1915

Private Hilary John Pullen Burry

2nd Battalion The Wiltshire Regiment

Killed in action 12th March 1915

Commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial, France


Hilary John Pullen Burry was the son of Alma Anna Rosa Pullen Burry, a widow, of 53 Beaconsfield Villas, Brighton. Her late husband, Horace John, had run a family marketing garden business with his brother Arthur but died in 1904. Hilary was born in Sompting on 13 January 1895 and was a pupil at Bloxham between September 1910 and December 1911. He was confirmed at school by the Bishop of Oxford in April 1911. He is recorded as having played football at school and having been in Form III. Otherwise, he left little trace in his short time here.

 

When war broke out in August 1914, Hilary volunteered in Westminster along with his cousin Cyril. Confusingly, Cyril’s father spelt the family name with a hyphen between the Pullen and the Burry but Hilary’s mother did not. We have decided to follow her lead on our memorial. Hilary joined the 2nd Battalion, the Wiltshire Regiment as a Private and by January 1915 was in France as part of the 7th Division. The March number of the school magazine, the Bloxhamist, included the following excerpt from a letter from him: ' I have not experienced much fighting yet. What with a few shells and bullets flying over me I am quite used to it now. . . . It is very wet and muddy in the trenches, besides being dreadfully cold. We live on bully-beef, cheese, jam and biscuits. Bread when we can buy it.' 

 

Sadly, by the time this was published, Hilary was dead, killed in the battle of Neuve Chapelle on 12th March 1915 at the age of 20. His body has no known grave and he is listed on the Le Touret Memorial near where he fell. 


On the afternoon of the 12th, the Battalion was in trenches near to the infamous moated farm house located on the Neuve Chappelle battlefield.  They had been heavily shelled all day and had been involved in violent combat since day break.  The remnants of the 2nd Battalion were ordered to form up with members of Devonshire Regiment, and launch a bayonet attack against the enemy.


In the shattered shell cratered landscape, they soon lost touch with the Devons and without warning they found themselves on top of the German front line.  When the Wiltshires were only 10 metres away from the parapet tens of heavily armed Germans appeared and opened murderous and accurate small arms fire on them. The men were decimated and 70 were killed or wounded before the survivors managed to crawl away.  It is not known whether Hilary was killed by shell fire or in the bayonet charge


Hilary’s mother did not inform the school of her son’s death – the loss of her only son may well have been too much for her to bear given the failure of the family business and the death of Hilary’s cousin Cyril at Arras the following year. When the Vicar of Sompting asked for names and details to go on the village War Memorial, Arthur Pullen-Burry replied on a postcard with the briefest details for both the boys, and it was an enquiry in May this year (2013) from Eileen Colwell of the Lancing and Sompting Pastfinders, a local history society, which alerted us to the fact that Hilary was missing from our memorial. 


After a considerable time of searching, a picture of Hilary was finally found by Simon Batten in May 2017.             


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Private Frank Harold May ROBERTSON

5th Battalion Canadian Infantry Force

Died of sickness 12th April 1915 

St Omer Cemetery, France



Local boy Frank Robertson was the second of four sons to Adderbury surgeon James Robertson and his Brazilian wife Lilian.  The family originally  lived at Hill House in Adderbury.  He was born on the 6th May 1894 and the family then moved to 1, Perham Road, West Kensington, London. He was a pupil at the school between 1901-1904.


I have been unable to discover how Frank ended up living in Canada, but he was an engineer by trade.  He enlisted into the 5th Battalion Canadian Infantry on the 24th September 1914, as Private 12616.  He was unmarried at the time of his enlistment, and was described as being 5'8" tall, of medium build, with black hair and a significant scar on his left leg below the knee.


The 5th Battalion embarked for France in early 1915, and was in training in France when Robertson contracted cerebro-spinal meningitis and died at the base hospital in Saint Omer at the age of 21. 

His brother Thomas was killed in 1916 at the Battle of Jutland.

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2nd Lieutenant Robert Ellis CUNLIFFE

2nd Battalion The Royal Berkshire Regiment

Killed in action 9th May 1915

Commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium


Robert Ellis Cunliffe was born in Calcutta, India in 1895 to Agnes and Arthur Cunliffe.  He was shown on the 1901 census as living at 14-16 Loscelles Terrace, Eastbourne, in the care of Florence Mellish, whose occupation was listed as "carer of Indian children".


