Researched and written by Anne Wright
Pte H G Lucas
2nd Battalion, East Surrey Regiment
Killed in action, 8.5.1915
There is some confusion over Pte Lucas’ identity; Surrey Recruitment Registers refer to him as Henry George, but the rest of their details match those of Henry Guy Lucas as do those of the other sources consulted with the exception of UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, which records his regimental number as 2991 instead of 2001, but this could have been transcribed incorrectly.
Henry Guy Lucas was not a native of Weybridge but he became a resident when employed as a gardener on the Brooklands estate owned by Sir Hugh and Lady Ethel Locke King. He was born in Sunninghill, Berkshire in August 1895. Henry’s parents, William Henry and Ellen (nee Abbot) Lucas had married on 1 August 1888 at Easthampstead also in Berkshire. His father was a domestic coachman. The couple had eleven children: Ellen, William, Edith, Louisa, Henry, Arthur, Lucy, John, Jack, Lily and Thomas. By 1911 Henry, then 16 years old was living at the Bothy, Brooklands Gardens, Brooklands with other domestic staff including another three gardeners.
He was swift to enlist doing so on 7 September 1914 in Weybridge. Henry was 19 years and one month old. He stood just over five feet and six inches tall, had a fresh complexion, brown eyes and black hair. He was posted to the 2nd Battalion, East Surrey Regiment which returned from India, disembarking at Devonport, on 23 December 1914. They went to Winchester where they spent a month training and going through the mobilisation process. They disembarked at Le Havre on 19 January 1915. Henry arrived a month later. They had spent their first month training and trench digging and had experienced their initial taste of trench warfare at Ypres. They were probably in billets at Locre when Henry joined them. Much of their fighting over the next three months was in the Ypres salient.
His first exposure to trench warfare was most likely at Lindenhoek; companies of the battalion were in and out of the line between the 4 – 16 March. In that time at least 32 were killed and 42 wounded; a true baptism of fire for Henry. The 2nd East Surreys were soon engulfed by the Second Battle of Ypres (22 April – 25 May) which saw the Germans once again try to take Ypres and use chlorine gas for the first time. Henry and his comrades operated to the east of the city at the heart of the Salient. They were in the trenches at Zonnebeke between 18 – 30 April where they endured very heavy and difficult fighting as the Germans tried to push through to Ypres. Some German attacks were repulsed but others were not and where the enemy got through to British trenches it was very difficult to dislodge them. By 30 April the East Surreys were being bombarded without respite from three sides. On 3 -7 May they were in billets one mile east of Poperinghe. On 8 May they were ordered to the trenches at Frezenberg due west of Zonnebeke. They advanced at 4pm and on reaching the road running south-east from Wieltje came under machine gun fire from their left which caused many casualties; shelling was also severe. Henry was presumed to be among those who were killed. By the end of the battle the Ypres Salient was much reduced: Zonnebeke and Frezenberg were in German hands but Ypres was not taken and would not be.
Henry has no known grave but is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial (Panel 34) at Ypres (now Ieper) and on the Datchet War Memorial. His mother died in 1909 but his father lived through the Second World War dying in 1948.
British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920, www.ancestry.co.uk
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey Recruitment Registers, 1908-1933, www.findmypast.co.uk
Wakeling Family Tree, www.ancestry.co.uk