Researched and written by Anne Wright
Pte P Boorer
13th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers
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.
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