Having left the school Cunliffe headed for London where he had a job working as a bank clerk for Parr's Bank, and he resided at 31, Marmosa Road, Honour Oak, South London.  


He enlisted into the Territorial Army on the 17th June 1913, as Private 1560 the 16th Battalion the County of London Regiment (the School archives state he enlisted into the Queen's Westminsters).  


He was 5'9" tall and of average build and was declared fit for service in the Infantry despite his extremely poor eyesight. 


He joined the Army early in 1914 and served initially as a Private in the 1/16th London Regiment.  He arrived in France on the 1st November 1914, but sadly I do not know anything of his service with the London Regiment.  At some time he was commissioned and was transfered as a 2nd Lieutenant to the Royal Berkshires on the 26th March 1915, in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle.


Six weeks after transferring, Cunliffe was in action on the 9th May 1915, in what was to become known as the Battle of Aubers Ridge.  This was the British contribution to a combined Franco-British assault against the Germans, hoping to exploit a perceived weakness owing to large numbers of Germans being diverted to the Eastern Front.  The plan was for the French to attack across the Douai plain towards Vimy Ridge, with the British attacking to the north of this, near the village of Laventie.  The terrain was pancake flat and had poor drainage, exacerbated by the shell fire which raked the area.  Their objective was the Aubers Ridge, a slightly raised area of land running for approximately 2 miles from the village of Aubers down to the village of Fromelles.  The same ridge had been the scene of disasterous fighting during the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. 


The Germans had been quick to learn defensive lessons from the fighting at Neuve Chapelle and had been reinforcing and fortifying their trenches.  Surrounded by belts of 5 feet thick barbed wire, flanked by concrete emplaced machine guns sited to fire at knee height across No Mans Land, and protected by huge banks of earth, dugouts and concrete bunkers, the German trenches were a formidable obstacle.  Sadly the British didn't seem to recognise this, and the intelligence about the strength of the defences wasn't passed on.  


The artillery barrage which preceded the attack was wholly inefficient and many of the shells were duds.


The attack started at 5.40 am when the Royal Berskshires and men from the Rifle Brigade went over the top and advanced on the German lines.  In a report written by Captain Charles Nugent, he records that the men were cut down as soon as the left the trenches and took shelter in crops no more than 9" high.  He ordered Robert and 2nd Lt Lupscombe over the top to rally the men and continue the advance.  Both men duly did as they were ordered and were never seen again.


The attack was a disaster and casualties were heavy.  The 2nd Battalion lost over 250 men killed, wounded or missing.  The bodies of both Robert Cunliffe and Henry Lupscombe were never found.


The British suffered over 11,000 casualties in 24 hours, and the offensive was suspended after only one day.  


His commanding officer wrote to his parents saying:


"The machine gun and shrapnel fire was very heavy and I am sure there is little doubt that your son was killed that day.  Capt Nugent who commanded your sons company last saw him when he started over our own breastwork, and I can find no one who saw him afterwards.  He kust have advanced at the head of platoon part of the way to the German trench and been killed there.  Your son fell like many other officers of the Brigade gallantly leading his men against the enemy.  Only four out of twenty four officers survived."


Cunliffe's body was never found and he is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing.  He was 21 years old when he died. 


He is commemorated on a memorial in All Souls Church, Eastbourne. 


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2nd Lieutenant Francis Edmund Langton RIDDLE

2nd Battalion The Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

Killed in action 16th May 1915

Commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial, France


 

Francis Riddle was a local boy, being the second surviving son of the Vicar of Tadmarton the Reverend Arthur Riddle and was born in June 1893.  The 1901 census shows Francis living at the address with a half sister  Annie and his half brother Gerald.  He was a pupil at the school between 1903 and 1911 and appears to have been an excellent sportsman, having won the Sports Championship in both 1910 and 1911.

 

On the 1st July 1913, Riddle was gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Special Reserve of officers in the The Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.  He worked much of his time as the Assistant Recruiting Officer for Oxford and on the outbreak of War he was enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion OBLI.  He went to France in October 1914 and appears to have spent several months working as the Quarter Master for the regiment in Reserve.


The Battalion went into action on the 15th May 1915 during the Battle of Festubert, and Riddle seems to have been called up as a replacement early on the morning of the 16th May, arriving around 8am.  The Battalion went into attack against the heavily defended German lines opposite Richebourg L'Avoué at around 08.45.  

 

Riddle was reported as having been killed almost immediately.  


