Ewhurst History Society

July 1916

 Conscription

Following the introduction of conscription The Surrey Advertiser carried a notice published by the War Office asking for information regarding the whereabouts of the men who have failed to appear for military service. Just one man was listed for Ewhurst, Noel James, who was described as age 25 and single. (However this may have been a mistake as there does not appear to be anyone of this name in the parish,  but the 1911 Census does have a Noel Jones aged 22 listed as living at Holmbury St Mary).

 

The Battle of the Somme

The Somme Offensive was intended as part of a wider offensive mounted by the allied forces consisting of simultaneous attacks on all three fronts. The Russians were to attack on the eastern front, the Italian army would attack from the south and the Franco-British forces would attack on the western front in the valley of the River Somme. The main part of the offensive was to be undertaken by the French, with the British forces supporting to the north, but the German attack at Verdun in February had diverted many of the French divisions, leaving the British Forces to lead the attack.

On 1st July five divisions of French and 13 divisions of British troops commenced the attack. Initially the attack was successful, but at huge cost; the French suffered 1,590 casualties and the Germans around 10 – 12,000 casualties, but the British suffered an unprecedented 57,470 casualties with nearly 20,000 dead. Most of the British casualties occurred near Albert and over the next two weeks the British lost a further 25,000 men.

The Battle of the Somme involved many of the men serving from Ewhurst and Ellen's Green. On the first day of the battle, The 7th Battalion The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment) were in action near the village of Montauban. Serving with them were Sergeant James Dedman and Privates John Scammell and Charles Tudor and. Although the battalion suffered 532 casualties on the first day, they all survived.

In mid July the Battle entered a second stage with attacks at Delville Wood and Poizieres. Another Ewhurst man, Captain Evelyn Webb, serving with the King's Royal Rifle Corps was in action at Poizieres. Evelyn was the son of Walter Webb, Chairman of Ewhurst Parish Council and the family lived at Malquoits. On the 23rd July Evelyn led his men in an attack on a machine gun post. Two eye witness accounts describe his actions – “He took a party of 6 gunners to bomb a machine gun in an attack on the German Switch Line near High Wood at night. None of the party ever returned. A Sgt Webster of Mr Webb's platoon followed them up pretty closely and said he saw them all drop, so Sgt Webster returned. He is still up the line. We retired from our position the same night”. However, another report indicates that two of the men did, in fact, survive. "Captain Webb just promoted 3 or 4 days before, advanced between the saps on the left of Mametz Wood at about 1am, our barrage fire left off at 12.30. I was just behind him. He was hit by a maxim gun from the German trench parapet. He had a revolver in his hand, and turned around and called us on, and then was killed, and all of us except two. We got back into a shell hole” Evelyn was subsequently reported ‘Missing in Action’ and his body was not recovered. He was just 19 years of age.

The 17th Middlesex Battalion, who had been stationed at Ewhurst for their training camp also fought on the Somme, at Delvillle Wood, where they suffered heavy losses.

 

Other Casualties

In addition to the carnage on The Somme, the fighting continued at other places on the Western Front. Thomas Elliott was reported ‘Killed in Action’ near Ypres on the 6th July. His family lived at Ellens Green, where his father was a farm labourer. His older brother William was serving as a mechanic in the Royal Flying Corps. Thomas had enlisted in the Coldstream Guards at Horsham in September 1914. He was killed near the Ypres Canal and his body bought back to the dressing station at ‘Essex Farm’, which had became famous by the connection with the Canadian medical officer and poet John McRae, who wrote the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ there.

Another Ewhurst Man, Frederick William Killick, aged 22, was reported Killed in Action at Cuinchy near the Lens / La Bassee Canal. William’s family lived at Coneyhurst Farm and he had enlisted in Cranleigh in The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment November 1914.

Several men were reported as wounded. The Surrey Advertiser reported that “Mr and Mrs Goodwin of Ewhurst have been notified that their son Lt Corp. Percy Goodwin is in hospital in Bristol suffering from a serious wound in the back. He was attached to the machine gun section of the Queens”. Percy was a Lance Corporal who had enlisted in The Queens in September 1914 and later transferred to the Royal Engineers.

William Turner, a sapper in the Royal Engineers was mentioned as wounded in the Surrey Times on Friday 21st July. His family lived at Ellens Green, where his father was a bricklayer.