Private William John Bagley

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Pte W J Bagley
2nd Battalion, Middlesex Regiment
G/990
Killed in action, 5.4.1915
Age 32 (probably)

William John Bagley’s life was defined by service: domestic service and military service. He joined the army in 1901 and again in 1914. The periods leading up to his enlistments saw him serving as a footman and butler respectively. His first stint as a soldier with the Middlesex Regiment lasted 12 years and took him to South Africa between 1903 and 1906 and then to China between 1906 and 1908. He transferred to the Army Reserve in 1909 and by 1911 he was the butler of a small household in Limpsfield, Hampshire. William was discharged from the Army Reserve on 11 June 1913. The break in his military service would come to an end just over a year later.

He was born to William and Alice Bagley in Dorney, Buckinghamshire c.1883/4. His father is described in census records as a hurdle maker and a general labourer and on his son’s marriage certificate as a carpenter. The parental home remained in Dorney and William’s only sibling Ellen Beatrice, four years his junior was already in service in 1901 aged 13. William married Maud Alice Mary Newman at St. James’ Church, Weybridge on 2 August 1913. By this time both his parents were dead. His wife came from Weybridge, her father Charles Newman was a chimney sweep. Maud Bagley lived at 2, Radnor Road, Weybridge during William’s war service.

He enlisted in Weybridge on 4 September 1914 and was posted to the 5th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. William stood five feet and eight inches tall, had a sallow complexion, brown hair and brown eyes. He remained in Britain until 25 January 1915 when he was posted to the 2nd Battalion of the same regiment and arrived in France the following day. His new unit had been on the Western Front since November 1914 where they had been in and out of the trenches near Laventie (16.1 km north-east of Bethune). William was among 82 men and 2 officers who joined the battalion in late January. The usual routine continued until the battalion went into reserve on 28 February.

In the following month the 2nd Battalion was embroiled in their first major battle at Neuve Chapelle, a village on the road between Bethune, Fleurbaix and Armentieres. This was the first planned British offensive of the war. On 10 March William’s battalion attacked and secured the enemy front line after a second bombardment of that line. Hundreds of them were killed by two German machine guns. They reformed in their new position and held it until 12.15 am on 13 March. During those three days they sustained heavy casualties: 7 officers killed, 70 other ranks killed, 8 officers wounded, 299 other ranks wounded and 89 reported missing. The British had been able to break into the enemy lines but attempts to move on further over the next few days failed. Neuve Chapelle had been taken but it had not been possible to exploit that success. Poor communications had been a key factor.

By the end of March, William and his comrades were billeted at Fleurbaix (5 km south-west of Armentieres). They went into the trenches on 3 April; 2 were killed and 4 wounded. The battalion was relieved on 5 April and went into Divisional Reserve at Bac St Maur. William was killed on this day yet the War Diary does not record any casualties. He has no known grave so this may suggest that he was the victim of a shell explosion or his dead body may have been destroyed in a shell explosion.

William is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial (Panel 8) in the Berks Cemetery Extension, 12.5 km from Ypres (Ieper).

A few of his belongings – letters, identity disc, two coins , a pencil and three buttons – were retrieved and sent to his widow. She was awarded a pension of 10 shillings per week. Maud Bagley remarried, to Ernest East, in 1920.

Sources:

British Army Service Records, 1760-1915, www.findmypast.co.uk
British Army WW1 Service Records, 1914-1920, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1837, www.ancestry.co.uk

Private Robert William Borrett

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Pte R W Borrett
6th Battalion,
Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment

205304
Killed in action, 21.9.1918
Age, 36

Robert William Borrett was born on 6 March 1881 in Ashford, Middlesex to William, a coachman and his wife Elizabeth Jane (nee James). The couple had married the previous year at St. Mary’s Church, Oatlands and their son was baptised there on 5 June 1881. Alexandria Road in Ashford was the site of the family’s first home. William Borrett died in August 1899 and his widow remarried to John Henry Cranton at St. James’ Church, Weybridge in 1902. Her son, Robert, a former pupil of St James’ School (Baker Street), and now a barman, lived with her and his step-father at 1, Pembroke Villas, Dorchester Road, Weybridge in 1911. He went on to become a local postman.

Robert enlisted in Woking; he was posted to the 6th Battalion, of the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment, attached to the 37th Brigade in the 12th (Eastern) Division. The battles of this division which arrived in France between 29 May-1June 1915 reads like a history of the fighting on the Western Front 1915-1918: the Battle of Loos, 1915; the Battle of the Somme, 1916; the Arras Offensive, 1917 and back to the Somme battlefield in 1918. Between April and July 1918 Robert’s 37th Brigade was in the area of Ouchonvillers and Mailly-Maillet where new drafts joined them, made necessary by the impact of the German Spring Offensive. On 10 July the Brigade moved to the area south of Amiens; they were involved in the Battle of Albert on 9 August and by the next day the old Amiens defence line had been recaptured. The division had advanced by nearly two miles. The final response to the Germans had begun and would continue for the next one hundred days.

