World War I - Army Casualties 1914 - 1916


NB. The list below is not exhaustive

The First Battle of Ypres

(20 October 1914)

Sergeant Stephen Charles Cox/Cocks, aged 29 and Lance-Corporal Walter James Marsh, aged 22, of the East Kent Regiment (The Buffs) were killed at the time of the first Battle of Ypres on 20 October 1914. Walter Marsh is commemorated on the Northbourne War Memorial, and also the at the Victoria Memorial Hospital, Deal. He has no known grave but is recorded on the Ploegsteert Memorial Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium, which commemorates more than 11,000 servicemen of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in this sector during the First World War and have no known grave. They may not have been involved in the main battle as there were many small skirmishes taking place, often in support of the larger offensive. They were part of the British Expeditionary Force - those who saw service before 22nd November 1914 and were mostly regular soldiers or reservists supporting Belgian and French troops. Known as the "Old Contemptibles"  after Kaiser Wilhelm II referred to "General French's contemptible little army."

Walter J. Marsh

Lance-Corporal Walter James Marsh (see photo left) of the 1st Batt. The Buffs, East Kent Regiment, was the third son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Marsh, Coldharbour, Northbourne, was like his brother, in the employ of Lord Northbourne before joining the Army in November 1911. He was stationed in Dublin for two years and 11 months, and from there went to France in September 1914. He was killed in action in France on 18th October 1914, at the battle of La Pilly.

Prior to September 1914 the German and Allied armies were still fighting a fairly mobile war each racing north to get to the North Sea and try and outflank one another. By 18 September stalemate had set in and the Belgian army had been driven out of Antwerp and became established at Ypres. The British Expeditionary Force, under Sir John French, took over the line from Ypres south to La Bassee in France, from which point the French army continued the line down to the Swiss border.

The First Battle of Ypres began on the 14th October 1914 and the British soldiers fought most of the battle defending hastily entrenched positions. Local counterattacks were often improvised and launched without artillery preparation or support; high explosive shells were in short supply. Trench defences were not firmly established at this stage of the war they were erected quickly and rarely had any stout head cover or real defensive strength.

The battle began with a nine-day German offensive that was only halted with the arrival of French reinforcements and the deliberate flooding of the Belgian front. The concentration of the German forces had been underestimated by Army Intelligence and the German Fourth and Sixth Armies moved to the attack, hoping to eventually drive on to Dunkirk and the channel ports. The British and French soldiers held their ground during the attack. The second phase of the battle saw an allied counter-offensive launched by General Foch on 20th October, a dull rainy misty day (the day Sergeant Stephen Cocks and Lance-Corporal Walter Marsh were killed). Foch's offensive did not succeed and was ended on 28 October.

The German attacks continued on into November but eventually the late autumn weather led to the German attack being called off. It was now becoming clear that well defended positions could not be easily overcome, four years of stalemate had set in. In this early stage of the war British casualties were huge, reported at 58,155, mostly regular soldiers. French casualties were set at around 50,000 and German losses at 130,000.

The death of Sergeant Cocks was reported in the 'Deal Walmer and Sandwich Mercury', 28th November 1914:

We regret to record the death of Sergeant S. Cocks of the 1st Batt. The Buffs. Official intimation of the sad event was only conveyed to Mrs. Cocks, who resides at 3 Western Terrace, Mill Road, Deal, last week, though he was unhappily killed in action on the 20th October. Sergeant Cocks was the second son of Mr. [Charles] Cocks of Ham, Eastry.

His widow later remarried and became A. E. Taylor of 'Newark' Herschell Rd., Lower Walmer.


Reuben Dewell

(8 February 1916)

Reuben J. Dewell

Reuben J. Dewell was 32 years old, the son of William and Susannah Dewell of Finglesham. He was killed on the 8th February 1916 while serving in France with the Royal Garrison Artillery (12th New Heavy Battery) and is buried in a cemetery in the village of Suzanne in the Somme region. His name is commemorated on the War Memorial in St. Augustine's Church, Northbourne, at the Victoria Memorial Hospital, Deal, and also on two gravestones in the churchyard.

