Edwin Albert Weller was born in Willesden, Middlesex, in mid-1891. He was the son of Edwin and Elizabeth and had ten brothers and sisters. The Wellers moved to Carshalton when he was a baby and then to Belmont when he was five years old; the family lived at 25 Queens Road. His father worked as a foreman for Sutton Water and Edwin became a plumber’s labourer and fitter for the water company.
In October 1912, Edwin married Jessie Minnie Skelton, the eldest daughter of Charles and Rosa Skelton, at Epsom Registry Office. The Skeltons were originally from Walton-on-the-Hill but moved to 10 Firtree Cottages in Pound Road, Banstead, in the early 1900s. Jessie worked as a general servant in a house called The Gables, which used to stand just off the Brighton Road between Ferndale Road and Lyme Regis Road. She found a new employer and moved to Sunnyside, Benhill Road, Sutton, working as a live-in servant. Edwin and Jessie setup home together at Wyborn Cottage, Grennell Road, Sutton.
On 18th January 1915, Edwin volunteered to serve with the Royal Field Artillery. He probably initially joined ‘D’ Battery of 70 Brigade. The 70th were equipped with 18-pounder field guns and were one of four brigades of the R.F.A. that provided artillery support to 15th (Scottish) Division. The 18-pounder was the British Army’s standard field gun during the war. It was mobile, although usually fired from pre-prepared gun pits, and drawn by a team of six horses. Each gun was manned by a crew of six with another four men keeping it supplied with ammunition. It could fire up to 20 rounds per minute for short periods (more typically 4 shells per minute during the heat of battle or a steady 2-per-minute for most barrages) and had a range of 6,500 yards or nearly 8,000 yards if properly dug in. 70 Brigade consisted of four 4-gun batteries known as ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’, each of which were split into two 2-gun sections, left and right; ‘A’ and ‘D’ made up one section and ‘B’ and ‘C’ formed the other.
They sailed to France in July 1915 and were based in the Mazingarbe/Vermelles area west of Loos. They fought in the Battle of Loos in September, supporting 15th Division’s capture of Loos and their unsuccessful attempt to break the German’s second line. They fired nearly 6,000 shells during the first two days of the battle. Autumn, Winter and Spring were passed in the same area, with both sides engaging in tit-for-tat shelling of the front line, nearby towns and batteries.
A reorganisation which broke up 73 (Howitzer) Brigade and converted it to 18-pounder brigade, saw ‘D’ Battery transferred to 73 Brigade in June 1916, becoming their ‘A’ Battery. They arrived on the Somme battlefield in August and took over guns that were worn out through the constant use that they had seen in the fighting; Edwin’s battery had only one working gun out of four when they first went into action. They had arrived after the capture of a large portion of the German second line during the Battle of Bazentin Ridge and they took part in the struggles to clear the remaining obstacles of High Wood and Delville Wood that must be taken before an advance on the third German defensive system could be made. That advance, the Battle of Flers-Courcellette, came in mid-September and 73 Brigade supported the successful attack of 15th Division on Martinpuich, spearheaded by two tanks. ‘A’ Battery moved forward during the fighting on the morning of the 15th to engage German batteries southeast of Le Sars. The initial advance did not lead to a breakthrough (15th Division’s advance was a rare complete success, even exceeding its objectives) and fighting continued for another week with little further progress.
Returning to the battlefield in early October after a rest, 73 Brigade took part in the fighting at Le Sars and Eaucourt l’Abbaye as the Army tried to advance northwards. Although they usually fired from long range, the guns were mobile and so could be quickly moved to follow up an advance, as they did in late October when the two sections of ‘A’ Battery leapfrogged each other in a move to Prue Copse, outside Flers, just a few hundred yards from enemy lines. Edwin was wounded, probably no later than 28th October, and, on the 31st, he died of his wounds at a casualty clearing station at Dernancourt.
Edwin is buried in Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension. His headstone inscription was chosen by Jessie: “Gone but not forgotten.” He is commemorated on the Banstead War Memorial, on the Garton Memorial in All Saints’ Churchyard and on Sutton War Memorial in Manor Park. He was 25 years old.
Edwin’s younger brother, John, also served as a gunner in ‘A’ Battery of 186 Brigade, R.F.A., and was killed in the war; he died on 5th July 1917, aged 24. John is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetry, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. He has the same headstone inscription as his older brother and is also commemorated on the Sutton War Memorial.
Jessie moved back to Banstead, probably soon after Edwin left for France, lodging with the family living next door to her parents at 9 Firtree Cottages. Three of her brothers are being commemorated as part of Banstead’s World War One remembrance project: Thomas was commemorated in 2015, Alfred will be commemorated in April 2017 and Stanley in 2018.
Edwin was commemorated at All Saints’, Banstead, on the 31st October 2016, the 100th anniversary of his death. The bell was tolled by Ted Bond, a former gunner and Edwin’s nephew by marriage.