In the course of the 4-5 September the 37th Division moved to the north of the Canal du Nord and just south of Manancourt; the attack continued with the Germans retreating several miles. The advance was renewed on 8 September and by the time they halted to the west of Epehy, which was heavily defended by enemy machine guns, the division was seventeen miles ahead of their starting point on 8 August. From 9-16 September Robert and his comrades were able to experience a period of rest and training. The Battle of Epehy, part of the breakthrough of the German defensive Hindenburg Line, began on18 September. There was strong resistance from the Germans but this was gradually overcome. In the course of the fighting 21- 22 September the 6th Battalion lost 3 officers wounded, 152 other ranks wounded, 2 other ranks missing and 12 other ranks killed. Robert was one of the 12; he was killed in action on 21 September.

His last weeks were occupied with almost constant fighting and hard earned military success. He was buried in Epehy Wood Farm Cemetery (IV E 6) just to the west of Epehy village which is between Cambrai and Peronne. Sadly, he was killed as the Allies prepared to make what would be their ultimate push against the Germans which would end with the Armistice on 11 November 1918. Robert’s mother and step-father remained in Weybridge until at least 1930 before moving to Addlestone. His mother died in 1936.

Sources:

London, England, Church of England Births & Baptisms, 1813-1917, www.ancestry.co.uk
Memorial to the Masters & Old Boys of St James’ School, Weybridge, Who Fell in the Great War 1914-1918, St James’ Church
Surrey, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Church of England, Marriages, 1754-1837, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1962, www.ancestry.co.uk
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, www.ancestry.co.uk

Private Percy Boorer

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Pte P Boorer
13th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers
9431
Killed in action, 14.11.1916
Age, 26 or 29

According to his Military Service Record, Percy Boorer was born in Sutton in Surrey and was 28 years old when he enlisted in November 1915. However, all the relevant Census data from 1891 to 1911 and the birth index for 1891 record that Percy Boorer of Sutton was born in 1890 not 1887. It is not possible to tell if this discrepancy was accidental or deliberate. The Census returns show that he was the youngest of seven children of Joseph Henry Boorer, a bricklayer, and his wife Anstis Mary. Percy names two of the siblings, Frank and Lilian, on his Service Record. On 7 July 1912, at Holy Trinity Church, East Finchley, he married Ellen Pryke, who at 36 was his senior by thirteen years. When Percy enlisted in 1915, he was a butcher and the couple had made their home at 1, The Quadrant, Weybridge.

He was initially posted to the 28th Reserve Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers (RF) but later joined the 13th Bn. with whom he was sent to join the British Expeditionary Force in France on 29 September 1916. His battalion came under the 111th Brigade in the 37th Division. They participated in the last phase of the Battle of the Somme (1 July – 18 November 1916) and the Battle of Ancre (13 – 18 November). The objective of this action was to eliminate the German salient, with Beaumont-Hamel at its head, which had been well fortified since the early stages of the Battle of the Somme.

The advance began on 13 November at 5 am in thick fog but by the end of the day the 51st Division had taken Beaumont-Hamel. The infantry attack resumed at 6.20 am on the 14th; the 13th Battalion of the RF was attached to the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division for the action against Beaumont village, north of the R. Ancre. The 13th moved off a little too quickly and suffered casualties from their own barrage. They retired 50 yards and started again under heavy machine gun fire from the village. Their attack stalled 200 yards short of Beaucourt Trench just in front of their objective. By 10.30 am troops of the 190th Brigade reported that Beaucourt had been taken and at this stage the 13th Battalion of the RF and the 13th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade were in almost full possession of Beaucourt Trench. They had been able to renew their advance with a fresh artillery barrage. The hold on the village was consolidated in the course of the afternoon. The overall objective was not achieved; despite the hard won gains of the first two days Serre and the northern part of the German line did not fall into British hands. The cost had been heavy – the 13th Battalion of the RF lost 8 officers and 130 other ranks in a short time. Percy Boorer was reported missing. His wife still had no news of him by May 1917; she wrote many letters of inquiry to no avail. In February 1918 she finally acknowledged receipt of his personal possessions: a pocket book, photographs, correspondence and stamps.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on Thiepval Memorial (Pier & Face 8 C 9 A and 16A). By 1922 Ellen Boorer had moved to Ashley Dairy, Queens Road, Weybridge. Another fatality of the Battle of Ancre on 14 November 1916 was the writer H. H. Munro, or perhaps as he was better known, Saki.

