Bewdley ‘Pals’: Two Machine Gunners and the Battle of Ovillers

Private ‘Titch’ (Percy Whittington) CARTER
22561 Formerly 1889 Worcestershire Regiment

Lance Corporal George William INSULL
22557 formerly 1885 Worcestershire Regiment


144th Company Machine Gun Corps
killed in action Monday 18th July 1916

Percy Carter is one of the best-documented casualties of the Great War, commemorated on the St Anne’s memorial. He is also one of the only casualties to die in the company of another: both Percy Carter and George Insull died as a result of German shelling at their post manning a machine gun on the Somme in 1916. George Insull is yet another of a pair of brothers commemorated on the Bewdley memorial. Their stories have been presented side by side.

Percy Whittington Carter was born on the 12th September 1896, one of nine children born to John William Carter, a farmer’s labourer / tanner (born in 1871), and Leah Carter, formerly Baker born in 1870. John Carter was nicknamed ‘Titch’, and worked at the tannery on Severn Side South. He was a great fisherman and knew and loved the Severn well. The family home was at Court 1, 4 Lax Lane. The Carters were also a musical family: Leah Carter played the piano by ear, and Percy went on to become a chorister at St Leonard’s Church at Ribbesford. The church was often packed to hear him sing, and he also played the mouth organ with skill. As well as his musical skills, Percy inherited the nickname ‘Titch’, and it was by this name he was known in the Army. By 1911, on the eve of the Great War ‘Titch’ carter was working as a brass worker.

carter family

The Carter family with Percy standing in uniform

George William Insull was born on the 1st January 1896, the son of Rose and John Insull. The family lived in 32 Welch Gate, next door to John’s widowed mother Elizabeth. John was a tinsmith by trade, and by the time of the 1911 census, George was working as an errand boy.

At the outbreak of the war, Titch and George, like Corporal Del Barnfield, (see above), served with the 1/7th Worcestershire Regiment, a territorial unit. This battalion entered service in France on 31st March 1915, as part of the Gloucester and Worcester Brigade, South Midland Division. The formation became 144th Brigade, 48th (South Midland) Division. The division mobilised in August 1914 around Chelmsford, Essex throughout winter of 1914/1915. On the last day of March 1915, they began their journey to front arriving at Boulogne from Folkestone on 1st April 1915.

At the beginning of 1916, due to the realisation of the dominance of the machine gun on the battlefields of the Western Front, the machine gun sections of the British Army were completely reorganised, with the machine gunners forming an entirely different unit, the Machine Gun Corps. The machine gun sections of the 1/4th and 1/6th Gloucesters, and 1/7th and 1/8th Worcesters, of 144th Brigade, united on 23rd January 1916 to form 144th Brigade Machine Gun Company , mobilised at 10am. The detachment from the 1/7th Worcesters included Lt Reginald Southan, Lt EM Thomas and 34 men. Titch Carter and Lance Corporal George Insull both served in Lt Southan’s section, and Percy acted as Reginald Southan’s batman. The company continued to be attached to the 144th Brigade, part of the 48th (1/1st) South Midland Division. Their officer described Carter and Insull’s close friendship as making them like ‘brothers’, and it is somehow fitting that they would share the same fate.

Along with so many of the territorial and 1914 volunteer (or ‘Kitchener’ battalions), the crucible of their service on the Western front was the infamous Somme campaign of
1916. This was the most bloody and largest scale assault of the war so far; newly formed Kitchener battalions, regulars, territorials and troops from all over the then British Empire made the major assault against heavily defended German positions between Albert and Bapaume to the north of the Somme river, in conjunction with French forces in a major strategic campaign designed to wear down the German Army and relieve the pressure on the crucial Verdun sector, where German and French forces had been engaged in bitter attritional battles since February. The Somme has entered popular consciousness more than any other campaign in the Great War, and historical debate still rages around its role in the Allied victory. Its severity can be seen in the St Anne’s memorial where the Somme battles claimed the lives of no less than twelve of the seventy-five men recorded on the memorial.

On the 16th July 1916, the 144th Brigade and their machine gun company were involved in the final capture of the remains of the village of Ovillers along with 74th Brigade and the 1st/5th Royal Warwickshire Regiment of 143rd Brigade.

ovilliers trench map

The company began their advance 4.30pm with the 1/7th Worcesters. Lt. Thomas was in command with number 13 and 14 guns moving to support the left flank. Lt Hannie’s guns supported the right flank. 3 guns of ‘C’ Section under 2nd Lt Oakfield formed a reserve, and at 8.30pm 2Lt Oakfield moved forward with numbers 10 and 12 guns to support the centre. Number 12 gun was the gun commanded by Lance Corporal George Insull and manned by Privates Carter and Hannon.

On the 17th July 144th Brigade took 300 yards of the original German front line north of Ovillers, and by the 18th July they had moved up to communication trenches north of the village. It was on the night of the 17th July that number 12 gun

german ovilliers map
A German map of the Battle

was buried by shell fire. Two German 5.9 shells hit the gun’s position at ‘Crucifix Corner’, a road junction with roads leading north towards Thiepval, east to Ovillers, south-east to La Boiselle, and south and west towards Albert. The crew of number 12 gun were killed, wounded or buried. The company war diary describes how Sgt Toombs of the 1/7th Worcesters (later MGC no 72925) and 2nd Lt Oakfield showed coolness and gallantry especially the former who despite being wounded, and being under intense shell fire, returned afterwards to dig out the gun. (Toombs was awarded the DCM: Stacke p.178).


hannon crop
James Harold Hannon

The casualties were: ‘Killed 22557 Lance Corporal Insull, 22301 Pte Hannon J, 22561 Pte Carter P. Wounded 11316 Pte Booth. Shell shock 9815 Pte Windom’ (1)
Lieut. Reginald Southan of the Machine Gun Corps, wrote to the Carter family, and his letter was reproduced in the Kidderminster Shuttle:

‘Dear Mr And Mrs Carter, – I was quite upset to hear of your son’s death, and I beg to offer you my deepest sympathy.
He was one of the best chaps in the world and one of the most popular men in the
company. He was a pal to everybody, brave as a lion, and always ready to run any risk. I am so sorry for you all. As I know how much you loved him, and I assure you that his death affects me as much as if he had been my brother.’ 2nd Lieutenant Southan also wrote to the Insull family: “We all mourn his loss, for he was one of the finest men I had, and not the least of his many good qualities was his constant thought of others – especially of you, of whom he constantly spoke. He has been buried where he fell – next to the remains of the gun”. 3

Also sent to the Carter family, was a poem written by Southan about his servant, describing Titch who was ‘popular with all’:
A fair happy face, a broad bright smile
A whistle, a song, you can hear all the while
A willing lad, always as artful as bold,
No matter if weather be hot, wet or cold.
An order is given, and straight carried out
That all will go smoothly, there is never a doubt.
The buttons all cleaned, the muddy boots brushed,
No matter what’s wanted he’ll never be rushed.
An artful trick here and a joke over there.
A dead straight parting in his well brushed Hair,
A little thing missing – he soon wins another,
Aided by Insull, his inseparable brother.
No matter what trophies his boss may obtain,
They are all polished up and bright once again,
A clean shirt is wanted, its there on the spot,
A shave perhaps is needed, the waters there hot.
No matter what order, it always is done,
In a manner which causes a great deal of fun.
Just build up these trifles without any hitch,
And the good fellow formed is my servant named TITCH.4

Percy Carter and George Insull have no known graves, and are both commemorated
on the Thiepval Memorial, Pier and Face 5C and 12C. Percy Carter’s brother Harold also served with the Worcestershire regiment and survived the war. George Insull’s younger brother Jack served with the Royal Berkshire Regiment and died on the last day of the war. (See below) Their brother Charles Insull served with the 10th battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment, but was wounded and survived the war.

1 This was Private James Harold Hannon (40128, formerly 2419 Worcestershire Regiment) aged 22, the son of James and Alice Hannon, of 3, Crowther St., Kidderminster. Harold Hannon was a painter and decorator, who worked with his uncle George Bromley in New Road, Kidderminster. He also has no known grave and is commemorated with his comrades on pier and face 5 C and 12 C of the Thiepval Memorial.

2 Kidderminster Shuttle August 5th, 1916 p.7

3 Kidderminster Shuttle July 29th, 1916 p. 7

4 I am indebted to Lorna Chapman for this information.


The Daily Mirror ‘missing’ list: Pte. Percival Richard Horton, 1st Bn. Gloucestershire Regiment

D Mirror Glos Horton

Percival Richard Horton 1894 – 1916

Percy Horton was born in Agricola, Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Canada on the 1st January 1894. He was the youngest son of Frank Isaac Horton, a gardener’s assistant, who was born in 1862 in East London, and Clara Ellen Hobson (1864-1930) born to an army family in the North West of India.

Percy had at least two siblings, Grace born 1888, and Allen 1890. The family moved to Canada in 1892 and were farming near Edmonton in the 1901 census. By 1911, the family had returned to Britain and were living at 31, Rooksgrove, Kingscourt, Rodborough near Stroud, where 17-year-old Percy is an ‘apprentice’. His service number 9689 suggests he joined the regular army’s 1st Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment in August 1912.

At the coming of war in August 1914, the 1st Battalion were stationed at Bordon in Hampshire. As part of the BEF, they arrived at Le Havre on the 13th August 1914, part of 3rd Brigade in 1st Division.

Horton was killed in action at High Wood on 8th September 1916:

Explore georeferenced maps - Map images - National Library of Scotland.clipular
German Trench lines 3rd September 1916

“The troops ordered to secure the western half of High Wood on 8th September were the 1st Gloucester and the 2nd Welsh of 1st Division’s 3rd Brigade. Two companies of the 2nd Welsh advanced up its left-hand side at 6 p.m. while, further to the left, the 1st Gloucester attacked the wood’s south-western face. Helping both battalions were two companies of the 9th Black Watch from 15th Division who assaulted a trench that ran from the western corner. After a short fight, the 2nd Welsh company nearest to the centre of the wood gained its objective, but the other company was checked by fire. As for the 1st Gloucesters, it was a disaster. Weak in numbers even before the attack, they had to winkle the enemy from wired shell holes at bayonet point. Isolated with no chance of being reinforced and reduced to three officers and 96 men, they withdrew to their original line after dark.“


Norman, Terry. The Hell They Called High Wood: The Somme, 1916. London: W. Kimber, 1984. Print. p.205

Horton was listed missing in the November 4th, 1916 Gloucester Journal, and his photo printed with other Gloucestershire Regiment ‘missing’ in the Daily Mirror of 14th December 1916.

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He seems to have originally been buried where fell, on the site of London Cemetery and Extension, but was later concentrated in Delville Wood Cemetery XIX G 8: his inscription reads “He died for you”. Horton is also commemorated in the Rodborough Church Roll of Honour, and the Canadian Book of Remembrance.



A Wribbenhall officer at La Boisselle: Second Lieutenant George Major Solloway Foster



10th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

Killed in action 3rd July 1916

Foster was born on the 14th March 1888, the sixth child and third son of George Foster (b.1856) and Eleanor Mary Solloway (b. 1862). George Foster began his career as a tea merchant, and the couple was married in 1884. The family was initially resident in Dixon Green, Dudley before moving to Wassell Wood House near Trimpley sometime before the outbreak of war in 1914.