He died at the age of 21 having been in the trenches for probably less than an hour.

 

He is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing in France and also on the stone war cross in Tadmarton. 

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Captain John Carandini Wilson
3rd Battalion Australian Infantry

Died of wounds 21st May 1915
Commemorated on the Alexandria Chatby Memorial, Egypt


 

John Carandini Wilson was the grandson of the opera singer Marie Carandini, who had emigrated to Australia with her parents, where she married Girolamo Carandini, the 10th  Marquis of Sarzano, an Italian political refugee and who went on to enjoy an illustrious career as a noted prima donna in the operas of Bellini and Verdi; she sang for many years in Melbourne and Sydney and touredthe United States and New Zealand. She had eight children, and one of themwas the mother of John Carandini Wilson, who was born in Brisbane on 5th January  1883 (another  daughter  was  the  grandmother  of  the  distinguished British actor Sir Christopher Lee, who has Carandini as one of his forenames).

 

 

John Carandini Wilson was a pupil at Bloxham School between September 1896 and April 1898. He is listed on his school record card as the son of Mrs Wilson of 3 Campden Grove, Kensington. He was obviously something of an athlete – he won the Junior 100 yards in 1896 and was the winner of the 1/3 of a mile Jubilee Race held to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, every boyin the school entering and being handicapped depending on the year of theirbirth. He received a silver cup for his victory. He was confirmed in April 1897and gave a recitation at a concert in November of the same year. He played for the school’s 2nd XI football team as a 14 year old; the Bloxhamist reported that “Wilson centres well and should be a good outside, but he must stand up to everyone, and go for the ball whether the man is there or not.” He made it into the 1st XI, the following term (March 1898) but left at the end of that term. 

 

After he left Bloxham the school lost touch with him - the only mention of him after he left is a reference to him being “probably with the Engineers” in  the Bloxhamist for March 1900, even though he was not listed in the Bloxham Roll of Honour for the Boer War. In fact he had joined the Lancashire Fusiliers as a subaltern and fought through the Boer War with his regiment, but when the war  ended  he  resigned  his  commission  to  take  up  wheat-growing  in  the Canadian north-west. This wheat-growing venture did not prosper, and aftertrying other means of earning a living, both in Canada and the United States,he became a journalist in Los Angeles, working on the Los Angeles Times. Returning to his homeland, John wrote articles and theatre criticism for the Sydney Mail before becoming the military correspondent and dramatic criticfor the Sunday Times in Sydney. 

 

When war broke out in 1914 he joined the 1st Australian Imperial Force as a Second Lieutenant (giving “Bloxham College” as his place of schooling) and was promoted to Lieutenant before leaving Sydneyfor Egypt on board HMAT Euripides on 19 October 1914 with the 3rd Battalion (N.S.W.) 

 

After  training  in  Egypt  Wilson  –  now  a  Captain  –  sailed  with  his Battalion for  Gallipoli and took part in the  landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April1915, his battalion coming ashore in the 2nd and 3rd waves. He was severely wounded and died from his wounds in Egypt on 21st May 1915. He is buried in the Military Cemetery at Alexandria.



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Private Harry Ayres
5th Battalion The Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry

Died of wounds 7th July 1915 

Buried in Bloxham Churchyard, Bloxham

 

Harry Ayres was born on the 7th July 1897, the second son of Solomon “Gaffer” Ayres and his wife Emma, who lived with their four children in a cottage in Queen’s Square in Bloxham. Solomon worked at Bloxham School for many years and was the captain of the village Fire Brigade. Their other son Wilfred married Annie Elizabeth Gascoigne Morgan and they also had two daughters, Ada and Amy. It is believed that in August 1914 Harry was in service as a footman at Shipton Court, a country house at Shipton under Wychwood whose owner Frederick Pepper was a local magistrate, serving as High Sheriff of Oxfordshire in 1910; when all the male employees were dismissed at the outbreak of war and told to enlist, Harry joined the local regiment, the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, without his parents’ permission. They were horrified but decided to let him go.

 

The poignant photograph of Harry in his new uniform shows a proud young man with his bugle but no regimental insignia on his cap. Harry was sent to France with the 5th Battalion of the Ox and Bucks on 5th May 1915.