Sources:

British Army WW1 Service Records, 1914-1920, www.ancestry.co.uk
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long, Long Trail – Royal Fusiliers, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
London, England, Church of England Marriages & Banns, 1754-1932, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1962, www.ancestry.co.uk

Second Lieutenant Arthur Charles Brook

Researched and written by Anne Wright

2/Lt A C Brook
5TH Battalion, Manchester Regiment
Killed in action, 4. 6.1915
Age, 30

Both Arthur Charles Brook’s parents, Arthur and Ruth Mary, were descendants of the Brook family of Meltham Mills in Yorkshire. The family’s mill complex, run by Jonas Brook & Bros. gave the place its name. They were first cousins being the children of brothers: the Rev Alfred Brook (1828-70) was Arthur’s father and Charles John Brook (1829/30–57) was Ruth’s father. Their common ancestor, Charles Brook (1792–1869), their grandfather, was a brother of the three Brooks who founded and organised the family business. By the end of the nineteenth century the firm in Meltham Mills, thread manufacturers, employed almost 2000 people. The Brooks were enlightened employers who provided housing (59 cottages had been built by 1900), a convalescence home and pensions for their workforce. They were philanthropists and endowed local churches, such as St James’ in 1845 which doubled as a school. On completing his formal education Arthur Charles Brook joined the family business and went on to become a Director.

He was born in Meltham Mills in June 1884 and baptised there, the following month, at St. James’ Church on the 13 July. His father, Arthur, was a civil servant with H. M. Treasury and the family’s place of residence was in Weybridge. Two siblings, Reginald James and Dorothy Mary followed in 1885 and 1887. Their mother was widowed on 15 February 1888; her husband had died, aged just 30. Her death came at their Weybridge home, Woodhouse in St. George’s Avenue forty-four years later in 1932. Arthur was educated at the Grange School in Folkestone and Rugby School before going on to Exeter College, Oxford, from where he graduated in 1903. He married Sydney Harriet Darlington on 8 July 1909 at the Parish Church of Douglas in Parbold, Lancashire. His uncle, the Rev Arthur Brook, the Rector of St. John’s, Hackney officiated. Arthur was already working in the family business. By 1911 he and his wife and their ten months old daughter, Ruth Blanche Mary lived at Manor Croft, Meltham, near Huddersfield.

Arthur enlisted on 12 September 1914 and was posted to the 5th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This regiment became part of the 127th Brigade in the 42nd ( East Lancs) Division; they landed on W and V beaches of Cape Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula (Turkey) which was only ten miles wide and overlooked the Dardanelles ( straits which led from the Aegean Sea through to the Black Sea). The terrain was rocky, steep-sided, covered in scrub, had deep gulleys and little water. The strategic objective of the Gallipoli Campaign was to attack the ‘soft-underbelly’ of the Central Powers by taking Turkey (Germany’s ally) out of the war and opening up the route to Russia through control of the Dardanelles.

The 42nd (East Lancs) Division landed on their designated beaches on 6 May 1915. They moved to the front line on 12 May under heavy machine gun and artillery fire; they remained in the line until 26 May when they were relieved and returned to the beaches. On Friday, 4 June, a brilliant summer’s day with a stiff breeze, Arthur Brook and his comrades were involved in the third Battle of Krithia; their objective was to take the dominating heights around the village of Krithia. The bombardment of the Turks started at 8 am and the rate of fire increased at 10.30 am but the results were as not as damaging as had been hoped for. The infantry attack began at noon; Arthur’s 42nd Division was to the right of the 29th Division. His battalion was in the first wave of the attack. Initially this progressed well as within five minutes they and their comrades had taken the first Turkish trench. The 127th Brigade advanced 1000 yards in total, capturing all three Turkish trenches and getting within three-quarters of a mile of Krithia. However, they were unable to consolidate their positions; their flanks were exposed and by 6 pm they were being attacked on three sides and the order to withdraw was given. By nightfall all the captured territory had been given up.

The cost of the third Battle of Krithia was very heavy: the Turks suffered 9000 casualties, the French, 2000 and the British 4500. Arthur Brook was one of the British fatalities. He was buried in Redoubt Cemetery, Helles ( XII. A. 20), on the west side of Krithia, facing south to the Dardanelles. The personal inscription on his headstone reads :

FROM THEE I DESIRE
TO RECEIVE ALL THAT
THY ETERNAL LIFE CAN GIVE

Arthur’s widow remarried to Arthur William Woodman Simpson in November 1921; she died in November 1957 at the Victoria Hospital in Morecombe. Their daughter, Ruth, married Ardern Relf Wood in August 1930; she was widowed in 1948 and married again in 1963 to Walter Musgrave-Hoyle.