This was the second death in the family in two months; Reuben's mother, Susannah Kemp Dewell, aged 68, died on the 7 January 1916. Because he was serving in France he did not attend his mother's funeral.

He was an old boy of Northbourne School. In September 1915 he enlisted with The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) and afterwards transferring to Royal Garrison Artillery, going on active service on 13th December. He left a widow and twin daughters aged 8.

The 'Deal Walmer and Sandwich Mercury' of the 26 February 1916 reports:

Gunner Dewell R.G.A.

The following letter has been received by Mrs Dewell [Mabel Hannah Dewell] of Woodnesborough, from the Battery Commander under whom her husband was serving. Gunner Dewell .... was a native of Finglesham, married [Mabel Amos] the daughter of Mr. W. Amos of Northbourne and was [a gardener] in the employ of Miss Long, of The Grange, Woodnesborough, before enlistment, also a member of the Sandwich Volunteer Corps. Major Bannington wrote:

"Dear Madam, I deeply regret to have to inform you that your husband was killed by a shell that fell on the hut in which he was seated with four other men. It will be a consolation to you to know that his death was instantaneous, and he did not suffer at all. He was a good man and will be a great loss to the Battery. I am very sorry indeed for you and sympathise with you deeply in your great trouble. Your husband was killed at 5pm yesterday and buried today at 3pm. A cross will be put up over his grave in a few days time. If there is anything I can do for you, I hope you will write and tell me - Yours sincerely, J. BANNINGTON (Major)."

Any text within [   ] has been added by myself.

It may seem that these reports in the newspaper were the main signs of the war in France, however this is far from the case; the previous Sunday there had been a German air raid on Walmer which had killed one person and caused considerable damage.

Also see Harold Dewell.


Richard James Fuller

(18 March 1916)

The son of John and Sarah Fuller, of Haynes Farm Shepherdswell. He joined up at the beginning of the war.


Percy James Bartlett

(16 May 1916)

The 'Deal Walmer and Sandwich Mercury' of the 3 June 1916 reports:

Percy J. Bartlett

BOMBDR. P. J. BARTLETT, R. G. A.

Mr. and Mrs. John Bartlett, of 1, South Eastern Terrace, Station Road, Upper Walmer, on Tuesday received information of the loss of their son, Bombdr. Percy James Bartlett, R. G. A., which occurred in France on the evening of the 16th May. Bombdr. Bartlett, who was 32 years of age, had seen nearly 14 years service. Born at Stoneheap, Northbourne, and educated at Northbourne School, he for some years prior to joining the Army was in the employ of Mr. J. H. Monins at Ringwould. For twelve years he served in the R. G. A., spending three years at Dover, and nine in India. On retirement he was employed for two years by Mr. P. Foad, farmer, of Sutton, and at the outbreak of the war was recalled to the colours. He had been serving at the front since September last, being engaged in a Trench mortar Battery.

The 'Deal Walmer and Sandwich Mercury' of the 10 June 1916 reports:

Bombdr. P. J. BARTLETT, R. G. A.

Mrs. Bartlett, of 1, South Eastern Terrace, Upper Walmer, has received from Lieut. Aiken, a letter describing how her son was killed in action on the 16th May, and expressing the sincerest sympathy of the officers and men of his Battery.

