Researched and written by Anne Wright
Pte R W Borrett
Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment
Killed in action, 21.9.1918
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.
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