Gilmore George Errill, maternal relative: Battle of Pilckem Ridge July 1917

Gilmore George Errill was born in October 1880 at Stroud Road, Longford St Mary, Gloucestershire, England and was Killed in action on the first day of The Battle of Pilckem Ridge, opening attack of the Third Battle of Ypres at Pilckem, Belgium.

Another member of my extended family was killed during this same battle - you can see his life here.

Gilmore George was a nephew of the wife of one of my first cousins, twice removed on my mothers side of the family and the actual lineage is:

  • Gilmore George Errill (1880 - 1917) - nephew of wife of 1st cousin 2x removed
  • Sarah Ann Price (1857 - 1941) - mother of Gilmore George Errill
  • Joseph Price (1829 - 1906) - father of Sarah Ann Price
  • Emily Jane Price (1868 - ) - daughter of Joseph Price
  • Frederick George Sheward (1867 - ) - husband of Emily Jane Price
  • George Sheward (1841 - 1878) - father of Frederick George Sheward
  • Richard Sheward (1817 - 1870) - father of George Sheward
  • Herbert Sheward (1843 - 1906) - son of Richard Sheward
  • Mary Louisa Sheward (1880 - 1967) - daughter of Herbert Sheward
  • Alice May Priday (1917 - 2009) - daughter of Mary Louisa Sheward - my mother
  • William G Hyde - me

His Family

Gilmore George's father was William Harriss Errill, born 26 September 1855 at North Cray, Kent, England and died during January 1896 in Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England.

William Harriss Errill was a Baker who married Sarah Ann Price on 11 October 1875 at St John the Evangelist, Lambeth, Surrey, England. Sarah Ann was born on 21 June 1857 at Green St, Brockworth, Gloucestershire, England and died during June 1941 in Gloucester City, Gloucestershire, England.

William Harriss & Sarah Ann set up home at Stroud Road, Gloucester Longford St Mary, Gloucestershire, England where he set up his Bakery and Shop. They started a family which eventually grew to 8 children:

  • William Edwin Errill (1876 – 1960)
  • Roland Harris Errill (1877 – 1907)
  • Sarah Kate Errill (1878 – 1882)
  • Gilmore George Errill (1880 – 1917)
  • Annie E Errill (1883 – )
  • Albert J Errill (1884 – 1945)
  • Ernest Thomas Errill (1887 – 1955)
  • Alice E Errill (1890 – 1982)

William Harriss died in January 1896 and the family had moved by 1901 to 11 Somerset Place, Southgate St, Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England where it is recorded that Sarah Ann was head of the family and a Laundress. Gilmore George was by this time a Labourer and still living at home and no doubt helping to support the family.

By 2nd April 1911, Gilmore George had moved out of his parental home to be a boarder at the home of Matthew Critchley, 48 Curtis Street, Swindon, Wiltshire, England and Gilmore had become a Bricklayers labourer, and had no doubt moved south to get more work although there is a suggestion he was out of work on Census day (2nd April).

His Military Service

Gilmore George enlisted on 5th of May 1915 at Lewisham, Kent, England and joined the 11th (Service) Battalion (Lewisham) of the Queen's Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment as a Private. He was allocated Regimental Number G/24439.

His Regiment

The 11th (Service) Battalion (Lewisham) was formed at Lewisham on 5 May 1915 by the Mayor and a local committee. The Battalion trained at Catford.

In July 1915 it was attached to the 118th Brigade in 39th Division but transferred in October to 122nd Brigade in the 41st Division.  The Battalion moved, with the 122nd Brigade in the 41st Division to Aldershot in January 1916. The 41st Division was formed at Aldershot in September 1915. The majority of the units that comprised the division were originally locally raised ones, primarily from the south of England. The division was inspected by king George V and Field Marshal Lord French on 26 April 1916.

The units of 41st Division moved to France between 1 and 6 May 1916 (11th (Service) Battalion (Lewisham) battalion land on the the 3rd of May 1916) and by 8 May had concentrated between Hazebrouck and Bailleul. The division then remained on the Western Front until October 1917 and took part in the following engagements:

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette*
The Battle of the Transloy Ridges*
* the battles marked are phases of the Battles of the Somme 1916

The Battle of Messines
The Battle of Pilkem Ridge*
The Battle of the Menin Road*
* the battles marked are phases of the Third Battles of Ypres 1917
Operations on the Flanders coast

On 7 November (1917) the Division was notified that it was to be transferred to Italy. The move (by train) began five days later and by 18 November all units had concentrated north west of Mantua. The Division took over a sector of front line behind the River Piave, north west of Treviso, between 30 November and early on 2 December.

On 28 February 1918 the Division concentrated in Campo San Piero, Italy, preparatory to returning to France. By 9 March it had completed concentration near Doullens and Mondicourt.

Whilst the Division continued on until the Armistice, the 11th (Service) Battalion (Lewisham) battalion was disbanded on the 16th of March 1918 and the surviving members were absorbed into other units within the Division.

