DARTMOOR CEMETERY

Becordel-Becourt

Somme

France

 

General Directions: Becordel-Becourt is a village about 2.5 kilometres south-east of Albert. From the D938 (Albert-Peronne) take the road C2 (Becourt-Becordel). The Cemetery is immediately north of the village on the road to Becourt opposite the Communal Cemetery.

 

Dartmoor Cemetery was begun (as Becordel-Becourt Military Cemetery) in August 1915 and was used by the battalions holding that part of the line; its name was changed in May 1916 at the request of the 8th and 9th Battalions of the Devonshire Regiment. In September 1916, the XV Corps Main Dressing Station was established in the neighbourhood, but throughout 1917, the cemetery was scarcely used. It passed into German hands on 26 March 1918, but was retaken on 24 August by the 12th Division. There are five burials of August 1918, in Plot II, Row E.

In adjoining graves in Plot I. A. 35/36, are buried a father and son (family name Lee), who served in the same artillery battery, and were killed in action on the same day. The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

 

Victoria Cross: 12639 Private James Miller, VC, 7th Bn. King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment), died of wounds 30/07/1916. Plot I. C. 64.

 

Citation: An extract from "The London Gazette," No. 29740, dated 8th Sept., 1916, records the following:-"For most conspicuous bravery. His Battalion was consolidating a position after its capture by assault. Private Miller was ordered to take an important message under heavy shell and rifle fire and to bring back a reply at all costs. He was compelled to cross the open, and on leaving the trench was shot almost immediately in the back, the bullet coming out through his abdomen. In spite of this, with heroic courage and self-sacrifice, he compressed with his hand the gaping wound in his abdomen, delivered his message, staggered back with the answer and fell at the feet of the officer to whom he delivered it. He gave his life with a supreme devotion to duty."

 

Cigarette card from the "Victoria Cross Heroes" collection by Gallaher Ltd.

 

Shot at Dawn: Private J. J. Sweeney, 1st Bn. Otago Regiment (N. Z. E. F), executed for desertion 02/10/1916. Plot II. B. 1.

 

Casualty Details: UK 633, Canada 4, Australia 71, New Zealand 59, India 1, Total Burials: 768

 

 

 

Lieutenant

Henry Webber, M. I. D.

7th Bn. South Lancashire Regiment

21/07/1916, aged 67.

Son of William Webber, M.D., and Eliza Webber (nee Preston); husband of the late Emily Webber (nee Morris). Native of Horley, Surrey. For over 40 years a member of the London Stock Exchange. Henry Webber is the oldest known battle death recorded for the First World War.

Plot I. E. 54

The WW1 soldier who went to war in his 60s

The story of the oldest known British soldier to die in the First World War emerges, 100 years on from the conflict

By Jasper Copping

With permission of The Daily Telegraph

 

In his poem, Wilfred Owen lamented the “doomed youth” who lost their lives in the slaughter of the First World War.
But it seems that the ultimate sacrifice was made not just by the young.
Almost a century on from the outbreak of the conflict, a tale has emerged of how a 67-year-old soldier became Britain’s oldest known combatant victim.
Henry Webber was far older than the maximum age to serve in the army, but had eventually succeeded in lobbying the authorities to allow him to join up. He had been motivated by a desire to serve with his three sons, who were all serving.
But in a twist of fate, all three were to survive the conflict, while Webber was to die on the Western Front.

 

His tale has emerged in response to a series of supplements, published by The Sunday Telegraph in advance of this summer’s centenary of the outbreak.
His great grandson, Paul Bellinger, also 67, from Woldingham, Surrey, responded to an appeal for readers’ stories.
Mr Bellinger, who was raised by his father in South Africa, only discovered the story himself, at the age of 59, when he found his mother had had two more children, in Britain.
Along with his newly-found step sister Ann, he has unravelled much of the story of their great grandfather, and has since visited his war grave in France.
Mr Bellinger, a producer for the American television show 60 Minutes, said: “What a resourceful individual he was. His is a fantastic story and to find out that I had that sort of history in my family was a great revelation.”


Webber was born in Tonbridge, Kent, in 1849, and was educated at Tonbridge School and Pembroke College Oxford, graduating in 1870.
Two years later, he joined the Stock Exchange - of which he was to remain a member for 42 years.
He became a member of the firm of Norman Morris and Co and 1874 he married the eldest daughter of Norman Morris, one of the firm’s senior partners.
The couple went on to have four sons and five daughters and settled in Horley. Webber became a very active member of local society, as one of the original members of Surrey County Council and the first chairman of the parish council.
He was also involved in the administration of a local hospital, became chairman of directors of the Horley Gas Company and served as a county magistrate, church warden and president of the local Boys Scouts Association.
A keen sportsman, he was an accomplished shot, a master of the Old Surrey and Burstow Hunt, a talented cricketer - scoring 200 runs aged 59 - a member of the MCC, and the first captain of Gatwick Golf Club.
After the outbreak of war, in August 1914, he tried to join his sons in uniform. He was repeatedly turned down, as he was more than 20 years over the age limit.


