Ernest Taylor, 1st Bn Grenadier Guards

August 19, 2017 no comments

One of the many pleasures of working in the Reference Library is being able to witness the historical traces of individuals as our customers slowly uncover the intricacies of their family history.

This week Ken Oliver has very kindly shared his research into his Grandfather, Ernest Taylor, as the Centenary of his death in the First World War approaches:

Ernest Taylor joined the 1st Bn Grenadier Guards in September 1914 and saw 3 years active service before his demise. The tragedy is that he was killed the day before this battalion was withdrawn from the front line on October 13th 1917. He would possibly have survived the hostilities if he had escaped on the 12th October. His body was never found so it can only be presumed he was lost in the mud on that fateful day. The following is an extract from the War Diaries that gives an indication of the casualties suffered by this Battalion and to think he so nearly survived all this:

“1st Bn Grenadier Guards. The Battalion initially formed part of the 20th Infantry Brigade, one of the three Brigades in the 7th Division. It landed in Zeebrugge on 7th October 1914. The 7th Division experienced the highest casualty rates of any British formation during the Battle of First Ypres.

Having disembarked with a War Establishment of 30 Officers and 977 men, the Battalion was reduced to just 3 Officers and 406 men within a month. The 1914 Star medal roll indicates that between disembarking and the 22nd November 1914 at least 1,800 Officers and Men served with the 1st Battalion: the equivalent of nearly two Battalions’ worth of men passed through its ranks in only seven weeks. These first cohorts would see some of the highest casualty rates of the whole war. Of the original thousand men, nearly 90% would become casualties during the war. A third would be killed. While recovered sick and wounded would be recycled through the Battalion, very few would served to the end of the war unscathed.

First Battle of Passchendaele, 12 October 1917

The rain continued over the next few days. Another 14mm of raid fell between 10 and 12 October. Any further British advance would have to be made over (or through) fields of mud.
The attack on 12 October was a total failure. Part of the 3rd Australian Division came under German artillery fire before the attack even started, causing confusion. Forward patrols reached Passchendaele village, but were not strong enough to hold the village and were soon forced to retreat to their starting point. The 10th Australian Brigade was stopped by machine gun fire from its flank. The New Zealand Division ran into unbroken German wire and suffered heavy losses (nearly 3,000 men) attempting to pass through a single gap in the wire. At the end of the day, all of the attacking units had been forced to pull back almost to their original position.

The campaign ended in November 1917 with the capture of Passchendaele.”

Many thanks to Ken for sending us this information. Ernest is included in the booklet “Lest We Forget: A Tribute to the WW1 casualties commemorated at St. Peter’s Church, Yarm Road, Stockton-on-Tees”, an extract of which is shown below. The book is available to view in the Reference Library and other branches across the borough.

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