April to December 1917

In April we remember…

Wall, Richard, Sergeant (2931)

7th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment

Died 1 April 1917, age 38

Sergeant Wall was born in Fairford, the eldest son of Richard and Elizabeth Wall, and the husband of Rosetta E Wall of 3 Hastings Road, Corsham, Wiltshire. Richard Wall was a career soldier and had served in India and South Africa and was present at the siege of Ladysmith in 1899/1900 during the Boer War when serving with the 1st Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment. Having left the Army some time before the outbreak of the First World War, Richard Wall was one of the gardeners at Fairford Park but immediately re-enlisted in the Gloucestershire Regiment at Cirencester and became an Instructor of Signalling with the 7th Battalion which eventually found itself in Mesopotamia. During the last week of March 1917, the 7th Battalion was involved in actions against the Turkish Army near Duqma on the banks of the River Tigris, about 35 miles north of Baghdad. It is likely that Richard Wall died of wounds received during this action. He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Basra Memorial, Iraq.

Major, Sidney Robert, Private (PO/1709(S)

2nd Royal Marine Battalion, Royal Naval Division, Royal Marine Light Infantry

Died 25 April 1917, age 27

Private Major was the youngest son of Sarah Major and the late Robert Major of High Street, Fairford. Before the war Sidney Major learnt his trade as a baker at Mr Frederick Plank’s bakery in the Fairford High Street but had then moved to Aynho near Banbury. Although a member of the Royal Marines, during the First World War he served as an infantry soldier in France. The Royal Marines formed two infantry battalions and the 2nd Battalion was formed from men formerly based at Portsmouth and Plymouth. In April 1917 the Royal Naval Division took part in an offensive on the Arras front and occupied trenches known as the Oppy Line close to the village of Gavrelle, which was the Division’s objective. The village was captured on the morning of the 23rd and held despite seven counter-attacks by German troops. The 2nd Royal Marine Battalion, held in reserve on the 23rd, occupied trenches close to Gavrelle on the night of the 24th but then came under heavy and persistent artillery fire for several days afterwards. It was during this period that Private Major was killed after serving two months on the Western Front. He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Arras Memorial, France.

In May we remember…

Seacole, Charles, Private (23318)

1st Battalion, Devonshire Regiment

Died 18 May 1917, age 30

Charles Seacole was born at Black Bourton, Oxfordshire and was residing at Wincanton when he enlisted at Winchester, although his parents, James and Jane, lived in Mill Lane in Fairford for a few years where James was a shepherd. Private Seacole was wounded and died in a British military hospital. During April and May 1917 the 1st Battalion, Devonshire Regiment was fighting in the Fresnoy/Arleux area, between Lens and Arras, as part of the 5th Infantry Division. It is possible that Charles Seacole was wounded during this fighting and evacuated back to a hospital at Barlin near Bruay, as he is buried in Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension.

Giles, Edward George, Private (31393)

3rd Reserve Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment

Died 20 May 1917, age 18

‘Teddy’ Giles was born in Fairford in 1898 and was the son of William and Rachel Giles of 1 Vines Row, Fairford. He enlisted in the Gloucestershire Regiment at Bristol as soon as he turned 18 and appears to have been posted to Bromley in Kent, probably for home defence duties. However, according to a report in the Wiltshire and Gloucestershire Standard “…he soon contracted pneumonia and other kindred complaints”. His parents received a telegram on 19 May and immediately travelled to Bromley to be at Teddy’s bedside. He passed away peacefully the following day. Private Giles was brought home and was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard and among the many floral tributes was a wreath inscribed “With deep sympathy from neighbours and friends in Dynevor Terrace”.

In June we remember…

Shurmer, Cyril Walter, Private (32248)

8th Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment

Died 7 June 1917

Cyril Shurmer was born in Fairford but was living in Bristol when he enlisted at Cirencester. Cyril was the son of baker and confectioner Harry Shurmer and his wife Sarah of London Street, Fairford. Cyril was killed on the first day of the Battle of Messines, a major attack by British forces to capture the Messines Ridge which overlooks Ypres from the south east. The attack was commenced by the detonation of 19 huge mines that had been dug under the German trenches by the Royal Engineers over the past several months. The 8th Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment set off from Crescent Trench on the 7th and attacked the German’s Black Line of trenches but lost several men when taking a German strong po
int at Lumm Farm. The Battalion achieved its objectives and the casualties were relatively light but Cyril Shurmer was among the 40 men of the 8th Battalion who fell during the taking of the Messines Ridge. He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium.

