Reflections: A World War One soldier who was killed in battle

War graves in Guillemont, France

Guillemont Road Cemetery, Guillemont, France which has war graves including Saffron Walden's Charles Edward Ketteridge, 12th West Yorkshire Regiment - Credit: Robert E Pike

Saffron Walden historian Robert E Pike reflects on the stories behind the names

A significant number of soldiers born in Saffron Walden had crossed the world to seek their fortune, but many had gone to the corners of the British Isles for the same reason.

The onset of war led them to enlist in their local regiments.

In the event of their death it can often be found that their names are recorded on more than one war memorial, in this case where their parents lived, Saffron Walden and where they had established their home, North Yorkshire.

Edward Ketteridge was the son of Edward and Susan Ketteridge of Saffron Walden, but on his marriage to Annie, he moved to the small village of Ulleskelf, some seven miles south-west of York.

In 1915 he enlisted at Selby in the Prince of Wales’ Own West Yorkshire Regiment, the 12th (Service) Battalion, one of Kitchener’s New Army and part of the 63rd Brigade, 21st Division.

In September 1915 the battalion landed at Le Havre, becoming part of the 9th Brigade, 3rd Division.

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Early August 1916 saw the battalion in trenches in the Maltz Horn sector under continuous heavy enemy shelling.

On August 16 they were to attack Lonely Trench, described as a ‘minor local operation’ designed to improve the position of the general British line.

The 3rd Division had the responsibility of trying to capture Lonely Trench and Cochrane Alley.

They first attacked at 5.30pm on August 16 capturing the latter, but Lonely Trench proved a much more formidable obstacle as it was held by infantry with machine-guns and was protected by thick barbed-wire.

The trench also had a low command, was irregularly sited, difficult to observe and could not, in its most important parts, be bombarded by heavy artillery, without clearing the British front-line.

On August 17 at 9.30pm a surprise attack with bayonet and bomb was made by the 10th Royal Welch Fusiliers on the right and the 12th West Yorks on the left.

It proved a costly failure. Exposed to intense machine-gun fire the attackers only got to within a few yards of Lonely Trench and suffered 205 casualties, including Private Edward Ketteridge.

He is buried at the heart of the Somme battlefield amongst illustrious company - the Prime Minister’s son, Raymond Asquith killed nearly a month later; Edward Wyndham Tennant, the poet and William Stanhope Forbes, son of a famous artist in addition to 2,251 other graves, more than two thirds unknown.

Edward Ketteridge, an ordinary man from the shires has a headstone that simply says ‘Thy Will be Done,’ but in the manner of his death he shares ‘a common gallantry’ with these well-known scions of Edwardian England.

Charles Edward KETTERIDGE (28366) 12th West Yorkshire Regiment, killed in action August 18 1916, aged 27. Buried in Guillemont Road Cemetery, Guillemont, France, Plot 8 Row I Grave 3.

Robert E Pike's latest poetry and prose book inspired by the Great War, called The Coming Night is Full of Stars, is out now.

Author Robert E Pike with his book 'The Coming Night is Full of Stars' Poetry and Prose, Saffron Walden, Essex

Saffron Walden author Robert E Pike with his book called The Coming Night is Full of Stars - Credit: Celia Bartlett Photography


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