Wassell Wood with the house in the distance


Foster attended Dudley Grammar School and became a chartered accountant for FW Buckle and Co. at 37 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham. At the outbreak of war, he attested on the 21st September 1914, a very early volunteer to the 16th Birmingham City Battalion with the service number 25. He applied for a commission in February 1915 and was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant on the 4th April 1915 (p.3421 7th April 1915)


Bennetts Hill, Birmingham


He arrived in France on the 7th May 1916 and joined the 10th Battalion in their preparations for the offensive on the Somme. The main action of the battalion was to be the capture of La Boisselle, and the regimental history describes a bitter battle:

 “Shortly after 3 a.m. amid the blazing gunfire all around, a warning order was passed along the line. A few minutes later a second order, unheard amidst the din but quickly sensed, rippled down the ranks. The men rose to their feet, and the order was given to advance. The platoons rushed forward, crossed ” No Man’s Land ” and charged the German defences. A fierce fight followed with bomb and bayonet over successive lines of trenches. The companies became confused, control became impossible and the platoons stormed forward as best they could, led by their subalterns and N.C.Os. …In small groups, the Worcestershire platoons fought their way onwards into the ruins of the village. Ten days of intense bombardment had shattered every house, but the enemy had previously constructed deep dugouts and had strengthened the cellars. In those underground strongholds they had survived the bombardment, and now they swarmed up from their cover to meet the attack.

In and around the smashed heaps of masonry which had once been houses, the British platoons fought with enemies who appeared suddenly and unexpectedly from every side. Only by the momentary light of flares and shell bursts was it possible to distinguish friend from foe. The fighting was hand-to-hand or at point-blank range, with bomb, bullet or cold steel. At various points, individual officers established some sort of order for a moment and attempted a systematic destruction of the German defences. Explosive charges previously prepared were brought up and were thrown down such dugouts as were discovered. But the fighting was too involved and the casualties too rapid for any permanent control.

Battalion Headquarters of the 10th Worcestershire had followed the companies forward
across the trenches. The Commanding Officer, Colonel Royston-Piggott, made his way forward with his Adjutant up to a large mine-crater—the crater of the mine which had been fired on July 1st. There he made certain that his Battalion had reached the village. He dictated to his Adjutant a message to be sent back to Brigade reporting the progress. Just as the message was finished, the Colonel was shot through the heart. A few minutes later the Adjutant also was hit and, for a time, Battalion Headquarters ceased to exercise control.

The first light of dawn enabled the fighters in the village to recognise each other with
certainty, and the struggle reached its climax. Most of the defenders had by that time been killed or captured, although a few strong points still held out. Several of the Worcestershire platoons had fought their way right through the village to the more open ground on the far side. That ground was a tangle of broken hedges in a wilderness of shell-holes. Small parties of troops pushed forward in the excitement of victory, shooting, bombing and collecting prisoners…In the village itself, the last brave remnant of the enemy fought on, holding individual posts for several hours. Those posts were gradually isolated, surrounded and reduced. Strong German counter-attacks were made against the village, but a defensive line had been hastily organised on the eastern outskirts of the village and the counter-attacks were withered by machine-guns and musketry. By midday the fighting in the village was over: the last German post had been taken, and reorganisation was in progress.

KT 29 7 16 crop
Kidderminster Times 27th July 1916

The 10th Worcestershire had reason to be proud of their first battle; for the captured position was of immense strength. The dugouts were so deep and of such solid construction that even after the terrific bombardment of the previous week many of them were still undamaged; and the defenders—troops of the German 13th, 23rd, and 110th Reserve Regiments—had fought to the last. The 57th Brigade captured 153 prisoners—nearly all wounded. But the success had been dearly purchased. The Battalion had lost a third of its fighting strength, including the Commanding Officer and Adjutant. The survivors of the Battalion held on throughout the remainder of the day in such cover as they could find or make, and in the evening the supernumerary officers who had been left behind with the Battalion Transport came up and took over command of the companies….”


Private Thomas George Turrall (1885-1964) of the 10th Worcesters won a Victoria Cross in this action.

Foster’s body was recovered and interred near the former British front line. After the war, his body was moved to grave XVI. E. 6 of the nearby Ovillers Military Cemetery. G M S Foster is one of the 61 names on the Dudley Grammar School (now Castle High School) memorial. He is also remembered on his parents’ grave in All Saints’ Churchyard, and the Wribbenhall war memorial.

Stacke, Harry F. M. The Worcestershire Regiment in the Great War. Kidderminster: G.T. Cheshire & Sons, 1928. Print. p.170-1

Kidderminster Times 29th July 1916 p.3

Bennetts Hill photo: © Copyright P L Chadwick and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Wassell Wood © Copyright Row17 and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Postcard Stories: Sub-Lieutenant Benson in Russia


rnas pic rev crop

Captain Edward White Benson 1884-1938

Edward W Benson was born on the 10th October 1884 in Ballymoney, County Antrim, Ireland. He was the ninth of eleven children to Thomas Miller Benson (1851-1921) and Jane Gardner Orr (1853-1941) who married in Lurgan in 1871; Thomas M Benson was a senior clergyman in the Church of Ireland, serving as rector of Ballymoney, and eventually as Archdeacon of Connor. In the 1901 census, the Bensons are resident at the Rectory in Ballymoney, but by 1911, Benson had followed two of his brothers to Canada, where they both farmed.