He first volunteered to serve 'in any capacity’ but when rebuffed he recruited a company of 'rough riders’ - fellow-horsemen like himself - and offered the unit complete to the army. Again, he was turned down.
But he persevered was eventually given a commission, on 26 July 1915. Whether this was in recognition of his persistence or because he lied about his age, is unclear.
After a brief training period at Park Royal, north west London, he was sent to France as a battalion transport officer.
He served with the 7th South Lancs battalion and was apparently accepted by its younger officers. It was said that many comrades were unaware of his true age, although his commanding officer apparently found that his own father and Webber had rowed together at Oxford in the same year, over half a century earlier.
His role involved helping in the build-up for the Somme offensive, which started on July 1st 1916. He and his unit were not involved in the initial attack, but took part in following actions, including the capture of La Boiselle on July 3rd 1916.
Two weeks later, on July 17th he wrote a letter to his old school: “Fifty one years ago I got my colours in the XI and last week 51 years ago was bowling against the old boys and looking on some of them as “sitters” and in the “sere and yellow leaf”.
“Yet here I am a Lieutenant in HM army having to salute three sons if I meet them out here, a Colonel and two Majors. I am 1st Line Transport Officer to this Battalion and we have been plumb in the centre of the picture during the last ten days and gained no end of “kudos” and also a very severe mauling.
“I am so far extraordinarily fit and well, though, when I tell you that for four consecutive days I was either on my feet or in the saddle for twenty one hours, out of twenty four, you will see that there is a bit of work attached to the job.”
Four days later, before the letter was received, he was dead. On July 21st the 7th Lancs moved up to relieve a battalion in the front line near Mametz Wood.


That night Henry Webber took supplies as usual with the battalion transport. Leaving his men to unload the horses, he went over to where the commanding officer was talking to a group of officers.
However, at that moment, the area - a mile or so east of Albert - came under attack and a shell landed nearby. Webber was among 12 men - and three horses - which had been hit, suffering a head wound. He, along with the others, was taken to a dressing station, but never regained consciousness and died that night, just over a month after his 67th birthday.
Following his death, his family received messages of sympathy from the King and Queen and the Army Council, which was unusual for a lieutenant and apparently a reflection of his age and eagerness to serve. His Commanding Officer wrote “He was so gallant and full of energy. We all had the greatest admiration and respect for him.”
He was also mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig’s despatches of the 4th of January 1917.


Within two years, his widow too had died, according to the family having been unable to recover from her husband’s death. The three sons all survived.
His eldest, NW (Tommy) Webber CMG DSO (& 9 Mentions in Despatches) rose to become a brigadier general and had a distinguished war career ending up as chief of staff to the commander of the Canadian Corps and was later managing director of the Army & Navy Stores group.
The other two were Maj H.H. Webber RGA and Major Leonard Morris Webber RFA.

 

 

 

Gunner 68517

Alfred Waterman

"C" Battery, 46th Bde.

Royal Field Artillery

17/09/1916

Plot II. A. 83.

 

He enlisted in January 1915, trained in Leeds and later was to join C Battery, he was married to Nellie in Southend, Essex, sometime in June 1915 - sent to France in October 1915,  he died of wounds on Sunday 17/09/1916.

 

Picture courtesy of Barry Waterman, great nephew

 

6261 Private

John Oldfield

4th Bn. The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment

20/09/1916, aged 20.

Nephew of Mrs. I. Basnett, of 4, Aqueduct St., Burnley.

 

Also buried in this cemetery are a father and son George and Robert Lee, both were killed in the same incident

 

 

6029 Serjeant

George Lee

"A" Bty. 156th Bde.

Royal Field Artillery

05/09/1916, aged 44.

Plot I. A. 35.

Husband of Frances Lee, of 16, Talfourd Rd., Peckham Rd., London. His son, Cpl. Robert Frederick Lee, also died on service in the same incident and is buried alongside.

71939 Corporal

Robert Frederick Lee

"A" Bty. 156th Bde.

Royal Field Artillery

05/09/1916, aged 19.

Plot I. A. 36.

Son of Serjt. and Frances Lee, of 16, Talfourd Rd., Peckham Rd., London. His father, Serjt. George Lee, also died on service in the same incident and is buried alongside.

 

 

 

 

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