Henry Bridger, maternal relative: Battle of the Somme February 1917

Henry Bridger was a very distant relative of mine and was Killed in action during 28 February 1917 on the Western Front.

The actual lineage to me is as follows:

  • Henry Bridger (1892 - 1917) - 2nd cousin of wife of brother-in-law of aunt of wife of 1st cousin 1x removed of wife of 2nd cousin 1x removed of wife of 1st cousin 1x removed
  • Mary Ann Smith (1856 - ) - mother of Henry Bridger
  • Elizabeth Green (1836 - 1913) - mother of Mary Ann Smith
  • William Green (1801 - 1875) - father of Elizabeth Green
  • Maria Green (1839 - 1926) - daughter of William Green
  • John Thomas Larman (1876 - 1956) - son of Maria Green
  • Florence Amy Larman (1907 - ) - daughter of John Thomas Larman
  • Thomson Thwaite (1903 - 1983) - husband of Florence Amy Larman
  • Joseph Thwaite (1872 - 1935) - father of Thomson Thwaite
  • Joseph Thwaite (1892 - 1977) - son of Joseph Thwaite
  • Helena Agnes Jepson (1883 - 1923) - wife of Joseph Thwaite
  • Anders Peder Jepson (1844 - 1892) - father of Helena Agnes Jepson
  • Emily Lily Jepson (1885 - 1938) - daughter of Anders Peder Jepson
  • Bertha Carina Rena Cheshire (1906 - 1987) - daughter of Emily Lily Jepson
  • William Samuel Saunders (1904 - 1990) - husband of Bertha Carina Rena Cheshire
  • John Mainwood Saunders (1874 - 1960) - father of William Samuel Saunders
  • Ann Mary Mainwood (1853 - 1909) - mother of John Mainwood Saunders
  • Elizabeth Perrin (1808 - 1886) - mother of Ann Mary Mainwood
  • William Mainwood (1835 - 1922) - son of Elizabeth Perrin
  • Emma Glover Mainwood (1857 - 1933) - daughter of William Mainwood
  • William David Batt-Rawden (1862 - 1938) - husband of Emma Glover Mainwood
  • Elizabeth Lavinia Cato (1827 - 1891) - mother of William David Batt-Rawden
  • James Cato (1799 - 1857) - father of Elizabeth Lavinia Cato
  • William Cato (1768 - 1816) - father of James Cato
  • James Cato (1799 - 1887) - son of William Cato
  • Samuel Cato (1847 - ) - son of James Cato
  • Arthur Bertram Cato (1877 - 1948) - son of Samuel Cato
  • Constance Lillian Cato (1910 - 1966) - daughter of Arthur Bertram Cato
  • Allan George Sheward (1906 - 1986) - husband of Constance Lillian Cato
  • George Sheward (1877 - 1958) - father of Allan George Sheward
  • Susannah (Susan) Speake (1847 - 1927) - mother of George Sheward
  • Mary Louisa Sheward (1880 - 1967) - daughter of Susannah (Susan) Speake - my maternal grandmother
  • Alice May Priday (1917 - 2009) - daughter of Mary Louisa Sheward - my mother
  • William G Hyde - me

His Family

BermondseyMap1875-1056Henry Bridger was born in the workhouse at St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey, England.

About St Mary Magdalene Workhouse: In 1791, a new workhouse was erected at the south side of Russell Street (later renamed Tanner Street), situated to the south-east of London Bridge station.

After 1834: The Bermondsey Poor Law Parish was formed on 21st March, 1836, comprising the single parish of St Mary Magdalen. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 18 in number. The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 29,741. The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1833-35 had been £16,861.

The Bermondsey Guardians continued using the existing Russell Street parish workhouse and additions were made to the buildings in 1844. The workhouse location and layout is shown on the 1872 map below. The buildings roughly formed a square with the Russell Street side at the north containing the workhouse entrance, porter's lodge, dining-hall, kitchens, and guardians' board-room. Male inmates were accommodated along the west side of the building.