Sources:

Atkinson Family Tree, www.ancestry.co.uk
British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920, www.ancestry.co.uk
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long, Long Trail – 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/order-of-battle-of-divisions/42nd-east-lancashire-division/
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills & Administrations), 1858-1966, www.ancestry.co.uk
Lancashire, England, Church of England Marriages & Banns, 1754-1936, www.ancestry.co.uk
Sandford/Hall Family Tree, www.ancestry.co.uk
Quarmby, Lauren, ‘Victorian Meltham’, http://mhm.hud.ac.uk/digitalvictorians/victorian-meltham/

Company Serjeant Major John Percy Batey

Researched and written by Anne Wright

CSM J P Batey, DCM
Royal Engineers
106517
Killed in action, 9.4.1918
Age 29

In 1911 John Percy Batey lodged with Arthur and Annie Baynes at 1, Oak Villas, Dorchester Road in Weybridge. He was a research chemist and his fellow lodger William Shapland, a teacher. By the time he enlisted in January 1915 he had moved to 3, Minorca Road, also in Weybridge. His career had brought him south from his native Lancashire. John was born on 22 March 1889 to Robert and Georgina Batey in Chorlton cum Hardy. He had three older siblings Henry, Robert and Margaret but he was the youngest by seven years. John was baptised on 5 May 1889 at St. Clements’s Church in his home town. His father was a bank cashier and the family was able to employ two domestic staff.

John was educated at Manchester Municipal Technical School and Manchester University from where he graduated as a B.Sc. and M.Sc., the latter in Applied Chemistry (1908). He was then awarded a Schuster Research Fellowship and became a member of the Chemical Society. In 1912 he and a colleague, Edmund Knecht, published a paper on ‘A Modification of Beckmann’s Apparatus’ in the Society’s journal. A promising professional career was interrupted by the outbreak of war in 1914; John enlisted at Woldingham on 2 January 1915. At almost five feet and ten inches in height he was taller than many of his contemporaries. He was sent initially to the 16th Battalion, the Middlesex Regiment (1331) but was transferred to the Royal Engineers (RE) in May 1915.

Shortly after joining the RE John did a period of training at the School of Military Engineering at Chatham. On 22 April 1915, at the second battle of Ypres, the Germans used poison gas (chlorine gas) for the first time on the Western Front. In response Lord Kitchener decided to create companies of technically skilled men to facilitate Britain’s retaliation and defence against such methods. John went to France in August 1915 and joined the 188th Special Company; his expertise qualified him well for the task at hand. The Special Companies (only four at this early stage) had a depot and laboratory at Helfaut near St. Omer (France) as well as research facilities in Britain. The first British use of poison gas was at the Battle of Loos in September, 1915. Work continued to produce more effective gas masks to protect the soldiers involved. After Sir Douglas Haig became Commander in Chief in December, 1915, he authorised the expansion of the RE Special Companies and a Special Brigade was created; it eventually totalled 208 officers and 5,306 men. John was part of the 5th Battalion in 1917 and by the time of his death in 1918 he was serving in the 3rd Special Company. He had been promoted to Corporal in August 1915, to Sergeant in April 1916 and to Company Sergeant Major in September 1916. John had his last home leave in December, 1917.

By the final year of the war he was an experienced soldier and received two bravery awards: a Belgian Croix de Guerre (London Gazette, 15.4.1918) and the Distinguished Conduct Medal (London Gazette, 21.10.1918). The citation for the latter reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He volunteered on no less than eleven occasions in one month to conduct parties carrying rations and supplies over a very much exposed area that was being heavily shelled by the enemy, to …. emplacements in the front line. The fine example of courage and devotion to duty of this warrant officer had an excellent effect on the NCOs and men of his company.

John Batey was reported missing and wounded on 9 April 1918 near Armentieres. This was the first day of the Battle of Estaires (first stage of the Battle of Lys, 9-29 April), the third phase of the German Spring Offensive, Operation Georgette. The enemy bombardment began on the 7 April and included gas attacks. The Germans launched a massive onslaught with eight divisions against the front from Armentieres to Festubert; they made spectacular gains on 9 April breaking through over nine miles of the line. This day marked the beginning of an agonising period of waiting, hoping and fearing for John’s family. In August they were informed that there was no further news of him in the RE’s records. His death was officially confirmed in October 1918; it was considered that he had died on 9 April. He had served for three years and ninety days.

