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26th Jun, 2022

What a waste - Wounded Redditch soldier died a day after retreat

SOLDIERS from Redditch paid a particularly heavy toll during September 1918 as the British advance towards victory on the Western Front.

Kenneth Herbert Pearson had been at the front for 58 days when he died of his wounds 100 years ago on August 30, 1918, aged just 19.

The only son of Herbert Andrew and Kate Elizabeth Pearson, he was born on May 11, 1899.

Kenneth had two sisters and the family lived at 260 Mount Pleasant, his father working as a bank cashier.

By the time of the 1911 census they had moved to Newbury, where Herbert had been promoted to bank manager.

The family later returned to Redditch with Herbert managing the London City and Midland Bank in Threadneedle Street.

Kenneth attended Worcester Royal Grammar School from 1913 to 1914 and in April 1917, joined the Army, aged just 17.

Records show he was 5ft 5ins tall.

Because of his youth, he didn’t find himself involved in the war effort until July 3, 1918, when, as a Private with the 28th Battalion of the London Regiment (Artists Rifles) his unit was moved up to the front.

By late August 1918 the Allies were besieging the French town of Bapaume, 15 miles south of Arras.

They had already made two failed attempts to capture it, trying to outflank it and force a German retreat.

One particular sticking point was the village of Thilloy to the south west.

On August 27 the Allies attacked Thilloy only to be beaten back, and it was while his unit was retiring that Kenneth was wounded.

He died three days later, on August 30. The day after the Germans abandoned both Thilloy and Bapaume.

He is buried in the Bagneux British Cemetery, Gezaincourt, in France and is remembered today on War Memorials at St Stephen’s Church, in Plymouth Road, and at Worcester Royal Grammar School.

As a postscript, Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes relates how the Army mistakenly sent the personal effects of another soldier called Pearson to Kenneth’s family.

His obviously distraught father, writing on bank notepaper, demanded his son’s possessions and accused the Army of ‘condoning theft’.

Kenneth’s Colonel objected to the use of that term and tells Herbert Pearson he is reporting him to the bank’s chairman for improper use of company stationery.

With thanks to:

Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes

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