At the outbreak of war, Benson returned from Canada and enlisted in the Royal Naval Air Service in December 1914: his occupation of ‘chauffeur’ indicates he was one of the Ulstermen recruited by the RNAS Armoured Car Division for their experience as drivers, many with the Unionist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force. His initial rank was as a Petty Officer Mechanic, and he qualified in March 1915 with service number F 2880, and his first ‘ship’ was the RNACD base establishment HMS President II.cap

He first served at Dunkirk in April 1915, which was the RNACD headquarters in Flanders

By the spring of 1916, he was a Chief Petty Officer II with the ‘Russian Armoured Car’ detachment, described by his CO Locker-Lampton, as an ‘admirable man’. From May to September 1916 he served with number 3 squadron, and distinguished himself in the unit’s fighting in Trans-Caucasia especially an engagement in August 1916 – where his 3 pounder gunnery destroyed Turkish magazine; it was probably this action for which he was awarded the Russian Military Cross.

Benson was the first enlisted man of the RNACD to be recommended for a commission, and from October to December 1916 he was in the UK training with the RNVR, being commissioned as Sub-Lieutenant in January 1917, and returning to Russia. The RNACD was now deployed on the new Romanian Front, with Sub-Lieutenant Benson in command of the Heavy Armoured car ‘Mountjoy’ covering a Russian retreat from Dobjura to Braila in an action at the end of January 1917. The RAC were deployed to Austrian Galicia in an increasingly unstable political atmosphere, as Russia began to be effected by revolution. In late July, Benson’s section of two 3-pounders were called to hold the line in trenches facing Brzezany after Russian troops withdrew. Benson again proved his artillery skills, knocking out a machine-gun positioned in a church belfry at a distance of 2000 yards.

Political uncertainty led to the withdrawal of the RAC in August 1917; at beginning of 1918 reconstituted as a brigade of the Army’s Motor Machine Gun Corps: Benson’s service records show how he was promoted full Lieutenant in January 1918, then transferred to the Army MGC in the same month. The former RNACD now redeployed via Mesopotamia to Baku as part of ‘Dunsterforce’, charged with securing the oil-rich Caspian region from Soviet and Turkish occupation.  Benson eventually reached the rank of Captain by the end of the war.

Post-war Benson returned to Canada and by the early 1920s was living at Qualicum Beach, Vancouver. He worked initially for the Government, then for a major timber company. He died in November 1938 in a drowning accident. He was 54.

The British Newspaper Archive - (5)


Perrett, Bryan, and Anthony Lord. The Czar’s British Squadron. London: Kimber, 1981. Print.Czars

Bewdley Men on the Somme II

Lance Corporal George Reginald STYLESstyles KT 11 11 16 p8

16th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment 450

Killed in action Sunday 3rd September 1916

Lance Corporal Styles is one of the four Bewdley men to serve with the Birmingham ‘Pals’ battalions of the 14th, 15th and 16th Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

George Reginald Styles was born in Peterborough, Northamptonshire on the 18th May 1893. He was the son of Bewdley–born George Henry Styles and Martha Ada Styles (formerly Shiers), who was from the Peterborough village of Eye Green. George Henry’s trade was a clothier, and the family lived at 9 Lincoln Road in the city. The couple’s daughter Winifred was born in 1894, but by 1901, the Styles family have returned to Bewdley, and live at 74 Load Street where George Henry is a fruiterer. The couple also have an infant son Herbert, born in 1901. In 1911, George is an apprentice golf equipment manufacturer, and the family home is now 6, Lower Park, Bewdley.

By the time of the outbreak of war in 1914, George Reginald Styles was working as a foreman in Simpsons Seed Merchants in Birmingham.[i] He enlisted in Aston, and his low regimental number is evidence of his being a very early volunteer to the 16th Battalion. His platoon is pictured in the ‘Birmingham Battalions Book of Honour’, where he is a private in 5th platoon under Lieutenant Neville Yardley, part of ‘B’ Company commanded by Captain Grahame Deakin.

Styles served in the same unit as Lance-Corporal Charles Minton (see above), and was killed in action during hand to hand fighting for the seizure of the fortified farmhouse of Falfemont near Guillemont on or around the 3rd September 1916.

On the evening of 31st August 1916, 15th Brigade relieved 13th Brigade in the front line, occupying trenches dug by their comrades in the 15th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. On the 1st September, the 16th Battalion dug assembly trenches in front of the German strong-point of Falfemont Farm in preparation for the imminent attack, designed to seize the spur of Somme countryside that overlooked the German held village of Combles, marked by the site of Leuze (or ‘Lousy’) Wood. In addition to this, on the evening of the 1st September, the 16th Battalion staged a reconnaissance by 2 patrols of 18 men, which succeeded in attracting machine gunfire, wounding the officer in command, Lt. J Hughes, and resulting in 2 men missing.

On the morning of the 2nd September, a British artillery bombardment opened up in preparation for the attack. This attracted German retaliation, and in a day of continual artillery bombardment, the 16th Royal Warwicks suffered 30 casualties, before being relieved in the evening by the 2nd Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers. By 3am in the morning of the 3rd September, they were back in support in Casement Trench.

After the attack on Falfemont Farm by the 14th and 15th Battalions of 13th Brigade, (as described in the entry on JB Smith),  the 16th Battalion were deployed on the evening of the 3rd September, in close support by Angle Wood . On the 4th, the 1st Norfolks renewed the attack, suffering heavily from machine gun fire. A and D companies of the 16th were ordered up to help the Norfolks, moving from shell hole to shell hole under heavy fire. As darkness fell the 16th were digging in on the southeastern edge of the farm, digging trenches or ‘saps’ towards the German positions. On the morning of the 5th September, these saps were used in the final assault on Falfemont Farm which fell after heavy hand to hand fighting. That night, the 16th Royal Warwicks were relieved by troops from the 16th (Irish) Division.[i]

Given the intensity of the fighting, exact dates for the loss of specific soldiers are difficult to establish, with some sources giving a blanket date of the 3rd September 1916 for casualties killed on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th. Between 31st August and 5th September, the 16th lost 61 men killed and 195 wounded.One of these was the 24-year-old George Reginald Styles, who was buried in Delville Wood Cemetery, grave XXV. K 7. he is also commemorated on his parent’s grave in Ribbesford churchyard. [ii]

[i]  Carter pp. 207-8

[i]  Kidderminster Shuttle 14th October 1916 page 8.