 

It had long been accepted by the family that Harry had been wounded early July 1917, but detailed examination of the Battalion War Diary make this appear unlikely.  There are no casualties recorded during the period 1st July to the 7th July.  However, the week before the Battalion had been in action on the 23/24th June launching a number of attacks against a formidable German strongpoint, just outside Railway Wood in Belgium. The casualty count for these actions was horrific and it seems likely that Harry was severely wounded during these actions.  Harry’s mother Emma visited him in hospital in France and was horrified by the conditions she found there.  Thanks to her insistence, Harry was brought  back to England where he died on the 7th July 1915, his eighteenth birthday  – the Bloxham School magazine The Bloxhamist states that he passed away in Norwich Hospital but family tradition has it that he passed away at Netley Hospital near Southampton, which appears more likely.

 

His death cast a shadow over the family, and Amy’s granddaughter Joy Tilley recalls that neither her grandmother nor her mother could talk about it without becoming upset. Harry’s older brother Wilfred was forbidden to join up, and he followed his parents’ wishes despite the enormous pressures doubtless brought on him.

Harry was buried in the Bloxham Churchyard on 12th July 1915 with the school’s OTC providing a firing party and buglers. The Bloxhamist for that month commented that “we should be lacking in generosity if we failed to express our sympathy with Mr and Mrs Solomon Ayres and their family in their present bereavement.” Solomon Ayres continued to work at the school, dying in 1936 at the age of 73. His wife passed away in 1943 in her 83rdyear. She is buried in the same grave as her husband and their beloved youngest son.  The wooden cross made for his grave in 1915 still marks the grave alongside an impressive headstone.

 

A tragic story but one all too typical of the experience of so many families in the Great War, and there the story would have ended, at least as far as Bloxham School was concerned, if not for a request for information from two authors of a forthcoming book on the Public Schools and the Great War. I was asked whether I knew of any school servants who had perished in the war, and I had to admit that I did not, but the question spurred me into research which led to a reference in The Bloxhamist for July 1915 suggesting that Harry must have worked for a time at the school alongside his father (“Harry, who a short time ago was also a servant at the School….”), probably working as a serving boy in the dining hall.

 

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Captain Reginald Victor RYLANDS

1/7 The Manchester Regiment

Killed in action 29th May 1915

Buried in Redoubt Cemetery, Gallipoli

Pupil 1906-1910 

 

Reginald Victor Rylands was the eldest son of Richard Rylands and his wife Mary, and was born in Stockport, Manchester on the 9th December 1892.  He had a younger brother Harold Bertram who was also a pupil at Bloxham and was killed on the Somme in 1916.

 He was a pupil at the school between 1902 and 1906.  On leaving Bloxham his education was completed at Shrewsbury school.  He left Shrewsbury before spending some time in Germany, and then at Manchester University where he studied law, joining his father's law firm Mssr's Boote, Edgar, Grace and Rylands.  His father was a senior lawyer and was a Solicitor of the Supreme Court in Manchester.


The military was a large part of Rylands life, and he served as an officer in the Territorial Force of the Manchester Regiment, becoming a 2nd Lt in May 1910, a Lieutenant in 1912 and being appointed Captain and Company Commander of the 1/7th Batt Manchester Regiment (TF) in September 1914.  He served some time at the start of the War in Egypt where he was commanding the massively important railway junction at Atbara.  The Battalion also served in Sudan, before taking part in the fighting at Gallipoli in May 1915. 

The Battalion landed at V Beach (site of the famous beaching of the River Clyde) and progressed in land.  This area was dominated by high cliffs to the north and the fort at Kilitbatir to the south.  The battalion was not involved in any major actions during this time, rather it was involved in the peice meal skirmishes that characterised this theatre of war.  He was killed on the night of the 29th May 1915, leading an attack against the Turkish lines.


The adjutant of the Regiment wrote:


"On the night of the 28-29 May B and D Companies were ordered to advance and dig ourselves in about 200 yards in front of the enemy.  We crept to within about 200 yards of the enemy when suddenly the moon came out, which was not to our advantage..  Your son was on the extreme left of our advance, commanding half the company when news came through that he had been hit in the shoulder.  A sergeant went to him and gave him water, but the bullet must have hit something vital and he passed away within 5 minutes."


Attempts were made to retrieve his body, but his body remained lying in No Mans Land for three days until the enemy had been controlled enough to allow safe retrieval.  Several men were killed whilst trying to recover him.


He was eventually buried just behind the lines with a cross made from a sniper shattered trench perescope.


He is buried in Redoubt Cemetery, Gallipoli, and was 23 when he died. 

 

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