “scraps” out here with men who went through Loos, but they said that it was far worse than Loos was. I could also mention other similar remarks.
Another thing, some people think that we are in Salonica itself or very near to it. I may say that we are many miles away, and many of our men have not been near it since the day that we landed and marched through it. Also, the men in France have, I believe, all been home on leave, some twice and three times, but a large percentage of the Salonica Force are still waiting their turn for their first, and not much hoe of that, and these are men who have been on active service over two and a half years.
If those people who say that we are having a holiday in Salonica could only see the ever-growing Military Cemeteries out here, I don’t think another word of that kind would ever cross their lips. The time will come when there will be no need to restrict the publication of many things, which have to be restricted at present. Then there will be many revelations; now we see as through glass, dimly, then we shall see clearly and, maybe, understand.

Further Reading:

The history of the Prince of Wales’ Own Civil Service Rifles (London: Post Office Rifles, 1921):

H. Dalbiac, History of the 60th Division (2/2nd London Division) (London: Allen & Unwin, 1927).

Cyril Falls, Military operations: Macedonia, 2 vols (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1933-35); the British Official History

Jill Knight, The Civil Service Rifles in the Great War (Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 2004).

Mark Mazower, Salonica: city of ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950 (London: Harper Collins, 2004).

Alan Palmer, The gardeners of Salonika: The Macedonian Campaign, 1915-1918 (London: André Deutsch, 1965).

Update July 30th, 2017:

A short account of Private Frank Derrett was also published on the British Library’s Untold Lives blog on July 29th, 2017:

Posted by: michaeldaybath | July 9, 2017

Somerset bellringers at Tilloy British Cemetery, Arras

Sometimes when researching the people named on war memorials one can sometimes notice that casualties are occasionally concentrated in particular cemeteries or memorials. This is, perhaps, not surprising on a village or town memorial, where more than one person would have ended up serving in the same battalion of a county regiment. This effect is sometimes amplified on the larger Memorials to the Missing, particularly the Menin Gate and the Thiepval Memorial, but it is also noticeable in the names of many Dorset villagers present on the Dorsetshire Regiment section of the Helles Memorial. However, sometimes these concentrations seem to happen purely by chance, as the casualties are seemingly not linked by any particular geographical origin, date-of-death, or military unit.

The Bath and Wells Diocesan Association War Memorial in Bath Abbey

The Bath and Wells Diocesan Association War Memorial in Bath Abbey

One of these strange concentrations is apparent on one of the memorials that I have been researching, that of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers in Bath Abbey.

Plot I, Tilloy British Cemetery, Tilloy les Mofflaines

Plot I, Tilloy British Cemetery, Tilloy les Mofflaines

The cemetery in question is Tilloy British Cemetery at Tilloy les Mofflaines, just to the south east of the city of Arras in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France. Three of the persons named on the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial are buried in a single plot of that cemetery (Plot I). According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), the plot was “begun in April 1917 by fighting units and burial officers, and Rows A to H in Plot I largely represent burials from the battlefield” [1]. It notes that those buried in Plot I, Row J (and part of Plot II) come from the later fighting in 1917.

All three of the persons named on the memorial in Bath Abbey died in 1917, in the aftermath of the Battle of Arras — which officially ran from the 9th April to the 16th May. Two of them served with batteries of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, the other with the infantry, a territorial battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment. All three came from a relatively small area of north-west Somerset.

117061 Gunner Wilfred Comer, Badgworth, 21 May 1917

CWGC gravestone for Wilfred Comer, Tilloy British Cemetery

CWGC gravestone for Wilfred Comer, Tilloy British Cemetery

The first to die was Gunner Wilfred Comer of the 261 Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery, who was killed-in-action on the 21 May 1917 when serving with No. 261 Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery.

Gunner Comer’s service records survive [2]. He attested, age 23, at Weston-Super-Mare on the 8 December 1915, but was almost immediately released to the Reserve. He was mobilised on the 5 September 1916 and posted to No. 3 Depot, RGA in Plymouth. After a brief spell there and at Portland, he was posted first to 30 Battalion, then to No. 261 Siege Battery, RGA on 6 October 1916. He embarked at Folkestone for France on the 8th February 1917, disembarking at Boulogne. He and four other members of his battery were killed near Arras on the 21 May 1917; they are all buried in the same row in Tilloy British Cemetery. His death was reported in the Western Daily Press, Bristol, of 18th June 1917, noting that some of his relatives were resident at Rooks Bridge, near East Brent.

Church of St Congar, Badgworth (Somerset)

Church of St Congar, Badgworth (Somerset)

At the time he enlisted, Wilfred Comer was a cowman living at Tarnock in Somerset, between East Brent and Badgworth. In his service records, Wilfred Comer’s next-of-kin is listed as his mother, Eliza Jane Field, who was at that time living at Bath — Juda Place in Walcot (an area that is now part of Snow Hill). The 1911 Census records that Eliza Jane was by then married to Francis Field, a gardener domestic, and that they were resident at 21 Berkeley Street, Bath with their seven children. I could not find Wilfred Comer at all in the 1911 Census, but in 1901 he was aged nine and living with his grandparents, William and Matilda Comer, at Tarnock, in the parish of Badgworth. It seems that Wilfred had been born out of wedlock and may have remained with his grandparents at Badgworth while his mother moved to Bath and married Francis Field (the couple were married at Bath (district) in the 3rd Quarter of 1893). Gunner Comer’s personal effects (and later his medals) were sent to his aunt, Bessie Stone, who lived at Burnham-on-Sea.