[ii]  ‘In loving memory of / George Henry Styles / who died August 7th 1924 / Aged 54 / Resting In Peace / Also George Reginald / Son of the above / killed in the Great War / September 3rd 1916 Aged 23 / Greater love hath no man than this / Also Martha Ada wife of  / George Henry Styles / who fell asleep November 2nd 1935 / aged 67 / until the morning without clouds’. Henry and Martha Styles lived at Rose Villa, Wyre Hill, Bewdley in the mid-1920s.




Bewdley Yeomen at Qatia, 23rd April 1916

Remembering today the officers and men of the Queen’s Own Worcestershire Hussars (Worcestershire Yeomanry) killed in action at Qatia and Oghratina, Egypt, on Sunday 23rd April 1916; including Bewdley men:

Charles BLOUNT 325573 aged 21, born Bayton near Cleobury Mortimer July 1895; lived with his grandparents and mother Mary Elizabeth (1872-1921) and worked as a coal miner.

Edward DOOLITTLE, 325615 born Rock, died in Turkish captivity 15th November 1916, and commemorated in Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery, Iraq

Brothers  Percy HANGLIN 2635 of ‘A’ Squadron, aged 32, husband of Fanny M Hanglin of Mariemont, Far Forest, and Ernest, 325287, who died in  captivity on the 30th April. The Hanglins ran a well known butcher’s business in Bewdley and Kidderminster.

a r crew.jpeg

Alfred Roland CREW 325559 born Wribbenhall, worked for GWR at Bewdley Station and is recorded on their Chester Memorial as ‘AR Crew’ of Bewdley.





The Yeomanry are commemorated on the Jerusalem Memorial in Israel.

dbImage“The action of Qatia was a minor Turkish victory against the British during the First World War. In the aftermath of the first Turkish attack on the Suez Canal, in February 1915, it had been decided to move the British defensive line east into the Sinai. The new position would be based around Qatia (or Katia), and would be connected to the Suez Canal by a new railway. This would allow the British to reduce the number of troops needed to defend the Egypt by allowing one force to block the three main routes across the Sinai. In April 1916, the new position was still being constructed. The 5th Mounted Brigade, with eight squadrons of cavalry (from the Warwickshire Yeomanry, Gloucestershire Hussars and Worcestershire Yeomanry), was in the Qatia area, preparing to attack a Turkish force that had been reported to be to their south east, at Bir el Mageibra. The eight squadrons were split into several groups. One was at Qatia, two at Romani (to the west), two at Oghratina (to the east) and three were preparing for the attack. The Turkish force at Bir el Mageibra was actually a detachment horn a force 3,500 strong, led by the German Kress von Kressenstein. At dawn on 23 April they attacked the two squadrons of the Worcesters at Oghratina, and overwhelmed them in a three hour battle. They then moved on to Qatia, where they attacked and defeated the squadron of the Gloucesters already there and a squadron of Worcesters who came to their aid. The remaining four British squadrons made an attempt to break through to Qatia, but were unable to breakthrough in time. Once Qatia had fallen, the rest of the British force pulled back to the Suez Canal.”

Anti-clockwise from top left: Lt Albert Jaffray Cay, Troopers William Moulder and Raymond Pocock; mobilisation in Worcester, 1914; the officers pictured in the Regimental history.

Preliminary Bibliography for sources on the action at Oghratina and Qatiya, 23rd April 1916

Anglesey, George Charles Henry Victor Paget. A History of the British Cavalry, 1816-1919. Volume 5., Egypt, Palestine and Syria, 1914-1919. London: Leo Cooper, 1994.

A substantial account that places the cavalry operations of Imperial forces in context

Bruce, Anthony. The Last Crusade: The Palestine Campaign in the First World War. London: John Murray, 2002.

Modern popular historical account – clear summary of the Qatiya affair

Buchan, John. The History of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (1678-1918). London: T. Nelson and Sons, ltd, 1925.

Details the defence of Deuidar

The Yeomanry Cavalry of Worcestershire, 1914-1922. Stourbridge [Eng.]: Mark & Moody, 1926.

Outstanding account of the Worcesters’ defence of Oghratina – excellent maps

Davies, Celia. Brian Hatton: A Biography of the Artist (1887-1916). Lavenham: T. Dalton, 1978.

Details the artistic life of one of the Worcesters’ officers – useful for their social context.

Fox, Frank. History of the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Yeomanry, 1898-1922: The Great Cavalry Campaign in Palestine. London: Allan, 1923.

Another excellent account with many details of the fighting.

Gullett, H. S. (Henry Somer), 1878-1940. The Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, 1914-1918: 1914-1918. Official history of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, v. 7. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1939.

Kress von Kressenstein, Friedrich. War in the Desert. [Washington]: Historical Section, the Army War College, 1936.

Details of the attack from the perspective of the German commander of the Turkish force: a cursory reference.

Lambert, Angela. Unquiet Souls: The Indian Summer of the British Aristocracy, 1880-1918. London: Macmillan, 1984.

Some more social context on the Yeomanry officers especially Lord Elcho of the Gloucesters.

MacMunn, George Fletcher, and Cyril Falls. Military Operations, Egypt and Palestine: From the Outbreak of the War with Germany to June 1917. London: H.M. Stationary Office, 1928.

Sheffy, Yigal. British Military Intelligence in the Palestine Campaign, 1914-1918. Cass series–studies in intelligence. London: F. Cass, 1998.

