1ST BATTALION ESSEX REGIMENT
Killed in Action 24th September 1917
Herbert Graham was born in 1883 to Albert and Maria Graham. The Graham family, according to the 1891 Census, lived at 6, Southbrook Terrace which is where they were still living in 1901. Herbert had a brother Arthur, ten years his senior.
Herbert had married in circa 1908 to Edith and by the time of the 1911 Census they resided at 71, Reevy Road, Wibsey. At this time they had a son, Albert Cyril. Herbert was working as a House Painter.
The Bradford Roll of Honour gives Herbert’s enlistment date as 6/12/1916. As a conscript, he would have had little choice as to his posting. His Medal Index Card shows this initially to have been to the Norfolk Regiment (Regt No. 30751) and later to the Essex Regiment (Regt No. 41979). Given an enlistment date of December 1916, six months of training followed at the Etaples training camp (‘Bull Ring’). On arrival in France he was be put with the 1st Essex, possibly only weeks before his death, which was on the 24th September 1917.
We have evidence that Herbert was a stretcher bearer. This was a job fraught with danger at the best of times, as these brave men ‘rescued’ the wounded. But the danger in this battle was added to by the presence of flooded shell holes and deep clinging mud. Quite often stretcher bearer parties went out to recover casualties in groups of six or eight, rather than the smaller groups of four which was the case in other areas of conflict; a change which was made necessary by the horrible mud.
The 1st Essex undertook a tour of the front line on the 22nd to the 25th September 1917, their war diaries entries included:
“22-24/9/1917 – ‘Holding the line’ …. Casualties were fairy heavy, especially in the support and reserve lines, which received a considerable number of gas shells.
Total casualties received during the tour, 2 officers, 41 other ranks.
No attack, no ‘glorious defence’, they were simple ‘holding the line’. From this, it is quite probable that Herbert Graham was another casualty to poison gas. This would likely be mustard gas ….
The final resting places !
The record of his back pay and war gratuity shows that these monies were paid to his widow , Edith. Herbert on this document is listed as having ‘died from wounds’. This may indeed be true, but this same phrase was also used to cover up that a man had been gassed.
Herbert’s body would have been buried as best they could at the time, as the battalion left the line on 25/9/1917. Although his grave marker was originally lost, his body was found after the war (at location J.17.c.7.3. in the Langemarck/Poelcappelle area) and identified from his identity disc that had partly survived. This gave his regimental number, and that he was in the 29th Division. Neither his name or battalion had survived on the disc.
Herbert’s body was exhumed and buried in Cement House Cemetery near Langemarck. This cemetery is still open and receives bodies of British soldiers found on the battlefields to this day.