The Third Battle of Ypres began on 31st July 1917 and August in Flanders would be the wettest in living memory. The alternative name for this three-month slog through mud is Passchendaele, a village that wouldn’t be fought over until 12th October and, what was left of it, finally taken on 6th November.
Scarborough born Benjamin Watson STORRY traveled just a short distance on this particular road to hell, with B Company, 2nd Battalion South Staffordshires. Dan Eaton records that Ben “enlisted in Beverley, had poor hearing and eyesight but felt that it was his duty to serve, and therefore did not apply to be exempted from military service.” I have no idea how long he served on the Western Front and I’m not really sure where his Company was in the second week of August. Several sources place the 2nd Battalion South Staffs in the Passchendaele campaign so he possibly watched the early August rain fall for several days before, perhaps, taking part in the Capture of Westhoek on 10th August.
I mentioned yesterday the uncertainty surrounding Ben’s death, “killed in action”. Filey is a small town but even so, I had a remarkable encounter on my early morning walk today. I met my neighbour in Murray Street. He was reading his just-bought newspaper as he walked home. I said, “You must enjoy fairy stories if you’re reading that rag.” He said, “I’m looking at the football results – they’re all true.” I had to concede. “And I’ll tell you what else is true – obituaries.” I said, “Not necessarily…” and told him about Ben’s monumental inscription being at variance with the “official” date of death. My neighbour said, “Neither of those dates is necessarily correct. I have a letter informing his family that he was missing on the 9th, presumed killed.”
We will never know what Ben endured in his last hours – or days. He was 36 years old, a husband and father of four – and my next door neighbour’s great grandfather. I’m hoping my neighbour will find that letter and allow me to share it with you.
I have made a start on updating Ben’s page on the Looking at Filey Wiki. You will find links there to a number of online sources that go some way, I hope, to make him seem a real person and not just another casualty of that particularly horrendous war. On This Day lists 545 whose deaths are allocated to the 12th August 1917. Nearly all are soldiers, all but one are men. Staff Nurse ROBERTS of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service is remembered in Danygraig Cemetery Swansea.
Looking down the list I thought it had been a quiet day at sea but eleven seamen died when H M Drifter Dewey was sunk in a collision in the English Channel.
If you scroll down to Gorre British and Indian Cemetery you will see that Ben lost his life (officially) on the same day as Private DANBY, a 2nd Battalion South Staffordshire brother in arms.
Today’s Image shows that Filey Bay was flat calm this day 2013. It was a “mill pond” this morning too.