Brief coverage of the action but superlative on intelligence background and photo reconnaissance.

 Teichmann, O. Diary of a Yeomanry Medical Officer: Egypt, Gallipoli, Palestine and Italy. [S.l.]: Naval And Military Press, 2002. originally Unwin  1921

Medical officer who was wounded at Gallipoli and missed Qatiya fighting – but good detail of the reconstruction of the Yeomanry brigade and later actions.

Thompson, R. R., and J. B. Ramsey. The Fifty-second Lowland Division, 1914-1918 ; Thompson, R.R., Lt.-Col. ; Maps and plans compiled from official sources and drawn by Captain J.B. Ramsey. Glasgow: Maclehose, Jackson, 1923.

Much more focused account of the Deuidar fighting.



A Brief Account of the Service in the Great War of Samuel George Brealy 1898 – 1985

Samuel George Brealy was born in Willesden, London on the 18 April 1898. He was the son of Frederick John Brealy (1865 – 1932) who was originally born in the village of Bow Zealmonchorum northeast of Okehampton in Devon; Samuel’s mother was a Londoner, born in Marylebone: Eliza Ellen Henson (1869-1933) married Frederick Brealy on the 8th September 1889, at St. Saviour’s church Paddington. Samuel appears to have been named after his maternal grandfather, Samuel George Henson.

st saviourwd

By the census in the spring of 1901, the Brealy family are living at 64 Pine Road Willesden. Frederick senior (born ‘Devonshire’) is listed as a ‘plasterer’ by profession; eldest son Frederick Brealey      is 11 years old, and was born in Kilburn; Thirza Brealey (named after her paternal grandmother Thirza Clement) is 8, born in Paddington in 1893; Samuel is 2, and George, born in Cricklewood in 1900, is 1.

64 Pine Rd.jpg

Ten years later, in the census of 1911, Eliza Brealy gives her place of birth as ‘Kilburn’. More importantly for the family as a whole, Frederick senior’s trade is now given as ‘house builder’ and his status as ‘employer’. Frederick has followed his father into the trade as a plasterer, and Thirza is employed as a dressmaker, and Samuel and George are schoolboys aged 12 and 11. The family still reside at 64, Pine Road, which is described as having six rooms. The Brealy family typify the industrious and respectable Edwardian middle class.

Samuel would have been sixteen at the outbreak of war in 1914, and he would have turned eighteen in April 1916. The first indication of his military service is his enlistment in the third OTC battalion of the 28th (City of London) Battalion or ‘Artist’s Rifles’, which he joined in late October 1916 with the service number 763020. The unique status of the Artist’s Rifles is described as being:

“…a popular unit for volunteers. It had been increased to twelve companies in 1900 and was formed into three sub-battalions in 1914, and recruitment was eventually restricted by recommendation from existing members of the battalion. It particularly attracted recruits from public schools and universities; on this basis, following the outbreak of the First World War, a number of enlisted members of The Artists Rifles were selected to be officers in other units of the 7th Division. [1] This exercise was so successful that, early in 1915, selected Artists officers and NCOs were transferred to run a separate Officers Training Corps, the remainder being retained as a fighting unit.”[1]

Samuel was granted his commission as an officer, with the rank of second lieutenant, on the 28th March 1917. The regiment in which he initially served is unclear, but appears to have been the Machine Gun Corps. He is more significantly listed as attached to the 6th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. This was a ‘Special Reserve’ battalion, based at home, training and supplying reinforcements to the many other battalions of this famous regiment. Wartime officers were often commissioned into battalions such as the 6th, and then were theoretically attached to another battalion of the same regiment once they had arrived overseas.

Commissioned in March, Samuel George Brealy joined the 12th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, then billeted north of Steenvoorde, a rear area to the west of Ypres:


The 12th Royal Fusiliers were a ‘service’ or ‘Kitchener’ battalion of wartime volunteers. However, by the summer of 1917, they were part of the 17th Brigade of 24th Division, and had seen extensive fighting in the Battle of Loos, at Delville Wood and Guillemont during the Battle of the Somme, and at Vimy Ridge during April 1917. The rest period behind the lines was short lived, and the 12/RF returned to the trenches and the realities of the Western Front on the 7th June; at Dammstrasse near Hiele Farm positions taken by 8th Battalion The Buffs, several officers were killed and wounded by a shell on their dugout.

The First Day of the Third Battle of Ypres

The 12th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, (17th Brigade, 24th Division) formed part of the II Corps of Fifth Army; it was this Corps that made the main British effort the Gheluvelt Plateau, on the southern flank of the Fifth Army. II Corps had the most difficult task, advancing against the principal German defensive concentration of artillery, ground-holding and Eingreif divisions.[2] The 24th Division was to form a defensive flank, and it attacked with three Brigades at 3.50am, which was intended to coincide with dawn but low cloud meant that it was still dark.

The 17th Brigade’s 1st Royal Fusiliers reached the first objective or ‘Blue Line’ and joined with the adjoining 73rd Brigade in attacking Lower Star Post. The 12th Royal Fusiliers passed through the 1st and carried on towards the next objective or ‘Black Line’, where they came under fire from a strongpoint on the left flank and from Tower Hamlets. The 12th reached to within about 200 yards of the Bassevillebeek but was forced to withdraw to 300 yards short of the blue line. The 3rd Rifle Brigade helped them to consolidate.  The 17th Brigade had reached its objective 1,000 yards (910 m) east of Klein Zillebeke.