"It was about 7.25 in the evening. The Battery had been in action and the men had started back for the dug-out. Your son and Capt. Knight were the last to leave, and were well away from the gun before the Germans started to shell us. Unfortunately about the third shot landed in the trench in which they were walking, and they were both killed instantly. Death came in the most kind and merciful way to your son. He suffered no pain and his expression was most peaceful. His comrades carried him tenderly out of the trenches to a military cemetery some distance behind the lines and he was given a soldier's burial. A chaplain read the service over his grave, and as many of his comrades as could be spared from duty in the trenches attended the service. I was present myself, and I assure you that you would have been proud of the honour done to your brave son. He was a brave and noble soldier, and was beloved by his officers and comrades alike. We all had the greatest admiration for his bravery and coolness in some of the strenuous times we have been through lately. His conduct had been brought to the attention of the Brigade Major, and was marked for promotion and honour. We all felt his loss most keenly. His comrades were quite broken up about it. I always felt the strongest admiration for your son, and have been most proud of the work done by him. His conduct has always been gallant and noble and all honour is due to him. He was buried in a beautiful spot in the chateau grounds of a small village near Arras, which will always be kept up as a military cemetery. He and his brave comrade lie side by side. I will see to it personally that a cross is erected and flowers placed upon the grave."

He was buried at Agny Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, south of the village of Achicourt. His name is commemorated on the War Memorial in St. Augustine's Church, Northbourne, and at the Victoria Memorial Hospital, Deal.


Harold Dewell

(29th September 1916)

The 'Deal Walmer and Sandwich Mercury' of the 11th November 1916 reports:

The sad news has been received by Mr. and Mrs. F. J. Dewell, of Finglesham, that their youngest son, Pte. Harold Dewell, has been killed in action. Pte. Harold Dewell was reported missing on the 29th Sept. last, but Mrs. Dewell has now received the following letter:-

"Dear Madam, - While there was a lull in the attack during our period in the waiting, I was assisting a few wounded mates, when I came across the body of your son, which I buried, and found the enclosed photos with your address on the back. Although the news is painful, I thought that the knowledge that your son was killed while doing his bit, was better than the uncertainty. Expressing my sorrow in your bereavement, I beg to remain, E. A. KEARNS, N. Z. M. G. C."

Pte. Dewell joined the 4th Buffs at Canterbury on Nov. 8th 1915, being transferred to the 19th London Regt. in August, and going almost immediately to France, where he had been serving a little less than a month at the time of his death. He was only 19 years of age in March last, and his cheery personality will be much missed by his friends.

He was born at River, near Dover, and was educated there and at Northbourne School, being afterwards in the employ of Mr. Newing, at Chatten Farm, Finglesham. His elder brother James, was serving in the Loyal North Lancs. Regt. at the outbreak of the war, and went to France with the original expeditionary force, and went through the battle of Mons. Wounded on the 11th September 1914 he was invalided from the Army, and is now a commissionaire in London.

He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France; the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, which commemorates more than 72,000 names of the officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. His name is commemorated on the War Memorial in St. Augustine's Church, Northbourne, and also the at the Victoria Memorial Hospital, Deal.
Also see Reuben Dewell.


Francis Gifford

(29 September 1916)

The 'Deal Walmer and Sandwich Mercury' of the 6th October 1917 reports:

Frank Gifford Official news has now been received by Mr. and Mrs. Gifford, of Finglesham, that there son, Pte. Frank Gifford, 1/19th London Regt., reported missing on the 29th Sept., 1916, has been presumed to have died on that date. Pte. Gifford enlisted in the 2/4th Buffs on the 22nd Nov., 1915, and went to France on the 31st August following, being subsequently transferred to the battalion indicated. His last letter, received on 25th Sept., 1916, stated that he was then quite well and was just moving on. He had only been in the trenches one day when he was reported missing. Pte. Gifford, who was only 20 years of age, was an old boy of Northbourne School and before enlisting drove the milk van for Mr. Steed, Finglesham.

He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France; the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, which commemorates more than 72,000 names of the officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. His name is also commemorated on the War Memorial in St. Augustine's Church, Northbourne, and at the Victoria Memorial Hospital, Deal, and on a gravestone in Northbourne churchyard, not far from the lychgate.

In the memory of
ELIZABETH GIFFORD
who passed to
the better land
April 16th 1915
Aged 29 years
Also of FRANCIS
brother of above
who was missing in France
September 29th 1916
Aged 20 years
.....