In 1865, Bermondsey was the subject of one of a series of articles in the medical journal The Lancet investigating conditions in London workhouse infirmaries. The report made a number of serious criticisms about the establishment:

  • The workhouse site lay below the level of the Thames high-water mark and was often flooded, with water standing two feet deep in the basement.
  • The infirm wards were a "fever-nest" and likely to foster epidemics.
  • The sanitary arrangements of the infirm department were "scandalously bad" — two of the wards were very dirty, with their occupants "herding together in a miserable manner ... their watercloset and urinal (abutting on the deadhouse) stink so offensively as to poison the whole atmosphere of their airing-court."
  • All the nursing was carried out by twenty-two pauper inmates, who received an improved diet, and, in some cases, a special dress.
  • The medical officer was required to look after a parish district in addition to his workhouse duties, and also to pay for pay for all drugs from his salary.
  • The accommodation for tramps was insufficient and that which did exist was "not fit for a dog". The beds consisted of bunks, or long orange-boxes, with a wooden log for a pillow, a blanket and rug to cover the sleeper, and not even a bit of straw for him to lie on.
  • Children received inadequate amounts of milk in their diets.

In 1868, the recently formed Metropolitan Asylums Board set up six new Sick Asylum Districts for the purposes of providing hospital care for the poor on separate sites from workhouses. One of the new Districts, named Rotherhithe, comprised the St Olave Union and the parishes of St Mary, Rotherhithe and St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey. However, the new hospital required by the new scheme was felt to be too expensive and, instead, the Rotherhithe Sick Asylum District was reconstituted as an enlarged St Olave Poor Law Union.

The expanded union acquired the existing workhouses from Bermondsey at Tanner Street, and from Rotherhithe at Lower Road, which were redeployed to provide the separate workhouse and hospital accommodation that was required.

The St Olave Union was renamed the Parish of Bermondsey in 1904.

His Father

StSavioursInfirmary3Henry Bridger's father Peter Bridger (1854-1904) was born in Bermondsey and died in Southwark, London, England. Peter was born into poverty (just like his son Henry) at St Mary Magdalene Workhouse, Bermondsey, London. His early life was spent at the workhouse (not an easy life by any means) - he was still there when he married Mary Ann Smith on the 7th August 1877.

Peter & Mary Ann's address was still shown as St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey while they started to raise their family of 5 children:

  • George Bridger (1877 believed still born)
  • William Bridger (1883–1947)
  • Charles Bridger (1890–)
  • Henry Bridger (1892–1917)
  • Thomas Bridger (1895–)

1n 1891, Peter & Mary Ann and 2 of their young boys managed to get out of St Mary Magdalene workhouse only to end up at the Southwark workhouse, St Saviours, located in Marlborough St, Southwark. However, they had managed to secure a small cottage in the grounds of workhouse at 15 Marlborough Alley, St Saviours, Southwark.

From 17 Peter worked as a labourer, managing to get into London Docks by 1891 when he is recorded as being a Dock labourer and by 1901 he is shown to be a Waterside labourer.

In 1901, Peter & Mary Ann had finally managed to get away from the workhouse and were living at 17 Grindal St, Lambeth, London, though the happiness of having their own place was shortlived because Peter died in 1904 at Southwark, London.

Henry Bridger Marriage

Henry Bridger married Esther Ann Hancock (1891-1975), born in Holborn, London & died in Windsor, Berkshire, England (at age 75) on 1 August 1910 at Christ Church, 27 Blackfriars Road, Southwark, London.

In 1911 Henry & Esther Ann set up home at 17 Murphy Street, Lambeth. Henry worked as a Bottle washer whislt Esther Ann has a job filling Tins with  Blacking.

Henry & Esther Ann had 3 children:

  • Mary Lily Bridger (1910–)
  • Esther Ann Bridger (1912–1988)
  • George Frederick Bridger (1915–1999)

Esther Ann remarried in 1920 to James John Turner and then again in 1945 to Joseph Macdonald.

His Regiment

Henry enlisted in 1914, possibly thinking it was an escape from the poverty he was used to, joining the 2nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) as a private with service number G/14420.

Also known as the City of London Regiment, the Royal Fusiliers raised no fewer than 47 battalions for service in the Great War. This makes it the fifth largest after the London Regiment, Northumberland Fusiliers, Middlesex Regiment and King's (Liverpool Regiment).