The rest of 73rd Brigade attacked through Shrewsbury Forest with 7th Northants and 2nd Leinsters. They were held up by fighting in the Forest but reached Jehovah Trench. The advance continued taking Gruoenenburg Farm and captured the flooded trenches at Jordan Trench, but was stopped by the pillboxes at Lower Star Point. The enemy held out all day, preventing any further advance. 73rd Brigade fell back and dug in front of Jordan Trench. The 72nd Brigade on the left reached the Bassevillebeek but then had to withdraw to a line south from Bodmin Copse, a few hundred yards short of the blue line (first objective).


Figure 3: 24th Division Operations 31st July 1917


The 12th Battalion War Diary, the official record of a unit’s day to day activities gives a fuller account of the impact of a full attack against a prepared enemy:

Print map.clipular (1) Figure 4: Zillebeke and 24th Division Rear Area – 31st July 1917

hj cox
HJ Cox


Monday 30 July 1917 [RUM TRENCH, HALIFAX ST (left) HALIFAX ST (right) THE BELT, CANADA ST TUNNELS] Fine.

The Battalion moved from MICMAC CAMP SOUTH at 9.00 a.m. in the following order HQ, Numbers 1,2,3, & 4 Companies to G.H.Q. 2nd Line and were reported to be all in at 10.45a.m. The advance party moved up to the assembly positions at 3.30 p.m., 1 officer 4 OR per Coy. The Battalion moved from GHQ 2nd Line up to assembly positions at 5.30 p.m., in the following order. HQ Numbers 1, 2, 3 & 4 Companies, five minutes intervals between each platoon. Assembly points were reached by 11.0p.m.No.1 Coy in RUM TRENCH. No. 2 Coy in HALIFAX ST (left) No. 3 Coy in HALIFAX ST (right) No. 4 Coy in THE BELT. Battalion HQ were in CANADA ST TUNNELS. 2/Lt PATMAN [3] and 2 ORs were killed and 2/Lt CAMPBELL and 3 ORs were wounded in assembly positions.


Orders were received at 1.45 a.m. that zero hour would be at 3.50 a.m. At 3.00a.m. leading Companies Numbers 1, 2 and 3 Companies were formed up 200 yds. in rear of the 1st Roy Fus in Artillery formation. No. 4 Coy 200 yds in rear of No. 1 Coy in the same formation. No.1 Coy on left, No. 2 Coy in centre, and No. 3 Coy on right. No.1 Companies’ left resting on ST PETERS ST & No. 3 Coy’s right resting on “F” SAP. Companies remained in these positions until Zero plus five minutes, when they advanced to the attack. 2/Lt C. GILL [4] was killed at

E Cohen
E Cohen

the jumping off place. The Battalion advanced about 200 yds in rear of 1st Royal Fus, to JEFFERY AVENUE, where they were held up by strong points at J19c.90.10, and in wood between J25b.05.80 and J19c.90.15, & strong point at J25b.15.91 (Capt. H.J. COX[5], Capt. H.D. DOUDNEY[6], 2/Lt W.F. COOPER[7], Lt A.J. WALEY[8] were killed, and Capt. F.C. DAY [9], 2/Lt E. COHEN [10] (mortally), were wounded from these points).



bodmin lower starFigure 7: Final positions: Night, 31st July/1st August 1917

4.10 a.m. Lt MARTIN with the signallers advanced at this time & Lt H. MARTIN[11] was killed on the way up). These strong points were cleared up by the 1st Royal Fusiliers & the 12th Royal Fusiliers passed through the 1st Royal Fusiliers at 4.15 a.m. in JEFFERY AVENUE & were again held up by strong points at J19d.20.60. This point was cleared by No. 3 Coy, & the advance continued through BODMIN COPSE to the forward edge of this COPSE, but could not advance any farther owing to heavy machine gun and rifle fire & a line was established from J19d.56.90, J19d.48.85 thence to J19d.50.67, & J19d.40.38, the south east side of BODMIN COPSE. A block was built in trench at J19d.6?[1?].95 (LT. N P MUSSBAUM, was wounded here). Companies re-organised in this line and Capt. GIBSON took over command of the position. The final dispositions were: Numbers 1 and 2 Companies on Left holding trench from J19d.56.90 to J19d.50.96. No. 3 Coy in Centre from J19d.50.76 to J19d .47.54 No. 4 Coy on Right from J19d.47.54 to J19d.48.33 then South East edge of BODMIN COPSE. The Battalion was in touch with the 2nd Yorkshire Regt on Left & the 3rd Rifle Brigade on Right.

5.30 a.m. [CANADA ST TUNNELS, ILIAD RESERVE] Battalion Head Quarters moved from CANADA ST TUNNELS at 5.30 a.m. to J19c.50.12, but Colonel H.M. HOPE-JOHNSTONE [12]

H M Hope-Johnstone (with thanks to Cheltenham College)

was mortally wounded on the way up. Capt. A. SIMKINS took over command of the Battalion. Battalion Headquarters moved again owing to heavy artillery fire & were finally established at J25a.60.90 in ILIAD RESERVE. This position was subjected to a heavy bombardment & was situated in a very dangerous position. Several messages had been sent from Coy Commanders to Battalion Head Quarters but never reached owing to the runners having been killed or wounded.


10.00 p.m. It started to rain heavily about 10.15p.m., & made the ground very soggy & hard to cross. The Battalion remained in this position being subjected to heavy rifle & machine gun fire.

11.00 p.m. At about 11.00 PM, two companies of the 2nd Yorks Regt came up & relieved the 12th Royal Fusiliers in this position. The trench was handed over, & the 12th Royal Fusiliers moved back to CANADA ST TUNNELS, Battalion Head Quarters remained in the same position in ILIAD RESERVE.[13]

SG Brealy, while not mentioned directly in the War Diary, evidently played a key role in themed-mc attack as his MC citation makes clear:

“While E. of YPRES, 3ist July, 1917. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty whilst acting as Liaison Officer. He showed the greatest courage and initiative in obtaining valuable information under intense machine-gun and shell fire. It was owing to his gallantry and dash that the leading battalions were kept in touch with one another, and thus greatly contributed to the success of the operation.”


