Second Lieutenant Ernest Guy Maclean Sturt

Researched and written by Anne Wright

2/Lt E G M Sturt
12th Battalion, Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment), attd. 6th Northamptonshire Regiment
Killed in action, 16.8.1916
Age, 23

When war broke out in 1914 Ernest Guy Maclean Sturt was an engineering student at King’s College, London. He was the second of four children born to Gerald and Mabel Frances (nee Griffith) Sturt who were married in 1888 in Camberwell. Guy, as he was referred to in the 1911 Census, had an older brother, Gerald and two younger sisters, Margaret and Phyllis. The family home in 1891 was at 12, Waldegrave Road in Twickenham; Guy was born on 27 March 1893 in Strawberry Hill, Middlesex. By 1901 they had moved to Lismore in Cavendish Road, Weybridge. However, at the time of the Census that year Guy, his mother and two sisters, plus domestic staff were staying in Margate. His father was a London based solicitor. Guy was educated at Cottesmore School in Brighton and Malvern College before going on to university.

He joined the Public Schools Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment and was awarded his commission in December 1914. His battalion arrived at Le Havre on 26 July 1915. Guy’s first experience of the Western Front was short lived; he was wounded on 26 August during a relief operation in trenches near La Neuville. He did not re-join his battalion until 26 March 1916. In the intervening period they were in and out of the trenches near Meaulte (immediately south of Albert). When Guy returned to duty his unit was at Bray-sur-Somme (8 km south-east of Albert); he was assigned to A Company and they went into the trenches the next day. The battalion was in the same area in May when they were engaged in much heavy work on the Dernacourt to Bray railway line and digging the pipeline from Suzanne (north-east of Bray-sur-Somme) to Maricourt (10.5 km south-east of Albert). Guy was away for part of this time at 18th Divisional school from where he returned on 31 May.

Most of June was taken up by training before the 12th Battalion went into the front line trenches at Carnoy (due east of Meaulte). By the start of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July they were in reserve positions and Guy was not listed among the officers allocated to the various companies. They were ordered into advance positions at 8pm and completed their relief at 1.30am the next morning. Guy re-joined his unit at this location on 5 July and went once again to A Company. He may have been attached to the 6th Northamptonshire Regiment in June. His battalion was relieved on 7 July; they returned to the trenches a week later, this time on the eastern side of Montauban (due east of Albert).

On 14 July Guy and his comrades were faced with their sternest challenge yet; they and the 6th Northamptonshire Regiment in support of the Royal West Kents were tasked with clearing the Germans from Trones Wood (due east of Montauban) and holding the eastern edge as a defensive flank. The Royal West Kents already held part of the wood. Guy’s A Company and D Company had reached the assembly area by 3.30am, they and the Northamptonshire Regiment set out across the open ground to the Wood at 4am. The forward regiment and D Company entered the Wood whilst A Company paused on the near side where they were joined by C Company and reorganised their position and sent out patrols. Trones Wood then came under heavy German shell fire.

The Royal West Kents were not where they were expected to be so the CO of the Middlesex Regiment gathered together all the available men who advanced in a line. They were ordered to fire as they moved forward which made the men feel more secure given the topography of the area. There was little opposition until near the eastern side of the Wood when they came under fire from an enemy machine gun. The CO took 70 men with him and dealt with the threat. Their advance was then able to continue and they were heartened when the Germans began to break close in front of them and fled from the Wood. The Middlesex Regiment and their comrades held Trones Wood under artillery fire until they were relieved on the morning of 17 July. They had achieved their objective, but paid a heavy price: 33 were killed, 219 wounded and 29 reported missing. Guy survived.

The battalion did not return to the trenches again in July and by the end of the month they were in billets near Bailleul (north-east of Arras). On 5 August they moved to billets at Bac-St-Maur; A and B Companies entered the subsidiary line where they remained until 14 August. The next day A and C Companies moved into the front line from where Guy inspected the wire and ground in front of the Salient. He was killed by a sniper’s bullet in the early morning of 16 August.

Guy was laid to rest in Ration Farm Military Cemetery (II.C.3) at La Chappelle-Darmentieres on the south-eastern outskirts of Armentieres. He is also commemorated in King’s College Chapel, University of London. Guy’s mother died in 1913 but his father and sister, Phyllis, continued to live in Cavendish Road until at least 1929. They moved into London and by 1937 lived at 3, Neville Court, Grove End Road in St Marylebone; it was still their home when Gerald Sturt died on 11 July 1947. Phyllis died in 1978 and her older sister Margaret in 1985.

Sources:

British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920, www.ancestry.co.uk
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long, Long Trail – The Battles of the Somme, 1916, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
King’s College London War Memorials, http://www.kingscollections.org/warmemorials/kings-college/
Malvern College First World War Casualties, Sturt’s entry
London, England, Church of England Births & Baptisms, 1813-1917, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1962, www.ancestry.co.uk
Watson Family Tree, www.ancestry.co.uk

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