Today I’m remembering two brothers from Woodford in Essex, both of whom lost their lives in the final six weeks of the Great War. The youngest died of wounds 97 years ago today at a hospital in Rouen.
2nd Lt. Henry Harry Skelton joined the Artists’ Rifles but later transferred to the 11/Lancashire Fusiliers. By October 1918 he was attached to the 16/Lancashire Fusiliers (2nd Salford Pals) and took part in an offensive with the 15/Lancashire Fusiliers and the 2/Manchester Regiment on the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line. On October 1st the 2/Manchester Regiment, including a 2nd Lt. named Wilfred Owen, captured Joncourt and pressed on to a farm known as Swiss Cottage. The following day Henry and the 16/Lancashire Fusiliers took over this position in an attempt to capture the village of Ramicourt. The attack failed and they suffered:
“Heavy casualties owing to enfilade machine gun fire from both flanks … Casualties Killed Lt Col Stone DSO, 2nd Lts Abrahams, Gardener, Skelton, Ashcroft, Shuttleworth”
22 year-old Henry Harry Skelton was buried in Joncourt East British Cemetery along with 34 others who also died in the attack.
2nd Lt. Benjamin Dowell Skelton was an officer in the 10/Essex Regiment and in late October 1918 they relieved the 11/Royal Fusiliers in the line east of Cambrai. In the early morning hours of October 26th the 10/Essex Regiment led an assault in a north-east direction from their positions at Bousies Wood Farm and Renuart Farm. They achieved their objectives by mid-day and spent the remainder of the 26th and much of the 27th consolidating their positions. At 0600 hours on October 27th the battalion sustained “heavy hostile artillery fire” and it was likely at this time that Benjamin was wounded. He would have been evacuated through several facilities before reaching a hospital in Rouen. Benjamin died of his wounds on September 7, 1918 and was buried at the St. Sever Cemetery Extension in Rouen. He was only 20 years old.
Henry and Benjamin were two of five children born to Benjamin Skelton, a stock broker, and his wife Mary Elizabeth (nee Dowell). In the 1920’s Mary used the services of the War Graves Photograph and Wreath Company, one of many private firms operating in France and Belgium at the time, to lay a wreath at Benjamin’s grave. Photos of the Rouen Cemetery as well as both Henry and Benjamin’s graves were posted to Mary in Essex. These photos, as well as the original invoice and envelope are included in the gallery below.