The 12th Royal Fusiliers suffered the ignominious fate of being disbanded in February 1918 to provide reinforcements for other depleted battalions. SG Brealy seems to have transferred to the Machine Gun Corps as the August 1918 Army List shows him as a temporary Second Lieutenant in the MGC. The London Gazette gives a date of 28th September 1918 for his promotion to full lieutenant: “2nd Lt SG Brealy MC to be Lt”.

Brealy also served in the Second World War, serving as a Lieutenant in the 4th Canterbury (St Augustine) Battalion of the Home Guard., and by 1st February 1941 as a member of the Kent TA Association. The London Gazette of the 25th November 1942 records his commission as a Second Lieutenant for service with the Army Cadet Force (Kent Command) of the Regular Army. [14] He survived both conflicts, dying in 1985, after a full and successful life.


Figure 9: The Menin Gate at Ypres, where many of the dead of the 31st July are commemorated

rf badge


[1] Over fifteen thousand men passed through the battalion during the war, more than ten thousand of them becoming officers. The battalion eventually saw battle in France in 1917 and 1918. Casualties suffered by both members of this battalion and amongst officers who had trained with The Artists Rifles before being posted to other regiments were 2,003 killed, 3,250 wounded, 533 missing and 286 prisoners of war. Members of the Regiment won eight Victoria Crosses (though none did so while serving with the Regiment), fifty-six Distinguished Service Orders and over a thousand other awards for gallantry.

[2] These were German Army divisions specially trained to counter attack and retake captured positions.

[3] 2nd Lieutenant Harold George Patman was from Acton, and was formerly a Private in the Royal Regiment of Cavalry, and had been commissioned into the Royal Fusiliers in April 1917. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial at Ypres.

[4]  2nd Lt. Colin Gill was born in 1892, the son of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Gill, of Clapham, London. He was formerly of Antofagasta, Chile and had served as a Private with the Honourable Artillery Company since August 1915. Gill was commissioned in December 1916. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate.

[5] Captain Henry Jack Cox was 28, born at Upper Norwood, London, the son of Charles William and Eliza Maunder Cox, of The Cot, Glen Avenue, Herne Bay, Kent. Originally buried near the battlefield, his grave was moved post war to the Hooge Crater Cemetery, grave IX. L. 1.He was a former pupil of Alleyn’s School, whose school magazine records how Cox ‘…returned from the Argentine in Dec, 1914, and obtained a commission. After nearly 2 yrs’ fighting in France, he was shot through the head by a German sniper.’

[6] Captain Hugh Densham Doudney was born in 1884, the son of Edwin Doudney, M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., and Ada Doudney, of 4B, Oxford and Cambridge Mansions, Marylebone Rd., London. He was a medical student at Edinburgh University from 1903-09, and specialised in mental illness, working at the Kent Mental Hospital in Maidstone. He initially served from May 1915 as a private in King Edwards’ Horse, before being commissioned in the 12th RF in March 1916. He had been wounded on two previous occasions, seems to have commanded ‘A’ Company.

[7] 2nd Lieutenant William Holds Cooper was born in 1891. Son of Alfred and Elizabeth Cooper, of 65, Barkston Gardens, South Kensington, London  Grave Reference: IX. L. 18.:Hooge Crater Cemetery Bookham War Memorials – St Nicolas’ Church

[8] Lieutenant Aubrey John Simon Waley was the son of Major JD Waley, of St. Johns’ Wood who also served in the 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. Lieutenant Waley had served in France since September 1915. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres.

[9] Captain Frederick Charles Day was the son of Mrs. Emily A. Day, of 42, Fladgate Rd., Leytonstone, London. Commemorated on the Menin Gate and Leytonstone War Memorial. First served as a sergeant in the Wiltshire Regiment before being commissioned into the East Yorkshire Regiment in April 1915.

[10] 2nd Lt Edward Cohen MC was born in 1895, at Hackney, the son of Dutch-born school master Maurice and Sara Cohen (née Alexander), of London. At the time of the 1911 Census, the Cohen family were residing at 65 St Thomas Street. In August, he was awarded a posthumous Military Cross, the citation for which read: “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He led his platoon with great determination and skill, under heavy machine-gun fire, against enemy dug-outs, which he successfully bombed, taking prisoners and capturing the machine gun. He has previously done very fine work.”

[11]: Lieutenant Harold Martin was born on the 30th November 1892; he was the son of Capt. H. C. Martin, R.N., C.B.E. and Mrs. M. H. Martin, of “Montpellier,” 82, Hermon Hill, Snaresbrook, Essex, and had served in France since October 1915. Martin is commemorated on the Menin Gate

[12] Henry Murray Hope-Johnstone was born on the 31st March 1886 in Esher, Surrey, and was baptised in June at nearby Cobham; He was the son of William James Hope Johnstone and Emily Mary Baillie. He was educated at Cheltenham College, leaving the school in 1902; he was commissioned into the Royal Fusiliers in May 1908, and by 1911, was lieutenant serving with the 2nd Battalion in India. He was wounded while serving with the Battalion at Gallipoli. Twice mentioned in dispatches, (LG 5/8/15; 5/5/16; 13/7/16) he was also awarded an MC in the Edinburgh Gazette of May 1916, while attached to the Egyptian Army. His brother Lieutenant William Gordon Tollemache Hope Johnstone was also killed in 1914 serving with the 4th Battalion RF. His address at time of his death was Brownleigh, Feltham.

[13] Trench Map 28 NW 4 and 28 NE 3 (Zillebeke) covers the area described in the War Diary