In early 1921 John’s brother Robert wrote to the military authorities concerning the fact that the family had not yet received the ‘Dead Man’s Penny’ (a plaque issued to commemorate the dead) writing that it caused ‘sorrow and anxiety’ to his mother. The reply explained that the delay in despatching the Plaque was due to the huge number required (over 700,000). John has no known grave but is commemorated on Ploegsteert Memorial (Panel1) with over eleven thousand others, in Berks Cemetery Extension, 12.5 km south of Ypres (now Ieper). He is also remembered by his University as well as by Weybridge, which was briefly his home.

Sources:

J P Batey & Edmund Knecht, ‘A Modification of the Beckmann Apparatus’, Journal of the Chemical Society, 1912 (vol 101), pp. 1185-1189
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long, Long Trail – The Special Companies of the Royal Engineers (poison gas), www.longlongtrail.co.uk
British Army WW1 Service Records, 1914-1920, www.ancestry.co.uk
C N Trueman, ‘The Battle of Lys’, www.historylearningsite.co.uk
Stockport Soldiers Who Died in the Great War, www.stockport1914-1918.co.uk

Sub-Lieutenant John Gerald Barrow

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Sub–Lt J G Barrow, RN
HM Submarine E3
Died, 18.10.1914
Age, 20

Jacob Barrow died in 1890 in his 81st year; his grandson John Gerald Barrow died in 1914 in his 21st year. Much of the grandfather’s earlier years were spent in Bath where his family featured prominently in that city’s life. They were involved in Liberal politics and Jacob took a keen interest in amateur dramatics. This love of the theatre probably brought him into contact with the actress Miss Julia Bennett who was a stalwart of the Theatre Royal, Haymarket in the 1840s.The couple married on 2 September 1848 at St.James’ Church, Westminster, and the following year Julia Barrow performed before Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle.

They moved to America where Julia continued to act; her husband turned to theatre management and leased the Howard Athenaeum Theatre in Boston in 1858.John Gerald’s father, Oscar Theodore was born in Chicago in 1854. His career followed a more conventional path and took him into the Indian Civil Service which explains why John was born in Bombay on 4 March 1894. His parents Oscar and Winifride (nee Reynolds) had married in England in 1888. John was the youngest of four children; he had a brother and two sisters: Reginald, Theodora and Mary. Oscar and his wife returned to Britain on his retirement; in 1911 they were living at Albany House in Byfleet and by the time of John’s death in 1914 had moved to south-west London.

In 1901 John and his sister Mary were living with their maternal grandmother, Helen Reynolds, in Wandsworth. In 1907 he became a naval cadet at Dartmouth: between then and 1914 he served on the armoured cruiser HMS Cumberland, a sea training ship for cadets (on which the future George VI, who became a cadet in January 1911, also trained), HM Lurcher, a battleship, launched in 1912 which at that time was the fastest ship in the Royal Navy (RN), HMS Bellerophon, a dreadnought battleship and finally to the submarine depot ship Maidstone immediately prior to service in HM Submarine E3 from September to October 1914.

E3 was launched on 29 May 1912; she was one of the best submarines the RN had at the start of the First World War. She left Harwich on 16 October 1914 to patrol in the North Sea off the German island of Borkum. On 18 October E3 was spotted on the surface, probably re-charging her batteries, by the German submarine U-27. The look-outs on the British submarine were concentrating on the opposite direction, probably concerned about German destroyers in the area; U-27 fired two G6 torpedoes at a range of about 300 yards. The explosion broke E3 in half and she sank to the bottom. Men were spotted in the water, sadly U-27, fearing that other submarines were nearby dived and broke away. When she returned 30 minutes later there were no survivors to be found. This was the first successful attack of one submarine on another.

John Gerald Barrow’s short life was over. He is commemorated on Portsmouth Naval Memorial, (number 1 panel). The remains of E3 were located in the 1990s; the wreck divers were astounded at the technology available on a submarine built in the early twentieth century and equally impressed by the craftsmanship that had gone into her.

Sources:

John Gerald Barrow’s Service Record, The National Archives, ADM 196/56/98
Marriages, Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, Thursday, 14 September 1848
American Dramatic Items, The Era, Sunday, 23 August 1857
HMS E3, www.harwichanddovercourt.co.uk/submarines-ww1
The Theatres, Illustrated London News, Saturday, 9 September 1848
Dramatic Representations at Windsor Castle, London Evening Standard, Saturday, 6 January 1849

Second Lieutenant Charles Francis Ithell Bethell

Researched and written by Anne Wright

2/Lt C F I Bethell
70th Field Company, Royal Engineers
Killed in action, 22.2.1916
Age, 19

Charles Francis Ithell Bethell was only 19 years old when he was killed in action. He was the only child of Charles Ithell Vychen Bethell and Louisa Bethell (nee Hart Dyke). This was a second marriage for his father who also had one son, Wilfred Philip, with his first wife. Wilfred embarked on a military career which ended prematurely with his death aged just 25 at Pigeon House Fort in Dublin on 25 September 1895. He was a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire Light Infantry. Perhaps his example inspired Charles to pursue a life in the army.