In July we remember…

Syphas, William, Acting Bombardier (21519)

56th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery

Died 24 July 1917, age 32

Acting Bombardier Syphas was the son of Daniel and Edith Jane Syphas of East End, Fairford. William Syphas was born in Aldsworth, Glos and was living in Stratton when he enlisted in at Devizes. In July 1917 his battery was supporting II Corps in the Dickebusch area a few miles south of Ypres. On the 16th British artillery consisting of 752 heavy and medium howitzers commenced a preparatory bombardment of German positions prior to the Third Battle of Ypres that was due to start at the end of the month. It is probable that William Syphas was killed during one of the frequent artillery duels that took place between British and German artillery in this sector during this period. He is buried in Dickebusch New Military Cemetery Extension which lies about two miles to the south west of Ypres, Belgium. In the 1911 Census William is recorded as a police constable at Pontardawe, Glamorganshire.

In August we remember…

Scriven, Frank, Private (202048)

2nd/4th (City of Bristol) Battalion (Territorial), Gloucestershire Regiment

Died 27 August 1917, age 27

Frank Scriven, the son of Percy and Ruth Scriven of Milton End, was born in Fairford in 1891. Frank was listed as a builder’s labourer in the 1911 Census and was living with his family at 1 Dynevor Terrace but enlisted in Bristol and was probably living there at the time. The 2nd/4th Battalion was one of three so-called ‘Pals’ Battalions of the Gloucestershire Regiment that served with the 61st Division in France and Flanders from May 1916 to the end of the war. Private Scriven has no known grave but is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium. His name is also recorded on his mother’s headstone in the New Ground of St Mary’s Church, Fairford. In some records the name is written as Scrivens.

In November we remember…

Wade, Frederick William, Lieutenant

Royal Engineers

Died 28 November 1917, age 30

Lieutenant Wade was born in Cheltenham and was the eldest son of Mr and Mrs John Wade, whose address in 1917 is given as 26 Ashcroft Road, Cirencester. John Wade had moved to Fairford when serving with the Gloucester Constabulary and later became a registrar of births, marriages and deaths and was also Fairford’s relieving officer. The family lived in Hughenden House in London Street. In March 1901 Frederick joined the Great Western Railway and worked at first in the telegraphic department in Oxford. Later appointments with the GWR include positions at Rogerstone, Monmouth, Stourbridge, Reading and Paddington. In 1909 he was appointed traffic superintendent of the Nigerian Railway under the Colonial Office. In September 1914 he received an appointment as Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers and accompanied an Anglo-French force to the German territory of Cameroon as railway traffic superintendent. Lieutenant Wade commanded a troop of men from the Nigerian Railway and took over railway stations at Doula and Bonaberi. The few railway lines in existence In Cameroon were vital for the movement of troops and supplies during the campaign and needed constant repair and maintenance. For his good work Frederick Wade received a mention in dispatches by Lieutenant General Sir Charles Dobell, the commander of the Cameroon Expeditionary Force. In August 1915, during one of his periodic visits to Britain, Wade married Miss Frances Adelaide Rachel Wargent whose father was a member of the Royal Household at Windsor Castle. Following the end of the campaign in Cameroon in early 1916 Frederick Wade returned to his railway work in Nigeria. In November 1917 he embarked on the SS Apapa, a 7,832-ton Elder Dempster passenger liner, to return home to Britain for a spell of leave. The vessel was sailing for Liverpool and had almost reached port safely when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat, the U-96, and sank just three miles off Lynas Point, Anglesey. Wade’s actions during the event are recorded by a fellow passenger, Mr C Carnegie Brown, who survived to write a long, detailed letter to Wade’s mother, telling her of her son’s gallant actions. When the torpedo struck Mr Brown went along to the cabin of a missionary, a Mr Babcock, and his family as the missionary had been unwell and was unable to assist his wife and children. There Mr Brown found Frederick Wade assisting Mrs Babcock and two small children and a baby. Frederick led the family to their lifeboat and made sure they were safely on board before heading for his own assigned lifeboat on the other side of the ship. Soon afterwards a second torpedo struck the Apapa, which began to list badly and Wade’s lifeboat could not be launched. Happily, the entire Babcock family survived the ordeal and Mr Brown credits their survival to the selfless actions of Frederick Wade. A total of 38 passengers and 39 crewmen died in the incident.
A memorial plaque was set up in the vestry of St Mary’s Church, Fairford to commemorate the life of Frederick William Wade. Curiously, Wade is not recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission nor is he listed in the book ‘Officers Died in the Great War’. This might indicate that Wade’s commission in the Royal Engineers was an honorary commission that existed only during the period of service with the Cameroon Expeditionary Force.