The Division then took part in the following actions:

The Battle of St Quentin**
The Battle of Bapaume**
The Battle of Arras**
** the battles marked are phases of the First Battles of the Somme 1918 Somme 1918

The Battles of the Lys
The Advance in Flanders
The Battle of Ypres++
The Battle of Courtrai++
The action of Ooteghem++
++ the battles marked are phases of the Final Advance in Flanders

The forward units of the Division were at Nederbrakel, Tenbosch and on the line of the River Dender near Grammont when the Armistice brought fighting to an end. Selected to join the Army of Occupation, the Division began to move on 18 December, going via Enghien - Hal - Braine 'Alleud - Sombreffe - Temploux - north of Namur and Huy. On 6 January the move was completed by train and on 12 January the Division took over the left section of the Cologne bridgehead.Demobilisation began; on 15 March the Division was retitled as the London Division.

The Great War cost 41st Division 32158 men killed, wounded or missing.

His Death

Gilmore George was Killed in action of the first day (31st July 1917) of The Battle of Pilckem Ridge, which was the opening attack of the Third Battle of Ypres, Belgium.

The Battle of Pilckem Ridge, 31 July – 2 August 1917, took place in the Ypres Salient area of the Western Front.

The Allied attack had mixed results; a substantial amount of ground was captured and a large number of casualties inflicted on the German defenders, except on the tactically vital Gheluvelt plateau on the right flank. The German defenders also recaptured some ground on the XIX Corps front, from the Ypres–Roulers railway, north to St. Julien.

After several weeks of changeable weather, heavy rainfall began in the afternoon of 31 July and had a serious effect on operations in August, causing more problems for the British who were advancing into the area devastated by artillery fire and which was partly flooded. The battle became controversial, with disputes about the predictability of the August deluges and for its mixed results, which in much British writing were blamed on misunderstandings between General Gough and General Haig and on faulty planning, rather than on the resilience of the German defence.

X Corps attacked with the 41st Division on either side of the Comines canal, captured Hollebeke village and dug in 500–1,000 yards east of Battle Wood. Much of the X Corps artillery was used to help the Fifth Army by counter-battery fire on the German artillery concentration behind Zandvoorde. The 41st Division attack was hampered by frequent German artillery bombardments, in the days before the attack and the officers laying out markings for the assembly tapes during the night of 30 July, exchanged fire with a German patrol. High explosive and gas shelling never stopped and one battalion lost 100 casualties in the last few days before the attack.

At zero hour the attack began and the division advanced down the hill to the first German outposts. At one part of the battlefield German pillboxes had been built in lines from the front-line to the rear, from which machine-gunners kept up a steady fire. The strong points on the left were quickly suppressed but those on the right held out for longer and caused many casualties, before German infantry sallied from shelters, between the front and support lines on the right, to be repulsed by British small arms fire and that of a Vickers machine-gun, fired by the Colonel in command of the battalion. Mopping-up the remaining pillboxes failed, due to the number of casualties and a shortage of ammunition. It began to rain and at 4:00 a.m. many Germans were seen massing for a counter-attack. Reinforcements were called for and rapid fire opened on the German infantry but the attack succeeded in reaching the pillboxes still holding out on the right. The British artillery began firing as reinforcements arrived, the Germans were forced back and the last pillboxes captured. The front line had been advanced about 600–650 yards on a front of 2,500 yards, from south of Hollebeke north to the area east of Klein Zillebeke.

It was during this offensive that Gilmore George Errill was Killed in action.

His Burial

Unfortunately, Gilmore George Errill is one of the many soldiers who died during the Third Battle of Ypres whose body was never recovered and has no known grave. Consequently, his passing is marked on a panel at the Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium.

The Menin Gate

Memebers of the 11th (Service) Battalion (Lewisham), Queen's Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment are commemorated on Panel 45 and 47 on the Menin Gate.

gilmoregeorgeerrillThe Menin Gate is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient. Broadly speaking, the Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south, but it varied in area and shape throughout the war.

The Salient was formed during the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914, when a small British Expeditionary Force succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing the German forces back to the Passchendaele Ridge. The Second Battle of Ypres began in April 1915 when the Germans released poison gas into the Allied lines north of Ypres. This was the first time gas had been used by either side and the violence of the attack forced an Allied withdrawal and a shortening of the line of defence.

There was little more significant activity on this front until 1917, when in the Third Battle of Ypres an offensive was mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a weakened French front further south. The initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge was a complete success, but the main assault north-eastward, which began at the end of July, quickly became a dogged struggle against determined opposition and the rapidly deteriorating weather. The campaign finally came to a close in November with the capture of Passchendaele.

gilmoregeorgeerrill-2The German offensive of March 1918 met with some initial success, but was eventually checked and repulsed in a combined effort by the Allies in September.

The battles of the Ypres Salient claimed many lives on both sides and it quickly became clear that the commemoration of members of the Commonwealth forces with no known grave would have to be divided between several different sites.

The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields. It commemorates casualties from the forces of Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and United Kingdom who died in the Salient. In the case of United Kingdom casualties, only those prior 16 August 1917 (with some exceptions). United Kingdom and New Zealand servicemen who died after that date are named on the memorial at Tyne Cot, a site which marks the furthest point reached by Commonwealth forces in Belgium until nearly the end of the war. New Zealand casualties that died prior to 16 August 1917 are commemorated on memorials at Buttes New British Cemetery and Messines Ridge British Cemetery.

The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial now bears the names of more than 54,000 officers and men whose graves are not known. The memorial, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield with sculpture by Sir William Reid-Dick, was unveiled by Lord Plumer on 24 July 1927.