Charles and Wilfred’s father and grandfather were not military men; the former being a solicitor and the latter, in turn, a timber merchant, a business manager, a private secretary and lastly a land agent. Charles Snr became a widower in 1890 and remarried in 1894. Charles Francis Ithell was born in Cobham on 25 January 1897. Emlyn Cottage in Cobham had been his father’s home since at least the late 1880s. Charles Snr died on 12 November 1898. In 1901 Charles, his mother and a governess were at Albany Villas in Hove.

He was educated at Wellington College in Berkshire, followed by the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich; he passed in fourth and achieved a much prized cadetship. He was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant, Royal Engineers on 24 April 1915. He served in France from September 1915 with the 12th (Eastern) Division. They arrived at the Loos front on 29 September, four days after the Battle of Loos began and went into the Hulloch Quarries sector. On 8 October they repelled a heavy German attack and after a brief respite out of the line took over the Hohenzollern Redoubt where they spent a wet and miserable month.

On 19 January 1916 they moved to Busnes (near Bethune) for open warfare training and were then sent back to the Loos trenches (close to Lens) at the Quarries, and by 15 February they were holding the line from here to the Hohenzollern Redoubt. This was an area of underground mine warfare and the division set off explosions on 2 March. In the intervening period Charles was killed. There were many casualties in what were regarded as ‘quiet trench holding’ periods; between December 1915 and January 1916 Charles’ division lost 102 officers and 670 other ranks, killed, wounded or missing. Shell fire or sniper fire was often the cause or as an engineer he could well have met hid death whilst involved in mine warfare.

He was buried at Vermelles British Cemetery (II E 1), 10 km north-west of Lens. Charles had served in France for five months and was one month past his nineteenth birthday when he was killed. His final home address was Goodacre, St. George’s Avenue, Weybridge. Charles’ mother only remained there until 1919.

Sources:

The British Army in the Great War, 1914-1918, The Long, Long Trail – Royal Engineers, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858 -1966, www.ancestry.co.uk
UK, De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour, 1914-1924, www.ancestry.co.uk

Lance Corporal Arthur Richard Bartlett

Researched and written by Anne Wright

L/Cpl A. R. Bartlett
49thCompany, Machine Gunners Corps
43465
Killed in action, 12.4.1918
Age 24

Weybridge was Arthur Richard Bartlett’s home from at least 1911; he had previously lived in Kent. He shared a home with his parents Thomas William and Elizabeth and an aunt, at Eric Villa, Oakdale Road. He was born either in Kingston-upon-Thames or Newington; the Census records of 1901 say the latter and the records of 1911, the former. Arthur had two older brothers, Thomas and William who were with the family in 1901 but not ten years later. His father was a fly proprietor who hired out either public carriages or the lighter single-horse variety. Arthur, a former pupil of St James’ School (Baker Street), was a grocer’s assistant.

He enlisted in Kingston-upon-Thames and was in the East Surrey Regiment (2778) before joining the Machine Gun Corps (MGC). His 49th Machine Gun Company was part of the 49th Brigade of the16th (Irish) Division from 29 April 1916. It moved to the newly formed 16th Battalion of the MGC, still in the same Division, on 9 March 1918. The 16th Division arrived in France in December 1915. In the following year they fought at the Battle of the Somme and in 1917 at the Battles of Messines and Langemarck (a phase of the third Battle of Ypres or as it is often known Passchendaele).

In March 1918 Arthur Bartlett and his comrades were caught up in the onslaught that was the German Spring Offensive (Operation Michael) on the Somme designed to divide the British and French forces before the Americans intervened. After launching a momentous bombardment the Germans hurled themselves against the British front line on 21 March and by the 23rd there was a 40 mile breech in the line. The 49th Brigade faced the impact full on. Arthur not only survived this initial attack, the Battle of St. Quentin, but also the Battle of Rosieres (26-27 March). By 5 April, 1085 of the 16th Division had been killed, 3255 wounded and about 1000 were missing; the Division had been annihilated.

Four days later the Germans embarked on the third phase of their offensive with ‘Operation Georgette’ or as it has become known, the Battle of the Lys. The intention was to secure Ypres at last, corner the British and to control the Channel ports. They made a quick breakthrough with both Estaires and Messines Ridge being captured by the 11 April. The desperate fighting of these days is reflected in Field-Marshal Haig’s Special Order of the Day issued on that date:

With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight on to the end.

