Brigadier-General Archie Stewart Buckle – Died 18th August 1916

Archie Buckle

Title: Archie Buckle
Description: Archie as a major. Illustrated London News, 1st September 1916. by-nc

Archie was born in Poona, India on 24th November 1868. He was the only child of Captain Archibald Buckle and Louisa Rode. Although Archie did not live in Banstead, his father was born there, his parents were married at All Saints’ and the Buckle family have a long association with the village, once owning much of the land west of the Brighton Road. They dedicated their family chapel at All Saints’ as a memorial to all the men of Banstead and Burgh Heath who fell in the war.

Archie was educated at Malvern College, Clifton College and the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. He was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in 1888 and began a long career in the Royal Artillery, holding various instructional, supervisory and staff posts in England, India and South Africa as well as fighting in the Sudan campaign of 1898 (where his battery were the first British guns ever to fire high explosive shells in battle and where he narrowly avoided being speared by Baggarah cavalry) and in the Second Boer War (1899-1902).

He married Mildred Northey, daughter of Reverend Edward Northey of Woodcote House, Epsom, at St Martin’s, Epsom, on 20th July 1892. They had a son, Archibald, in 1909, shortly after Archie and Mildred had returned from India, where Archie had been in command of a battery. The family soon moved to South Africa to live in Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town, where Archie (by now a major) was General Staff Officer (2nd Grade) in Cape Colony District. He returned to India and the Royal Field Artillery in 1913.

Archie went to France in command of 19 Battery of the Indian Corps in September 1914 and fought near Givenchy during the autumn. He was wounded in the face and invalided home. When Archie recovered, he was seconded to the newly-formed 19th (Western) Division of Kitchener’s New Army, and helped oversee their training and deployment to France in July 1915. They fought at the northern tip of the battlefield at the Battle of Loos in September 1915. In February 1916, Archie assumed command of XXII Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, and was later made commander of the right group of 7th Division’s artillery.

The group took part in the preliminary bombardment for the Battle of the Somme and supported the successful attack and capture of the village of Mametz on the first day of the Somme. 7th Division’s artillery showed flexibility that was lacking elsewhere on that fateful day and the effective liaison between the commanders on the ground was a big factor in the success of the attack in the south of the British sector. They fought throughout July, bombarding Mametz Wood prior to its capture and then supported 7th Division’s successful attack on Bazentin-le-Petit and Bazentin-le-Grand on 14th July, the opening day of the Battle of Bazentin Ridge. After an opportunity to advance through an abandoned High Wood was missed, Archie’s artillery group would spend the next few days unsuccessfully trying to drive the Germans back out of the wood. They left the line towards the end of the month to rest.

Archie was made temporary brigadier-general and became Commander Royal Artillery, 17th Division, on on 9th August. 17th Division’s artillery were mostly concerned with Delville Wood, which should have been captured on the 14th July but where fighting continued. Archie would have been responsible for seeing that the detailed artillery instructions for XV Corps’ attack on the northeast corner of Delville Wood and the trenches to the east of the wood on 18th August were carried out but he had only been in the job for a few days, just long enough to meet his subordinates and sign a few documents, when he was taken ill. The last orders bearing his signature are dated 13th August.

On 15th August, Archie was admitted to 38th Casualty Clearing Station with suspected cerebrospinal meningitis. Lumbar puncture and bacteriological examination confirmed the diagnosis. Morphine would have been given for the pain and restlessness. Archie should have been transferred to specialist care, where his treatment would have included hourly injections of adrenalin, a nourishing diet, drainage of cerebrospinal fluid and an injection of serum tailored to the type of bacteria that was causing the infection, but he was too ill to be moved. On 18th August 1916, Archie died.

He is buried at Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericout-L’Abbe. Archie’s headstone inscription is “With life will I satisfy him and shew him my salvation. R.I.P.” He is commemorated on the Clifton College Memorial, the Banstead War Memorial, on the panels in the Lady Chapel at All Saints’, on his parents’ grave in All Saints’ churchyard, on the Epsom War Memorial in Ashley Road, at Christ Church, Epsom, on Byfleet War Memorial and in St Mary’s Church, Byfleet.

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