William James Shrubsole

b1884 Folkestone    d 15 September 1916 Somme, France

William enlisted 8 Oct 1903 at Canterbury with 3/The Buffs at the age of 18 yrs 11mths.  He was a bricklayer by trade & single.  5'3½" tall, 112lbs with fresh complexion, brown eyes & brown hair.  He had a tatoo of a man's head on the back of his right forearm & a flag & one dot on the back of the left forearm.

I can't find any discharge date from this period, so assume he remained in the Buffs into WW1, although his service number changes, so he may well have been discharged at some point & recalled in 1914 when war broke out.  He was killed in action 15th September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme & is commemorated at Thiepval Memorial.  He had only just married in 1914 & his son Charles was born in 1915, so sadly grew up not knowing his father.


Country: France

Locality: Somme

Identified Casualties: 72204

The Thiepval Memorial can be found on the D73, next to the village of Thiepval, off the main Bapaume to Albert road (D929).

The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916.

The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves lies at the foot of the memorial.

The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932 (originally scheduled for 16 May but due to the death of French President Doumer the ceremony was postponed until August).

The dead of other Commonwealth countries, who died on the Somme and have no known graves, are commemorated on national memorials elsewhere.

Each year a major ceremony is held at the memorial on 1 July.

On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance. Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained.  At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July. Attacks north and east continued throughout October and into November in increasingly difficult weather conditions. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter.
In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.




Percy Shrubsole was in L Battery of the Royal Horse Artillery, first as a gunner (Private), then a Corporal and finally a Sergeant.  He received the British War Medal, the Victory Medal, the 14 Star and a Distinguished Conduct Medal.

The notification of his Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) was in the supplement of the Edinburgh Gazette of 1 Jan 1917 & the citation was in the London Gazette supplement of 13 Feb 1917 & read thus:  “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.  He showed great courage and determination in his divisional telephone exchange, during the bombardment.”

The Distinguished Conduct Medal was instituted by Royal Warrant on 4 December 1854 during the Crimean War, as an award to Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and men for "distinguished, gallant and good conduct in the field".  For all ranks below commissioned officers, it was the second highest award for gallantry in action after the Victoria Cross, and the other ranks' equivalent of the Distinguished Service Order, which was awarded to commissioned officers for bravery.  Prior to the institution of this medal there had been no medal awarded by the British government in recognition of individual acts of gallantry in the Army.

During the First World War the concern arose that the overwhelming number of medals that were being awarded would devalue the prestige of those already awarded. The Military Medal for bravery in battle on land was therefore instituted on 25 March 1916, as an alternative award to the Distinguished Conduct Medal.  The lesser Military Medal was usually awarded for bravery from this date and the Distinguished Conduct Medal was reserved for exceptional acts of bravery.

Around 25,000 Distinguished Conduct Medals were awarded during the First World War, while approximately 1,900 were awarded during the Second World War.

I know I am not alone in finding it difficult to follow where any one individual was during the war & it is much harder when their military records are one of the 80% destroyed during the blitz of London in WWII, & unfortunately the records for Percy appear to have been amongst them. I do think however that I may have discovered at least an outline of where his unit was & have noted the movements below.  It will give an idea of where he was at least some of the time.

The regiments of the Royal Horse Artillery are part of the Royal Artillery of the British Army.  At the outbreak of WWI the regular RHA comprise 25 batteries, 11 of which were serving in India with the Indian army.  The RHA was responsible for light, mobile guns that provided fire power in support of the cavalry.  It was the senior arm of the artillery, but the one that developed and grew least during the Great War.  In 1914 the establishment of the RHA was one battery to each brigade of cavalry.  A battery had six 13-pounder field guns and included 5 officers and 200 men.  Motive power was supplied by the battery's 228 horses.  The original BEF (British Expeditionary Force) included only one division of cavalry of 4 brigades, and thus it had four batteries RHA, which were organised into two brigades.

Originally I and L Batts RHA, were based at Aldershot.   Under 1st Cavalry Division from August 1914.   Following very serious losses at Affair of Nery on 1 September 1914, L Battery was withdrawn from action, returning to the UK to be reformed.  

Strangely, two Royal Horse Artillery brigades were formed early in World War I and simultaneously designated as XV Brigade, RHA.  The first was formed on 1 October 1914 for service with the 3rd Cavalry Division and commanded C, G and K Batteries, RHA.  It was renumbered as IV Brigade, RHA in May 1915.   

The second XV Brigade, RHA was formed at Leamington, Warwickshire in January 1915 with:

B Battery of I Brigade, RHA at Ambala, India

L Battery at St John's Wood Barracks, reformed after the Action at Néry

Y Battery of XIII Brigade, RHA at Mhow, India

XV RHA Brigade Ammunition Column

On formation, the batteries were re-equipped with four 18 pounders each.

The brigade was assigned to the 29th Division.  In March 1915, it embarked at Avonmouth and sailed for Alexandria (via Malta) arriving from 28 March.   On 7 April, the division began re-embarking at Alexandria and sailed for Gallipoli.

Gallipoli:  The division started landing at Cape Helles from 7am on 25 April and served on the Gallipoli Peninsula until January 1915.  While at Helles, the division saw action at the Capture of Sedd el Bahr (26 April), the First (28 April), Second (6–8 May) and Third Battles of Krithia (4 June), the Battle of Gully Ravine (28 June – 2 July) and the Battle of Krithia Vineyard (6–13 August).  From 16 August to the night of 19/20 December 1915, the bulk of the division served at Suvla but the brigade remained at Helles.  On the night of 7/8 January 1916, the division was evacuated from Helles.

The division moved to Egypt were it was concentrated at Suez.  In March 1916, it was transferred to France, landing at Marseille and reaching the Somme area (near Pont-Remy) between 15 and 29 March.   On 31 March, 369th Battery, RFA arrived from England and joined the brigade; it left for 132nd Brigade, RFA (29th Division) on 20 May. The brigade remained on the Western Front for the rest of the war.

Western Front:  The first action on the Western Front was the Battle of the Somme. On 1 July 1916, the brigade took part in the Battle of Albert as part of VIII Corps, Fourth Army.

On 12 September 1916, the brigade was reorganized.   In 1917, the brigade supported the division in a large number of major actions including the Battle of Arras (April to May, First, Second and Third Battles of the Scarpe),  the Third Battle of Ypres (August to October, battles of Langemarck, Brodseinde and Poelcappelle) and the Battle of Cambrai (November and December, including the Tank Attack and the German Counter-attacks).

1918 likewise saw a number of major actions, including the Battle of the Lys (April, the battles of Estaires, Messines, Hazelbrouck and Bailleul), the Advance to Victory (August and September) and the Final Advance in Flanders (September and October, Fifth Battle of Ypres and Battle of Courtrai).

At the Armistice, it was still serving with 29th Division with B Battery RHA, L Battery RHA, 1/1st Warwickshire Battery RHA (TF) and 460th (H) Battery RFA (eighteen 18 pounders and six 4.5" howitzers).

Still with 29th Division, the brigade advanced into Germany to take part in the Occupation of the Rhineland.  It left 29th Division in December 1918 and returned to England from Germany in April 1919. The brigade was disbanded at this time.   


b 1892 Kent  d 1957 Cornwall

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