Arthur Bartlett was killed in action on the 12 April 1918. He was most likely involved in the Battle of Hazebrouck (12-15 April); the enemy was attempting to take this key logistics centre. The Germans had used the tactic of targeting machine gun emplacements at the start of attacks in the spring of 1918; this could explain Arthur’s death. British resistance slowed the attack and the Australian 1st Division finally stopped it 5 miles from Hazebrouck.

He was buried in Wulverghem-Lindenhoek Road Cemetery (V.G.18), 13 km south of Ypres (now Ieper). Arthur was surrounded by the bodies of unknown British soldiers. The inscription on his headstone is as follows:

DEARLY LOVED AND A LIFE LAID NOBLY DOWN

His parents continued to live in Oakdale Road until at least 1934.In August 1918 the Allies launched the general offensive that would lead to victory three months later.

Sources:

The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long Long Trail – The First Battles of the Somme 1918, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long Long Trail – Machine Gun Corps in the First World War, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
Memorial to the Masters and Old Boys of St James’ School, Weybridge. Who Fell in the Great War, 1914-1918, St James’ Church
Surrey, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1962, www.ancestry.co.uk

Captain Arthur Plater Nasmith

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Captain A P Nasmith, DSO
7th Battalion, Borderers Regiment
Killed in action, 23.4.1917
Aged, 35

Arthur Plater Nasmith was the eldest of five children born to Martin Arthur and Caroline (nee Beard) Nasmith. They married on 2 April 1881 at St. Peter’s Church in Levenshulme. By the time of the birth of their first child they had moved to Barnes in Surrey where Arthur was born on 4 March 1882. He was baptised at St. Mary’s Church, Barnes on 6 May 1882. Three sons and a daughter followed: Martin Eric (1883), Sydney (1885), Frances Carrie (1886) and Reginald (1892). The family lived in at least two locations in Barnes, Bridge Road and Castelnau Gardens before moving to Clevehurst in Queens Road, Weybridge where they were established by 1911. Arthur was educated first at a boarding school in Dorking and then at Marlborough College from 1894 to 1899. On leaving school he followed in his father’s footsteps becoming first a stockbroker’s clerk and by 1911 a partner with his father on the London Stock Exchange.

On the outbreak of war Arthur joined the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps and was subsequently posted to the 7th Battalion, Borderers Regiment of the 51st Brigade in the 17th (Eastern) Division. On 19 November 1914 he was promoted to temporary full Lieutenant and a month later to temporary Captain. His battalion arrived at Boulogne on 15 July 1915; they spent their first 8 months holding the line in the southern sector of the Ypres Salient, followed by a short spell in the Armentieres sector before moving to the Somme in 1916 and then on to the Arras theatre.

The Second Battle of Ypres in the spring of 1915 had reduced the size of the Salient to 3 miles and left the Germans in possession of advantageous high ground. Arthur and his comrades spent their time in and out of the trenches engaged in attritional warfare. He returned from 4 days rest at Cassel on 22 September to be involved in an attack at Hooge three days later where despite initial success they lost all the ground they had gained because of intact enemy wire and a shortage of bombs and bombers. This cost them 7 fatalities, 19 wounded and 1 missing. The poor conditions they often lived and fought in also took their toll: October, 30 reported sick; November, 92 reported sick; December, 21 reported sick. On 19 November the water was anything from two feet and six inches to three feet deep.

By mid-June 1916 the 7th Borderers had moved south to the Somme. On the 28th they were in billets at Morlancourt and on 2 July took up positions in front of Fricourt (SE of Albert). They initially had success but were forced back to Fricourt Wood on the 9th by heavy shelling and machine gun fire from Contalmaison which was still in German hands. For the next phase of the Somme Offensive Arthur and his men moved to Delville Wood (near Longueval) on 4 August where they experienced very difficult fighting. The Germans were firmly established around the northern edge of the wood; the Borderers with others were to strengthen and improve the existing line. On the 7th they were ordered to attack without a preparatory barrage. It was 70 yards to the enemy’s front line; they had barely got half way when the attack floundered because of the hail of machine gun and rifle fire which greeted them. During August they suffered 4 fatalities and 111 wounded.

On 1 November Arthur’s battalion went up to the front line east of Montaubon where they found the communication trenches waist high in mud. An immediate reconnaissance, under Arthur’s direction was made of Zenith Trench; it did not seem to be strongly held by the enemy. Brigade HQ decided that a surprise attack was to be launched on this objective at 5.30pm commanded by Arthur. The attack was a complete success; the trench was taken and consolidated. The enemy counter-attacked in small numbers at about 8pm but were repulsed. For his role Arthur was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO):

For conspicuous gallantry in action. He displayed great courage and initiative in organising and leading a successful attack. He set a splendid example throughout.

