The 11th of November 2023, Armistice Day, marked the 105th anniversary of the end of World War 1.

My Great, Great Uncle Percy was born on 12 July 1894 in Addiscombe.  He went to the Whitgift Middle School in South Croydon, before joining the Civil Service in 1910. Shortly after the outbreak of War, Percy joined the Prince of Wales’ Own Civil Service Rifles - as Private number 3007.  

Percy’s battalion arrived in Le Havre, France on 18 March 1915. He subsequently fought in the Battles of Aubers Ridge, Festubert and Loos. On 20 December, he was shot in the chest while storming the Essex Trench. His family were informed on Christmas Day. He died at the St. Omer hospital on 29 December 1915. He was only 21 years old.

Percy is buried at Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery in France. I have a picture that was taken by his family a few years after the war ended. I visited the cemetery earlier this year as part of a school history trip and laid a wreath at his grave. 

A picture from 1918 shows my great, great grandmother Emily, surrounded by her surviving sons. She is wearing Percy’s cap-badge on her dress – and has a haunted look. On the front left is Fred who was a Corporal in the Army Service Corps. Front right is Walter, the eldest son, who was an officer in the ‘Artists Rifles’. Back right is Bert, who also served in the Civil Service Rifles as a Lance Corporal. He was wounded in action and carried a piece of shrapnel in his head for the rest of his life. Top left is my great grandfather Edgar, who was only 17 or 18 at the time. The war ended before he could be sent to the Front. Emily not only lost Percy, but also her husband Frederick, who died the year before, in his mid-50s.  Emily lived until the age of 96. My grandfather told me that she never got over Percy’s death. 

880,000 British servicemen lost their lives during the Great War – which amounted to 6% of the adult male population and 12.5% of those who served in the Armed Forces. They are remembered throughout the United Kingdom – and even the smallest of villages has a war memorial listing the names of those who died. Percy’s name is recorded on the ‘roll of honour’ at St Peter’s church in Croydon, only a few metres from the family home in Heathfield Road. There is a memorial for the Prince of Wales’ Own Civil Service Rifles at Somerset House in London. Inside is a casket with the names of all the Regiment’s soldiers who died during the Great War – including that of Percy.

Rest in Peace Percy.

“If I should die, think only this of me: That there’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever England” – From ‘The Soldier’ by Rupert Brooke.