Kenneth Struthers

(7th October 1916)

The 'Deal Walmer and Sandwich Mercury' of the 14th November 1916 reports:

Kenneth_Struthers

Killed in action on 7th October 1916, 2nd Lieut. Kenneth Struthers, London Scottish, eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. George Struthers, of Igguldene by Sandwich, and dearly-loved husband of Annie E. Struthers. [14th Bn., London Regt - London Scottish].

His name is commemorated on the War Memorial in St. Augustine's Church, Northbourne and also on the memorial in St. Nicholas' Church Sholden. He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France; the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, which commemorates more than 72,000 names of the officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916.

Aged 29 he was born in London, the son of George and Mary Denning Struthers (née Duncan). They had at least four children: Hilda Margaret Struthers (b. 1885), Kenneth Struthers (b. 1887), Duncan Gordon Struthers (b. 1885), Leslie Graham Struthers (b. 1896).

George and Annie Elsie Struthers lived at 75 Esmond Road, Bedford Park, W.4. They had at least one child: Ian Dixon Struthers (b. 1915). George had previously been an employee of the London and River Plate Bank, Cordoba in Argentina. He left Argentina in December 1915 and arrived in England on 21st January 1916 and was posted to France on 1st July 1916. He was killed at Lesboeufs.


Leonard William Horton

(7th October 1916)

The 'Deal Walmer and Sandwich Mercury' of the 14th November 1916 reports:

Leonard Horton

PTE.  L. W. HORTON

Information has been received that Pte. Leonard William Horton, A. V. C., [Army Veterinary Corps, 15th Vet. Hospital] has died in a military hospital at Salonika[1] from dysentery, at the age of 46. A native of Northbourne, and an old boy of Northbourne School, he was formerly employed at the gas works at Deal and afterwards for nearly 12 years by Messrs. J. Edgar and Co. He enlisted about 10 months ago and before going to Salonika was stationed in Egypt. A brother W.O.  Walter Horton, R. N., was lost in the torpedoing of the Formidable on the 1st January 1915 and another brother is serving in the R. H. A.

Buried in Greece at Salonika (Lembet Road) Military Cemetery. His name is commemorated on the War Memorial in St. Augustine's Church, Northbourne, and also the at the Victoria Memorial Hospital, Deal.


Note
[1] - To deter a German invasion, 150,000 allied troops were promised to Greece and Salonika was a strategically important Greek port on the Aegean coast of Macedonia. The port had a direct railway link to Belgrade in Serbia along which allied aid flowed. The first Anglo-French troops arrived at Salonika on 5th October, 1915 and the area quickly became an entrenched zone similar to the western front in France.

Lewis Gunner

(Lewis Gunner, from Photos of the Great War)

Frank Richards

(7th October 1916)

The 'Deal Walmer and Sandwich Mercury' of the 18th November 1916 reports:

Pte. Frank Richards

PTE. F. RICHARDS

Information has been received by Mr. and Mrs. Richards, of Vine Lodge, Northbourne, of the death in action of their eldest son, Frank, on the 17th* of October. Born at Little Mongeham, he was educated at Northbourne, St. Margaret's and Great Mongeham Schools, and had been employed at Langdon Abbey, Northbourne Court, and as ostler at the Swan Hotel, Deal, where he had been engaged for about three years, and was well-known. From there, on the 6th May 1915, he enlisted in the Buffs, and on the 22nd March last, he went to the front. He had passed a machine-gun course, and at the time of his death, was in charge of a Lewis gun team, and had been selected for promotion. Had he lived to the 1st November, he would have been 24 years of age. He was the eldest of a family of ten, two of whom are now serving, his brother Harry being a 1st class stoker on H. M. S. Dominion, and his brother John in the R. M. L. I.

Son of Henry W. and Harriett Richards, of Vine Lodge. He was buried at Bancourt British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France, east of the village of Bancourt. His name is commemorated on the War Memorial in St. Augustine's Church, Northbourne, and also the at the Victoria Memorial Hospital, Deal.
*CWGC records his death as 7th Oct. 1916. The Deal, Walmer and Sandwich Mercury records the 17th.