2nd Battalion
August 1914: In Calcutta, India.
Returned to England in December 1914. Joined 86th Brigade, 29th Division.
Sailed in March 1915 and landed Gallipoli 25 April 1915.
Evacuated to Egypt January 1916.
Landed at Marseilles March 1916.

29th Division
29thdiv-memorialAs regular units from the further garrisons of Empire arrived back in England after having received recall orders soon after war was declared, many having waited until a Territorial unit had gone out to replace them, they were formed up into three Divisions, numbered 27th to 29th. The 29th, consisting of units that arrived from the most distant stations, was formed in the Stratford-Warwick-Leamington-Rugby-Nuneaton area of Warwickshire in January-March 1915. Originally intended for France, pressure on Lord Kitchener to launch a ground attack at Gallipoli forced him to deploy the Division there.

The 29th Division embarked at Avonmouth on 16-22 March 1915 and went via Malta to Alexandria. On 7 April the first units to have arrived at Egypt bena ro re-embark for the move to Mudros, the deep water harbour at the island of Imbros that was going to be used as a forward base for operations at Gallipoli. The Division landed at Cape Helles on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 and subsequently took part in the following actions:


On the nights 7-8 January 1916, the Division was evacuated from Gallipoli and all units returned to Egypt. Orders were received there on 25 February for a move to France. Embarking in March it arrived at Marseilles and moved to concentrate in the area east of Pont Remy between 15 and 29 March. The Division remained on the Western Front for the remainder of the war.

The Battle of Albert - phase of the Battles of the Somme 1916
The Battle of the Transloy Ridges - phase of the Battles of the Somme 1916

The First Battle of the Scarpe - phase of the Arras Offensive 1917
The Second Battle of the Scarpe - phase of the Arras Offensive 1917
The Third Battle of the Scarpe - phase of the Arras Offensive 1917

The Battle of Langemarck - phases of the Third Battles of Ypres 1917
The Battle of Broodseinde - phases of the Third Battles of Ypres 1917
The Battle of Poelcapelle - phases of the Third Battles of Ypres 1917
The Battle of Cambrai

The Battle of Estaires - phase of the Battles of the Lys
The Battle of Messines 1918 - phase of the Battles of the Lys
The Battle of Hazebrouck - including the defence on Nieppe Forest - phase of the Battles of the Lys
The Battle of Bailleul - phase of the Battles of the Lys

The Action of Outtersteene Ridge - phase of the Advance in Flanders
The capture of Ploegsteert and Hill 63 - phase of the Advance in Flanders

The Battle of Ypres 1918 - phase of the Final Advance in Flanders
The Battle of Courtrai - phase of the Final Advance in Flanders

After the Armistice the 29th Division was among those selected to march into Germany to occupy the Rhine bridgehead. All units crossed the Belgian-German border at Malmedy on 4 December 1918 and arrived in Cologne five days later. The Division crossed the Rhine by the Honhenzollern Bridge on 13 December. Gradually, demobilisation began and by March 1919 most units were down to cadre strength.

Henry Bridger was Killed in action on 28th February 1917, on the front line occupied by the 29th Division prior to The First Battle of the Scarpe.


henry-bridgerHenry Bridger is commemorated at The Thiepval Memorial located next to the village of Thiepval, Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France.

On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance. Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained. At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July. Attacks north and east continued throughout October and into November in increasingly difficult weather conditions. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter.

In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.

henry-bridger-2The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves lies at the foot of the memorial.

The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932 (originally scheduled for 16 May but due to the death of French President Doumer the ceremony was postponed until August).

The dead of other Commonwealth countries, who died on the Somme and have no known graves, are commemorated on national memorials elsewhere.

Unfortunately Henry Bridger is one of the 72,000 who have no known grave. He is commemorated on Pier and Face 8 C 9 A and 16 A.

The Panel numbers (or Pier and Face) quoted at the end of each entry relate to the panels dedicated to the Regiment served with. In some instances where a casualty is recorded as attached to another Regiment, his name may alternatively appear within their Regimental Panel (or Pier and Face).