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26th Jun, 2022

100 years ago the death toll mounts as Redditch soldiers march on

AS September drew to a close 100 years ago, on the Western Front the battles for the Hindenburg Line were intensifying.

One such was the Battle of Epehy where Redditch man Thomas Parry was killed on September 29, 1918.

Thomas was born in 1892 in Feckenham, one of Tom and Elizabeth Parry’s 11 children.

The family lived on Walkwood Road, his father working as a needlemaker while Thomas, when he was old enough, worked in the cycle trade.

He later married Elsie Jane Parry and the couple lived at 3, Kathleen Place in Evesham Street, Reddich.

He served with the 2nd Battalion the Worcestershire Regiment, which, on the day he was killed, had been ordered to put in a diversionary attack north of the village Epehy, which lies St Quentin and Cambrai.

Designed to draw the enemy’s fire before the main attack went in further south, the lightly supported Worcestershires advanced across a shell-torn landscape into a withering hail of fire.

The diary of the Worcestershires says: “Through the smoke of the shell-bursts the platoons in rear saw their comrades in front collapse, but they pushed on in their turn only to meet a like fate.

“All the platoons of the two leading companies had been shot down and the majority of the two support companies had fallen before the survivors came to a halt half-way and took cover as best they could.”

Thomas lies buried in the Pigeon Ravine Cemetery, Epehy, France, and is remembered on the Redditch War Memorial and on the War Memorial at The Bridge Church, St Luke’s, at Headless Cross.

Harry Leonard Davis Gaston, died a day before Thomas, on September 28.

Born in 1886 he was the son of Henry, a carpet weaver, and Pamela Gaston, and the family lived in Kidderminster.

One of four children, he married Lillian Woolley on September 10, 1914 at the Baptist Chapel in Court Street, Evesham.

He joined up on December 9, in 1915 by which time the couple were living at 132 Other Road in Redditch and he was working as an outfitters manager.

He joined the Worcestershire Regiment before transferring to the 35th Battalion Machine Gun Corps.

He was promoted to Corporal, was wounded in 1917 but was back at the front by 1918 where, fighting in Belgium, he was killed.

He is buried in the Oxford Road Cemetery, near Ypres and is remembered on the Redditch War Memorial, the Kidderminster War Memorial, at Kidderminster St John the Baptist Church and on Redditch St George’s Church War Memorial.

Sidney Webb was born in 1900, the son of Elizabeth and Albert Webb of 3, Windsor Street, Redditch.

Albert was a wheelwright and Elizabeth a fish hook finisher.

In 1905 Sidney’s elder sister died, aged ten, and then his father passed away in 1909.

In the intervening years his mum worked as a needle hood maker to keep Sidney in school.

Aged just 18, he enlisted in Worcester and was drafted into the 2nd Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment, but he too was killed on September 29.

He lies buried in the Orchard Dump Cemetery, south of Lens in Arleux-en-Gohelle and is remembered today on the Redditch War Memorial.

Another Redditch soldier who was killed on September 29, 1918 was George Stanton, whose brother Harry was killed on September 10, 1918.

One of Ada and Thomas Stanton’s seven children, he was born in 1893.

The family lived on Birchfield Road and Thomas working as a cycle machinist and later a bricklayer.

By the 1911 census the family had moved to 74, Evesham Road, George finding work as a fishhook maker.

He too joined the Royal Berkshire Regiment, serving with the 1st Battalion.

On the day he died his unit was fighting to cross the St Quentin Canal, south west of Cambrai.

Harry is remembered today on the War Memorial at The Bridge Church, St Luke’s.

With thanks to:

Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes.

The Diaries of the Worcestershire Regiment.

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