The 1901 Census suggests that Wilfred Comer had been born in Badgworth in around 1892. The closest match that I was able to find in birth, marriage and death (BMD) records was a Wilfred Clarance Coomer, born in the Axbridge district in the 1st Quarter of 1892 (which would broadly fit).

Badgworth War Memorial (Somerset)

Badgworth War Memorial (Somerset)

In addition to the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association war memorial, Wilfred Comer’s name also appears on the war memorial cross outside the Church of St Congar in Badgworth.

265946 Private Leslie W. Fisher, Congresbury, 3rd June 1917

CWGC gravestone for Leslie Fisher, Tilloy British Cemetery

CWGC gravestone for Leslie Fisher, Tilloy British Cemetery

A little closer to Bristol is the large village of Congresbury, whose church is dedicated to St Andrew, but which (like Badgworth) has a strong link with St. Congar — a Welsh-born saint now mostly associated with Somerset. The second Somerset bellringer buried in Tilloy British Cemetery is Private Leslie William Fisher of the 2/5th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, who died on the 3rd June 1917, aged 19. Private Fisher’s CWGC entry (and thus the cemetery register) describes him as a “late chorister and bell-ringer at Congresbury parish church.”

Church of St Andrew, Congresbury (Somerset)

Church of St Andrew, Congresbury (Somerset)

Leslie William Fisher was the son of George and Louisa Fisher of Congresbury. At the time of the 1911 Census, the family were living at the Causeway, Congresbury, and the 33-year old George was described as a walling mason working for a builder. In 1911, the 13-year old Leslie William was working as an errand boy for a miller. There were also two younger brothers, named Robert and Edward.

The 2/5th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment were a second line Territorial infantry battalion, formed at Gloucester in September 1914. Arriving in France in May 1916, the battalion served throughout the war as part of 184th Brigade in 61st (2nd South Midland) Division. From the 24th May 1917, the battalion had been based near Duisans, to the north-west of Arras. On the 31st, they moved to Tilloy, relieving the 8th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry (who were part of 37th Division). The village having been captured on the 9th April, Tilloy was by now some way behind the front line. On the 1st June, part of the battalion relieved the 13th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers in front of Guemappe. In the following few days, the battalion were involved in strengthening the wire defences in both front and support lines, in preparation for an upcoming attack. The battalion war diary for the 3rd June [3] recorded, “support line wired and front line deepened; men from ARRAS assist.” The diary also noted three casualties: 1 killed, 1 wounded, and 1 evacuated sick.

War Memorial in St Andrew's Church, Congresbury (Somerset)

War Memorial in St Andrew’s Church, Congresbury (Somerset)

Leslie William Fisher is also commemorated on the war memorial inside St Andrew’s Church, Congresbury.

184261 Gunner William Ivor Caple, Easton-in-Gordano, 9th July 1917

CWGC gravestone for William Ivor Caple, Tilloy British Cemetery

CWGC gravestone for William Ivor Caple, Tilloy British Cemetery

Even closer to Bristol than Congresbury is the village of Easton-in-Gordano. The third Somerset bellringer to be buried in Tilloy British Cemetery was Gunner William Ivor Caple, of “A” Bty., 62nd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, who died on the 9th July 1917, aged 19.

Memorial plaque in St George's Church, Easton-in-Gordano (Somerset)

Memorial plaque in St George’s Church, Easton-in-Gordano (Somerset)

Private Caple has a memorial plaque inside the Church of St George at Easton-in-Gordano. It reads:


William Ivor Caple was the son of William and Amelia Caple, of Easton-in-Gordano. At the time of the 1901 Census, William and Amelia were living at the Rocks in Easton, with two young children: William Ivor (then aged 3) and Ellen (6 months). The elder William was at that time working as a bricklayer. By 1911, the family had moved to the Old Post Office at Easton, and two more children had arrived. At that point, William Ivor was 13 years old, and still at school.

Church of St George, Easton-in-Gordano (Somerset)

Church of St George, Easton-in-Gordano (Somerset)

Gunner Caple’s service records do not appear to have survived. By July 1917, 62nd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery had been in the Arras sector for several months. They had taken part in the initial attacks of the Battle of Arras on the 9th April, operating in support of 12th (Eastern) Division, just north of Tilloy [4]. By July 1917, they were based around the village of Monchy-le-Preux, supporting attacks on trenches around Infantry Hill to the east (where the 8th East Lancashires had been fighting back in May). The 62nd Brigade war diary [5] does not always contain daily entries. On the 3rd to 5th July, it simply records that the batteries “were ordered to bombard lines of consolidated shell-holes in [grid reference] which were attacked by 7 Royal Sussex Rgt. at 2.30 am 4/7/17; Attack was not successful! Bombardment was continued on 5/7/17.” Detailed trench maps are included in the war diary appendices, but there is no continuous narrative or record of brigade casualties. The next entry, made on the 10th July, simply reads “Normal.”

Easton-in-Gordano War Memorial (Somerset)

Easton-in-Gordano War Memorial (Somerset)

William Caple is also commemorated on the war memorial cross outside St. George’s Church, Easton-in-Gordano.


[1] Tilloy British Cemetery, Tilloy les Mofflaines:,%20TILLOY-LES-MOFFLAINES

[2] WO 363/4, via Findmypast

[3] War Diary, 2/5th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, WO 95/3066/1, The National Archives, Kew.

[4] Peter Hughes, Visiting the fallen: Arras south (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2015), pp. 57-58.

[5] War Diary, 62 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, WO 95/1837/2, The National Archives, Kew.


Older Posts »