Arthur was in command of the battalion from 3 January 1917 to 20 February when Lt Col Alexander took over control. Much of March and early April was spent in preparing for the Arras Offensive. The 7th Borderers arrived in Arras on 10 April and were billeted in Museum cellars. The initial attack on 14 April did not involve them but they went into the front line on the 22nd and attacked on the 23rd. This offensive was launched along the whole front. At first the battalion advanced but was then repulsed by heavy machine gun fire. Arthur was among 10 officers listed as missing, but he was later confirmed to be dead. His body was never recovered. He is commemorated on the Arras Memorial (Bay 6) and on the Roll of Honour at Marlborough College.

All four Nasmith brothers served in the First World War: Martin was in the Royal Navy and won the Victoria Cross, ending his career as an Admiral and his life as Admiral Sir Martin Dunbar-Nasmith; Sydney served in India; Reginald attained the rank of Major in the Highland Light Infantry and was awarded a Military Cross. The family home remained in Weybridge; their mother died in 1912 and their father in 1920. Both funerals were held at St. James’ Church.

Sources:

Robert Bulford Family Tree, www.ancestry.co.uk
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, 1973-1993, www.ancestry.co.uk
DSO Citation, The London Gazette, 9 January, 1917, p.454, www.thegazette.co.uk
Manchester, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1930, www.ancestry.co.uk
Marlborough College Roll of Honour, http://archive.marlboroughcollege.org/
Surrey, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Church of England Burials, 1813-1987, www.ancestry.co.uk

Private Victor Octavius Brown

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Pte V O Brown
244th Supply Company (Mechanical Transport),
Royal Army Service Corps

S4/056827
Died, 2.7.1915
Age, 28

Like his father and seven siblings Victor Octavius Brown was born in Weybridge. As his second name indicates he was the youngest member of the family of which six boys survived. Victor was born on 22 March 1887 and baptised at St. James’ Church on 16 April 1887. His parents had married in the same church on 28 April 1870; Stephen Brown who was twenty-five married nineteen year old Anna Sparrow, a native of Suffolk. Stephen was a plumber at the time but by 1881 he was a builder who employed fifteen men and two boys. His father, Benjamin, had been a grocer and Anna’s father, Robert, a domestic coachman.

The family resided on Monument Hill in 1881 but by 1891 had moved to ‘Pyrcroft Valley’ in Station Road. By 1911 Victor and four of his brothers still lived with their parents in the same ten room house in Station Road where two servants were employed. A former pupil of St James’ School (Baker Street), he had now started to earn his living as a house painter. His favourite pastime was cricket and he put on many fine stands on Weybridge Common. In his younger years he was also a devotee of football playing left-half in many Weybridge teams and for one season he represented Chertsey.

Victor’s 244th Supply Company (MT), was formed in January 1915 by Major Gordon Watney of the South Lodge Motor Factory which was close to Brooklands. Major Watney had been appointed by the War Office to form a Mechanical Transport Supply Column in the Army Service Corps (ASC). He enrolled over 250 men into ‘Watney’s Lot’ and used part of his factory for drilling the recruits. Gordon Watney was a keen motor racer and often entered events at Brooklands. By 1917 his business had been turned over to the war effort as Aeronautical and General Engineers, contractors to HM War Office.

Watney’s Lot were part of the 29th Division; it was originally intended that the 29th would go to France but because of pressure to launch a ground attack in Gallipoli (Turkey) to try to drive the Turks out of the war they were deployed there. Victor and his comrades embarked from Avonmouth between 16–22 March 1915. They travelled via Malta to Alexandria (ASC Supply Base) from where some units set sail on 7 April for Mudros, a deep water port on Imbros (Lemnos) which was to be the forward base for the operations on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The 29th Division landed on ‘W’ beach at Cape Helles under Turkish machine gun fire on 25 April. Victor was no longer with them; he had succumbed to illness and died on a hospital ship on 2 April.

He is commemorated on the Chatby Memorial in Chatby War Memorial Cemetery in the eastern part of Alexandria, Egypt along with over 900 others whose only grave is the sea. He was the first casualty of Watney’s men. His family continued to live in Weybridge; his father died in 1917 and his mother in 1922.

Sources:

The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long, Long Trail – 29th Division, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
Gosling, Betty ‘Henry Robert Stanley’, www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/henry-robert-stanley/
1918, Kelly’s Directory for Surrey, www.ancestry.co.uk
Memorial to the Masters and Old Boys of St James’ School, Weybridge, Who Fell in the Great War 1914-1918, St James’ Church
Surrey, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1937, www.ancestry.co.uk
Gordon Watney – Motorcar Rebuilder, Coachbuilder and Dealer, (November 20, 2014), www.theoldmotor.com/?p=132967